What if we told you crickets are the new sushi? In the 1970s, eating sushi was an odd and foreign concept to most people, but now it’s a widespread gastronomic practice across the country. After talking to two enthusiastic cricket eaters, it seems like these chirpy critters might be heading down the same path.
While it might sound weird at first, eating crickets is actually not that unusual. People of other cultures eat them so regularly that it’s as common as eating chips before your meal at a restaurant or munching on peanuts at a bar. (In Thailand, one of the most common delicacies is a deep-fried, peppered version called Jing Leed.) But they’re not just simple snacks—these backyard insects are a healthy source of protein and other nutrients, according a report by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
LivingHealthy talked to Charles Wilson, the founder and CEO of Cricket Flours, based in Portland, Ore., and he’s been seeing a huge increase in interest and acceptance when it comes to eating crickets. Even more popular is consuming them within other foods, which Wilson says a lot of people are starting to do through cricket flour.
This is relatively new in the U.S., though. Wilson remembers discovering the high nutritional value of crickets just a few years ago when he learned he had allergies that would prevent him from consuming more traditional forms of protein, like milk and popular powders. He then searched for other sources of protein, and that’s when he stumbled upon cricket flour, which is milled much like wheat through a grinding process. “It’s a cleaner and better source of protein than a lot of the traditional options,” Wilson explains.
He says that many people who try food with his cricket flour mixed in are surprised they can’t taste it. That’s because crickets have a very neutral and nutty taste, so there’s no sharp or unpleasant flavor. Plus, Wilson’s all-purpose baking flour, which can be substituted for regular flour, is a great source of calcium, iron and, of course, protein. In fact, each cup of flour contains about 24 grams of protein.
Cam Brantley-Rios from San Francisco is also riding the cricket bandwagon. Earlier this year, he ate bugs every single day for 30 days. He completed this challenge because he wanted to show people that crickets—and all bugs, really—are a viable source of protein. “Crickets were my favorite out of all the bugs,” he says. “They felt meatier and more familiar than some of the others. Plus, they were pretty flexible. I could use them with anything—pasta, in burgers—and I could influence them with any seasoning.”
On his blog 30 Days of Bugs, where he chronicled his journey, Brantley-Rios offers some facts and statistics about the value of adding insects to a diet. He underscores that crickets are a better and more sustainable source of protein than meats like beef, chicken and others. Referencing the UN Food and Agriculture Organization report, he also reminds us crickets will be much easier to obtain and cheaper in the long run, making our growing population easier to feed.
If the idea still makes you cringe, then try cricket flour as a first step. You can find a number of options out there at your local health food store. Wilson’s Cricket Flours brand offers 6 to 7 grams of protein, which is about a 30 percent increase over other flours. It also comes in flavors like chocolate peanut butter and Peruvian chocolate—so you can be fully confident that any hint of cricket is definitely concealed.
For the more adventurous, you can start exploring recipes and creative ways to serve crickets and all other bugs. If you’re caught somewhere in the middle, Brantley-Rios offers this final piece of advice: “I’m not super adventurous. I’m not a foodie. Sure, the concept of eating insects is foreign to a lot of us, but it’s not weird. We are eating so many weird and unhealthy things already. But this actually is healthy.”