Ways you can start cooking with bugs

People need to eat, and although finding food isn't a problem for most people in the USA right now, in 30 years time, when the global population is predicted to hit 9 billion, the story might be very different. Cows, chickens, and pigs might top the list of many Americans' favorite foods, but they require a lot of space, food, and water to produce. Insects on the other hand, can be grown using a fraction of the resources required by our more popular meat animals, and despite culturally-inspired disgust at the suggestion, they may be the future of food.

And they're also a big deal right now, because despite the fact that there's plenty of moo muscle on the supermarket shelves, a growing number of people are taking a leaf out of many other countries cookbooks, and filling their plates with delicious, nutritious, gluten-free, bugs. So if you want to reduce your impact on the environment, discover a whole new world of cooking, and find out what much of the world has known all along, read on, because this is how to start cooking with bugs.

Where to get your bugs

Theoretically, finding bugs to cook should be as simple as going into the garden and chasing a few down. But since green spaces in and around cities are regularly exposed to fertilizers, insecticides, not to mention all kinds of pollution, it's hard to be sure the bugs you grab are actually safe to eat.

Fortunately, there is a growing collection of suppliers, both online (such as Thailand Unique, Entomo Farms, and Crunchy Critters), and in actual towns across the country, that can sell you all the bugs you need with no risks — and no running around in the garden. Insects can be supplied fresh, alive, dried, powdered, and even in already-prepared foods such as energy bars and cookies. So no matter where you are on your insect-fueled journey, you can get what you need.

Chirps-Chips

Growing up in a western nation means eating bugs doesn't come naturally. And even if you are 100 percent on-board the bus to Bugville, it's a good bet there will be someone in your life who isn't quite so enthusiastic. That's where Chirps come in. Chirps are chips, but unlike regular chips, they are made with cricket flour. Cricket flour is made from ground up crickets, which means they are not only devoid of any identifiable insect parts for people to violently recoil from, they are also gluten-free. And after the Chirps have vanished the way chips usually do, you can gently point out to the person who enjoyed them what they were actually made from. And just like that, eating bugs isn't quite so off-putting.

The only downside, and perhaps the only good reason not to eat bugs, is that since insects are related to shellfish, anyone with a shellfish allergy may experience a similar reaction when eating insects. And one day, they might even see that as a bad thing.

Bitty-flour

Like most people, you probably have a collection of tried and trusted recipes you return to again and again. For those of us who sometimes struggle to find time to cook, those go-to options you know by heart are the easiest way to keep yourself fed. And even if you want to add insects to your diet, the idea of finding and learning a whole new set of recipes might not be a realistic option...unless you use Bitty flour. Bitty flour is a blend of ingredients, including cassava, coconut, and cricket flour, that can be used in place of regular flour. It is high in protein, gluten-free, and can be used exactly like regular flour in all your recipes to get you baking with bugs in no time at all.

Cricket powder bug broth

If you're feeling a little more adventurous, you might consider making bug broth when cooking for your next dinner party. Bug broth is much like any other broth, but since the flavor is closer to mushrooms than chicken or beef, it works best as a substitution in recipes that call for a mushroom stock. In addition to great flavor, it will bring extra protein, nutrition, and a savory boost to any dish you care to add it to. This recipe is made using straight cricket powder, such as this one. While it is similar to the cricket flour made by Bitty, Entomo Farms cricket powder can't be used as a direct replacement for regular flour. However, because it doesn't have any other ingredients, there is more protein in every scoop — not to mention more intense flavor.

To make the broth, start with two pints of cold water. Chop and throw in your veggies and herbs, then add your cricket powder. Simmer for an hour, strain out the bits, and you're good to go. But if you just want a nutritious protein boost, cricket powder can easily be added to many other recipes, such as soups, smoothies, and sauces, giving you all the benefits of a fly in your food, without the gross factor.

Cricket kabobs

You've been cooking with cricket flour, adding cricket powder to your smoothies, and filling your face with cricket-based chips and salsa during football games, and you're feeling great. So maybe it's time you stopped beating around the bush and shoved a whole cricket in your mouth. Crickets are sometimes described as the gateway bug, because they are easy to prepare and tasty. So next time the sun comes out, and you are finally ready to really sink your teeth into the insect eating game, look no further than this recipe for cricket kabobs.

