Some demographers believe that humanity will soon have to learn to eat insects in large quantities in order to cope with the growing demand for food from the world’s population.
Mexicans would find this adaptation easier because they already have extensive experience in eating delicious critters of all kinds.
Keep reading so you know which are the best typical Mexican dishes with insects and their surprising health benefits.
1. Fried Ahuautles
Axayácatl is the generic name given to various species of insects that live in the lakes of the Valley of Mexico. Although it is not a properly aquatic insect, it reproduces in water and both the animal and its roe have been delicacies since pre-Hispanic times.
The roe are called ahuautles and are often praised as a “Mexican caviar.” The specimens are fished with a net and the roe are captured by means of tulles placed on the water’s edge, where the adult insects put them.
The axayácatl is roasted to eat it, while the ahuautles are eaten fried, in pancakes, in tamales and in mixiotes.
The price of this national caviar has increased due to the contamination of the water bodies and the laboriousness of the collection.
2. Chahuis with lemon
In Mexico there are more than 80 species of edible beetles, which are eaten mainly in the larval stage.
They come mainly from four families of insects (Cerambycidae, Melolonthidae, Scarabaeidae and Passalidae) and receive other names, such as stick worm and blind hen.
They are part of the popular diet, especially in the central and southern regions of Mexico. The most popular are the chahuis, also called xamoes, which grow on mesquite trees and bean plants.
You have to cook them well so that the bitterness they have naturally disappears. They are eaten alone or with salt and lemon.
3. Chachamas with garlic sauce
The spoonbill caterpillar has transcended the Puebla municipality of Zapotitlán, where there is a tradition of consumption since pre-Hispanic times to enter some gourmet dishes thanks to its characteristic flavor.
In Zapotitlán, caterpillars are traditionally collected by indigenous Popolocas and there are families that, for generations, have derived their livelihood from this work.
The natives look for them in the green sticks, among the bushes full of cacti, where it is not surprising to come across a viper or a scorpion.
Harvesting begins at the beginning of the rainy season, at the beginning of July. First they are put in water so that they release their bitter compounds and then they are baked and dried, being ready to consume them. They are eaten fried, enchilados, in tacos with avocado and garlic sauce.
4. Dragonflies with chili peppers and lemon
Dragonflies are large-eyed anisoptera insects that live near freshwater bodies, because their nymphs are aquatic.
They were part of pre-Hispanic mythology, since the Teotihuacanos considered them the symbol of the purity of water, while the Mexica associated them with demons. It is also called the devil’s horse.
The deterioration of lagoons, lakes, estuaries and other aquatic spaces (which are habitats of dragonflies) has led to several species being at risk of extinction in Mexico.
In the north of the country, particularly in Sonora, they are eaten with a mix of chili, lemon and salt. They are also eaten fried as snacks, with the accompaniment of a shot of tequila.
5. Baked Tarantulas
Among the typical Mexican dishes with insects, the roasted tarantula is one of the most unusual.
Tarantulas are fundamentally the largest spiders that make up the genus Lycosa and carry a bad reputation for their supposed lethal bite, which is more myth than reality.
In Cambodia, street stalls selling fried tarantulas, prepared with garlic, salt and sugar, are common.
If you want to eat tarantulas in Mexico City, you have to go to the San Juan de Pugibet market. At the local México en el Paladar they prepare some maids in Veracruz.
Live tarantulas are put in a freezer for several minutes to die and then boiled for three times; the first, with a mixture of mezcal from Oaxaca and water; the second, with wild aromatic herbs and, the last, with shrimp salt.
They are then baked and, finally, the belly is brushed to remove the remains of hair. They are eaten alone or in tacos with avocado.
Connoisseurs recommend starting by eating the legs, before attacking the main prey, which are the head and the belly.
If starting with tarantulas is too much for you, the restaurant offers lighter options on insects, such as chicatanas and scorpions.
6. Cuetlas with pasilla chili sauce
Cuetlas are edible butterfly larvae, also called chiancuetlas, that live on chia, jonote, cuaulote and tlahuilote plants.
In Mexico they are consumed mainly in the Mixteca area, Veracruz and Puebla. The caterpillars are harvested during the rainy season, boiled and roasted on the comal or left to dry.
