Cricket Powder Is an Alternative Protein Source — and I Gave It a Try Just For You
I know that people eat insects as part of their diet, but I'm not one for putting anything even remotely insect-related close to my tastebuds. Cricket powder, though, does seem like a less-intimidating way to consume (enjoy?) crickets if you so choose. I did some digging to find out what this powder is and how it compares to other protein powder you probably put in your post-workout smoothies. Oh, and I gave it a taste, too.
What Is Cricket Powder?
Cricket powder, also called "cricket flour," is made from milled crickets (whole crickets are dehydrated or freeze-dried and ground into flour). You can buy bags of pure cricket powder from brands like EXO, Entomo Farms, and Cricket Flour. Essentially, using it is simple — you can blend it into smoothies and shakes, mix it into soups, and bake with it (you can reportedly make really good gluten-free bread with the powder). According to cricketflours.com, the possibilities are endless.
And, aside from coming in powder form, you can also buy protein bars featuring cricket powder. Note: my editor was not a fan of a bar she tried in the past, and registered dietitian Jenna Werner wasn't a fan either (she said it had a texture that she did not care for). You can also read reviews from our editors about a specific brand of cricket protein bars. Werner told POPSUGAR to keep in mind that cricket flour is not considered vegetarian or vegan; it's an animal protein.
What Are the Benefits of Cricket Powder?
The fact that crickets are milled whole means that they keep their full nutrition profile, which has protein, fiber, and amino acids. Fiber comes from the crickets' exoskeleton in the form of chitin, and it's touted as a good prebiotic for gut health. Werner said that cricket powder also naturally contains a variety of nutrients such as B12, calcium, iron, magnesium, fatty acids, and potassium.
Werner pointed out that it might have less grams of protein per serving than Whey or plant-based protein — EXO's protein powder has six grams per two-tablespoon serving and Entomo's has 13 grams per two-tablespoon serving, while the plant-based PlantFusion powder sitting on my kitchen counter has 21 grams per one-scoop serving and Klean whey protein isolate has 20 grams per one-scoop serving. That being said, the protein found in cricket powder is always "complete protein containing all nine essential amino acids, which is a benefit compared to some plant alternatives that contain blends in order to be complete," she explained. (Whey is considered a complete protein as well.)
Toronto-based registered dietitian Aja Gyimah did say that cricket powder has a lower amino-acid score than whey-protein isolate. (Protein digestibility-corrected amino-acid score, or PDCAAS, is the method for measuring a protein's value for human nutrition.) "The highest quality protein foods have an amino acid score of 1.0," she explained, saying that cricket was found to have a score of 0.91. Whey has a score of 1.0.
On top of all of this, Bansari Acharya, RDN, told POPSUGAR that one of the biggest benefits of cricket powder is its sustainability. "Compared to cattle and other livestock, crickets need a lot less water and land and therefore emit fewer greenhouse gases," she said. "Additionally, they require less food to survive, which also benefits the environment. The overall cost to raise crickets and other insects is also a lot lower than raising cattle, further cutting down the financial impact of raising cattle."
What Does Hi! Powder Taste Like?
EXO describes the taste as a "light malt flavor with hints of raw cocoa." The brand's powder has no flavor (there's a single ingredient listed: crickets). One Amazon user commented on a different brand's pure cricket powder saying they could taste a slightly nutty and sweet (sweet?!) flavor. Another said it has a hint of dried shrimp, and someone else commented that it "tastes way better than global warming" — they have a point.
The brand Hi! sent me packets of its powder, and it currently sells two flavors: chocolate and vanilla. The powders contain a blend of pea, brown rice, pumpkin, and cricket. Both flavors have over 20 grams of protein per one serving, which is one whole packet (37 to 38 grams of powder). There was a lingering aroma of grass with, I swear, a touch of the food I used to feed my fish growing up (oh, the memories . . .).
I made a shake with the chocolate powder using banana, peanut butter, almond milk, and spinach, as well as a smoothie, seen below, with the vanilla powder and frozen bananas, strawberries, and peaches. I was not a fan of either one because all I could really taste was artificial sweetener — the powders contain stevia and monk-fruit extract.
My cat (she's more of a kitten since she's entering her toddler phase) sniffed my vanilla-powder-based smoothie while I was taking photos of it. After staring down into the glass for a few seconds, she did a slight sneeze, then proceeded to sit with her back to the smoothie. I'm not entirely sure if that means anything, but it's fair to say she wasn't a fan either.
For what it's worth, one journalist from The Cut tried unflavored cricket powder — which sounds more likely to mix well in smoothies — and she baked cookies that she and her coworkers claim tasted completely normal . It's also important to note that Werner recommended looking for protein with a NSF or third-party certification "to ensure that what is stated on the package is actually in the product" (Hi! did have a NSF certification). My advice for you is to go flavorless if you're interested in testing out cricket powder and to put your baking hat on. I think I've had enough crickets for now, but I might (emphasis on might) give cookies a go in the future.