To Make the Case for Eating Crickets, Start in the Kitchen

Crickets are a nutritious and sustainable source of protein. This creative team wants to show you that they’re delicious, too.

Spiced sticky sweet plantain cake by Adriana Urbina of De Maria in New York City, made with Seek’s gluten-free cricket flour.

You probably don’t consider crickets a pantry staple, but Seek Food founder Robyn Shapiro wants to change that. Eating crickets, she says, is an important way to improve our food system.

Crickets are nutrient-rich: they’re high in fiber, omega-3 fatty acids, B12, and magnesium, and they provide twice as much protein as beef. They’re sustainable: they have virtually no carbon footprint and require a fraction of the land, water, and feed that cattle do. (By comparison, meat production generates more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined.) And they’re tasty: traditional cuisines across Africa, Asia, and Latin America make abundant use of the ingredient. Shapiro is using these points to make the case for cricket flour. Her Kickstarter campaign puts the sustainable superfood in a culinary context — and she’s tapped some of the world’s best chefs to help her do it.

The Kickstarter project, which offers four cricket flours (all-purpose, gluten-free, paleo, and pure powder) and an accompanying cookbook for anyone looking to eat nutritious, sustainable, or adventurous foods, is live now.

Seek offers all-purpose, gluten-free, paleo, and pure cricket powder.

“Everything we do with the Seek brand is meant to help people become comfortable eating crickets — from the packaging to the flavor combinations to our chef partnerships,” says Shapiro. “Seek is made for entry-level cricket eating, and we want to offer a fun, delicious, and positive eating experience.”

Shapiro launched Seek Food two years ago with the understanding that she would be introducing something new and entirely foreign to the market. That’s why she has obsessively listened to customer feedback. After hearing repeatedly that casual and professional chefs wanted to be able to cook a wider variety of dishes with the superfood but didn’t know where to start, she worked with chefs to create a line of cricket flours that would be more flexible and versatile for chefs, bakers, and home cooks everywhere.

Tamales are just one of the many cricket-infused foods you’ll find in Seek’s cookbook.

Shapiro has lined up 29 high-profile chefs, from Chopped champions to Michelin star chefs to the owner of NYC’s beloved Dough Doughnuts, to contribute cookbook recipes that range from classic Mexican dishes to dairy-free ice cream. “They know the exact spice or ingredient pairing that will highlight the subtle nuttiness of the cricket protein,” she says. “As a culinary-driven brand, we want to show the world how delicious and versatile crickets are as an ingredient.”

T.J. Steele of Claro is no stranger to cricket cooking.

Some, like T.J. Steele, chef and co-owner of the taco-centric NYC restaurant Claro, were used to cooking with insects already. “Eating crickets is so acceptable in Mexico,” he says. “I think it is good to offer that experience to people here, so they can try something new and see that just because we’re not used to it, it doesn’t make it weird. Crickets have a very green carbon footprint. That is a pro for me, but as far as how I use them in the restaurant, it is very flavor-driven.”

Sample cookbook page: Van Leeuwen’s Earl Grey ice cream

Others, like Ben and Peter Van Leeuwen and Laura O’Neill of Van Leeuwen Artisan Ice Cream, hadn’t used the insect as an ingredient before, but were open to trying it. “The flavor profile of crickets was new to us and we were super excited to experiment with them,” they say. “They have a subtle nuttiness to them, and when we used the pure powder in our Earl Grey ice cream, we found that the flavors really complemented each other in a subtle, earthy way.”

Gabriele Corcos in the kitchen.

As you could imagine, some were less than enthused about the idea of eating insects — like Gabriele Corcos, author of the cookbook Extra Virgin and producer of the Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin TV show. “I was terribly skeptical of the use of crickets as an ingredient,” he says. But he became a convert: “Frankly, I was shocked by the results, and I see a lot of potential and opportunity for Seek’s cricket flour.”

From gluten-free zucchini bread to savory crepes, Seek’s cricket cookbook offers a wide variety of recipes that can make your home cooking more health-conscious and planet-friendly, at a time when these issues are becoming increasingly important. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations estimates that by 2050, the world will be home to about nine billion people, and we’ll need to double food production on scarce farmland to feed them all.

Eating insects will be one way to help meet those demands — and the Seek team is excited to make that environmental mission more delicious.

— Alexandra Criscuolo, Kickstarter’s Sustainability Fellow from the Environmental Defense Fund’s Climate Corps

The Seek Food cricket flour and cookbook project is live on Kickstarter until August 8, 2018.

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