These larvae are a powerful source of protein, B vitamins, and iron. One way to eat them is in tacos seasoned with a pasilla chili sauce.
7. Toasted Cupiches
The strawberry tree butterfly ( Charaxes jasius ) also called “low” and “four tails”, receives its common name because its caterpillars feed on the strawberry tree bush.
In Mexico, the larvae of this butterfly receive various names in the State of Mexico and in Michoacán.
The Mexicans call them cupiches, in the area of Lake Pátzcuaro they call them chamas, the Zitacuarenses call them huenches, and in other parts of Michoacán they call them conduchas. They are collected in the pupal stage and toasted on the comal to eat.
8. Titococcus soup
Titococci are wood borers, also called canalejos, titocos, and cuauhocuilines. In southern Mexico they are eaten after roasting them on the comal or in a broth prepared with epazote, avocado leaves and grains of young corn.
9. Chocolate with crickets
Edible crickets are a rich source of protein. In countries like Finland, farms have been opened to breed these insects and make flour and pasta.
If you dare to prepare a chocolate with crickets, all you will need are some insects, a bar of dark chocolate to melt, butter and sugar. Follow the procedure below:
- Wash the crickets and bake them at 180 ° C, until they are crisp, taking care that they do not dry out or burn.
- Let them cool and, if desired, remove the heads and legs.
- Heat the chocolate in a water bath and when it melts add a tablespoon of butter and sugar to taste, mixing until everything is integrated.
- Dip the crickets in the hot chocolate with the help of a fork and cool on wax paper.
- Refrigerate for about two hours and cut your cricket chocolate chip bars to the desired size.
10. Baked Tsats
The Tzotziles are a people of Mayan origin that live in the Highlands of Chiapas. These indigenous people call large worms tsats , also known as zats .
The tsats grow on trees caulote, in several municipalities of the Altos de Chiapas, during the rainy season of July and August.
Chiapanecos boil them to eat and also brown them to taste with chili and lemon.
11. Tantarrias in venadita sauce
In the semi-desert of Queretaro, they say tantarrias to the cocopaches. They grow on mesquite trees, which is why they are also called mesquite bugs.
They measure about 6 cm and are collected by the Otomi natives from the trees themselves. During harvesting they emit a yellowish, fetid and bitter liquid, so they must be boiled to make them palatable.
In the Queretaro municipalities of Ezequiel Montes and Cadereyta de Montes there is an ancient tradition of consuming tantarrias. They eat them fried with wild herbs and on toasts bathed in venadita sauce, a dressing that includes bandeño chili, garlic and xoconostle.
12. Cockroaches in sauce
Of the typical dishes of Mexico with insects. This will probably be one of the most surprising to people who have not taken the step of trying these delicacies.
Among the litter of the mangroves of Tabasco lives a local species of cockroach that is collected for human consumption, especially in rural areas.
The gatherers fill a sack with the litter and then dump it on a mesh with a wide hole. The cockroaches fall through the holes and are separated to roast them on the comal and prepare some tacos washed down with whatever sauce is on hand.
Typical Mexican dish with insects : chicatanas molcajeteadas
These ants (also called arrieras, cutters and culonas) are consumed throughout America.
According to Mexica mythology, they are daughters and protected by the coral snake, which hides in their nests.
In Mexico they are consumed fried, roasted and in sauces. A common way to prepare them is to toast them and grind them with chili, garlic and salt, to eat in tacos.
They are rich in protein and are used in natural medicine for their antibacterial properties and to treat rheumatoid arthritis. They are also known as aphrodisiacs.
List of edible insects in Mexico
It is estimated that one in three species of insects is edible and in Mexico more than 500 have been identified.
They are an excellent source of protein and pre-Hispanic Mexicans learned to enjoy these delicacies before Eurocentric customs came to object to them.
This pre-Columbian legacy remains in force and insects have been incorporated into Mexican haute cuisine, often with high-priced dishes.
The long list of Mexican edible insects includes maguey worms, grasshoppers, chinicuiles, jumiles, escamoles, scorpions, beetles, butterflies, lice, aphids, bed bugs, flies, ants (including the prized Chicatanas), wasps, bees, termites, and dragonflies.
