Mealworms Are No Longer Just for Fishing (or Chickens)

The mealworm, which is actually the larval stage of the darkling beetle, has come back into my life (picture credit

In an earlier Andy’s Corner I wrote that my father’s all-consuming passion for fishing was the source of some of my most vivid childhood memories. So it shouldn’t be surprising that I feel pretty comfortable handling mealworms.

Johnson Outboard bigbear
Big Bear Lake, Calif. circa 1954. I’m in the back of the boat with my father. My sister Helen is in front and her friend Rosemarie is in the middle. More than likely a container of mealworms is also aboard.

These little us larvae (they’re not really “worms”) are considered great bait. According to Eating the Wild :

[The mealworm’s] distinctive yellow color, articulated exoskeleton, and a size ranging from one-half inch to one inch in length is a familiar sight at bait shops across the lower 48 states. Mealworms are excellent fish bait, and second only to crickets as food for reptiles, birds, shrews, and some fish kept as pets.

…They are inexpensive, hold to a small #6 to #10 hook well, and drive bluegill, pumpkin seed, perch, and even small largemouth bass wild.

My dad always had a box of mealworms in his workshop and they accompanied us on our frequent fishing excursions to nearby lakes. With all due modesty, I can say that I became quite an expert at skewering them on my hook so they wouldn’t come off when casting – a rare skill amongst kids my age.

As I moved into my teen years and developed other interests (like sports and girls) mealworms were no longer a part of my life, although I did think about them briefly a few years ago when in an Andy’s Corner I wrote about where we get local eggs. I discovered that freeze-dried mealworms were highly prized by chickens. But that was only a passing flicker of interest.

Mealworms came back to mind in a big way just a couple of weeks ago. While perusing Food Dive, one of my favorite websites devoted to food industry issues, I came across the following byline: Ynsect plans US insect farm and partners with Ardent Mills. I was curious about why Ardent Mills, purportedly the largest supplier of flour in North America, would be interested in insect farms.

One of Ynsect’s state-of-the-art mealworm farms.

I learned that my little six-legged yellow friends can be used for purposes other than being impaled on sharp hooks to attract fish or being freeze-dried to be fed to chickens. Ynsect is a French company that “transforms [mealworms] into high-performance natural protein solutions for pets, fish, plants, and human beings“. Here’s an excerpt from FoodDive‘s post (Dec. 13, 2022):

Last May, research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found mealworm protein performed as well as whey protein following a workout…[Editor’s note: the reference is to human, not chicken, workouts.]

[furthermore] …insect protein has the same amount of protein as a kilogram of beef, but uses 90% less land and 50% fewer resources. It also produces 200 times less greenhouse gas.

Edible mealworms. Photo from the Canadian Cattlemen website.

When I told our foodie daughter Sara about my discoveries regarding edible mealworms she was underwhelmed, to say the least. She didn’t actually say “that news is so yesterday,” but she may as well have.

Monica Martinez, founder of Don Bugito, which produces spicy roasted mealworms (photo from the PBS web article:Food Rebel: Monica Martinez“)

She pointed out that Mosto (the tequila and mezcal bar in San Francisco that Sara co-owns) at one time had Spicy Bugitos (aka roasted mealworms) on its menu. The roasted mealworms were sourced from the Don Bugito company which has a facility in San Mateo. Sara has even visited the facility and got to know the founder, Monica Martinez.

On the Don Bugito website you will find Martinez’s explanation by for why she started her business:

Don Bugito’s inspiration comes directly from my cultural heritage. Growing up in Mexico exposed me to the culturally rich traditions of eating edible insects and their use as “power foods”.

Empowered by this ancestral food and their healthy, sustainable and nutritional qualities, I embarked on the journey of sharing with the world a little taste of my culture by creating a set of “power” snacks for everyone to enjoy!

Calling mealworms a “power food” is no exaggeration. According to Wikipedia, not only do mealworm larvae rival beef in potassium, copper, sodium, selenium, iron and zinc, they contain essential linoleic acids (which supposedly help fight cancer) and have greater vitamin content by weight compared to beef.

All of this and saving the environment too! How could you not want to munch on them?

Even if the thought of mealworms gracing your dinner plate makes you a bit squeamish, keep in mind that they are small and lack a definitive or strong taste. More precisely, according to, roasted mealworms “have a rich nutty flavor and taste, and have hints of almond and macadamia nuts when baked into foods or eaten straight out of the pack.”

As a public service, especially to help those uninitiated in the insect cuisine scene, I am including a recipe that I found on the UC Davis Magazine website for some tasty mealworm brownies. The Department of Entomology offers these brownies every year on Picnic Day “for daring brownie-lovers to test their tasting limits.”

One of my new year’s resolutions is to actually try this recipe in 2023. If you get to it before I do let me know how it turns out. And if you would prefer something else, you might try the recipe for Mealworm Toffee + Chocolate Chip Cookies posted on Don Bugito’s blog.

Mealworm brownies. Photo from

Mealworm Brownies

  • Servings: makes 16 2-inch squares
  • Print

Adapted from the UC Davis Department of Entomology which offers this dessert every year on “Picnic Day.” The BigLittleMeals kitchen has yet to test this recipe; let us know how it turns out for you.

  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 C unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 C all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 C toasted mealworms

Preheat oven to 350 F (175 C). Grease and flour an 8-inch square pan.

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Stir in sugar, eggs and vanilla.

In another bowl, mix cocoa, flour, salt and baking powder. Stir flour mixture into egg mixture. Fold in mealworms. Spread batter into prepared pan.

Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not overcook.

Recipe brought to you by and Andy and Ann.

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