Mexico is a beautiful country filled with cuisine that features delicious, exotic flavors that delight foodies who visit from around the world. While specialties like chocolaty mole and savory pozole tantalize the taste buds of the masses, more adventurous diners have begun to discover the high-protein, organic insect-focused diet that has been enjoyed here for centuries.
Long before tacos bursting with beef or pork became everyday fare in Mexico, the edible insects found throughout the country (which happens to contain the highest number anywhere in the world) played an important role in fueling native ancient warriors and villagers alike. Get to know some of the most commonly eaten bugs in Mexico:
More popular in Mexico than any other edible bug, chapulines are a favorite snack throughout the country. Typically fried and flavored with mild chili powder and lime juice, these crispy treats are packed with protein and can be found from roadside stands to high-end restaurants.
Chicatanas (Giant Winged Ants)
Commonly roasted in a pan with lime to remove their heads and giant wings, chicatanas are a rare treat because they only emerge from their flooded nests after the first seasonal rains in Oaxaca. They are also used in many salsas and a paste mixed with chili, garlic and salt.
Cuchamás (Green Caterpillars)
Picked from green shrubs in the desert, cuchamás are then dried and sold at markets, and the trade of these edible grubs dates back centuries. Whether enjoyed as a crispy snack, a low-fat taco filling, or fried with chili, lime and onion, these tasty bugs are a diet staple for many in the Zapotitlán area.
Escamoles (Ant Larvae)
Another seasonal favorite, escamoles are eaten from March to May in Puebla. Not unlike pricey caviar, ant larvae is prized for its delicate texture that burst in the mouth upon biting with a nutty, buttery flavor. They are often sautéed with butter, garlic and onion or served in tacos.
Although Mexico is home to 88 different species of edible beetles, the chahui beetle is by far the most consumed of them all. The chahui lives off of bean pods that grow on the same desert-dwelling mesquite trees that coyotes snack on. While bitter tasting if eaten raw, the flavor mellows to a mild fishy sensation when they are roasted.
Gusanos (Maguey Worms)
Often found at the bottom of mescal bottles, gusanos are rumored to have aphrodisiac properties that only grow stronger after a few shots or cocktails. Their earthy flavor and high protein levels also make them tasty in sal de gusano or pan-fried with a side of guacamole.
Jumiles (Stink Bugs)
Collected from their homes in mountainous areas, jumiles are placed into tacos while still alive and bathed in lime juice before being eaten. Although their strong flavor and fragrance, which is reminiscent of cinnamon and mint, isn’t for everyone, they are said to have an analgesic effect after consumption.
Libélulas (Dragonfly Larvae)
A popular treat in the northern state of Sonora, libélulas are often seasoned with the ever-present flavors of lime and salt, and can be enjoyed fried or dried and served alongside a tequila shot.