Recipes of typical dish with insects : fried chinicuiles
The so-called red worms of the maguey are a pest that attacks the agave. In a way it is a beneficial pest, because it is fought by eating the agent that is harmful to the crop.
They are reddish caterpillars that reach about 5 cm in length and grow during the rainy season on agave leaves.
They are fried in butter and seasoned with sauces to be enjoyed in tacos. They are also placed in mezcal bottles.
Chinicuiles are popular in the gastronomy of Oaxaca and Hidalgo, especially in the Mezquital Valley, where it has been an ancient food of the Otomí people.
Insect saucers information
Insects have been a part of Mexican cuisine since pre-Hispanic times and have been part of the national diet for several millennia.
The incorporation of entomophagy into Mexican haute cuisine is more recent and several chefs have developed dishes that, although they are still exotic, are increasingly being consumed more naturally.
In Mexico City, the following are some restaurants that serve insect dishes.
This mix and botanería Coyoacanense that serves artisan spirits is considered the “cathedral of mezcal” and also offers insect food in season.
Among the creations of its chefs are the ranchero tamale of chinicuiles and the tostadas de xamues seasoned in pickle with a side of beans and avocado.
Other options are the escamoles soup with cascabel chili and the bug salad, which includes grasshoppers, xamues, maguey worms and other insects, plus a mixture of sprouts and a ginger sauce.
Address: Parque Centenario 9A, Coyoacán, cdmx.
It is a restaurant and mezcalería that serves Alipús mezcals, made in various states of the country. The menu includes dishes from the mezcaleras areas, such as tortilla soup, tlayudas, enchiladas and, in insect season, also dishes with bugs.
Among its proposals are the maguey worms “Alipús” and the escamoles al epazote, flamed with mezcal and accompanied with beans, blue tortillas and guacamole.
They also prepare escamoles chilapitas “a los tres chiles” with goat cheese and chinampa sprouts, as well as a chapulines broth with pumpkin flower, nopales and cheese.
Address: Aguascalientes 232, Hipódromo, Cuauhtémoc, cdmx.
The “bug season” of this Coyoacan restaurant is usually enlivened by maguey worms, escamoles, chinicuiles, chapulines, xamues (cocopaches) and acociles (which are crustaceans and not insects).
The escamole taco with guacamole has become a classic. Another favorite dish of entomophages is cream of the dove, which is not prepared with a bird, but with escamoles that remain in the pupal stage, without reaching adulthood.
One of the main dishes on the menu is arroz con bichos, a “paella” with almost all the insects stored in refrigerators, in which each species contributes its particular flavor and texture, with the teeth attacking from soft to crunchy.
Address: Parque Centenario 12, Coyoacán, cdmx.
The chefs at this restaurant have reinvented pre-Hispanic cuisine with a contemporary exotic twist. The offer includes tacos of acociles and prawns with pico de gallo and cocopaches with cottage cheese and pumpkin flower ravioli with walnuts and mushrooms.
Address: Ignacio Allende 3, Historic Center, cdmx.
What foods are accompanied with insects?
Because of its exotic flavors and in some cases because of its status as delicacies, many insects are eaten alone, with a simple preparation; some peoples eat them naturally dead and even alive.
Certain insects are used to prepare sauces with which tacos and meat and vegetable dishes are seasoned.
For example, there is a grasshopper sauce with morita chili, garlic and green tomato. The grasshoppers are roasted on a comal. The garlic is then minced and fried in vegetable oil together with the grasshoppers.
Then the chili and green tomato are blended and added to the pan, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and letting cook for a few minutes.
In Mexico, maguey worm tacos are popular with guacamole sauce, and chocolate bars are prepared with minced or ground insects.
The Japanese make crunchy wasp rice cakes (which they eat for dessert) and American chef David George Gordon caused a sensation at a food festival in Richmond with noodles in cricket sauce.
Other exotic preparations include fly egg cake, scorpion tempura, and banana worm bread.
What are the benefits of eating insects?
The repulsion caused by many people consuming insects is totally unfounded, since they are the living beings that eat the most healthily (within the criteria of “healthy eating” for humans).
Insects are in the primary part of the food chain and feed on plants, other animals, blood, and parasitizing other organisms. Most insects are herbivores.
