This Bug Taste-Test Looks Daunting, But There's A Better Way To Eat Them

Unfamiliar foods can be a real turnoff. Maybe it's evolution's way of keeping us safe from unknown and potentially dangerous food sources, but sometimes it has the unfortunate side effect of causing people to not try foods they may otherwise have come to love. Though insects are considered to be a relatively new food source in the West — and therefore something that makes some people living in the U.S. apprehensive — they've been a staple ingredient in other parts of the world for millennia, so it may be time for you to consider the humble bug.

There are plenty of reasons to hop on the edible insect bandwagon beyond taste. If you're concerned about the environmental impact caused by raising cattle and other livestock, substituting meat for bugs is a potential solution to your ethical dilemma. Bugs are a great source of protein with a significantly lower carbon footprint. Insects also don't require as much water or land as other protein sources, making them a great solution for drought-prone areas and fighting deforestation.

Despite the numerous reasons to give insects a try, the idea is still daunting to many. Paving the way for all of us, and hilariously struggling to stomach the entire experience, are The Mashed Bros, Scott and Brian Wilson. The duo recently taste-tested 12 different bugs from the edible insect brand Thailand Unique. While humorous to watch, rest assured there are better ways to eat these insects than (mostly) unseasoned and straight from the bag.

Bamboo worms taste like corn when fried and salted

While the Mashed Bros weren't huge fans, bamboo worms, originally from Southeast Asia, have been snacked on throughout Thailand for quite some time, and they are one of the most popular edible bugs in the country. Unsurprisingly, bamboo worms are found inside stalks of bamboo. This allows people who live near bamboo forests to go out and collect these insects themselves, though these days they are often commercially farmed to meet demand.

Bamboo worms can be eaten raw, but if you're buying them from an edible insect company (or not quite up to popping a whole, raw grub in your mouth) they are commonly shallow-fried and seasoned with salt. The flavor of fried bamboo worms is often compared to corn puffs or popcorn, so go ahead and get your snack on. As for health benefits, bamboo worms are a great source of protein and Omega 3 fatty acids.

Snack on dried stink bugs or use them to season dishes

Stink bugs are known for the foul odor they release when threatened, not unlike the defense tactics of skunks. That may seem like reason enough not to bite down on one, but stink bugs have been eaten by humans for thousands of years. There are a few ways to remove the stink from these bugs, like soaking the insects in water after killing them, barbecuing or roasting them, or squeezing the defense chemicals out after removing the head. If you're preparing stink bugs yourself, just make sure the glands are fully emptied, otherwise, you're in for a smelly surprise.

You wouldn't want to eat stink bugs raw, but when properly prepared they can be delicious. Eaten in Thailand, Mexico, South Africa, and Zimbabwe, among other places, you can find people snacking on these little guys like chips. Stink bugs are also included in some Thai dishes because of their unique flavor profile, which has been described as something between cinnamon and sour apple. These insects contain all nine essential amino acids, provide a healthy amount of protein, and are rich in antioxidants.

Crickets are best for beginners

Often dubbed the "gateway bug," crickets are the most commonly eaten insect in the world. Edible insect companies often focus heavily on crickets, offering a wide variety of flavored seasonings such as barbecue or coconut sesame, similar to potato chips and other snack foods. Nearly all entomophagous cultures eat crickets, but they're particularly popular in Australia, Japan, and The Netherlands. Of course, it's not always just a bowlful of crickets on offer. In Japan, for example, you can buy beer made with crickets or cricket-based soy sauce.

In addition to being tasty, crickets also offer a lot from a nutritional standpoint. They're more protein-rich than chicken and pork, contain more iron than beef, are a good source of healthy fats, and provide a good amount of fiber. If all that sounds good but you're not quite ready to crunch down on a cricket, you can buy the insects ground down into a powder, which can be added to baked goods, smoothies, and more.

A fan of shrimp? Grasshoppers might be for you

Grasshoppers share a lot of the same dietary benefits as crickets; they're high in protein, rich in antioxidants, and a great source of fiber. That nutritional value might help explain the popularity of edible grasshoppers around the world as well.

In Mexico, fried grasshoppers are called chapulines: seasoned with lime, chilis, and salt for a flavorful, crunchy snack. Also found in street markets from Zimbabwe to South Korea, the legs and wings are often (though not always) removed to keep their textures from ruining the star of the show — the grasshopper's body. Often compared to shrimp, grasshoppers can be found filling tacos, topping guacamole, or simply covered in chocolate.

If all that sounds appealing, there is one thing you need to know before you go out and catch some wild grasshoppers for dinner. Be aware that grasshoppers can carry nematodes, some of which are parasites that will take up residence in your gut. Not to worry, just make sure you cook the grasshoppers properly to kill the nematodes before serving.

Black ant garnish

Perfectly fine on their own as a snack, black ants make for a great garnish as well. The taste can be difficult to pin down since it's unique to itself, but a great way to describe the flavor is as somewhat salty, somewhat sour, and somewhat acidic — a bit like a cross between limes and salt and vinegar chips. But until you try it for yourself, you won't get a proper sense of that unique ant taste.

Many cultures prefer ant larvae to adult ants since the insects lose their flavor as they grow older. Although various species of ants are eaten all over the world, black ants are typically found in Chinese and Kenyan foods. Roasted, fried, or boiled, these tiny titans are added to various dishes, serving as a protein-rich way to increase acidity. More than any other source in the world, black ants offer the most bioavailable zinc. The nutrition science around black ants is still in its infancy, but initial studies suggest that ants may be a good source of antioxidants as well.

Mashed and Tasting Table are both owned by Static Media.