Sal de Gusano--Worm Salt--For Yourself Or A Gift - The Nibble Webzine Of Food Adventures Sal de Gusano--Worm Salt--For Yourself Or A Gift
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Sal de Gusano–Worm Salt–For Yourself Or A Gift

Since the dawn of humankind, people around the world have eaten insects for protein.

In [what is now] Mexico alone, a variety of tasty insects were eaten for protein by Aztecs and their predecessors.

  • Here’s more about them.
  • And here’s a Top 10 list.
  • Personally, we’re not into edible insects just yet. But we have friends who vacation in Mexico every year, and they can’t get enough of them.
    Fast-forward to today:

    If you need a gift for an adventurous eater, or have a bold palate yourself, consider sal de gusano.

    Sal de gusano, worm salt (photo #1), is a specialty of the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and a classic accompaniment to mezcal and tequila (photo #2).

    It’s a traditional spice in Oaxaca, which is the heart of the mezcal region.

    The salt is made with actual ground red maguey* worm larvae, which live on Agave americana plants.

    The larvae are toasted and combined with sea salt and chilies.

    Since the larvae spend their lives eating only the agave plant, and their “meat” develops flavors* that pair well with agave-based beverages like mezcal and tequila.

    In additional to mezcal and tequila shots and mixed drinks, sal de gusano it used with Micheladas.

    And don’t forget the Margarita.

    Salt and lime are typically served as flavor enhancers with mezcal- and tequila-based drinks. Sal de gusano replaces the salt and provides a much deeper flavor.

    “Only in Mexico can we find a product like this, an original pre-Hispanic recipe and 100% Oaxacan†,” says Eduardo Quiroga, chief sommelier at Grand Velas Riviera Maya in Riveria Maya, Mexico.

    “It is a product with a unique flavor that enhances the flavor of food and gives it a unique aromatic depth,” [source].

    Sal de Gusano gives a distinct Oaxacan flavor to food and drinks. According to Bar Faith:

  • It’s most commonly consumed scattered onto orange wedges, while sipping mezcal (photo #2. It complements the intense flavors of a smoky mezcal.
  • The orange with sal de gusano can be used as a palate cleanser between tastings of different mezcals.
  • It’s used as a spice in the traditional cuisine of Oaxaca, including fruits, salads and grilled meats.
    If you had to describe the flavor: It’s umami. In addition, one writer found that they taste “a little like French fries” [source].
    Bar Faith says, “…[the first time] I tried it at a mezcal tasting, I was hooked and all doubts went out the window.”

    “It’s smoky, earthy, and adds unbelievable depth and umami. I don’t think I can enjoy mezcal without some of this on hand.”

    Are you ready?

    You can also find brands on Amazon.

    And for more edible insect products, head to Don Bugito.


    [1] Sal de gusano: When the larvae are mixed with sea salt and chiles, the chiles color the salt red (photo © Rancho Gordo).

    [2] The salt is often served on orange wedges, to suck before and after sips of the drink (photo #2 and #4 © Gran Mitla).

    [3] A creative glass rim makes a cocktail quite elegant. Here’s the recipe from Edible DC (photo © Jennifer Chase | Edible DC).

    [4] Rim the glass of your favorite festive mezcal or tequila cocktail with sal de gusano.


    *The red maguey worms are known as chilocuiles, chinicuiles or tecoles, and are the larvae of the moth Comadia redtenbacheri. There are two varieties, white and red. The red worms live in the root and heart of the agave plant, while the white larvae are in the leaves. According to Quiroga, the red larvae contribute sweetness while the white the larvae have minerality and grassiness [source].


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