Mealworms as Food

Many people appear shocked, even disgusted, when they are presented with the idea of eating mealworms. They’ve never considered eating insects; bugs have always been in the “not food” category in their minds.

That’s a common reaction, but sometimes logic can overcome this social sense. Here are the top three reasons to eat mealworms:

1. They’re environmentally friendly. A mealworm farm takes up zero useful land. Mealworms can even be grown in a closet or under a bed.

2. They’re a good source of protein. Mealworms contain about 25% protein, and 12% fat (1).

3. They’re tasty! When toasted in the oven, mealworms taste just like roasted nuts or seeds. They’re particularly good covered in chocolate or sprinkled on soup.

Full disclosure

If you decide to start cooking and eating mealworms, please tell anyone you serve that there are insects in their food. Many people feel uncomfortable with the idea of eating bugs and wouldn’t like to try it. However, if you offer mealworm food along with an explanation of why you choose to eat insects, you may convince them to try.

Please treat mealworms as a real ingredient in food, and not a ‘prank’ food.

1. Ghaly AE and Alkoaik FN. The Yellow Mealworm as a Novel Source of Protein. Am J of Agri Biol Sci 2009; 4(4):319-331.

47 Responses to Mealworms as Food

  1. Jim says:

    Just ate two, raw and alive. When they’re not cooked it tastes like slightly lemon, but very Cheesy… so it’s like a lemon cheese cake.

    Will try cooking them next time.

  2. chikapon says:

    I can buy Zophobas morio – Giant mealworm. Can I do the same with them as with the mealworm you described above.. I’ve eaten widgety grubs fried and they tasted like peanuts.

    • Abigale says:

      From what I know you can eat the giant mealworms, but I don’t think you can raise them very easily. Giant mealworms don’t turn into pupae very easily if they live too close to each other.
      I’ve never eaten witchetty grubs. Did you eat them raw?

      • Worm Eater says:

        they clearly stated “widgety grubs FRIED”

        • Martine Vee El says:

          Been told to keep the giant mealworms seperate if I want them to turn into pupa to turn into beetles to breed. Have bred the small ones for my lizard for years, she’s stopped eating them so I may have to cook them, or feed therm to the birds but I’ll try them first.

  3. j says:

    I just went and bought a giant bag of dried meal worms for the baby starling bird that I rescued. I didn’t even make it home before I tried one… Actually tasty – I grabbed a slice of cheese pizza and put some on it. good stuff.

    • Adam says:

      Are those pet store mealworms? If so, are those ok for human consumption since I doubt the same regulations are enforced in hygiene?

      • Abigale says:

        I started my own farm with mealworms I bought at a pet store. I only started eating them after a couple of generations, though, to make sure I knew what had gone into them and how they were grown. Unfortunately, I don’t know of anywhere to buy human-food-grade mealworms currently.

  4. Pingback: Mealworms in the oatbran: Anybody else got this problem ?

  5. alex says:

    I just eat some on pretsals didn’t know they were on them can I die from them I’m really sketched out

  6. Bethan says:

    I bought an ‘I’m a celebrity’ themed packet of mealworms and shared them out at youth club thinking they were mealworm shaped biscuits… should have checked the packet!!! :O Actually tasted alright though…

    • Abigale says:

      I’m glad you thought they tasted good! Too bad you didn’t notice what they were first – I always recommend being clear that there are mealworms in food if there are.

  7. sophia says:

    Thanks for the info Abigale, All…
    With global warming and GMOs, pesticides, I plan to check “bug” eating out. We need to learn to help to feed one another before the system collapses.

  8. Ian O-J says:

    I have heard that mealworms should be left inside a fridge for a number of hours before cooking. Is this true? And for how long? And what is the reasoning?
    Also have heard of people boiling post-cold treatment and then storing them in a fridge for later consumption.
    Thanks for any help with debunking some of this heresay

    • Abigale says:

      From what I understand, if you put them in the fridge it will slow their metabolism down. Usually they will survive if you warm them up again. I usually freeze them before cooking them, to make sure they’ve died. I haven’t tried boiling them and then storing them, so I’m not sure what the rationale for that is. If I find out, I’ll let you know.

  9. Chris says:

    I have been looking into growing my own mealworms and consulting a few web sources. I notice the RSPB site http://www.rspb.org.uk/advice/helpingbirds/feeding/whatfood/mealworms.aspx warns about salmonella poisoning, in the case of unfresh mealworms but also of ‘discoloured’ ones. Given the number a human would eat compared to a bird, I think it’s good to be careful even in the case of healthy-looking larvae. Is there any information available on salmonella prevalence in mealworms?

