Nobody likes me. Everybody hates me. I’m gonna eat some worms.
Yeah, we’ve all sung that song at least once, and certainly, as Valentine’s Day creeps closer, more than a few of us might be singing it now with only a slight sense of irony.
But here’s the thing…for denizens of the underworld, eating worms isn’t some sort of self-punishment for our perceived unattractiveness (spoiler: Hell is damn hot, so technically, everyone down here is ‘smokin’), but as a much-lauded ingredient used in a multitude of dishes.
Think of them this way…to us, worms are like pasta noodles. Easy to make, and delicious with any number of sauces.
Now, while it’s a simple matter for you meatbags to score your own juicy pile of night crawlers by simply visiting the closest bait shop, I’ve been told in no uncertain terms by quite a large number of you that the thought of eating actual worms just hasn’t quite worked its way into your collective consciousness (regardless of the success of books like How to Eat Fried Worms), so today I’m going to show you how to make your own worm substitutes.
Of course, a simple search online will turn up any number of faux worm recipes, but the majority of those are based on a gelatin recipe and result in a sweet, dessert worm (think: dirt and worms pudding cups)…which is perfectly acceptable, but what we want for this recipe is a worm that is savory in taste and can hold up to high temperatures (gelatin worms will melt in our recipe).
And because you guys don’t want real worms (whine, whine) that meant I had to come up with an alternative that looks like real worms but isn’t actually made from real worms. Luckily, after a little digging, a little testing, and a whole lot of disgusting photos sent to family and friends for gut reactions, I have finally discovered the perfect non-worm alternative…worm noodles made from rice starch, tapioca starch, and a little beef cooking stock. Sheesh, don’t say I don’t do anything for you guys.
Before we go any further, this post contains affiliate links. To see my full disclosure, click here.
I also want to take a minute and remind you all that we’re still running our Tremor’s Valentine’s Day Swag Bag giveaway!
Okay, let’s get to cooking.
To make your own savory dirt and worms dinner, you will need:
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced (about 2 cups)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 tablespoons lime juice, divided
- 3 teaspoon chili powder divided
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin, divided
- 4 Cups beef stock (divided)
- 1/2 cup tapioca starch
- 2 1/2 tablespoons rice flour
- red food coloring
- brown food coloring
- 1/2 lb ground beef
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons cup cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons coconut milk
- Salt and pepper, to taste
You’re also going to need to get yourself a gnocchi paddle. I grabbed mine off of Amazon.com.
Start by first pre-heating your oven to 425F/218C.
Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and toss your diced sweet potato with the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of your lime juice, 1 teaspoon of the chili powder and 1 teaspoon of the cumin. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then pop into the oven to roast for 15 to 20 minutes (stir halfway through).
While that’s cooking, let’s make our worms.
In a pot on the stove, bring all four cups of your beef stock to a boil.
Combine your rice flour with your tapioca starch and slowly drizzle in 1/2 cup of your boiling hot beef stock. Do this slowly, mixing as you go, until it comes together in a sticky dough. Turn out onto a smooth surface dusted with more tapioca starch and begin kneading, adding in more tapioca starch as needed to keep it from sticking to you or the surface you are kneading on.
Add in your red and brown food coloring, a little at a time, and continue kneading until you have a silky smooth dough that is a reddish brown worm color.
Pinch off a little of your dough and roll out a long worm shape. To give your worm the rings real earthworms have (ooh, texture!) roll your worm down the length of your gnocchi paddle, pressing just hard enough to give the worm rings but not to flatten it out.
Continue doing this until you have about 5 worms.
Cook your worms by dropping them into the boiling beef broth. They’ll sink to the bottom but will pop back up to the surface after about half a minute. Let them continue to cook for an additional 30 seconds (so a total of about a minute) and then remove with a slotted spoon. Don’t let them overcook as they will start to fall apart. Right at the minute mark seems to be about perfect.
Drop your cooked worms into a bowl and drizzle on 1/4 cup of your beef broth to keep them from sticking together. At first, they will be a bright orange-ish red, but as they cool, will turn translucent and darken down to a nice brown worm color.
Continue rolling and cooking your worms 5 at a time until you have a nice bowl full (about 2 to 3 cups). (If you find your dough is getting too dry as you roll and cook, cover it with a damp paper towel to help keep it moist and pliable.)
By now your sweet potatoes should be roasted. Pull those out of the oven and set aside along with your worms while we cook up the beef portion of this recipe.
Cook and drain your ground beef, saving 1 tablespoon of the drippings from your pan. Use this to cook your diced onion and garlic, sauteeing until your onions are translucent and slightly caramelized (about 5 minutes).
Add your beef back in and continue to cook. Add in 1 teaspoon of your chili powder, your paprika, remaining cumin and oregano. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add in your roasted sweet potatoes, toss well to combine and then cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
While that’s finishing up, we’ll quickly make our cilantro sauce.
In a food processor, combine your lime juice, coconut milk, cilantro, and remaining teaspoon of chili powder and pulse until you have a thick creamy sauce.
Time to bring it all together!
On a large plate, scoop up a robust serving of your beef and sweet potato mixture. Give it a healthy drizzle of cilantro sauce and then top with a mountain of your worm-shaped noodles.
Serve hot and get ready for a delicious explosion of sweet from the potatoes, savory from the beef, and an unexpected but delicious chew from your worm-shaped noodles.
And the next time someone tells you they’re going to go eat worms, share this recipe with them and remind them, eating worms doesn’t have to be a punishment, and with the right sauce, they’re delicious!
Looking for more faux insect-inspired recipes to tempt your taste buds? Why not try our green salad grubs?
Or, if you’re feeling truly brave and ready to make the leap to real insects, we have three disgustingly delicious options for you to try: