From Dinner Parties to Restaurants, Cicadas Are Landing in the Kitchen

Professional and amateur chefs nationwide are preparing to serve cicada dishes as the rare double brooding begins

Roasted cicadas on skewers
Cicada salad, roasted cicadas and cicada casseroles are among the insect-based dishes on offer at restaurants across the country. Getty Images

Over the next few months, more than one trillion cicadas will appear in a rare occurrence as two broods of the insect emerge from their 13- or 17-year underground slumber in parts of the Southeast and Midwest.

While some view this once-every-221-year event as a noisy nuisance, others see it as an opportunity to expand their culinary options.

In Greenwood, South Carolina, a couple hosted a dinner party last week featuring cicadas prepared in various fashions: in a blanket, bacon-wrapped, cajun fried, and praline. In Chicago, Bar Sótano is ready to add cicadas to the menu once they find “somebody that could guarantee the utmost respect to the animal itself and to the cleanliness that we have in the restaurant,” said chef de cuisine Jackie Hernandez to Block Club Chicago. And in New Orleans, Bug Appétit, the Audubon Insectarium’s restaurant, is preparing dishes like cicada salad and roasted cicadas that may join the already insect-infested menu.

Rest assured, the Food and Drug Administration says cicadas are safe to eat. As long as they are appropriately prepared, the soft-shelled insects can be enjoyed in seemingly endless ways, including raw, grilled, boiled, deep-fried and air-fried.

“Cicadas have a nutty flavor and shrimp-like quality,” Toby Amidor, a nutrition consultant for Food Network, tells Food Network’s Samantha Leffler.

Recipes that incorporate cicadas as a key ingredient are plentiful online, with professional and amateur chefs crafting creative concoctions like cicada cookies, spicy popcorn cicadas and crispy cicada salad.

Bar Sótano is considering grinding up cicadas instead of ants to put a spin on their salsa de chicatanas because of the two insects’ similar flavor profiles.

Would you like a cicada salad? The monstrous little noisemakers descend on a New Orleans menu

However, those with shellfish allergies should steer clear, as cicadas are biologically related to shrimp and lobsters. Additionally, cicadas may lead to gout flare-ups and mercury accumulation in the insect means pregnant or lactating women and young children should avoid eating them, Amidor says.

If you can safely enjoy the arthropod, the nutritional and environmental benefits are bountiful.

“They are literally a superfood,” Chef Elise Harris told FOX 5. “They are full of antioxidants…Not only that, but they’re a complete source of protein, meaning that they contain all nine essential amino acids.”

According to Inverse, cicadas contain the same amount of protein per pound as red meat.

Cicadas may be more affordable than many other meats, require less land to cultivate, and because they emerge in the billions, eating them usually doesn’t harm their existence. Still, the thought of eating cicadas may make you squirm. A 2021 YouGov poll found that 58 percent of Americans were not interested in eating cicadas. But the protein-packed arthropod has been enjoyed across cultures for centuries.

Evidence exists “from Aristotle in the Historia Animalium that cicadas were harvested and considered a delicacy in ancient Greece,” according to research by Andrea M. Liceaga published in Advances in Food Nutrition and Research in 2002. Indigenous peoples in the Americas ate various arthropods, such as cicadas.

Today, cicadas are a popular street food and ingredient in countries like Thailand and Mexico, among others. In China, catching and selling cicadas as food is highly profitable, with local cicada catchers making 10,000 yuan ($1,410) a month.

“Don’t be afraid of trying something new,” Bar Sótano’s Hernandez said. “Insects have always been here. If anything, they’ve been here longer than we have. So the trend just has to move with how times are changing, and hopefully people open themselves up to trying new things. At the end of the day, you may fall in love with it.”

Get the latest stories in your inbox every weekday.