If the thought of crunching into a grasshopper kabob bugs you out, imagine eating an egg fried in grasshopper oil. Some extreme eaters already have and, if the iron-stomached entrepreneurs behind the growing entomophagy movement have their way, you might one day, too. Maybe sooner than you think.
We kid you not. Oils made from insects -- flies, crickets and mealworms included -- are shaping up to be the next frontier in alternative cooking oils. Researchers at Wageningen University in the Netherlands recently analyzed oils from the aforementioned creepy-crawlies and, per their findings, they have more than a hunch that oil from crickets is likely the most consumer-friendly option in the bunch.
After all, millions of people the world over already snack on roasted crickets like peanuts or popcorn. On American soil, gusty gastronomers are starting to suck the chirpy critters down in smoothies and in protein bars, too. Just ask our very own cricket-eater, Kate Taylor. (In case you’re wondering, she says crickets, like tofu, mostly take on the flavor of what they’re cooked with and, when eaten whole, they’re just as crunchy as you’d expect.)
All gagging aside, the researchers say cooking oils from bugs are packed with energy and essential fatty acids and are a rich source of healthy proteins, minerals and vitamins. Nutritionally speaking, they’re somewhat of a middle road between animal and vegetable oils. They’re also inexpensive and relatively eco-friendly to produce, making them an ideal vehicle for combatting malnutrition and “ mitigating the livestock crisis,” researchers noted. Bravo. Who cares if they’re not cholestrol-free?
To turn the bugs into edible oils, researchers freeze-dried them in liquid nitrogen and ground them into a fine powder in a blender. Then, using some Iron Chef-worthy techniques, they extricated lipids (fats) from the bug dust. Appetizing, right? Then they chewed the fat, literally, sussing out each oil’s physical properties and scent and taste profiles.
Not surprisingly, cockroach oil was the most putrid in the lot, with lead researcher Dr. Daylan Tzompa-Sosa noting that it smelled “especially disgusting,” reeking “something like vomit,” Food Navigator USA reports. The oil’s funk was so rank, she says, that it could never be fit for human consumption. It might work, however, as an ingredient in paints and industrial lubricants. Dang cockroaches, man. Winning since prehistoric times.
The insect oils that scored the best in lab tests came from grasshoppers and soldier flies. They give off a “fruity, pleasant” bouquet, also per Food Navigator USA. Fine, we’ll give grasshoppers a pass, but only because they’re cute and kids dig them. Flies, though? No. Just no.
What about you? Would you sauté veggies in grasshopper grease?