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Chapulines in a Mexican market
Chapulines in a Mexican market | © William Neuheisel / Flickr
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Mexico's Weirdest but Most Wonderful Foods

Picture of Stephen Woodman
Updated: 20 April 2018
A special combination of textures, flavors, and spices saw traditional Mexican food become officially designated by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage in 2010. But some of the country’s food takes a little getting used to, because there are plenty of unusual – even weird – dishes to be found across the country. Here’s a rundown of the five strangest foods in Mexico.

Chapulines

The city of Oaxaca is famed for its chapulines, or grasshoppers, which are typically fried in garlic, chili and lime. At first, the thought of eating grasshoppers may make your stomach turn, but a surprising number of tourists quickly acquire a taste for them. The crunchy critters are served in markets across southern Mexico, as well as in a select few traditional markets in Mexico City. Give them a go, because you might just love them.

Taco de chapulines – a quickly acquired taste
Taco de chapulines – a quickly acquired taste | © William Neuheisel / Flickr

Escamoles

This buttery, nutty delicacy has been consumed in Mexico since the time of the Aztecs and is still a popular treat, especially in Mexico City markets. Yet escamoles are not for the faint-hearted foodie as they are made from edible larvae and pupae of ants. Harvested from the roots of the tequila and mezcal-producing agave plant, escamoles are surprisingly delicious. The delicacy is typically served in a taco, or al mojo de ajo (fried in garlic).

Delicious escamoles waiting to be tasted
Delicious escamoles waiting to be tasted | © Kent Wang / Flickr

Flying ant salsa

Yes, you read that right. Flying ant salsa is a thing and is a traditional delicacy in the state of Oaxaca. Every year after the first rains, flying ants, or chicatanas, swarm Oaxaca City. Many locals catch the insects and use them to make a variety of foods, including a spicy, garlicky salsa. The uniqueness of the dish and its limited availability means that chicatanas have become a delicacy served in some of Mexico’s most elegant restaurants.

Chicatana flying ant
Chicatana flying ant | © citalan_carlos / Flickr

Huitlacoche

Known is English as corn smut, and technically a plant disease, you’d be forgiven for passing on the offer to sample huitlacoche. Yet in Mexico, the dish is commonly regarded as a delicacy and is a popular addition to soups and quesadillas (melted cheese tacos).

Huitlacoche is a fungus that grows on the corn plant. While infected crops in the United States are typically destroyed, in Mexico, corn smut is collected and sold for a higher price than uninfected corn.

Quesadilla de huitlacoche
Quesadilla de huitlacoche | © Eugene Peretz / Flickr

Worm salt

If you buy a shot of mezcal in the southern states of Mexico, there is a high chance you will be offered a fresh slice of orange and sal de gusano (worm salt) to help wash the spirit down. In fact, the salt is made from the larva of a moth, rather than a worm. Consumed as a snack since pre-Hispanic times, the larvae live in the agave plant and consume its nectar. Worm salt is made by collecting these larvae and crushing them with rock salt and dried chilies.

Mescal with orange, worm salt and crickets
Mescal with orange, worm salt and crickets | © barbbarbbarb / Flickr