Insects photo

The quest for alternative cooking oils has found an unlikely source: insects.

You might have already heard that insects are gradually making their way into our diets. Foodies and agricultural associations alike are turning to insects as a source of protein instead of resource-intensive livestock like cows and pigs.

But they could be a source of oil for cooking as well, as a replacement for animal fat or oils derived from plants like palm or olives, which are environmentally destructive or are less available due to blight. That’s because insects are relatively fatty.

Researchers in the Netherlands have been investigating which types of insects would be the most suitable for cooking oils. They evaluated the oils derived from four different insects—the yellow mealworm, the lesser mealworm, the cricket, and the cockroach. The researchers froze the insects and ground them into a powder, then drew oil from the powder using a variety of laboratory extraction methods.

The resulting oils contained several different fatty acids, with their overall healthfulness somewhere between animal oils, which are heavy in saturated fats, and vegetable oils, which are cholesterol-free. And while the crickets yielded oil the least efficiently, that might be the oil that would be easiest to market to wary consumers; the cockroach oil had an “especially disgusting” odor that resembled vomit, according to an article from Food Navigator. Cockroach oil could still be used as a lubricant or in paint, the article notes.

The researchers note that these oils, which are already used for cooking and personal care in some parts of the world, could also help fight malnutrition. But in those countries in which people aren’t used to eating insects, cricket oil might be a harder sell.