Trust me, eating crickets and mealworms was not on my radar 3 weeks ago. Sure, I’d forced down a chocolate coated cricket years ago at a bug exhibit at the Royal Botanical Gardens in Burlington, but that was the end of my bug eating. Until last week.
I stumbled upon a picture of delicious looking almond protein bars in a Facebook group for backpacking recipes, but when I actually looked at the ingredients, I saw that it called for “1/4 cup dried crickets”. “Really?” I thought. I was intrigued, but also somewhat grossed out. I checked with the recipe writer and learned that he gets his bugs from Entomo Farms in Norwood, Ontario. He said that they sort of taste like hazelnuts. I decided to check it out, and learned from the company’s website that cricket powder (also called cricket flour):
- is an excellent source of protein (100g of cricket powder = 65g of protein, while 113g steak = 32g protein);
- is much more sustainable (the resources needed to produce 10g of cricket powder is 12 times less than the resources needed to create 10g of beef protein)
- saves a ton of water (over the span of a year, if a family of 4 ate 1 meal a week using insect protein, they would save the earth 650,000 L of fresh water)
- is low in fat
- is high in iron
- is high in calcium
- has 9 essential amino acids
- contains the ideal Omega 6 to Omega 3 fatty acid ratio of 3:1
- is a source of vitamin B12
- is organic
- is high in fibre
- is low in calories
- is available gluten free
- is non-GMO
Note: if you have a shellfish allergy, you may be allergic to cricket powder.
In order to do a comprehensive review of the cricket powder, I decided to try it in different kinds of foods. Here’s what I tried (see reviews and pictures below):
- Almond Protein Bars
- Cornmeal Muffins
- Fruit Smoothie
- Cheddar Cricket Biscuits
- Red Pepper Tomato Cricket Soup
- Spiced Granola with Cricket Flour
- Indian Lentil Patties with Cricket Flour
- Whole Wheat Pizza Dough with Cricket Flour
- Barbecue Crickets, Moroccan Crickets, Honey Mustard Crickets, Fire and Brimstone Mealworms, Barbecue Mealworms, Sea Salt and Pepper Mealworms
This is the recipe that started it all! After combining all of the ingredients, I was a bit worried that the bars were going to be too dry and wouldn’t stick together. However, I used a 9×9 inch pan and pushed the mixture down with the back of a spoon until it was firm and looked like I could cut it. I didn’t love the idea of eating crickets, but these were so delicious (a sweet almond coconut flavour) that I quickly got over the ick factor.
A friend and her 14-year old daughter tried them, and they both approved. My daughter took one look at them and said “no thanks”. That was without even knowing what was in them.
Verdict = 5/5 (delicious, didn’t notice the cricket powder taste, couldn’t see the cricket colour)
2. Cornmeal Muffins
I doubled the cornmeal muffin recipe from A Fork in the Trail, which I’ve used many times before for backcountry camping trips, adding 2 tablespoons of cricket powder to the 1 cup of flour and 1 cup of cornmeal. For a first attempt at baking with cricket powder, I probably should have used just 1 tablespoon to ease myself into the flavour. At the same time, I baked the regular cornmeal muffins for my kids. The ones with cricket powder had a darker colour, and there was no way I could fool them into thinking they were the usual cornmeal muffins (I didn’t even try). I have to say that the smell of the baking cricket powder was awful!! I sampled the cricket muffin while it was still warm, and while it was good, it had a slightly different flavour than the regular ones (of course). I wasn’t convinced. And the brown specks throughout the muffin were a little off-putting. I tried to imagine them as nuts, not crickets! I had another muffin a few days later and actually enjoyed it more.
Verdict = 3/5 (good, mild cricket powder taste, cricket powder specks off-putting)
3. Strawberry Blueberry Banana Mango Smoothie
For this experiment, I made 2 smoothies, identical in every way except that only one had cricket powder in it. The one without the cricket powder is what I normally drink after a workout.
Ingredients for 1 serving of 2 cups:
- 1/2 cup 1% plain yogurt
- 1 banana
- 1/2 cup fresh mango
- 1/2 cup frozen blueberries and strawberries
- 1 scoop whey protein powder
- 1 tablespoon cricket powder
The smoothie with cricket powder was almost as delicious as my normal one. It tasted slightly different and I wasn’t impressed with the colour (no pink left!), but I think I could get used to it pretty quickly.
Verdict = 4/5 (delicious, barely noticed the cricket powder taste, yellow/brown colour a little off-putting)
I felt a little evil but I did not tell my family that our dinner of red pepper tomato soup and cheddar biscuits involved crickets. I figured if I told them, there was no way the kids would eat them. As it was, my daughter declared – after the first bite of a biscuit – “These are GOOD!” They still don’t know. I used the recipe from the Entomo Farms website, but I used whole wheat flour instead of all-purpose flour. Given the brown colour of the cricket powder, I’m not sure how the ones on the Entomo Farms website look so light in colour. Mine would only look like that with all-purpose flour and no cricket powder! I tasted the dough before baking them, and thought for sure the kids would notice the cricket flavour, but apparently, they didn’t. Once baked the flavour was definitely less noticeable. I likely only noticed because I knew it was there.
