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Timber 2 Table - Beer Battered Fried Cicadas

With this spring’s massive hatch, chefs all over the Eastern half of the U.S. are serving up some adventurous cicada dishes

Beer Battered Fried Cicadas

20 Min

Prep Time

10 Min

Cook Time



If you live in the eastern half of the country, there’s a good chance you can’t stand to be outside right now. Or maybe you’ve listened to the noise long enough by this point that the never-ending drone of millions of cicadas has faded into a constant background hum that you barely even notice.

This spring saw a rare coinciding hatch of both 13-year and 17-year broods, something that happens only every 200 or so years. This means a larger portion of the country than normal is blessed with the noisy insects.

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Tired of listening to this summer’s constant cicada drone? Try eating some of them.

That’s great news for wildlife, especially turkeys and other ground-nesting birds that are taking advantage of the ready protein supply. As a bonus, other critters that usually eat turkey poults—like foxes, coyotes, and bobcats—are also dining on the cicadas. Hopefully, that means they’re spending less time in search of poults. Even snakes like copperheads love to munch on the plentiful insects.

It isn’t just wildlife. Chefs all over the Eastern United States are cooking them up and serving them in a variety of ways. Now I’m an adventurous eater who will try just about anything once, so I snagged a few dozen of the screaming bugs yesterday. I mean, I love shrimp and crawfish—how different can they be? Insects are a food staple in much of the world, and I’m all for trying new things.

First, a few tips on catching. They are quicker and jumpier than expected. Early morning while the dew is still on is the best time to catch them. If you have kids, make a game of it. You’ll have a bucketful in no time.

I did quite a bit of research on this one before cooking. There seems to be an even split on removing the head and wings vs. cooking them whole. I went down the middle and pulled off the heads, but left the wings attached. Something about those red eyes just didn’t seem appealing to me. I also pulled off the legs. They are pretty grippy and I thought they would be weird going down. When my oldest son was young, he lost his pet bearded dragon when the leg of a grasshopper (its favorite treat) pierced its intestine. I don’t think that would be an issue with people and cicada legs, but you can’t be too careful, lol. Refrigerate the cicadas before using or toss them in the freezer for longer-term storage. I placed mine in the freezer for an hour before prepping to keep them from moving around.

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Dress the cicadas to your liking, removing heads, feet, wings or all three.

For the recipe, I blended up my favorite shrimp breading from Louisiana Fish Fry Products with enough beer to make a batter.

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Mix your favorite shrimp coating with enough beer to form a thin batter.

From there I deep-fried the cicadas and served them up with bang bang dipping sauce. Like my dad says, “You can fry just about anything and know that at least the crust is going to taste good.”

After prepping the cicadas to your liking, mix the shrimp fry with enough beer to make a batter, about the consistency of a thin pancake batter. You want it to coat the cicadas evenly without clumping up. Dump the … let’s call them “land shrimp” into the batter and stir to coat evenly.

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Add the cicadas to the batter and gently stir to coat.

Heat your oil to 350 degrees. Move the “land shrimp” over to the hot oil one at a time to keep them from sticking together. Fry in batches until the crust is golden brown and the cicadas are cooked through, about 3-5 minutes. Dust with Cajun seasoning as soon as you remove them from the oil.

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Deep-fry until the cicadas reach a crispy golden brown, then remove from oil and dust with Cajun seasoning.

Now the million-dollar question. What do they taste like? Truthfully, not much. They don’t have a ton of flavor other than the batter and the dipping sauce. Would I make them again? Probably not. Between catching and prep, that’s a lot of work for something that doesn’t have much flavor. The texture was crunchy on the surface, meaty in the center. The wings were weird. I suggest pulling them off in the prep process as well. Like Pop says, at least the crust was good.

While they aren’t my favorite, they aren’t bad for a bug. If I was ever stuck in the backcountry without food, they’d definitely be on the menu.


3-6 dozen cicadas

2 cups Louisiana brand Shrimp Fry Mix

6-8 ounces beer to make a batter

Oil for deep-frying

Cajun seasoning


½ cup mayo or sour cream

¼ cup Thai sweet chili sauce

2 teaspoons honey

1-2 teaspoons hot sauce

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