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Are Mealworms Edible? Benefits and Examples of Dishes


are mealworms edible cover image

Mealworms, the larvae of darkling beetles, are not your typical choice for a culinary adventure. However, in recent years, these little critters have gained attention as a potential food source due to their high nutritional value and sustainability.


In this article, we will explore the question: Are mealworms edible?


To answer the question right off the bat, yes, mealworms are indeed edible. They have been consumed by humans for centuries in various cultures around the world. In fact, mealworms have been a traditional food source in many regions of Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. They are often used as an ingredient in traditional dishes and snacks. In 2021, the European Food Safety Authority issued a statement presenting dried yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) as safe for human consumption.


In the sections below, we dive deeper into the nutritional benefits of mealworms, the current regulations when it comes to their sale and consumption, and the types of dishes that can be cooked using them.


What are the nutritional benefits of mealworms?

bowl of dried mealworms

Mealworms are packed with essential nutrients, making them a nutritious addition to one's diet. Here are some key nutritional benefits of mealworms:


Protein

Mealworms are an excellent source of protein, containing all the essential amino acids required by the human body. In fact, they are considered a complete protein source, similar to meat, poultry, and fish.


Vitamins and minerals

Mealworms are rich in vitamins and minerals, including vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin E, calcium, iron, and zinc. Vitamin B12 is particularly important for vegans and vegetarians, as it is primarily found in animal products.


Healthy fats

Mealworms contain healthy unsaturated fats, including omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which are beneficial for heart health.



Are mealworms safe for human consumption?

Mealworms are safe for human consumption as long as you source them from reputable suppliers that produce them specifically for human consumption. These suppliers ensure that the mealworms are raised in controlled environments and fed a proper diet. To learn more about these controlled environments, read our article explaining in which instances insects are safe for human consumption.


Additionally, proper cooking and preparation are crucial to eliminate any potential pathogens or parasites that may be present. Roasting, baking, or boiling mealworms at high temperatures ensures that they are safe to eat.


While allergic reactions to mealworms are rare, individuals with shellfish allergies may be more prone to developing an allergic response to mealworms. It is advisable to exercise caution if you have known allergies.


mealworm powder

Have mealworms been approved as safe food by food safety experts?

While mealworms have a long history of consumption in certain cultures, it's important to note that regulations and approvals regarding their safety as food varies by country. Below, we enlighten you on the situation in the US and the European Union.


United States

In the United States, the regulatory framework for insects as food is still developing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not issued specific regulations regarding the safety of mealworms as a food source.


However, the FDA generally considers insects to be "adulterants" under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. This means that insect-based foods are subject to regulatory scrutiny and may require approval on a case-by-case basis.


European Union

In the European Union (EU), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has assessed the safety of mealworms and other insects as food. In January 2021, the EFSA published a scientific opinion stating that dried yellow mealworms (Tenebrio molitor) are safe for human consumption. However, this opinion applies specifically to dried mealworms and not to other forms or species of insects.


It's important to keep in mind that regulatory approvals and guidelines can change over time as more research and evidence become available. To ensure the safety of mealworms as food, it is crucial to follow local regulations, source mealworms from reputable suppliers, and ensure proper cooking and handling practices.


What kind of dishes can you make with mealworms?

Zirp burger

Enough serious talk, here’s how you can cook mealworms and fully benefit from their nutritional values.


Mealworms are surprisingly versatile and can be a fun addition to various dishes, bringing a unique texture and flavour to the table.


Check out these awesome ideas on how to incorporate mealworms into your culinary adventures:


Snack Attack

Get your crunch on with some roasted mealworms! These little critters make for a protein-packed and satisfying snack. Sprinkle them with an array of spices to add some zing, or mix them up with nuts and dried fruits for a seriously tasty trail mix. Many insect food companies have developed tasty mealworm protein bars and powders for shakes. Why not give it a try?


Baking Bonanza

Who knew mealworms could join the baking party? Grind up some mealworms into flour and unleash their nutritious power in your favourite baked goods. Bread, cookies, and even pancakes can get a boost of goodness with a sprinkle of mealworm flour.


Main Course Magic

Ready to take your main courses to the next level? Say hello to mealworm-infused deliciousness. Toss them into stir-fries for an extra protein punch, or mix them into fluffy omelettes for a surprising twist.


Don't be shy to throw them into pasta dishes for an added crunch. And for the adventurous souls out there, mealworms can even stand in as a meat substitute in burgers or meatballs.


Rethink The Burger

A handful of companies have already launched mealworm-based burger patties. The choice is yours: why not fry those juicy patties in your pan and enjoy the delicious combination of ingredients in a bun with fresh lettuce and tomatoes?


Add your favourite burger sauce to it and you'll be surprised how tasty an insect burger can be. The best part? You don't even see the mealworms, so no need to worry about the yuck factor.


Ready to cook?

So, next time you're feeling a bit adventurous in the kitchen, give mealworms a chance to shine. You might just discover a whole new world of flavours and textures that will amaze your taste buds!


Curious about cooking other insects? Check out our article about which insects taste the best and how you can cook them.


Wrap up

In a nutshell, mealworms are totally edible and have gained attention as a unique and sustainable food source.


They're packed with protein, vitamins, and minerals, making them a nutritious choice. Just make sure to get them from reliable sources and cook them properly to stay safe. And get ready to rock your taste buds with some crunchy roasted snacks, baking adventures with mealworm flour, or adding them to your main courses for a protein boost.


So, don't be afraid to try something different in the kitchen and let mealworms surprise you with their tasty possibilities!



protein bar

References

Rumpold, B. A., & Schlüter, O. K. (2013). Nutritional composition and safety aspects of edible insects. Molecular nutrition & food research, 57(5), 802-823.


van Huis, A., van Itterbeeck, J., Klunder, H., Mertens, E., Halloran, A., Muir, G., & Vantomme, P. (2013). Edible insects: Future prospects for food and feed security. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.


Ramos-Elorduy, J. (2009). Anthropo-entomophagy: Cultures, evolution, and sustainability. Entomological Research, 39(5), 271-288.


European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). (2021). Safety of dried yellow mealworm (Tenebrio molitor larva) as a Novel Food pursuant to Regulation (EU) 2015/2283. EFSA Journal, 19(1), e06498.


U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2020). Guidance for Industry: Insect-Related Foods. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/food/guidance-documents-regulatory-information/guidance-industry-insect-related-foods


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