Insects in turn support many other organisms in the food chain.
Nutritional contribution of insects
Insects contain more protein than meat. On average, 100 grams of beef contains 55.5% protein, while the same amount of grasshoppers has 64.2%; that is, insects outnumber beef by 16% in protein content.
This is particularly important in Mexico, considering the protein deficit registered by people with fewer resources, especially in rural areas. If this population were deprived of the proteins provided by insects, the consequences would be tragic.
Insects are also rich in vitamins, especially those of group B, and in minerals, particularly calcium and magnesium, as well as quality fatty acids.
Protein content in some kinds of insects
The following figures represent the average% of proteins in various classes of insects, taking as a reference species from the states of Mexico and Hidalgo:
- Wasps: 61.3%
- Bed bugs: 53.8%
- Butterflies: 45.0%
- Bees: 42.3%
- Flies: 42.0%
- Beetles: 39.8%
- Ants: 32.8%
What are escamoles and how are they prepared?
Escamoles are among the typical dishes of Mexico with the most appreciated insects. They are ant larvae known in national haute cuisine as “Mexican caviar.” The gourmet fame that this delicacy has earned has significantly increased its price.
The species is the so-called güijera ant ( Liometopum apiculatum ), which grows underground, at the foot of agaves, nopaleras and lollipop trees. Adult ants are very aggressive, making it difficult to capture the larvae.
They are fried in butter with epazote or other aromatic plants, providing a fine and slightly sweet flavor. They are also prepared with egg, in mole and in mixiotes. The escamoles harvest is in early spring, between March and April.
Other names they receive are azcamollis, chiquereyes, huigues and maicitos.
What are edible insects?
They are the species belonging to a class of invertebrate animals, the majority with wings, three pairs of legs and two antennas, which are used for human consumption.
The consumption of insects is called entomophagy and is an ancient practice in the world, especially by the oldest ethnic peoples.
Mexico is one of the countries that consumes the most insects on the planet. Other large consumers are China, India, Thailand, Japan, South Africa, Egypt, Australia, Somalia, Morocco, Chile and Uruguay.
The first report on the consumption of insects in Mexico appeared in the Florentine Codex, a work written by the Franciscan monk Bernardino de Sahagún between 1540 and 1585.
In this book, the Spanish priest described 96 insects that were eaten by the indigenous Mexicans and that have maintained their presence in the national diet.
To date, 1,681 species of edible insects have been identified in the world, of which Mexicans eat 504, that is, 30%.
What are the benefits of eating grasshoppers?
Grasshoppers or grasshoppers contain more protein than meat and in Mexico they cost 50% less than beef cuts. In addition, they are more easily digested than beef.
Apart from a protein% of about 70%, grasshoppers are rich in B vitamins, magnesium, calcium and healthy fats.
The intake of grasshoppers favors muscle and bone development and growth in general, and its nutrients protect the immune system and health.
They are raised for consumption and are browned in the pan with salt, garlic and other seasonings, until they are crispy.
They are highly appreciated as a snack and due to their exotic flavor, they are also used as ingredients in sauces and stews and as a base for making sausages.
Where are insects eaten in Mexico?
There is practically no Mexican state where insects are not eaten. Certain preferences in some federal entities are the following:
Ants, wasps and bees: DF, State of Mexico, Hidalgo, Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Michoacán, Guerrero, Veracruz, Yucatán.
Bedbugs: State of Mexico, Morelos, Hidalgo, Guerrero, Veracruz, Puebla, Jalisco, San Luis Potosí, Oaxaca, Querétaro.
Beetles: DF, State of Mexico, Hidalgo, Guerrero, Tabasco, Veracruz, Puebla, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Nayarit.
Chapulines: DF, Veracruz, Campeche, Tabasco, Morelos, Yucatán, Michoacán, Guerrero, Puebla.
Escamoles: DF, State of Mexico, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala, Michoacán, Nuevo León, Guanajuato, Puebla.
Chinicuiles (red maguey worm): DF, state of Mexico, Hidalgo, Oaxaca.
Jumiles: Guerrero, Morelos, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Tlaxcala.
Aphids: Morelos, Puebla, Guerrero, Hidalgo.
