Free Food Popping Out of the Ground: Try These Cicadas Recipes

A cicada sits on a dinner plate.
The Penny Hoarder

Certain parts of the eastern United States are in the midst of a slightly unpleasant season. It comes up every roughly 17 years — or 13 years, depending on the brood that resides in your region. Yes, we’re talking about cicadas. While these flying insects are generally nothing more than a nuisance, they have a hidden purpose if you count yourself among the brave ones. You can, in fact, eat cicadas. Now before you scrunch up your nose at our list of cicadas recipes, there are a few important safety caveats.

Montclair State University assistant professor of anthropology Cortni Borgerson confirms they’re not only safe to eat, but insects are, “a more sustainable choice than other species of livestock, which can require a lot of land, water and feed.” But the U.S. Food and Drug Administration offers an important warning. Cicadas are in the same biological family as shrimp and lobsters. So, refrain from trying one of these cicadas recipes if you have a shellfish allergy.

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A retired chef for Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center has some recommendations for how to find and cook them. First, OSU’s Jim Warner notes to, “find a wooded area away from older homes to lessen the chances for potential lead absorption from chipped paint.” And avoid heavily manicured lawns from which cicadas may have taken in chemicals.

And another tip: “cicadas are at their most tender just out of the shell,” writes Warner.

“The tough exoskeleton is not very tasty,” Warner continues. “Watch them climb up a tree and begin to molt from their outer shell. When they’re out of their shell, gently grab the soft bodies, blanch them in boiling water for one minute, then put them into a zip-lock bag and place them in the freezer before preparing them to cook.”

This graphic shows different facts about cicadas.What to Know Before Trying Cicadas Recipes

Can you say…yum? While you may not be entirely convinced, a few good cicadas recipes could change your mind. In fact, there are even entire cookbooks dedicated to cicadas recipes, like “Cicada-licious: Cooking and Enjoying Periodical Cicadas,” written by Jenna Jadin. There’s also the University of Maryland’s “Cicadamaniacs,” otherwise known as a group of cicada-passionate students inspired by their aptly-named entomology professor, “The Bug Guy.

“It was kind of a joke and was really just something to do to entertain myself while I was doing my research,” Jadin told the University of Maryland’s communications-produced site, Maryland Today. “But it was also a way to sort of say, ‘Look, they’re so not scary…you can just walk outside and catch them and eat them if you want to, because Native Americans have been doing this in the past, and people all over the world eat all kinds of insects every day.’”

Jadin, a University of Maryland PhD, said “immature grubs” taste best, but these require a bit of effort to catch, either after dark on the night they emerge or find one “climbing anything vertical.” If that’s too time-intensive, female adults are a source of extra protein—”the abdomens are full of eggs.”

Another kitchen piece of advice: Jadin says to get rid of the legs and wings before preparing these bugs to eat. The catching is hard enough — there’s no need to make your meal a full dismantling process.

The cicadas, known for their loud buzzing sounds that attract mates, will live about a month after they emerge. That will be from late April to early June, depending where you are.

Now that you know how to work with these otherworldly insects, it’s time to learn about some of the best cicadas recipes.

This graphic shows different ways to eat cicadas: popcorn, cookies and deep fried.

1. Crispy Cicada Salad 

This recipe comes from an Indiana-based cicada-themed event prepared by Bloomington caterer Jeremy Chasteen. The sampling featured dishes range from roasted cicadas on a stick to slow-cooked pork tacos with smoked cicadas, per The Indianopolis Star’s Cheryl Jackson. We’ll pass on the roasted cicadas, but here’s a recipe for crispy cicada salad that may attract even the most sensitive eater.

Serves 5


  • ¼ cup dry chia seeds
  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • 3 cups blended cooking oil (chef’s note: We subbed in extra-virgin olive oil)
  • 2 tbsp. shallot, minced
  • 1 tsp. garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh thyme, minced
  • Salt, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 watermelon radish (You can substitute with any radish available)
  • 15-20 roasted cicadas (do not season when roasting)
  • 1 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 3 cups greens


  1. Soak the chia seeds in 1 cup of water for 24 hours, then mix with the next 7 ingredients to make a simple and delicious vinaigrette.
  2. Peel the radish, thinly slice it (using a mandolin makes this go quickly) and soak the slices in water for a few hours.
  3. In a saucepan over low to medium heat, cook the cicadas in the sugar, butter and 1 tbsp. water. Broil until caramelized, being careful not to burn
  4. Put the radish and the caramelized cicadas on top of the greens then add the vinaigrette.

