Chocolate-Covered Ants

In the comments, blogger Huckleberry Days asks:

Speaking of tasty, what about chocolate covered ants: which ants are used?

Having never made chocolate-covered ants, I am not the best person to be opining about formicine confections.   I do, however, have many years' worth of mostly accidental ant ingestion experience, enough to offer the following advice for choosing a species to coat in chocolate.  Here's what to look for:

  • Medium-large species at least 6-10 mm in length. Smaller ants won't give your candy any noticeable crunch.
  • Species with a strongly acidic chemistry will yield an appealing sweet-and-sour taste.  Ants in the subfamily formicinae should be ideal.
  • Species without noxious or odd flavors.  Very important!  Make sure to squish and smell any candidate species before adding it to the recipe.  Many dolichoderines may impart an odd cheesy flavor, for example, and some Pheidole and nearly all army ants have a fecal odor that smells like, well, feces.
  • Species that are locally abundant.  Since your chocolate-covered ants will soon be the talk of the neighborhood you'll need a steady supply.

For many of us in the northern hemisphere, the above criteria make Formica or Camponotus an obvious choice.  Common, big, and acidic.

Different parts of the world host different types of ants, though, so the best species to use will depend on where you live.  As far as I know, there aren't any that are unsafe to eat.  Apparently, some of the Pogonomyrmex are hallucinogenic if taken in doses of several hundred, but that takes an extreme level of dedication.

Tropical ant aficionados should have good pickings.  Some South American leafcutter species have a lemony flavor, as do the Australian Oecophylla. Indeed, at least one of the commercially available ant candies uses Atta queens.

Finally, if any of my readers have real chocolate ant experience- and I'm sure some of you do- please share your stories and recipes in the comments.

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well you could take a ball of small ants (argentines) and dip that in chocolate make a rice-crisp-like treat!

By ihateaphids (not verified) on 08 Feb 2009 #permalink

The various Eciton species smell a lot like meat in various states of preparation/decay. Eciton hamatum smells a lot like beef and potato stew, but I'm not sure that goes well with chocolate!? Perhaps they are better as a sandwich filling.

I ate such stuff once, quite tasty. They advertised it as made with leaf-cutters, but in fact the ants were some Polyrhachis...

Hmmmmm ... what would you think about some of those Lasius (Acanthomyops) that smell like citronella? Would they impart a pleasantly herbal flavor to the chocolate, or would they be utterly noxious?

I'm curious about the taste of those dolichoderines that smell like bleu cheese and coconut. Maybe not good with chocolate, but I've long been tempted to sprinkle bleu cheese and coconut on a salad to see if I could duplicate the sensation. (Yum -- Tapinoma gorgonzolae!)

By Julie Stahlhut (not verified) on 09 Feb 2009 #permalink

Yeah, I wondered about Acanthomyops. They might even be *too* strong. Maybe we'd stick just one for flavor into a nugget with a couple of Formica.