Brood X cicadas are finally emerging, meaning that if you are interested in tasting them, now’s the time to get them.

Edible insect advocates promote bugs as a sustainable protein source, and regular cicadas are eaten by many cultures around the world. With the emergence of the 17-year cicadas in the Eastern United States, we offer this recipe if you want to give them a try.

Experts say that their full adult stage isn’t as tasty, so look for the nymph stage, in which they appear light brown and are just emerging from the ground, or their whitish teneral stage in which they cast off their nymphal case before unfurling their wings and forming their full adult coloration. This recipe calls for tenerals, though you could try it with nymphs.

The best time to look for them is later in the evening or at night. Pick them up, place them in a lidded container and store the container in the freezer overnight. When ready to prepare, rinse the tenerals well to remove any dirt.

They are similar to small shrimp in size and genetics, but not taste — folks have described the flavor as very mild with most of it coming from whatever spices you add to them. This recipe marinates them in Worcestershire and includes a spicy blend of paprika, cayenne, garlic and onion in the batter to fry them into crispy, flavorful bites.

These fried cicadas are best if eaten right away. You can eat these as a snack or try them on top of a green salad.

NOTE: Cicadas are edible, but if you have allergies to soy, nuts or shellfish, or any contact allergies to other insects, experts say to consult your doctor before consuming. The creatures do not contain any toxic substances, but accumulation of pesticides and other chemicals is possible. Unless one binges on cicadas, however, experts say this should not be a concern.


Ingredients

For the cicadas

  • 12 freshly emerged 17-year cicadas
  • 1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet or smoked paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 large egg
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

For the spice mix

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Step 1

Place the live cicadas in an airtight container and freeze at least 3 hours, or overnight.


Step 2

Thoroughly rinse the frozen cicadas to remove any dirt, then transfer to a small bowl, pour the Worcestershire sauce over them and stir to combine. Cover and refrigerate for about 1 hour.


Step 3

Remove the cicadas from the Worcestershire sauce and transfer to a wire rack or a towel-lined plate to drain.


Step 4

Set out two shallow bowls. In one, whisk together the flour, onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt and cayenne; in the other, whisk the egg.

Working with one cicada at a time, dip it into the egg, letting the excess drip off, then coat it in the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, and transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining cicadas.


Step 5

In a small saucepan, add enough oil to come about 1 1/2 inches up the sides of the pan, about 1 1/2 cups. Set the pot over medium-high heat and warm the oil until it registers 350 degrees on an instant-read thermometer. Place a wire rack near the stove or line a large plate with a clean tea towel or paper towels.


Step 6

Make the spice mix: In a small bowl, whisk together the cumin, salt and cayenne.


Step 7

Fry the cicadas in two batches, 6 or so at a time, until light golden and crispy. Once they float to the surface, watch them carefully to avoid burning, stirring occasionally with a slotted spoon so they brown evenly, about 2 minutes. Transfer to the prepared rack or plate.


Step 8

Lightly sprinkle the hot cicadas with the spice mixture as soon as they are removed from the oil. Transfer the cooked cicadas to a small bowl and serve.


Nutrition Information

(Because no reliable data exists on the nutritional content of cicadas, this analysis is impossible.)


Adapted from “Cicada-Licious Cookbook” by evolutionary biologist and ecologist Jenna Jadin (University of Maryland, 2004).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to voraciously@washpost.com.

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