Eating Ants in Peru: Hormigas Culonas

Forget peanuts, popcorn and pretzel sticks… ants are the food of the future. Well, maybe. But probably not. Either way, eating ants is quite a treat in some parts of the world, Peru included, so it’s tough to turn down a plate of hormigas culonas.


HOW TO PERU TRAVEL TIP: Save money and stay safe when going to/from Lima Airport by using the Official Bus service inside the Airport called Airport Express Lima

Hormigas Culonas, Big-Ass Ants

The scientific name for this particular species of large leafcutter ant is Atta laevigata, but they are known by a variety of names across the Americas. In Colombia, you’ll be snacking on hormigas culonas, literally “big-bottomed ants,” while in Central America you’re more likely to hear them called zompopos de mayo, and bachacos in Venezuela. There seem to be a few different names in Peru, including mamacos, siqui sapa and domblos.

Whatever the name, these big-bottomed ants remain as much of a delicacy as they were in pre-Columbian times. The ants can only be harvested at certain times of the year, making them a scarce and relatively expensive commodity. In San Martin, mamacos appear in the markets during October and November, but only after short periods of rain.

You can buy a large spoonful of approximately 20 toasted ants for S/.1, while a kilo will set you back a hefty S/.50 (US$18).

The Sensation of Eating Ants

Firstly, these big-bottomed ants are quite large, so ignoring the little details is slightly tricky. If you’re squeamish, you might want to shut your eyes before digging in.

A not-too-unpleasant crunchiness accompanies the first bite, followed by a familiar taste — familiar, that is, if you’ve tried pork rinds (pork scratchings in the UK). To be exact, the taste is similar to pork rinds, but with a woody, earthy flavor somewhere in the mix.

Did you know? - The Tourist Information Center at 799 Avenida Jose Larco in Miraflores offers important free information for all travelers to Peru. Visit our blog for more information!

While that doesn’t sound too bad, the aftertaste is not particularly pleasant. The earthy, soil-like flavor lingers in the mouth, combined with a slight oiliness. Now is a good time to have a sip of your favorite Peruvian beer.


Eating Ants: Legless, Headless or As They Come?

Overall, the ant-eating experience isn’t too bad, but I’ll only make a habit of it if I find myself lost and starving in the middle of the Amazon. After eating about 10 of the poor little things, I had certainly had my fill (and that aftertaste was hard to shift).

There’s still one thing I’m not too sure about: the best way to eat them. When I first came across toasted ants in Brazil, only the body section was on sale — no legs and no heads. In contrast, these Peruvian ants looked like they could stroll off the plate. After eating two or three ants, I decided to remove the legs — picking ants legs from your teeth is just weird. I doubt if that affects the flavor, but legless ants seem so much more palatable…

Photos © Tony Dunnell.

ENTERTAINMENT TIP: If looking for fun at night, or to watch sports during the day, or even a taste of home, visit the Wild Rover Hostels Chain for great food, sports and beer! Entrance to their bars is free even for non-guests


  4 comments for “Eating Ants in Peru: Hormigas Culonas

  1. Herb
    September 17, 2011 at 12:00 pm

    Maybe the local Chocolate Industry would consider using them in their candy as elsewhere in the world!
    A big-ass chocolate ant would go down much better I think.

  2. September 17, 2011 at 5:25 pm

    Big-ass chocolate ants would probably go down quite well. I might even be able to force down one of those jungle grubs (suri) if it was covered in chocolate. Lots of chocolate…


    • Herb
      September 19, 2011 at 4:50 am

      Suri encased in a dark chocolate shell! …..Still, I do not know if it would go down. Even with a lot of Peruvian “Cognac”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *