This is definitely not for the squeamish. Or anyone who is turned off by the taste or texture of seafood.
Eating cicadas might sound like a competition you would see on “Survivor,” but Cortni Borgerson is not a reality TV contestant who is being forced to consume creepy-looking insects to win a reward.
Borgerson is an assistant professor of anthropology at Montclair State University, and she actually enjoys eating cicadas. She even has a few recipes (listed below) that include those crunchy critters as one of the main ingredients.
Flaming cicada fondue, anyone?
“They’re delicious,” Borgerson said in a recent phone interview. Cicadas “will taste like shrimp. The taste and texture are very similar, but with a fresh spring twist to it… similar to if you’re eating fresh asparagus, spring arugula or parsley.”
Cicadas can be added to “any of your favorite dishes,” Borgerson noted. “They don’t need peeling or extensive prepping. Just pan fry them or parboil and toast them in the oven, and then use them like you would any of their crustacean relatives. Personally, I love them by themselves on toothpicks as an appetizer or in tacos, where you can use the toppings to bring out a lot of their green spring flavors.”
It’s not just the taste that draws folks like Borgerson to experiment with cicada recipes. These intriguing insects — which include some species that emerge only once every 13 or 17 years, like the Brood X variety that arrived in parts of New Jersey in May 2021, and others that pop up each year in the late summer — pack a high amount of protein and minerals.
In addition, they are a sustainable food source, Borgerson notes. So they don’t put a big drain on land, water or feed like more traditional food sources, such as cattle or other farm animals.
So, what prompted Borgerson to even think about tasting a cicada?
As part of her research on natural resource use, sustainability and food security, she has taken trips to overseas places where insects are among the delicacies served as a source of protein. She first sampled a cicada during a visit to Madagascar, off the southeast coast of Africa.
“I remember when I ate my first one,” she said. “I was actually quite surprised that it was quite delightful.”
In case you want to give it a try, here are a few recipes being shared by this Montclair professor, who has a PhD in biological anthropology.
A quick note on where to find cicadas: The Brood X variety began to emerge in big numbers in the Princeton area in late May, and more are expected to crawl out of the ground during the next few weeks in Mercer, Hunterdon, Burlington and several other counties across New Jersey.
Borgerson recommends going to one of the places on this list, and if you see some cicadas, stand still and snap your fingers. The snapping sound, she said, will sound similar to female cicadas who flick their wings in an effort to attract a mate.
Cicadas (which don’t bite or sting) can be placed in a plastic bag, taken home and placed in a freezer for future use. She recommends freezing the insects for about 30 minutes before preparing them for a dish.
A word of caution: Borgerson says cicadas should not be served to anyone with a history of allergies to shellfish or dust mites.
Cicada recipes from Cortni Borgerson
- 15 teneral cicadas (cicadas in their early, wingless stage of life, before they form a hard outer shell)
- 1 egg
- 1.5 cups of flour or your favorite gluten-free flour substitute (We use Cassava)
- 2 tsp salt
- Cold Seltzer Oil for frying (I like using coconut oil because it pairs really well with cicada and cassava flavors)
- Preheat oil for frying in a dutch oven or deep pan.
- Combine the flour, salt and egg.
- Slowly pour in the seltzer and mix (but not too much) until it’s the consistency of lumpy pancake batter.
- Keep it in the fridge on ice or on the top shelf until you use it.
- Once the oil is hot enough (I always put a drop of batter in to test it), dip the cicada into the batter and fry until golden brown.
- Note: Reserve the rest of the tempura batter (keep it cold in the fridge again) and save the frying oil in the pan to use it for the sushi recipe below.
- 6 of your tempura cicada
- Cooled cooked seasoned sushi rice
- 1 sheet of nori (sushi seaweed)
- 2-3 slices of avocado
- 2-3 thin slices of cream cheese (for this occasion buy the blocks so you can easily slice it)
- Leftover tempura batter
- Leftover frying oil
- Sriracha cream sauce (1/3 cup plain unsweetened yogurt or mayo + 2 tsp sriracha or to taste)
- Heat your frying oil.
- Thinly spread the cooled seasoned sushi rice evenly across one sheet of nori.
- Line up your tempura cicada, avocado and cream cheese at the bottom of the sheet.
- Roll the sushi (keep it tight).
- Dip the entire roll into the tempura batter and fry until golden brown.
- Set roll onto a paper towel or cloth until it’s cool enough to slice using a very sharp sushi knife.
- Plate and drizzle with the sriracha cream sauce. Serve warm.
FLAMING CICADA FONDUE
- The rest of your tempura cicada
- Fresh fruit of your choice
- Bag of chocolate chips
- Water or milk
- 1 shot of rum (don’t worry, the alcohol burns off)
- Heat the chocolate in a double boiler while stirring and slowly add small amounts of water or milk until it reaches a nice melty consistency ideal for dipping.
- Pour into a fondue pot and surround with the bowls of fruit and cicadas.
- Pour the rum over the top and light it on FIRE with a long match/lighter!
- Once the fire burns out, dip in the cicadas and fruit, share cool cicada facts, and enjoy the epic end to your science and family-filled evening.
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Len Melisurgo may be reached at [email protected].