2. Cicada Stir-Fry 

This is the first of a number of cicadas recipes on this list that are adapted from Jadin’s “Cicada-licious.” This stir-fry requires newly-hatched cicadas, but just try to view that as part of the adventure.


  • 1 onion, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 3/4 cup sliced carrots
  • 3/4 cup chopped cauliflower and/or broccoli
  • 1 can water chestnuts
  • 3/4 cup bean sprouts
  • 3/4 cup snow peas
  • 40 blanched newly hatched (teneral) cicadas


  1. Capture cicadas at night as they emerge from the ground.
  2. Blanche for 1 minute in boiling water. They can now be stored in the freezer or used immediately in recipes.
  3. In a wok or other suitable pan, heat a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add ingredients in the order listed above when those in the most recent addition are partially cooked.
  4. Serve over whole-grain rice and add soy sauce to taste.

Yield: 4 main course servings

3. Cicada Dumplings 

Cicada dumplings are certainly a unique way to enjoy cicadas, and this recipe calls for you to remove the wings and pre-boil the insects. The instructions for these dumplings also come from “Cicada-licious.”


  • 20 Chinese black mushrooms, soaked and destemmed
  • 6 egg whites
  • 4 oz. cicadas, wings removed and pre-boiled for 5 minutes
  • 1/2 oz. cooked Chinese ham, cut into 1″-long, 1/16″-thickstrips
  • 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 tsp. MSG (optional)
  • 2 cups chicken broth


  1. Mince 2 oz. cicadas and 1 oz. fat pork separately, then mix in a bowl. Add 1/8 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp. MSG. Stir until firm. Divide into 10 portions for mushroom stuffing.
  2. Squeeze excess water from mushrooms. Put in a bowl, add a little broth and steam for 30 minutes. Remove and squeeze out excess liquid. Place in dish, stem sides up, and sprinkle with cornstarch. Place one portion of cicada stuffing in the middle of a mushroom and cover with another mushroom, black side up, to make a stuffed mushroom pouch. Repeat until 10 pouches are done.
  3. Mince remaining pork and cicadas separately, then mix in a bowl. Add 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/2 tsp. MSG. Stir until firm. Make 20 balls in the shape of a cicada. Beat egg whites. Grease pan. Make a thin small round pancake with one tbsp. egg white. Place a cicada ball in the middle and wrap the pancake around. Pinch ball to form head and body of the cicada. Fry for 1/2 minute and remove. Put two strips of ham in the head. Repeat until 20 “cicadas” are made. Put mushroom pouches and shrimp cicadas on a plate. Steam for one minute over high heat. Remove and place separately in tureen. Bring stock to boil and add remaining salt. Pour stock slowly into tureen and serve.

Yield: Serve 4 to 6.

4. Maryland Cicadas

If you think everything’s better in Maryland, or with Old Bay seasoning, then you’ll definitely love this recipe for Maryland-style cicadas.


  • 1/2 cup Old Bay Seasoning
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 (12 fluid ounce) can beer (optional)
  • 8 red potatoes, quartered
  • 2 large sweet onions, cut in wedges
  • 2 pounds lean smoked sausage, cut in 2-inch lengths
  • 8 ears fresh corn, broken in half
  • 4 pounds large cicadas


  1. In an 8-quart pot, bring Old Bay, salt, water and beer to a boil. Add potatoes and onions; cook over high heat for 8 minutes.
  2. Add smoked sausage to potatoes and onions; continue to cook on high for 5 minutes. Add corn to pot; continue to boil for 7 minutes. Add cicadas, cook for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain cooking liquid. Pour contents of pot into several large bowls, shallow pails or mound on a paper-covered picnic table. Sprinkle with additional Old Bay if desired.

Yield: 8 servings

5. Chocolate Covered Cicadas

If you’ve been craving dessert cicadas recipes and want something simple, this recipe is the way to go — also from “Cicada-Licious.


  • 8 one-ounce squares of good-quality semisweet chocolate
  • 30 cicadas


  1. Roast teneral cicadas—newly hatched grubs—for 15 minutes at 225F.
  2. Meanwhile, melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Dip insects in chocolate, place on wax paper and refrigerate until hardened.

Yield: 30 cicadas

6. Tempura Cicadas

This tempura cicada recipe, which also requires teneral cicadas, or newly-emerged bugs, is courtesy of Montclair State University. (The following two recipes, which also use tempura cicadas, come from Montclair as well.)