    • Abigale says:

      I don’t know anything about salmonella in mealworms, but it is definitely a good idea to always practice good food hygiene when preparing mealworms. If I find any more information, I’ll post it here.

  10. Christiaan says:

    I am planning a long trek in July and will need to carry all my own food.
    I was thinking dried mealworms would be a good source of protein, light to carry and taste great.
    Do you think I should grow and dry my own? I would want about 1kg dry.

    • Abigale says:

      Mealworms are a good source of protein, although I don’t know if they would be the best for a long trek. It would take quite a while to grown and dry 1 kg of mealworms (at least a few months, with a big farm), and I don’t know how well they would last without refrigeration, even if you dry them first. Good luck on your trek!

      • Martine Vee El says:

        The best source of protein to me would be nuts and they are available in any shop, at the very least peanuts. You can also make milk with them (raw) so would be another good reason to take nuts with you.

  11. linda says:

    Hi.I bought some dried mealworms for my hamster and all the way home really fancied eating some.I have no idea why though! Anyway imjjust finding out about why it’s a good idea to eat them.I have just given up eating meat and don’t know why.so was interested in finding other sources of protein.I love granola and dried fruit so I might put my dried mealworms in that for breakfast.kind regards.

  12. Fern says:

    Where do mealworms get their protein? Would feeding them to a chicken in peanut butter affect the diet?

    • Rhonda says:

      I buy dried mealworms packaged specifically for my chickens. I just acquired 100 live to start farming my own for the girls.

      • Martine Vee El says:

        I give my mealworms the stalks of the leaves of cabbages and the leaves around cauliflowers that I cut lengthways so they can get to the juicy bits, apple cores, stones from stone fruit where they’ll eat all the little bits you can’t reach but they can, carrot peelings and they live in wheat bran. As I’m wheat intolerant, I’ve started to give them oats to wriggle about in so I won’t react when I eat them. Still need to try them. You need to clean out the beetles’ substrate every 2 weeks otherwise they will eat their eggs which you’ll find mixed in with the dirt but also at the bottom of the tubs you’re breeding them in so you need a new tub every 2 weeks until a the eggs have hatched from the first tub which can take a 2-3 months. Sieve the mealworms’ substrate over a dustpan over the bath or washbasin as the dust is very fine and will go everywhere. Have fun. They are my way of getting rid of any veg or fruit peelings and make a good fertiliser for the garden rather than needing a compost heap.

  13. mouse says:

    I’d always heard of eating mealworms, but I’d never tried them myself. This site makes me really want to go and start raising them right now! Sound just about as easy to raise as oyster mushrooms, and as tasty! Have you ever tried earthworms? They’re not bad at all, but you’ve got to leave them in a bowl of wet cornmeal for a day to clean out their digestive track before eating them, and then boil them once quickly to get the slime off their skin before you add them to a recipe. I like all these sorts of easy foods, like setting a minnow trap up overnight to catch a meal of crayfish, or cattail shoot cores. So easy to prepare and gather in large amounts, whereas you can never be 100% sure you’ll come home with rabbit or trout or hazelnuts after a long day in the woods, you know?

    I do have one problem though, my cabin fluctuates in temperature pretty wildly. If I’m out all day on a -30 degree day, my house is -30 degrees when I return before I can get the woodstove working again. That’s the reason why I don’t keep guinea pigs for meat or raise my own earthworms or silkworms or keep a sourdough culture and stuff. Will mealworms be able to survive through the Winter, or would I have to restart my colony every year? If I can’t maintain my own colony permanently I’m not sure I’d be interest in keeping them.

    Speaking of silkworms, have you ever tried keeping them? They’re supposed to be pretty easy to keep so long as you have a good supply of mulberry trees, and you both get silk and can eat the larvae!

    Argh I’m rambling. I’m waaay too prone to rambling. Oh well, have a good day!

    • Abigale says:

      Hi there – I haven’t tried eating earthworms but it sounds interesting! I’ll have to keep an eye out for them.
      To answer your question about raising mealworms, it doesn’t sound like it would work in your cabin. Mealworms are fine in cool temperatures, but below zero they would likely die. At -30 they would definitely die. If there’s any way you could keep them above freezing while you’re away (for example in an insulated container), it might work. Good luck!

      • Dan says:

        You could consider digging them an underground ‘farm’. I have no idea what the ground temperatures are like where you are but you don’t normally need to go too deep to get a decent constant temperature. Cover and insulate the top access panel and you might have a workable system.

