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Can You Eat Grasshoppers?

Grasshoppers are considered edible insects. They are even among the top 5 most eaten insect species around the world.

It may sound odd to eat grasshoppers, or any bug for that matter, but many cultures have embraced these protein-packed edible insects as a part of their cuisine.  If you are curious about whether or not you can eat grasshoppers, their nutritional value, and what cultures eat them, read on!

Are Grasshoppers Edible?

Grasshoppers are considered edible insects. They are even among the top 5 most eaten insect species around the world. All you need to do to make them edible is to remove their wings and legs, which are very sharp and can scratch your throat, possibly resulting in a trip to the emergency room.

Scientists know approximately 8000 grasshopper species (as part of the superfamily Acridoidea), of which an estimated 80 species are consumed worldwide. These locusts may occur in swarms, which makes them particularly easy to harvest.

a woman in Laos harvesting grasshoppers
A woman in Laos harvesting grasshoppers.

In Africa, the desert locust, the migratory locust, the red locust and the brown locust are eaten. However, due to their status as agricultural pests they may be sprayed with insecticides in governmental control programs or by farmers. That, of course, makes them problematic to eat.

Grasshoppers are very nutritious. In fact, they are very high in proteins and fat but low in carbohydrates. Perfect for a keto diet! Grasshoppers also have high levels of Vitamin A, B, C, and they are one of the most antioxidant-rich edible insects. They even have around five times more antioxidants than a freshly squeezed glass of orange juice!

However, while insects are edible, you would have to ingest large quantities of insects to get the same nutritional value as a more filling meal. 

Which Cultures Eat Grasshoppers?

All around the world, you can find people eating different insects, and grasshoppers are one of the most popular. Some cultures snack on them alone like crispy chips, while others use them in various recipes.

Fresh grasshoppers collected from the wild and on display at a local market in Niger
Fresh grasshoppers collected from the wild and on display at a local market in Niger.

The following list is by far not complete:

The edible grasshopper is a common food source in many parts of eastern and southern Africa. In the Lake Victoria region of East Africa, where the grasshoppers are known as nsenene, they form a major part of food culture. The Bahaya ethnic group in Tanzania’s Bukoba district considers grasshoppers a delicacy. In the West African nation of Niger, it is not uncommon to find grasshoppers for sale in local markets or sold as snacks on roadsides. Fried grasshoppers are a delicacy in Uganda. Traditionally, children in Mali hunt and eat grasshoppers as a snack. Although a seasonal protein source, they supply significant protein important for the nutritional health of these kids.

fried chapulines at a street market
Fried chapulines at a street market.

The chapuline is the best-known edible grasshopper across Latin America. This small grasshopper has been a part of local diets for centuries and is still eaten in several parts of Mexico. The valleys of Oaxaca state are especially famous for the consumption of chapulines. These grasshoppers are fried, smoked, or toasted and eaten in a tortilla as a taco and they are a popular form of street food.

Rice-field grasshoppers are eaten in most Asian countries. In Korea, they are commonly eaten as a side dish, as a lunch-box ingredient and as a snack. In Thailand, grasshoppers are cooked in a wok until they are crispy and served as popular street food. This is one of the best-known and most popular edible insect snacks in Thailand. In the  Philippines, grasshoppers are marinated with vinegar, tomatoes, and onions and stir-fried.

Inago no tsukudani
Inago no tsukudani – grasshoppers are cooked in soy sauce and sugar.

In Japan, grasshopper harvesting is connected to the rice harvest. The grasshoppers are kept alive for one night after they are collected to allow time for the faeces to be expelled. The next day they are fried or boiled and the legs are removed. After being sun-dried, the grasshoppers are cooked in soy sauce and sugar – a dish called Inago no tsukudani.

In the United States, grasshoppers are preserved in lollipops and can be found at gas stations across the country. Historically, in 25–50 percent of Native American tribes, there existed a long history of eating grasshoppers and crickets. On their first tasting of shrimp, the Goshute Indians are reported to have named the creatures sea crickets.

In 2004 in Australia, after a particularly bad locust plague in New South Wales, agricultural officials proposed the renaming of locusts as sky prawns and even compiled 20 recipes in a cookbook: Cooking with Sky-prawns. Dishes include locust dumplings, chocolate-covered locusts, locust-flavored popcorn, and Coonabarabran stir-fry. 

Where Can You Buy Edible Grasshoppers?

If you live in The United States, you can find grasshoppers when road tripping across the country in the form of a lollipop or as dried chips with sour cream and onion powder. You can also purchase grasshoppers from Amazon or Whole Foods Market. If you are having difficulty finding grasshoppers in the store, you can look up companies that ship edible grasshoppers to your location.  

Fortunately for you, we have a large selection of grasshoppers and other edible insects in our store section.

You also might be interested in sampling some grasshopper recipes or check out our cookbook selection for ideas on how to cook with grasshoppers.

Interesting Facts About Grasshoppers

  • Male grasshoppers can chirp by rubbing their legs against their body
  • Grasshoppers spit brown liquid called ‘tobacco juice’ to protect them from predators
  • Grasshoppers existed before Dinosaurs. The first grasshopper fossil was dated over 300 million years ago
  • Grasshoppers are considered to become part of the menu for space travel, as their nutritional value including minor components is known and entomophagy is a promising approach to meet human nutritional needs in space