Do Stink Bugs Taste As Strongly As They Smell?

Most of us are familiar with the scorpion or bug larvae suckers usually sold around Halloween to partygoers, but eating insects isn't just a dare anymore. In an effort to be more sustainable, there is a global movement to incorporate insects into our diet. While plenty of civilizations enjoy the occasional cricket as a snack, there are over 2,300 edible bug species that can provide an alternative and healthy protein source for people and animals (per a 2019 study in Food Production, Processing and Nutrition). 

In a Mashed exclusive, Scott and Brian, known as the Mashed Bros, took one for the team eating their way through a dozen critters so "we don't have to." Analyzing the cache of edible bugs, all do not share the same nutritional makeup or flavor. Some insects are apparently more tasty and palatable than others, creating a culinary hierarchy for bugs. 

Beginning with the Rhino Beetle and ending on a surprisingly high note with stinger-intact scorpions, stink bugs were among the insects the Mashed Bros were asked to eat. Stink bugs can be found in most regions throughout the U.S. and are native to Asia. These brown creatures terrorize homes by releasing an unpleasant odor when threatened by a predator, but would they taste as strongly as they smell? 

According to Scott, thankfully, the baby stink bugs they were given weren't as intensely perfumed as others he's encountered in his life. Agreeing, Brian attributes the better-than-expected experience to the drying-out process, which "evaporated all the stink juices."

What is it like to eat a stink bug?

The odor released by live stink bugs is a defense mechanism and is best compared to the smell of dried coriander or fresh cilantro, which is not universally loved. Expecting dried stink bugs to taste like "rotten cilantro," Scott was prepared for the worst. Fortunately, he found that stink bugs tasted similar to the other insects they ate and described them as "earthy." More specifically, "old dirt that's been neglected" or "barnyard dirt." Still, not as bad as they expected.

As for the texture, stink bugs are similar to eating other bugs with an exoskeleton, like beetles. The Mashed Bros described the texture of crunching through the bug's exterior skeleton like eating the seed coat or hull of popcorn kernels. Just as they can get caught between your teeth, parts of the stink bugs did, too, like "someone else's dried-out toenails."

While some experts warn that eating insects may not be optional if more isn't done to make the food system more sustainable, the Mashed Bros didn't provide a rave review of the experience and prefer only to eat chocolate-covered bugs moving forward. Still, the edible insect market is expected to hit $8 billion by 2030.  Some food items like candies and sprinkles already contain a food additive called food E904, which is a shellac derived from the lac bug's secretions. So, maybe there's an insect cookbook niche for curious chefs. 

Static Media owns and operates Food Republic and Mashed.