Entomophagy, or the eating of insects, has a bad reputation. We get it — even survey results of over 400 people found that the biggest concern of eating insects was simply, “It just grosses me out.”
But what if embracing insects as food is a step toward making the world a better place? Is the power of knowledge — knowing that this product could change your diet and positively impact Mother Nature — enough to change your mind?
The same survey says yes. They found that after participants learned more about entomophagy, most were open to eating crickets, more so when it’s presented as “flour.”
I tried eating a cricket flour-based pasta dish once, and it didn’t taste noticeably different than regular pasta. There was a slightly grittier texture, but not too different than whole-wheat pasta.
Still, this initial reluctance from consumers explains why numerous companies are rebranding insect foods as powders, flours, or snack bars — and crickets, or cricket flour in particular, is one of the rising stars.
Made from ground crickets, cricket flour — or more accurately, powder — is very high in protein. In fact, research shows that cricket protein is comparable to protein of skinless chicken breast. That’s because crickets are about 58 to 65 percent protein per bug. For fitness lovers to kitchen experimenters, this protein count makes cricket flour a valuable ingredient for enhancing workout snacks or treats beyond the average white-flour recipe.
Plus, it’s packed with vitamins and minerals.
It contains comparable amounts of the energy-boosting vitamin B-12, at 24 micrograms per 100 grams. This is around 10 times as much as salmon. Cricket flour also contains the essential mineral iron, at 6 to 11 milligrams per 100 grams — more than twice the amount as spinach. Initial cellular research also suggests that our bodies absorb minerals, such as iron, more easily when delivered via crickets, as opposed to beef.
Cricket flour has
- vitamin B-12
- fatty acids
Enough with the hypotheticals, though. What you’re probably wondering is, “How does it taste?” After all, taste is a huge factor people consider when thinking about crickets as food — or any food, really.
While many assume crickets taste gross, they haven’t tried it yet. People describe the flavor profile of cricket flour as mildly nutty and more pleasant than expected. Cricket flour also imparts a subtle earthy taste that easily disguises itself with other ingredients and flavors when processed. The pasta dish I ate didn’t taste noticeably different, especially after it was mixed with sauce.
For real-time reactions to eating cricket-based foods, take a look at the Buzzfeed video below. Participants were tricked into eating cricket protein bars, but quite a few people actually preferred the cricket protein bars over the regular ones.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) cites the “huge potential” that insects have for positively impacting food security issues.
Here are some examples:
- Some insects are highly efficient at processing what they eat. For example, crickets can eat 2 kilograms (kg) of food and convert it into 1 kg of their bodyweight gain. Compared to cows and other livestock, this is a great turnover rate.
- Insects produce fewer greenhouse gases and require significantly less land and water than cattle.
- Insects naturally inhabit a wide variety of habitats around the world, unlike many types of livestock that have specific geographical requirements.
These environmental trends are serious concerns that can be addressed in part by a diet switch to more sustainable sources of protein.
Insects as food can
- mitigate the rising cost of animal protein
- reduce food insecurity
- benefit the environment
- help with population growth
- provide an increasing demand for protein among the global middle class
If cricket flour has piqued your interest, there are plenty of recipes out there to try. But take note: Cricket flour isn’t always a direct substitute for all-purpose flour. It’s gluten-free, which may result in dense, crumbly experiments. The outcome of your treats will depend on the brand, how much of it is actually cricket flour, and other ingredients.
That said, if you’re ready to experiment, why not bookmark these recipes?
Find an excuse to be decadent with this chocolate espresso banana bread recipe that includes a nutrient-dense serving of cricket flour. With only 10 minutes of prep time, this is a sweet way to introduce friends and family to the idea of eating insects.
Start off the morning right by giving yourself a cricket-protein boost mixed into delicious pancakes. This is a simple, quick recipe that’s gluten-free and seriously delicious.
Need a healthy snack to keep you and your kids energized? These no-bake snacks are easy to make, packed with cricket protein, and are great for those with nut allergies.
Pineapple banana smoothie
Even if you find it hard to put together a good meal in the morning, you probably have enough time to throw some ingredients into a blender and make a smoothie. This pineapple banana smoothie contains enough cricket-protein powder to give you the energy you need for the office or the gym.
The cost of cricket flour is currently high due to increasing demand and a limited supply. But when you consider the flexibility of its culinary uses, nutritional advantages, and environmental impact, there’s no reason why cricket flour shouldn’t be a regular feature on your shopping list.
As with any emerging industry, the complete picture of cricket flour isn’t well-defined yet. Some research disputes exactly how efficient insects are at converting feed into nutrition, and issues exist in scaling production models to a global level. And perhaps the problem is the visuals.
Beetles, caterpillars, ants, grasshoppers, and crickets aren’t exactly Instagrammable unless you’re finding them on sticks in street markets while on vacation. Not many friends are going to “like” a video of someone picking cricket wings from their teeth, either.
But as a delicious cookie with double the nutrients and protein, a little bit of chocolate, and a caption about your love for the earth? It could work.
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Preston Hartwick is co-founder and farm manager of Common Farms— Hong Kong’s first indoor vertical urban farm that grows microgreens, herbs, and edible flowers. Their goal is to revitalize local food production in one of the world’s most densely populated cities— where over 99 percent of fresh produce is imported from around the planet. Find out more by following them on Instagram or visit commonfarms.com.