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Cricket cakes and grasshopper delight: new African cookbooks showcase recipes with insects

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Cricket cakes and grasshopper delight: new African cookbooks showcase recipes with insects

Two new cookbooks integrate traditional African culinary practices into contemporary recipes that feature insects. The cookbooks are part of a project with AgriFoSe2030 and partners to expand markets for cultivated insects in southern Africa, and to capitalize on growing interest in insects as a “climate smart” protein source worldwide.

Ebba Engström, Karen Brandon, Anneli Sundin / Published on 4 February 2021 / Zimbabwe

Two new and unusual cookbooks – Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery and Les Délices de Mikese (“Mikese’s Delicacies”)  – showcase insects as ingredients in recipes, such as “mopane worm samosas”, “stink bug ginger nuggets”, and “chafer beetle cupcakes”.

The cookbooks are part of a wider effort to increase the use of insects in cooking in southern parts of Africa, where such centuries-old culinary practices have waned over time. The books also seek to provide practical recipes that respond to the growing worldwide interest in using insects as a source of dietary protein that is less resource-intensive than meat.

Les Délices de Mikese breaks new ground: It is believed to be the first book conceptualized and written (almost exclusively) by African women about their own culinary heritage and know-how.

Written by authors from Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the cookbooks integrate traditional African knowledge about cooking with insects into contemporary recipes. The recipes either showcase the insects as the centrepiece of a dish (“edible stink bug delight”), or integrate them as a secret ingredient (“ground cricket chocolate cake”).

There is a need to renew the narrative surrounding insect consumption.

Dr. Robert Musundire, co-author, Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery

Interest in edible insects is growing in regions around the world that have not traditionally consumed them, largely because they are nutritious, and because they require fewer resource inputs than livestock. Insects are staple ingredients in some world cuisines,  such as the cooking of grasshoppers in Mexico. Africa has the potential to lead the way to expanded culinary use. Yet, on the African continent, where insects have been a part of people’s diets for many generations, the practice of eating insects has fallen, largely because it has tended to be seen as an outdated practice exclusive to rural regions.

“There is a need to renew the narrative surrounding insect consumption,” said Dr. Robert Musundire, co-author of Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery. “With more modern lifestyles in many parts of Africa, being combined with urbanization, there seems to be a tendency to consider these excellent sources of flavour and nourishment past their ‘best before date’. Insects are not appreciated and enjoyed as they used to be. We need to do away with the association that this dietary component only belongs to a rural setting, or is outdated.”

Improving policies and markets

The cookbooks were created through a collaborative project involving SEI and African partners in academia and the private sector. The project, “Edible Insects for Food Security and Health – from Practice to Evidence and Policy Implications”, is part of the broader, ongoing AgriFoSe2030 programme, funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida). The aims are to contribute to food security in rural and urban areas of southern Africa, and to boost incomes of small-scale rural farmers by increasing uptake of edible insects, produced and processed through sustainable methods.

It is rare to find a cookbook written by African women about local African cuisine.

Dr. Linley Chiwona-Karltun, co-author of Les Délices de Mikese and associate professor in rural development at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

The two cookbooks grew out of two distinct aspects of the project. Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery emerged from a project partnership with Chinhoyi University of Technology in Zimbabwe. In Chinhoyi, the project has helped expand interest in and markets for edible insects. It helped to establish an edible insect handling facility to ensure product quality and safety, and to provide targeted training on edible insect value chains. The project lobbied for changes in urban bylaws for the fair trade of edible insects. It led to the establishment of the First African Conference on Edible Insects, an event in Zimbabwe that attracted policy makers and members of the private sector from across the continent, and opened eyes about issues the sector must address to make insects a new “superfood”.

Click the images below to enlarge them.

Les Délices de Mikese (“Mikese’s Delicacies”) grew out of one of the project’s collaborations that focused on conveying valuable, traditional knowledge held by  women in DRC. The collaboration recognized that women are key in promoting the use of insects in food. The French-language cookbook was developed through the combined efforts of the women’s organization in DRC L’Association des Femmes d’Affaires du Congo, the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU), and the environmental and sustainable development consultancy agency, BKind Konsult AB. The cookbook specifically sought to involve women chefs, and to showcase their recipes – which include “mukata fruits aux chenilles” (“fruit mukata with caterpillars“), “émulsion de criquets à la crème” (“grasshopper emulsion with cream”), and “velouté de courges aux mposes” (“squash velouté with palm moth larvae”).

“It is rare to find a cookbook written by African women about local African cuisine,” said Dr. Linley Chiwona-Karltun, co-author of Les Délices de Mikese and SLU associate professor in rural development. “It is even rarer to find a cookbook which emphasizes the value of using wild delicacies such as insects, and which applies the deep knowledge and experiences of a local culinary tradition. This book is the first of its kind, conceptualized and written by African women with the objective of documenting their know-how.”

Promoting wider uptake

There is incredible potential for their enhanced uptake and popularization worldwide. Insects could become a vital, alternative protein source if edible insect production is furthered and conducted in a sustainable way.

“It is our hope that this cookbook will mark the beginning of a journey that will see an abundance of future innovations in this sector,” Dr. Musundire said. “We hope that this can lead to spinoffs, such as innovative cuisines that may promote and support food tourism. At the same time, we have to safeguard the conservation of wild insects, and promote widespread insect farming. Ultimately, the consumer will benefit, by accessing nutri­tious and protein rich edible insects.

“This cookbook is one step towards reaching Sustainable Development Goal 2 – to eliminate hunger in all its forms.”

An AgriFoSe2030 conversation – on cooking with insects

Watch a a short version of a video featuring Dr. Linley Chiwona-Karltun, co-author of Les Délices de Mikese, and Dr. Robert Musundire, co-author of Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery, as they discuss the making of the cookbooks.

For the long version click this link.

A sample recipe from the cookbook Secrets of African Edible Insect Cookery – Stink Bug Ginger Nuggets

This jewel of a bug occurs only in parts of southern Africa. With the addition of ginger, the strong characteristic stink vanishes, giving way to a pleasant aroma combining the ginger and the sweetness of pheromone the bugs use as an alarm signal. Packed with goodness and enriched with essential fatty acids and antioxidants from the edible stink bugs, these tempting snacks live up to their name of “nuggets”.

Stink bug ginger nuggets.

Stink bug ginger nuggets. Photo: Eugene Ncube


  • 40 g roasted and roughly crushed stinkbugs
  • 200 g cake flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 100 g margarine or butter
  • 1 tbsp ginger powder
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 50-100 ml fresh milk
  • 80 g sugar
  • 3 tbsp cooking oil for frying

Preparing the dough

  1. Sieve flour, ginger powder and baking powder
  2. Add crushed edible stinkbugs and sugar and
    stir to combine.
  3. Cream margarine/butter and sugar until light
    and fluffy.
  4. Add beaten eggs and fresh milk to the dry
    ingredients and beat to a soft dough that is
    not sticky.
  5. Form into small balls using a tablespoon.
  6. Place the balls on a greased baking sheet and
    bake in preheated oven for 10 minutes at
  7. Alternatively, heat oil in a deep fat fryer and
    fry the nuggets until golden brown.
  8. Cool the nuggets and serve.

Written by

Ebba Engström
Ebba Engström

Research Associate

SEI Headquarters

Karen Brandon
Karen Brandon

Senior Communications Officer and Editor


SEI Oxford

Anneli Sundin
Anneli Sundin

Communications and Impact Officer

Project Communications

SEI Headquarters

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