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Many people in the Midwest, South and East will soon be visited by billions of cicadas as they emerge from their long 17-year underground slumber. While our ears may grow weary from the constant hum of the “Brood X” cicadas, our tummies can be filled with a delicious treat.
Delicious treat?! Look I get it, modern day Americans don’t usually think of insects as food. A lot of us think bugs are gross, and that may just be a hurdle that some of us can’t get over. Here’s the thing though – it’s very common to eat insects across a large portion of this planet, and they’re often considered a delicacy. They can actually taste good if you give them a chance.
Plus, bugs tend to be a great source of protein. They’re also a sustainable source of food. It takes a lot less water and land to harvest bugs for dinner than a cow, for example, and they give off a lot less carbon dioxide.
Like Shrimp? Then You Might Like Eating Cicadas…
You might already enjoy eating something that ‘s really similar to cicadas – shrimp! The little bugs that live on the bottom of the sea are very similar to cicadas, and they have a similar texture.
While you may not being eating a cicada cocktail on your deck this summer, you might find cicada scampi, fried cicadas or even grilled cicada skewers to be surprisingly delicious (especially with proper preparation and a little help from some appropriate spices).
Before You Start Eating Cicadas – Boil Them First!
Cicadas live in the ground. There are some very nasty things that also live in the ground that you don’t want to eat. In particular, Clostridium bacteria, which can lead to botulism. That’s a very serious illness that attacks your nerves and can cause difficulty breathing, muscle paralysis and even death.
For this reason, we highly recommend blanching cicadas in boiling water before you eat them or cook them further. Better safe than sorry.
How to Hunt Cicadas
The best time to harvest cicadas for cooking is early in the morning when they’re moving slow. Stay away from cicadas that are deceased, and focus on the plumper females. You’ll find them on trees and plants, and you should be able to easily grab them and place them in a paper bag.
Note: It’s advised to capture them around places you know haven’t been treated with pesticides or herbicides.
Once you have your fill (a pound of cicadas will feed about 2-4 people as an app or topping to pasta, etc), put them in an air-tight bag in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Freezing them is widely considered the most humane way to kill them because it just slows down their metabolism until they just go to sleep. Plus the cicadas will be easier to handle when frozen.
Blanching and Prepping the Cicadas for Cooking
We highly recommend that you boil the cicadas before cooking. This will protect you from anything that might be living on the cicadas and it will make it easier to remove the wings and legs. Also, this is a great opportunity to add start adding some flavor.
Create a boil just like you would for shrimp or crab. We recommend our Bay Seasoning or Curry Crab if you like things with a little heat:
- Bring a pot of water to boil with 2 Tablespoons of Bay Seasoning or Curry Crab
- Add cicadas and boil for 3 minutes
- Drain the cicadas in a colander and immediately put in a bowl of ice water to chill
- Once cooled, remove the head, wings and legs and discard
The Best Spices for Cicadas
The options are endless, but we lean toward the flavors we like on shrimp and the flavors we like on chicken wings. Here is a list of our favorites:
- Cicada Sprinkle – a Cajun style mix with a touch of sweetness
- Sweet and Sassy Pork – smoky and sweet BBQ seasoning
- Blackened – Classic spice mix for blackening fish, shrimp, and chicken
- Honey Chipotle BBQ – A little heat and honey make this BBQ mix pop
- La Dulce Vita – Sweet and savory with a hint of heat, Italian inspired spice mix
- Curry Crab – A seafood boil mix with a little more heat and Asian flavors
- Buffy’s Slayer Helper – Garlic, Garlic, Garlic and did we say Garlic
- Bay Seasoning – Our take on the old Maryland spice blend
Three Best Ways to Cook Cicadas
Each of these recipes start after the boiling/blanching we did earlier to properly clean and season them. If you want to make ahead, you can keep the boiled cicadas in the fridge for a day or two. These recipes will feed 2-4 people (as appetizers or toppers on pasta, etc).
- Cicada Scampi with Buffy’s Slayer Helper (Our Garlic Lover’s Spice): Mix 1 pound of cicadas with 1 Tablespoon of olive oil and 2 Tablespoons of Buffy’s Slayer Helper. Heat a skillet over medium heat with add 2 Tablespoons of olive. Toss in the cicadas and cook for 1-2 minutes, add 4 Tablespoons of butter and a splash of white wine. Sauté/simmer for 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and garnish with fresh lemon juice and parsley. Serve over pasta, or enjoy as is.
- Fried Cicadas with La Dulce Vita (Our Salty Italian Spice with a Touch of Heat): In a bowl mix salt, pepper, a pinch of cayenne with 2 cups of flour. Beat 4 eggs together in a separate bowl. Dip 1 pound of cicadas in the eggs, then roll in the flour mixture to completely coat. Heat 2-3 cups of oil in in skillet to 350 degrees. Gently add the cicadas and fry until golden brown. Immediately sprinkle with a generous amount of La Dulce Vita seasoning and serve with fresh made ranch or your favorite condiment.
- Grilled Cicadas with Our Cicada Sprinkle (a Cajun-Inspired Seasoning with a Touch of Sweetness and Heat): Mix 2 Tablespoons Cicada Sprinkle with 2 Tablespoons lemon juice and 1/2 cup olive oil. Marinate 1 pound of cicadas in the mixture for at least 1 hour, ideally over night. Skewer marinated cicadas and prepare your grill for high-heat, direct cooking. Grill cicadas until charred and cooked well. Garnish with lemon juice and top with Cicada Sprinkle. Serve to guests and enjoy.