  • 15 teneral cicada
  • An egg
  • 1.5 cup 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)


  1. Preheat oil for frying in a Dutch oven or deep pan.
  2. Combine the flour, salt and egg.
  3. Slowly pour in the seltzer and mix (but not too much) until it’s the consistency of lumpy pancake batter.
  4. Keep it in the fridge on ice or on the top shelf until you use it.
  5. 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.
    **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.**

7. Singing Sushi

If sushi sounds more up your alley, try this recipe with the tempura cicadas you have already prepared.


  • 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 and 2 tsp. sriracha or to taste)


A sharp sushi knife.


  1. Heat your frying oil.
  2. Thinly spread the cooled seasoned sushi rice evenly across one sheet of nori.
  3. Line up your tempura cicada, avocado and cream cheese at the bottom of the sheet.
  4. Roll the sushi (keep it tight).
  5. Dip the entire roll into the tempura batter and fry until golden brown.
  6. Set roll onto a paper towel or cloth until it’s cool enough to slice using a very sharp sushi knife.
  7. Plate and drizzle with the sriracha cream sauce. Serve warm.

8. 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)


  1. 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.
  2. Pour into a fondue pot and surround with the bowls of fruit and cicadas.
  3. Pour the rum over the top and light it on fire with a long match/lighter!
  4. Once the fire burns out, dip in the cicadas and fruit.

9. Cicada popcorn

This cicada popcorn recipe is perhaps the simplest on this list and comes straight from a Youtuber, who also tried the recipe in this video.


  • Handfuls of live cicadas
  • Salt
  • Egg
  • Breadcrumbs
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne
  • Mazola and ramp butter mix


  1. Take a few handfuls of live cicadas when they’re still white (just emerging from shell).
  2. Boil five minutes in water with a touch of salt.
  3. Immediately rinse in a sieve with cold water.
  4. Pat dry.
  5. Coat in flour.
  6. Coat in whisked egg.
  7. Plain breadcrumb mix with salt, pepper, paprika, cayenne.
  8. Pan fry in mazola and ramp butter mix (6/10 heat).
  9. Toss around until nice and browned.
  10.  Serve with cocktail sauce!

10. Fried cicada chips 

Courtesy of, this cicada chips recipe comes well-reviewed from readers who have tested it out. One says: “Thanks for a tasty, crunchy treat.” This could soon be you.


  • 30-40 cicadas
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 1⁄2 tsp. paprika
  • 1⁄2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 cup flour
  • An egg
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • oil (for frying)


  1. Heat oil in a pan.
  2. Find the adult cicada—they are the ones with red eyes and clear-colored wings. You can either find them by following their beautiful screeching sound or just locate any tree.
  3. Leave them as is—no need to tear off wings or legs. They add to the crispiness.
  4. Mix together flour and seasonings.
  5. Mix together milk and egg.
  6. First, dip the cicada into the egg and then into the flour mixture. Drop into oil.
  7. Fry them for no longer than two minutes.
  8. Transfer to paper towels. Then serve immediately.
  9. I like a little hot pepper on mine, but you can also use ketchup for the kids.

11. Cicada cookies

There was only ever going to be one way to end the cicadas recipes: with cicada cookies. This recipe, our final from “Cicada-Licious” and referenced by CBS News, is best for someone who isn’t exactly squeamish—you’ll see the cicadas on top of your cookie. But think of it as a chance to try something new.

Emergence Cookies

Yield: 60 cookies


  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 oz. unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 2 tsp. Vanilla
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • An additional 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 beaten egg white
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped nuts (optional)
  • About 60 parboiled dry roasted cicadas (roast for only 8 minutes so that they retain some moisture)


  1. In a large bowl, beat shortening with eggs, the 1 1/2 cups sugar, cooled chocolate, baking powder and vanilla until well combined, scraping sides of bowl.
  2. Gradually stir in flour until thoroughly combined. Stir in the nuts. Cover and chill for 1-2 hours or until dough is easy to handle.
  3. Meanwhile, stir together the 1/3 cup sugar and beaten egg white. Place cicadas on waxed paper; brush with egg white mixture and set aside.
  4. Shape dough into one-inch balls. Place two inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets. Place a cicada on top of each ball, pressing lightly.
  5. Bake in a 375° oven for 8-10 minutes or until edges are set. Transfer to a rack to cool.

Writer Elizabeth Djinis is a contributor to The Penny Hoarder, often writing about selling goods online through social platforms. Her work has appeared in Teen Vogue, Smithsonian Magazine and the Tampa Bay Times.