It's the flour of the future.
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Though the thought of eating bugs was once the creepy-crawly fodder of Fear Factor-style competitions and childhood dares, today insects have been pegged as the protein of the future for many reasons, from environmental sustainability to affordability.

However, most people are—understandably—still squeamish about the idea of working crawling critters into their everyday diet. After all, whose mouth salivates at the idea of legs, wings, and antennae?

Luckily, for the less adventurous eaters among us, there are products that make eating insects way more palatable—and can make you forget you’re chowing down on bugs entirely. One of the most popular ways of integrating the protein boost of insects into cooking without the frights is cricket flour, a protein-packed powder that isn’t actually flour at all.

Cricket flour, aka cricket powder, is—as its name would suggest—made from the hop-happy creatures, and has been lauded as a super healthy and environmentally conscious protein supplement. However, it can definitely be confusing determining what the product is, how to put the ingredient to work, and whether or not it can actually be used for baking as its name would suggest.

The way cricket flour is made is an extremely simple process that produces a clean product with no additives or fillers. Before crickets are ground down into a fine powder, they are typically frozen—a more humane way of killing the bugs—and then dry-roasted and milled in large quantities. What results is a fine, grainy powder with a mildly nutty flavor and a rich brown color reminiscent of brown sugar.

Due to the fact cricket flour is made from 100 percent crickets, the final product is made up of a whopping 2/3 pure organic protein, making it about as effective a protein source as it gets. However, cricket flour also has a host of other nutritional benefits, including high levels of calcium, iron, minerals, potassium, and vitamin B. The powder also contains all nine essential amino acids—far more than are found in more traditional protein sources, like beef.

In addition to all of the excellent health benefits of cricket flour, the product is also great for the environment, particularly when consumed as a protein supplement in place of meat. While livestock like cows and pigs require large amounts of water, land, and time to grow—and produce tons of methane that goes into the atmosphere—crickets are a small and economical animal to farm, have a lifespan that’s 20 time shorter than a cow’s, produce virtually no methane, and require infinitely less food and water to produce the same quantity of protein as other animals.

While it’s clear cricket flour is great for the body and the environment, the golden question is whether or not it can be effectively cooked or baked with. Essentially, a spoonful of cricket flour can be worked into just about any recipe you’d like to add a protein boost to—from smoothie bowls to pasta sauces. Due to the powder’s super mild taste, a small amount will not affect the overall flavor of the dish, and thanks to its fine grain it’s unlikely to affect the texture either.

Despite “flour” being in the name, in order to actually bake with the ground bugs the powder must be used in tandem with another form of flour in order to be effective. As a rule, up to 25 percent of the flour in a baking recipe can be replaced with cricket flour to achieve the same flavor and texture, all the while giving your baked goods a huge protein boost.

While you can do your own flour blending with a pure cricket powder—which can be purchased on Amazon from a variety of retailers—you can also pick up a pre-blended cricket flour specifically designed for baking, like this product from Cricket Flours. The pre-mixed cricket flour can be used as a 1-for-1 substitute for standard flour in any recipe, and packs in over 22 grams of protein into each cup. To get started using your cricket flour, check out this recipe for Chocolate Chip Cricket Cookies.

While the cricket powder and pre-mixed flours can cost a pretty penny, as insect consumption becomes more and more popular, the prices are likely to go down in the future as demands for bug products goes up. Note that consuming crickets can affect people with shellfish or crustacean allergies, so make sure to check with your friends before they dig into any of your cricket-laced banana bread.

After you get over the mental hump of eating bugs and try some of this versatile powder for yourself, trust us—once the crickets are integrated into your dish even the most squeamish of taste testers won’t know the difference. And who knows? Maybe it’ll be a gateway to more adventurous critter-eating adventures, like bugs for breakfast or Cricket Pad Thai.