Start by making a marinade from pepper, salt, minced herbs, honey, lemon juice, olive oil, dijon mustard, and grated ginger. Mix them all together, add crickets (or grasshoppers, they work as well) and leave that in the refrigerator overnight. Chop up some bell pepper and onion into large chunks, and when you're ready to start grilling, remove the crickets from the marinade, pat dry, then skewer them between chunks of bell pepper and onions. Oil the grill and cook the kabobs, turning every couple of minutes and basting with oil as required. Cooking times vary depending on your setup and the size of your bugs, but total cooking time should be under 10 minutes. This recipe is perfect for large groups and small grills since turnover is fast. And with any luck, you might even convert a few of them.

Mealworm smoothie

Another bug that tastes a whole lot better than it looks is the appropriately named mealworm. Unfortunately what it looks like is a large maggot, which is why newbies will appreciate this smoothie recipe that uses mealworm powder. You'll need almond milk, coconut milk, orange juice, frozen strawberries, a frozen banana, dates, and mealworm powder. Put all the ingredients into a blender, mix them up till the lumps move out, then enjoy.

Wax worm paella

Wax worms are another pretty gross looking beastie, but there must be an inverse relationship between attractiveness and nutrition content, because like most edible insects, the wax worm is a nutrient bomb. It also happens to be a team player, which is why it works so well in this recipe for paella...but unlike the last tasty treat we told you about, in this recipe, the worm is whole.

To make this dish, your work needs to start several hours before you start cooking. Put some clams in a bowl of cold water, and your wiggling worms in the freezer, to be removed 10 minutes before you start cooking. When you have all your pans in a row and ready to go, make a broth by combining water, white wine, saffron, and clam juice in a pan and bring to a simmer, but do not boil. Keep warm while you proceed to the next part. Grind together saffron, tarragon, and salt, mix it together with minced garlic and parsley, and season with lemon and olive oil. Heat some olive oil in a separate pan, and add shelled and de-veined shrimp, chopped squid, and the wax worms. Cook for one minute then put them aside, but keep warm. Saute some chopped onion then add paprika, more minced garlic, and crushed red pepper, and keep cooking. Add rice and stir constantly for one minute before adding the broth, herbs, and some peas, then bring to a boil. After 10 minutes of frequent stirring add the clams: after five more minutes of cooking remove any clams that haven't opened. Add the rest of the "protein" that was previously set aside and mix in gently. Cook for another five minutes, confirm that the rice is cooked, then remove from the heat, garnish with pimiento slices and season with lemon juice. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes, then serve.

Mealworm flapjacks

Don't let the idea of eating bugs get you in a flap, but instead, put them in a flapjack. And since you will be using "meal" worms in this recipe, any flapjacks you make automatically count as dinner. In a mixing bowl, combine caster sugar, baking powder, plain flour, freeze dried mealworms, and raisins. In a separate bowl beat an egg, and melt some salted-butter in a saucepan. Once the butter is melted, add it and the egg to the other ingredients and mix thoroughly, then put in the fridge to cool for an hour. Once chilled, spread the mixture out onto a baking tray, and cook in an oven for 25 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit. When your soon-to-be-favorite snack is a delicious golden brown, remove it from the oven and allow to cool, then chop it up. These taste good any time of day, but if you eat them in the morning, you'll have extra wiggle in your step all day.

Congoleze Mopane worms

Mopane worms are a popular snack in Africa, where they live and feed on the leaves of the Mopane bush, hence the name. Mopane worms contain five times more iron than beef, so they are bound to make for a solid meal. Before you start this recipe, it might be necessary to rehydrate your worms, as they often arrive dried and brittle. This can be achieved by simply soaking the worms in water until they soften up.

When they are ready, fry some chopped onions in ground nut oil until they turn translucent. Add finely chopped chillies, garlic, and ginger, and some turmeric, then fry for five minutes. Add some tomatoes, either chopped or from a can, then simmer for 20 minutes. Now add the worms and continue to cook until the desired texture is reached — this recipe recommends soft but with just a bit of crunch. Season to taste, and serve with pap for a truly authentic experience.

Buffalo worm praline

Every good meal should end with a sweet treat, and a buggy buffet is no different, so here's the perfect ending for what should be your new favorite main course. Put some sugar and a bit of water in a saucepan and place on a medium heat. Add the contents of a vanilla pod and stir constantly until the sugar browns and thickens, which should be around five minutes. Turn off the heat and quickly mix in buffalo worms, peanuts, and some lime juice, then spread thinly on a lined tray and leave in the fridge until cooled. Once it sets, you can break it up and use as a garnish for ice cream or pie, or simply eat it on its own.

People say you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar, and that might well be true. But if you then want to get people to eat them, any good recipe will do.