Do Koreans Eat Insects: Understanding the Cultural Significance and Nutritional Value

Do Koreans Eat Insects and Why? A Look Into the Fascinating World of Korean Cuisine

Korean cuisine is one of the most diverse and exciting in the world. From kimchi to bibimbap, Korean dishes offer a variety of flavors, textures, and ingredients that make them stand out from other Asian cuisines. But have you ever wondered if Koreans eat insects? The answer might surprise you.

In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and culture behind eating insects in Korea, as well as how they are prepared and eaten today. We’ll also discuss safety concerns related to consuming bugs and share some FAQs for those who want to learn more about this intriguing aspect of Korean cuisine.

So buckle up, grab some chopsticks, and let’s dive into the fascinating world of Korean bug-eating!

Do Koreans Eat Insects?

Contrary to what many people believe, eating insects is not uncommon in Korea. In fact, insects have been a part of Korean cuisine for centuries and are considered a delicacy by some.

History of Eating Insects in Korea

The tradition of consuming insects dates back to the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BC – 668 AD), when it was believed that certain types of insects had medicinal properties. Over time, the practice became more commonplace and eventually developed into a unique culinary culture.

Popular Insects Consumed in Korean Cuisine

  • Beondegi: Beondegi are silkworm pupae and one of the most popular insect dishes in Korea. They are often seasoned with salt, sugar or chili powder
  • Pungchae: Pungchae refers to various edible caterpillars that can be found on oak trees. They are cooked with soy sauce, ginger, and garlic
  • Jjukumi: Despite being classified as mollusks, baby octopuses are consumed as an insect-like dish in Korea. Jjukumi is usually stir-fried or grilled with vegetables

Cultural Significance of Eating Insects

In addition to its historical roots, there is cultural significance associated with eating insects in Korea. It’s believed that consuming these creatures helps one better appreciate nature’s diversity and fosters respect for all living things.

Nutritional Value of Insects

Insects like silkworms and crickets contain high levels of protein, vitamins, minerals such as iron and zinc which makes them a healthy addition to the diet. They are also environmentally sustainable because of their low carbon footprint and require less land, water, and food resources when compared to traditional livestock.

Why Do Koreans Eat Insects?

In South Korea, insects have long been a part of traditional cuisine. There are several reasons why Koreans consume insects as part of their diet:

Traditional beliefs and practices

  • Koreans believe that eating certain types of insects can enhance one’s vitality and strength. Silkworm pupae, for instance, are known for their high protein content and are considered to boost energy levels.
  • Insects also play a role in Korean ancestral rites. It is customary to offer rice cakes with crickets or grasshoppers during the Chuseok (harvest) festival as a way to pay tribute to ancestors.
  • Some insects are also thought to have medicinal properties. Woodworms, for example, are used in traditional Korean medicine to treat respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

Eco-friendliness and sustainability

  • As global concern over environmental issues grows, many people in Korea and other countries are considering alternative sources of protein that are less damaging to the planet than meat-based diets. Insects require far less water, feed, and land than cows or pigs do; thus they’re more eco-friendly alternatives for food.
  • In addition, eating insects can reduce greenhouse gas emissions because they produce fewer methane gases than livestock animals do when raised on a large scale basis

Taste and texture

  • Last but not least comes the taste aspect – Some insects like silk worm pupas have nutty flavour whereas some others offer crispy texture that suits Korean palate through generations even though it may seem unpleasant at first glance.
In conclusion,

The reasons why Koreans eat insect cannot be reduced down into one factor alone; but rather involving different aspects of the Korean culture, food security and ecology. Despite being no mainstream option, this tradition not only provides needed sustenance in times but also proves beneficial to one’s body and planet as a whole.

How Are Insects Prepared and Eaten in Korea?

Traditional Cooking Methods

In Korea, insects have been consumed as a delicacy for centuries. The traditional method of preparing insects involves boiling or roasting them until crispy. Some insects are also ground into powder, which is then used as an ingredient in various dishes, including soups and stews.

Popular Dishes Featuring Insects

  • Beongdegi: This is a popular snack made with boiled silkworm pupae seasoned with salt, sugar, soy sauce and red pepper.
  • Jjokkori: These are deep-fried grasshoppers that are often served in bars as a drinking snack.
  • Ttukyeonpalmok: This is a soup that consists of silkworm pupae, mung beans and vegetables.

