You guys, I do not like bugs. I have never liked bugs. I am not interested in seeing them, touching them, or eating them. And I’m probably not alone here. Right?
But as a sustainable food advocate and explorer, I can no longer ignore bugs as a source of protein.
Before you freak out, here are some facts supporting a case for this (initially) off-putting source of food.
- Nearly 2 billion people in the world eat insects regularly.
- The most popular insects consumed around the world are beetles, caterpillars, bees, wasps, and ants.
- Crickets, commonly eaten in South Asia and Thailand, are 65%-70% pure protein, making them one of the most protein rich animals on the planet gram-for-gram.
- When comparing to cattle, crickets need 1/10th the water and 1/6th the feed to get the same amount of protein.
- In the US, cricket startups have raised a lot of money (and eyebrows) in the past few years. Exo Protein Bars, Six Foods, Entomo Farms, Aspire, Chapul, and Bitty Foods are some of the popular ones.
So what’s a sustainable food advocate to do?
Bake with cricket flour, of course!
I sourced from cricketflours.com and when the bag arrived, I was nervous. I have a strong reaction to images of bugs, so I took some deep breaths, steeled myself, and peeked inside. Guess what, it looked like flour! Not bugs. I took a good whiff - it smelled nutty and dark, and a bit like chocolate. Whew, I could handle this.
Cricket flour is typically made of 100% ground up crickets, so you can’t use it as a complete substitute for flour in recipes. I did some investigating and found that a swicheroo of 15%-30% is a good place to start.
Attempt Number One:
I decided on a cinnamon muffin recipe from the cricketflours.com website which directed me to use 33% cricket flour and 66% regular all-purpose flour. The result? An interesting-smelling dark-colored muffin. My fiancé and I split one right out of the oven. It had so much potential, but, in all honesty, it was terrible. Sticky and oily, and the cinnamon flavor was completely overpowered by the cricket flavor. I’m pretty stubborn but I just couldn’t eat them.
Attempt Number Two:
I had to swing the other direction in my second try. I picked a recipe I already knew was a winner – Farmgirl Susan’s Whole Grain Bran Muffins, with blueberries – and substituted in a mere 3 tablespoons of cricket flour for whole wheat flour. I thought about adding more, but I was scared from the prior fiasco! Start small, I thought, I can ratchet up the cricket flour amount in the future.
Luckily, these were completely delicious. I checked in closely with my senses when eating them, and I could get a tiny amount of the cricket flavor, but it was very hidden. Next time I’ll substitute out a little more regular flour and substitute in a little more cricket flour aiming for a good balance of each.
I enjoyed this baking experiment and it got me thinking: is baking with cricket flour the key to the future of sustainable eating?
Well…. nope, I actually don’t think it is.
If we started eating more crickets (and other bugs) and less land meat, then we’d be making a substantial change. But that’s not about to happen, it just isn’t.
What we can do is try to make eating insects more acceptable and appealing in our culture. If we slowly overcome the ick factor, maybe we’ll get somewhere. I’m working on my own personal disgust response (something pretty hard to change as an adult) and for me, incorporating cricket flour into my love of baking was a way to start doing that.
What do you think? Would you try baking with cricket flour?