What do mealworms taste like?

by | May 1, 2020 | Entomophagy | 0 comments

TL;DR: In general, mealworms themselves don't taste much like anything apart from some nutty or earthy sensation. However, properly preparing them in a meal the mealworms take on the flavor of what you combine it with.

If you’re new to entomophagy, or the eating of insects, and are interested to learn more about it is good to know what to expect. In this case “what do mealworms taste like?” is actually my own question as I have never experienced it before.

This means I cannot speak out of personal experience, but this article is about what I found out, based on some quick online research, but it would also be great to learn about your own experience in the comments below. Based on what I found out I am very eager to give it a go myself soon, so when that’s done this article will be updated with my personal experience as well.

First, let’s briefly cover the basics.

What are mealworms, anyway?

This fella, the adult Mealworm (or Tenebrio molitor), doesn’t seem quite as tasty as the edible mealworm larvae we’re talking about.

Mealworms, or Yellow Mealworms, are the larval (baby) form of mealworm beetles, a species of beetles of the holometabolism insect group, meaning they go through a complete metamorphosis in four stages:

  1. Egg
  2. Larva
  3. Pupa
  4. Imago (adult)

The metamorphosis stage when talking about edible mealworms for humans is the larva stage. So we’re actually eating Mealworm Beetle larvae.

If you want to be 100% sure you’re buying the correct larvae, look for the scientific name Tenebrio molitor.

A brief history of mealworms as food

Mealworms have been a part of human diet for centuries, but until recent history pretty confined to countries in Southeast Asia, Africa and South America. If you’re a millennial or older and grew up in western countries, it’s likely you’ve associated eating bugs with markets and street food in countries like Vietnam, Thailand or China. I know I have always found these images on TV fascinating when they spoke about the variety of insect meals or snacks in these regions, but that never meant that I’d be very interested to join this habit until now. My interest is still to a certain extend, because I’d still cower away from eating large larvae or scorpions for example.

Although mealworms and other edible insects have grown increasingly popular in western cultures, it is only since a decade or two that entomophagy became an increasingly large subculture for those in search of an alternative, sustainable diet other than meat.

Speaking of proteine, next up is some information about the nutrient contents of mealworms.

Nutrient content of mealworms

Mealworms and beef have similar nutritional values

Mealworms are actually quite nutritious, especially if we compare it to nutritious meat like beef. Raw mealworm larvae contain 206 calories and 14 to 25 grams of protein for every 100 grams of raw Yellow Mealworms. You can read more about this in detail in this report by the Food and Agricultural Organization.

In comparison, beef contains 19-26 grams of protein so that is quite similar. It also turns out that mealworms contain mostly the same mineral values zinc, sodium, copper, potassium, selenium and iron as beef. Mealworms even contain a higher vitamin content than beef, with the exception of Vitamin B12.

What do mealworms taste like?

So, after all that basic information, let’s get into something that is, obviously, a matter of taste: what do mealworms taste like?Here’s what could be said about the taste of mealworms in different preparations:

  • Raw: It’s not something I’d really want to try, but some say the taste of raw mealworms can be described as earthy, a bit bitter or like a potato.
  • Boiled: I have yet to find out what boiled mealworms taste like. Not being able to find out about any boiled mealworm recipies online makes me wonder if it’s a good idea to boil them for consumption.
  • Roasted: Roasted mealworms may taste like peanuts or pumpkin seeds
  • Fried: it’s hard to mess up any fried food, especially if you incorporate the mealworms in something like meatballs (or wormballs), but in this case the mealworms generally don’t add much as they seem to hardly add any flavor at all, apart from some sense of a nutty flavor..

In general, mealworms themselves don’t taste much like anything apart from some nutty or earthy sensation. However, properly preparing them in a meal the mealworms take on the flavor of what you combine it with. This basically means you get the nutrient values of the mealworms without ruining any of the flavor of other components of your meal and that’s great!

Have you ever eaten mealworms?

If you’ve ever eaten mealworms and would to share your experience, you’re welcome to do so in the comments below. Don’t hesitate to share your tasty mealworm recipies!

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