The first time I ate any kind of insect was while shopping at a night market in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Vendors were wandering the streets with bags of roasted crickets, fried tarantulas on sticks, and crisp scorpions covered in seasoning. I had never seen bugs available for consumption in Canada, so in this situation, the decision to take a bite out of a spider was more of a tourist experience … and for the ability to gloat about having eaten a tarantula.
Little did I know that only a few years later insects would become an increasingly popular food trend in North America and the world’s largest cricket processing plant would soon be arriving in London, Ont.
The practice of eating insects is called entomophagy and humans have been doing it for centuries. Today, many cultures around the world continue to eat insects as a cheap, sustainable, and nutritious source of protein. In Western culture, however, it has not been as common — until recently.
According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), it is estimated that at least 2 billion people worldwide use insects to form part of their traditional diet. High in protein, vitamins, fibre, fat and mineral content, the FAO says insects are a highly nutritious and healthy food source. A bonus — consuming insects is not only good for human health, it is also good for the environment. So where do you start? Crickets are a good option.
Insect food company Exo says that crickets are the closest thing to a perfect protein source that the world has ever seen. Requiring minimal food and water, crickets produce virtually no methane and require much less space compared to other protein sources like cattle and poultry. Other insect food companies like Chapul and Näak boast similar facts.
Advertising crickets as the planet’s most sustainable superfood, Entomo Farms is a sustainable food company that specializes in crickets and mealworms and sells products from whole roasted crickets to cricket pet food.
“We wanted to do something special, leave a legacy for our children and make a difference in the world,” says Jarrod Goldin, one of the three brothers who founded Entomo in 2014.. “Maybe leave it better off than we found it and do that in a way that is good for the people and good for the planet.”
Goldin says since Entomo Farms was founded, the interest in crickets as a food source in the West has grown. In 2018, Maple Leaf Foods invested in Entomo Farms, and people are slowly getting over the “ick factor,” he says.
“I think it’s natural for people to have some kind of fear about things that are different or things that they are not used to,” says Goldin. At least six days a week Goldin consumes crickets in the form of a powder as a smoothie ingredient. He says, “cricket powder can be integrated into almost any dish.”
With more research coming out on the health benefits of crickets, Goldin says that they haven’t yet found anything unhealthy about their consumption. For those with an open mind, Goldin says that if you want to live a longer, healthier life, and think that food is part of the solution then incorporating crickets in your diet might be a good idea.
Interested in testing out some different ways to start introducing insects to your diet? Here are 10 ways to enjoy crickets:
As a protein bar
For a great on-the-go snack, cricket protein bars are the perfect option. Several companies have already begun using crickets as an ingredient to make convenient energy bars like the Montréal-based company Näak. Using only 100 per cent natural ingredients, Näak energy bars come in flavours like mocha hazelnut, raspberry apricot, and maple walnut.
Blended into a smoothie
Not up for the crunch? Adding cricket powder to a smoothie is another idea and could be a great option for those morning protein shake lovers. Large food brands like Presidents Choice sell 100 per cent cricket powder that can be used to make recipes like this strawberry banana cricket powder smoothie. Smoothies are also an easy way to introduce crickets to your diet for those who are still a little uneasy about the idea.
One of the easiest ways to eat crickets is to just enjoy them whole roasted. Entomo Farms says that these crickets have a similar taste to sunflower seeds: light, airy and crunchy. 100 per cent farmed in Canada, this healthy snack is also dairy-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, and paleo-friendly.
In a chip
Fortified with cricket protein, these protein chips by Chirps are the world’s first cricket chip. With 20 per cent of your recommended daily value of B12, Chirps sells their chips in flavour like cheddar, barbeque, and siracha. A great snack for any summer BBQ.
Next date-night, why not try something a little different? Restaurants like El Catrin Destileria in Toronto’s Distillery District offer the option of adding roasted crickets to an order of guacamole. Interested in cricket empanadas? Cookie Martinez is another restaurant in Toronto that serves up several insect-based dishes. They also serve oyster mushroom and cricket druxelles and cricket kebabs.
As a dessert
For those with a sweet tooth, try chocolate-covered crickets. With just three ingredients, this recipe is a quick and easy way to make a unique and tasty snack. It can even be a great way to add some more protein to an evening dessert.
Naturally gluten-free, cricket flour is a great substitute for all-purpose flour when it comes to making things like pancakes. Try this pancake recipe to add a little twist to a Sunday morning breakfast. Don’t forget the maple syrup!
Made into banana bread
Noted for having a nutty taste, including cricket powder in baked goods can be a great way to add flavour and protein to your everyday recipes. This banana bread recipe, by Exo, includes all of your typical banana bread ingredients but incorporates their pure cricket powder as a flavour booster.
In a chili
For those cold Canadian winters, try this protein-packed black bean cricket chili. This recipe by Entomo Farms is made with their cricket protein powder, which has 13 grams of protein per serving. Made of almost 70 per cent protein, more calcium than milk and more iron than spinach, Entomo Farms says that this cricket powder has almost 20 times more B12 than beef. The chili even freezes well!
In a taco
Crickets as a protein filling for tacos is a unique way to add some flair to you taco Tuesday. Try this recipe for cricket tacos to add some flair to the next time you have this popular dish. Using dry, roasted crickets, all you need to do is add them to your pan until they are just warm, then add whatever taco toppings you desire.
With so many different ways to consume crickets and their increasing availability on grocery store shelves, it is easy to give them a try. Who knows? Maybe cricket will be your new secret ingredient.
“Consider being more adventurous and trying something that is yummy, delicious, and very good for you and the planet,” says Goldin.
“We all know exercise is good for us. Some people do it, some people don’t. But the science is pretty clear on exercise, so I look at food in a similar way. If it can help me get further in life in a sustainable kind of way then I will consider it, and if it’s yummy then that’s a bonus. And in this case, it’s totally yummy.”