Verdict = 4/5 (delicious, barely noticed the cricket powder taste, cricket powder specks off-putting but you had to really look for them to see them)
If you know me, you know that I rarely follow recipes exactly! I changed things up in this soup recipe, which is also from the Entomo Farms website. I used 3 cups of roasted red peppers instead of 1, dried basil instead of fresh, milk instead of cream, and I forgot to top the soup with croutons! Nevertheless it was very tasty and there was not a hint of cricket!
Verdict: 5/5 (delicious, no cricket flavour, couldn’t see cricket specks)
This granola turned out fantastic. I didn’t follow the recipe exactly – I used a bit less brown sugar, used cranberries, raisins and apricots, and almonds and peanuts.
Verdict = 5/5 (delicious, did not notice any cricket powder taste, can’t see cricket powder specks)
I used green lentils in this recipe, so my patties have a slight green tint to them. I was a little worried that the mixture was too dry and that the patties wouldn’t hold their shape, but they mostly held together. Another time I would add a bit more liquid. I also baked them instead of frying them. They were good, but would probably benefit from an accompanying flavour – I will likely eat the rest with either chutney or raita.
Verdict = 4/5 (good, did not notice any cricket powder taste, could not see cricket powder specks)
While the pizza was baking, my daughter walked in the front door and asked, “WHAT are we eating for dinner?” “Pizza!” I replied. With a disgusted tone, she said, “It smells like SEAFOOD!” (That darn baking-cricket-powder smell.)
I wasn’t sure whether the cricket powder was going to be noticeable in the pizza. I modified my usual recipe by using 2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour and 1/4 cup cricket powder instead of 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour. I also added oregano and garlic to the dough. With the oregano in it, I didn’t think anyone would see the cricket specks (though I did notice that the crust was darker than usual). I quickly spread tomato sauce on the dough lest anyone come into the kitchen and wonder why it looked so weird. And with a teaspoon of garlic in the dough, I doubted they would taste the cricket powder either.
My daughter ate hers for a bit and then stated, “You must have made it different than usual.” She was not enjoying the crust. Granted I took my son’s suggestion this time and made the crust quite thick (the rest of us prefer it thin). I think that’s the only thing she really noticed. My son went for a second slice, and no one commented that the pizza tasted any different than usual. I had made 3 kinds – pepperoni and cheese, ham and pineapple, and ham, pepperoni, pineapple and mushroom.
I thought it was tasty.
Verdict = 5/5 (excellent, did not notice any cricket powder taste, could barely see cricket powder specks, and only if you were looking for something)
For a final taste test, I took my 3 packets of flavoured mealworms and 3 packets of flavoured whole crickets to my friend’s house. She was game to try them, but not before saying, “Oh my god!” a few times and making some funny faces. The mealworms were whole, but the crickets had broken up into legs, heads, antennae and torsos! We both found it easier to face the mealworms. The crickets’ antennae were rather disgusting for my friend, and for me, the little heads! But the actual taste? I have to say that the barbecue flavoured mealworms and crickets both tasted quite good! If you didn’t think about what you were eating, you could almost (almost!) be fooled into thinking you were eating barbecue chips. My second favourite flavour was the honey mustard crickets. Third favourite was the sea salt and pepper mealworms. The ones that I thought were okay but not great were the Moroccan crickets and fire and brimstone mealworms (not sure if these last ones were supposed to be spicy, but I didn’t find them to be). We called my daughter (age 11) and Cheryl’s 2 daughters (ages 14 and 11) down to sample the goodies. Only the 14 year old (the same one who tried the almond protein bars earlier) was willing to try anything. She sampled mealworms and crickets, and commented that you actually have to keep chewing them (that they don’t go down easily). I have to say that I was sure I could feel something still in my throat a long time after having eaten them – but it was likely all in my head! The 11 year olds were interested in the bugs, but there was no way they were eating them!
Verdict = 4/5 (average taste to actually quite yummy, hard to get past the whole insect visuals, did not really notice a “cricket” flavour like in some of the other recipes I tried)
After trying cricket powder in 8 different kinds of foods, and eating whole crickets and mealworms, I can confidently say that I prefer when I can’t taste the crickets, and don’t see anything that looks like a cricket bit. I’m fairly sure that over time, my tolerance for the cricket flavour will change, and I will either not notice the flavour, or will be able to increase the amount I put in different foods. However, I can’t imagine myself snacking on whole crickets or mealworms regularly!
But as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations states in their report, Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security, insects play a valuable role in sustaining nature and human life. The report also states:
“It is widely accepted that by 2050 the world will host 9 billion people. To accomodate this number, current food production will need to almost double. Land is scarce and expanding the area devoted to farming is rarely a viable or sustainable option. Oceans are overfished and climate change and related water shortages could have profound implications for food production. To meet the food and nutrition challenges of today – there are nearly 1 billion chronically hungry people worldwide – and tomorrow, what we eat and how we produce it needs to be re-evaluated. Inefficiencies need to be rectified and food waste reduced. We need to find new ways of growing food. Edible insects have always been a part of human diets, but in some societies there is a degree of distaste for their consumption. Although the majority of edible insects are gathered from forest habitats, innovation in mass-rearing systems has begun in many countries. Insects offer a significant opportunity to merge traditional knowledge and modern science in both developed and developing countries.”
Who knows! You too may be eating bugs one day! (In fact, if you’re a camper like me, you likely already have without knowing it!)