From pizza to ice cream, cicadas were the star ingredient of this cookout | Michigan Radio
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From pizza to ice cream, cicadas were the star ingredient of this cookout

Jun 15, 2021

Brood X -- the celebrity cicadas emerging after 17 years of solitude in parts of the United States -- has been frolicking in abundance north of Ann Arbor. The excitement around the bug boom has led to all kinds of selfies, works of art, conversations… and food.

So what’s the best way to cook up a cicada? Pickled? Sauteed? Deep fried? Ypsilanti resident Anthony Johansen hosted a cicada cookout this past weekend, and told Stateside his tips for making these creepy bugs a little more palatable.

Cicadas prepared for Cicada BBQ.
Credit Anthony Johansen

Johansen is a landscaper who lives in Ypsilanti.

From the forest to the dinner plate

Cicadas are not Johansen’s first brush with foraged food. He already spends time out in the woods looking for mushrooms and other foraged ingredients. So, when he heard that there was about to be a lot of cicadas popping up in Ann Arbor, he thought “Why not eat them?”

Johansen lives in Ypsilanti, but his landscaping work takes him around Washtenaw County. He told us the best place to find loads of cicadas right now is Cherry Hill Nature Preserve on the north side of Ann Arbor.

While harvesting, Johansen said he was aware that there was a fungus infecting Brood X cicadas that is causing their butts to fall off. (No, we’re not joking.)

“As we were out harvesting we came across quite a few of the cicadas with no butts, and a funny white bump instead...From the tiny bit of research we could find it didn’t seem like it was a harm to people, but we still passed on eating those ones.”

No butt? Toss it. Butt intact? Fry ‘em up baby.

Preparing Cicada pizza.
Credit Anthony Johansen

How to cook a cicada

The cookout this past weekend was a collaborative effort between Johansen, his wife, and a few of his neighbors. They’d been preparing for this moment, ordering insect cookbooks online, and brainstorming how to prepare the cicadas. They made pizza, jalapeno poppers, and one neighbor even made a cicada-flavored ice cream. 

“I believe it started with butter and cicadas ground up, turned into a base, and then homemade ice cream made with that. There were waffle cones with ground-up cicadas made specifically for it. And then a candied cicada caramel coating.”

Most of the adults needed some kind of flavoring--and more than one beer--to make the cicada go down a little easier. But Johansen said one of his neighbor’s daughter was happy to chomp down on a few plain old baked cicadas. 

Cicada pizza made to order.
Credit Anthony Johansen

Flavor profile of a cicada

So, now that you’ve got some ideas for how to prepare them, you might be wondering: what do they actually taste like? No, it’s not chicken.

“They kind of blend into most foods, but I think the ice cream is where you can get the most of it,” Johansen said. “It’s sort of nutty. And [when] baked, they kind of come off as a baked potato.”

Johansen said he still has some cicadas in the freezer, so it might not be his last Brood X barbecue of the season. After all, he won’t get the chance for a periodical cicada feast for another 17 years. 

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This post was written by Stateside production assistant Chantell Phillips.

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