Modern Variations of Insect Dishes

While traditional preparation methods continue to be popular among certain segments of the population, modern variations of insect dishes have emerged recently as well. Restaurants across South Korea now offer cooking styles that feature insect ingredients with innovative flavors and twists.

For example:

  • Bug skewers: grilled crickets on skewers topped with spicy barbecue sauce or soy sauce glaze.
  • Fried Silk Worms: marinated silkworm larvae flash-fried until crisp served with garlic chili oil dipping sauce.

  • To summarize: Koreans use traditional techniques like boiling or roasting insects, some are even ground into powder for use as an ingredient in various dishes. Delicacies like beongdegi, jjokkori and ttukyeonpalmok are popular dishes while modern variations of cooking styles and flavors have emerged over the years. Examples of these variants include bug skewers which employ spicy barbecue sauce or soy sauce glaze and fried silk worms marinated with garlic chili oil dipping sauce.

Is Eating Insects Safe?

While the thought of consuming insects may seem unappetizing to some people, it’s becoming more common in many cultures around the world. But, is eating insects safe? Let’s explore further.

Health Benefits and Risks

Consuming insects can provide a range of health benefits as they are an excellent source of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Insects like crickets contain twice as much protein as beef, while having only half the amount of fat. Additionally, some species of insects contain Omega-3 fatty acids that help reduce inflammation and promote heart health.

However, there are also potential risks associated with consuming some types of insects that could cause allergic reactions or transmit diseases if not handled properly. For example, cockroaches have been known to carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella and E. coli.

Food Safety Regulations in Korea

The Korean government has implemented strict food safety regulations when it comes to insect consumption. The Ministry of Food and Drug Safety requires any edible bugs sold in Korea to be raised in hygienic conditions and adhere to proper hygiene standards during processing.

Korean regulations also prohibit the consumption of certain types of insects like grasshoppers that are known carriers of parasites or viruses that can pose risks to human health.

Comparing Insect Consumption to Other Protein Sources

  • Eating 100g (about 1/4 lb) crickets provides about 13g protein compared with 25g from chicken breast and 18g from tofu (Source: FAO)
  • Insects require significantly less water than traditional livestock production for the same amount of protein output (e. g., cows take over 2000L of water to produce 1kg of protein, while crickets take only around 1L) (Source: CNN)
  • Some argue that the environmental impact of insect farming is much lower than traditional livestock production due to lower greenhouse gas emissions and less land and water use.

All in all, eating insects can be safe as long as they are prepared properly and purchased from reliable sources. But it’s important to remember that consuming bugs may not be suitable for everyone, especially those with allergies or phobias.


In conclusion, while it may seem unusual or even slightly gross to Westerners, insect consumption is a longstanding culinary tradition in Korea that is still enjoyed by many today. Whether you’re feeling adventurous enough to try it yourself or just interested in learning more about another culture’s food practices, exploring new culinary horizons can be a fun way to expand your palate and your understanding of the world around us.


1. Is eating insects common in Korea?

Yes! Eating insects has been part of traditional Korean cuisine since ancient times. While its popularity waned during periods when vegetarianism was more widespread (such as during Buddhist influence), bugs are still considered a delicacy by many people across all ages.

2. What kinds of insects do Koreans eat?

Some popular insect varieties include silk worm pupae (aka “beondegi”), grasshoppers (aka “naengi”), crickets (aka “jwauem”) among others depending on regions – but there really isn’t one definitive answer given the sheer variety available throughout different parts within South Korea itself!

3. Are there any health risks associated with consuming insects?

While it’s natural for people unfamiliar with eating bugs to feel hesitant, the truth is that insects have long been consumed in many cultures around the world without widespread adverse effects. Nonetheless, people who have allergies or sensitivities should be cautious and always consult their doctor.

4. How are insects prepared in Korean cuisine?

Insects are usually fried or roasted until they become crispy and crunchy – a texture that Koreans seem to prefer over anything else. Some recipes also combine various insect species to create unique flavor combinations: one popular dish is stir-fried silk worm pupae coated in spicy sauce!

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