Butterflies: DF, Oaxaca, Hidalgo, Puebla.
Dragonflies: State of Mexico, Sonora.
Flies: State of Mexico, Nayarit.
Examples of dishes with jumiles
The Mexica appreciated these insects so much that they dedicated a temple to them in the Cerro del Huixteco, Taxco, to which they made pilgrimages.
They are also called bush bugs and have a cinnamon flavor that comes from the oak stems and leaves that they feed on.
They are popular in the gastronomy of Morelos and Guerrero and the taxqueños eat them raw and even alive. Here are two preparations with jumiles:
- 3/4 of Cup of jumiles
- 2 tomatoes
- 8 chili peppers
- Grind the insects, the chilies of the preferred type and the tomatoes in the molcajete.
- Add salt and mix.
This sauce is ideal to eat with tortillas and guacamole.
- A handful of jumiles
- ½ kg of fresh cheese
- 3 serrano peppers
- ½ kg of tomato
- 1 clove garlic
- ¼ onion
- Boil the chilies and tomatoes and blend them together with the garlic clove and onion.
- Add the jumiles and blend again until you get a sauce of the desired texture.
- Put the sauce in a skillet and heat it over low heat.
- Put a little oil in another pan and fry the tortillas.
- Fill the tortillas with the cheese and fold them into an enchilada.
- Put the tortillas in the pan with the sauce so that they are impregnated.
You can accompany these enchiladas with refried beans, cheese, cream and to drink, a worm mezcal with salt.
Maguey worm tacos
Maguey worms ( Aegiale hesperiaris ) are butterfly larvae that grow on the leaves of the maguey or agave. After the rainy season, three to four are extracted from the center of the maguey, losing the plant for other purposes.
These white insects are highly protein and also provide fats, vitamins and minerals.
They are perhaps the main Mexican gastronomic ambassadors in the field of insects and are generally eaten fried. Its scarcity makes it a very expensive dish. They are also used to prepare gourmet tacos .
Maguey worms tacos recipe
- 100 grams of maguey worms
- A splash of vegetable oil
- Some fresh tortillas
- 1 clove garlic
- 1 guajillo chili
- Salt and pepper
- Heat the oil and slowly brown the worms in a section of the pan, reducing the heat to low.
- Peel the garlic clove and slice it together with the guajillo chili, also putting it to brown in the other sector of the pan.
- When everything is golden brown, mix, add salt and pepper, cook for a few more seconds and turn off the heat.
- Heat the tortillas on both sides and assemble the tacos.
In Mexico City, you can eat tasty maguey worms tacos at La Casa de los Tacos, located in Felipe Carrillo Puerto 16, Coyoacán.
Typical dishes of Mexico with insects : scorpion tacos
Live scorpions or scorpions are dangerous because of the venom they can inoculate with their tail stinger, but once dead, weathered or fried directly, they are a tasty food with the flavor of French fries.
They are popular in Sonora and Durango, where they have been incorporated as ingredients in crunchy and exotic tacos and pizzas.
In the city of Durango, the Raíces Restaurant prepares a delicious dish consisting of scorpion tacos. Although the recipe is secret, the insects have been known to be fried with butter and garlic and eaten in tacos with beans and avocado.
If you don’t fancy scorpions, you can order mason steak, green tinder pork rinds, or chicken tinga, among other Mexican delicacies.
This restaurant is also a kind of local museum and is located in the Constitución 106 corridor, between Negrete and Aquiles Serdán streets.
Recipe for a Mexican dish made with insects : cocopaches with pico de gallo
Cocopaches are species of plant bugs, of various colors and sizes. The preferred ones to eat are the youngest, since adults give off a strong smell that is not pleasant to all noses.
They are insects whose strength is surprising for their size and they are not easily grasped. In addition, they defend themselves with their curved beak.
They are eaten with pico de gallo in a Mexican recipe and since they stay bright as when they were alive, it seems that at any moment they will jump from the plate into the diner’s mouth.
Are you of Eurocentric habits and reject the consumption of insects or have you already started this fascinating gastronomic experience? Go ahead and try these Mexican delicacies and you will not regret it, both for its exotic flavors and for its nutritional contributions.
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