        • Martine Vee El says:

          Or you could get a heat mat that’s used for lizard vivariums and sit them on that and throw an old quilt over them

  14. Stuart says:

    Great website! I think mealworms would be a great source of human food for all the reasons listed here. If birds, reptiles, etc., eat the mealworms raw, why can’t we? The salmonella problem is kind of scary. I wonderful if washing the mealworms first would help. Baking them for two hours seems like a lot of energy use. Well, I’ll continue to daydream about mealworms.

    • Martine Vee El says:

      You could ask a vet how to minimise the threat of salmonella, he might give your first batch some antibiotics so the future generations wouldn’t have them if you keep them clean. Ask a vet, I would, or ask reptile food breeders.

  15. Aaron says:

    I’m kind that I don’t see meal worm products in the supermarket. Do you know if there are any specific challenges, as far as legality is concerned, meal worms as an industry for human consumption?

    • Abigale says:

      You’re right that you don’t see insect products in the supermarket, but it is possible to buy insects as food in other places. They’re mostly available as a novelty. I think the obstacle is a cultural one, but not a legal one.

  16. kelly says:

    I plan to eat a mealworm in front of my class. It’s a response to an article we read on “Mealworms as food.” It says if you eat it raw, you could get sick. What do you suggest I do first? From these posts, it sounds like I freeze it, then toast it before I eat it. Any suggestions?

    • Abigale says:

      I would definitely suggest cooking them first. I usually freeze them first (overnight should be fine) and then toast them at low heat for about 1-2 hours. Instead of toasting, you could also try pan frying them. If you find any more good recipes, let me know!

  17. David says:

    I bought some mealworms yesterday from the pet store. I got 105 of them, I counted them out. This batch is going to be nothing but breeders, but the next batch may have some harvested. I’m excited to try them. I’m using oatmeal as their bedding, and potato slices and a few cut up grapes as their water source. I may put apple slices in there too later on. I’m actually enjoying watching them crawl around, it’s the same effect as watching fish in a fishtank. I have them in a non stick cake pan, I bought 5 pans for $4 each when they normally sell for $8.50, so I got a deal and I can separate them later. Have you tried giving them some peanut butter? Since they are a great source of protein, maybe peanut butter would be a good fit.

    • Abigale says:

      Congratulations! Your plan sounds great. You can also try using carrot slices as a water source. Apples may work although I found that sometimes they would get mouldy quickly.
      I’ve never tried giving them peanut butter. If you try it, let me know how it works. I don’t think it would make a difference for protein, though – the beauty of animals (of any kind) is that they convert plants (grass, oats, whatever…) into protein for us to eat! Cows are a great source of protein even though they only eat grass – same is true for mealworms.

      Good luck with your farm!

  18. Trisha says:

    I’m doing a “bush tucker trial” for charity and was wondering if morio worms are safe for human consumption if they are live or do u need to cook them?

    • Abigale says:

      I always cook them before I eat them. I know some people eat some insects live but I’m just not comfortable with eating anything living.

  19. logan says:

    they are safer to eat then beef or pork

  20. Adrian says:

    Love mealworms!growing a small farm now with 15 beetles.havent checked for eggs yet.hope I do have eggs!

  21. Cynder says:

    I want to eat a raw mealworm,call me crazy and be gross out as you want but I always wanted to eat them raw,and I don’t even know why and I always thought they were tasty I never even tried one in my life befor,and I am since I came across this site while looking it up about mealworms,i had no idea they were beetles,anyways the main point of my question is can I eat them raw? I want to make sure its okay befor I eat one, I am very curious and I always wish to eat one,
    please reply when you can
    thanks

    • Abigale says:

      Hi there,
      I have to say I’ve never tried them raw. I suppose you could – not something I would do but it sounds like you really want to try it. I don’t know anything about raw mealworms, sorry I can’t be of more help!

  22. Paul Landkamer says:

    Stumbled across this site while looking for freeze-dried mealworms. IF you’ve raised the mealworms yourself, you know what they’ve been consuming, and you can make the call on whether or not to eat them raw. Freeze-drying is a method of ‘cooking’. The way I see it, our animal rights people probably keep closer tabs on what sorts of commercial foods we feed our pets than our FDA does for human food. I regularly eat freeze-dried meal worms from Lowe’s and WalMart, but want a cheaper source. And I’ve found freeze-dried is more cost-effective for me than raising my own. I usually serve and eat them in the form of rice krispy bars –substitute half the cereal for dried meal worms. You can’t tell the difference in the dark, other than a faint peanut-buttery flavor. Drop on by my Facebook group, Missouri Entomophagy. We’d love to have you!

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