Are earthworms safe to eat raw?

Quick Answers

Eating raw earthworms is generally not recommended from a health and safety perspective. Earthworms can harbor parasites, bacteria, toxins, and pesticides that pose health risks when consumed raw. Cooking earthworms can reduce these risks, but does not eliminate them entirely. There are limited nutrients and health benefits associated with eating earthworms raw. Most experts advise avoiding consumption of raw earthworms due to the potential health hazards involved.

Are Earthworms Edible?

Earthworms are edible for humans, although they are not commonly consumed in most parts of the world. There are some cultures that do intentionally eat earthworms raw or cooked as part of their cuisine. The Māori of New Zealand, various tribes in Kenya, and some indigenous people in South America are known to consume earthworms. Some luxury cuisines have also experimented with earthworm dishes such as tequila-marinated worms.

So while earthworms can be eaten, the more pertinent questions are: are earthworms safe to eat raw, do they provide nutritional value, and are there preparation methods that make them safer for human consumption?

Are Earthworms Safe to Eat Raw?

Eating raw earthworms is generally not recommended. Here are some of the health and safety risks associated with consuming raw earthworms:


Earthworms can harbor parasitic worms like roundworms, threadworms, and tapeworms that can infect humans. These parasites attach themselves to the intestinal lining and can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, weakness, weight loss, and malnutrition. Children and those with compromised immunity are especially susceptible to parasite infections from eating raw earthworms.


Earthworms live in the soil which contains high levels of bacteria, including pathogenic strains like Clostridium botulinum, Bacillus cereus, and species of Salmonella and Escherichia. Consuming contaminated raw earthworms can lead to food poisoning symptoms like nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Soil Toxins

Earthworms ingest the soil they live in, which may contain high levels of toxins like pesticides, heavy metals, and other contaminants. These toxins can be transferred to humans who eat the raw earthworms. The toxins may accumulate over time and lead to poisoning or other adverse health effects.


Pesticide residues present in the soil are picked up by earthworms. Eating raw earthworms can directly transfer these toxic pesticides like organophosphates, carbamates and pyrethroids into the human body with dangerous consequences such as neurotoxicity, reproductive issues, and cancer.


Some individuals may be allergic to earthworms or their secretions. Eating raw earthworms can trigger potentially life-threatening allergic reactions including anaphylactic shock in those with earthworm allergies.

Nutritional Value

Earthworms contain about 60-70% protein and are a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, raw earthworms may not provide as much bioavailable nutrient benefit compared to cooked preparation. The vitamin and mineral content of raw earthworms includes iron, calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, copper, and zinc. But the levels are generally low compared to other protein food sources.

Taste and Texture

The taste and texture of raw earthworms takes some getting used to. The earthy, dirty, slimy and chewy texture can be unappealing to many palates. The raw earthworm flavor is mild but carries a fishy and metallic taste. Cooking can help make the taste and texture more acceptable.

Can You Eat Earthworms Raw?

While it’s technically possible to eat earthworms raw, it is generally not recommended from a health and safety perspective.

Potential risks like parasitic infections, toxins, pesticides and bacteria make raw earthworm consumption risky. However, earthworms are edible if properly cleaned, cooked thoroughly and safely sourced from organic and contaminant-free soil.

The risks of eating raw earthworms outweigh potential benefits. But each individual must weigh the risks and benefits before making dietary choices involving raw earthworms.

How to Prepare Earthworms for Eating

If you do choose to eat earthworms, proper cleaning and cooking is vital to reduce health risks. Here are some preparation tips:


– Rinse in cold water to remove dirt and slime

– Soak in salted water for 20 minutes to purge dirt from digestive tract

– Rinse again thoroughly


– Boil for at least 10 minutes to kill bacteria and parasites

– Fry or sauté in hot pan for 5 minutes minimum

– Roasting at 300°F for 20 minutes

– Skewer and grill for 10-15 minutes

Adequate cooking helps neutralize toxins, soften texture, and make earthworms more palatable and digestible.

Nutritional Value of Earthworms

Although earthworms can technically be eaten, they do not provide a significant source of nutrients compared to other food sources. Here is the basic nutritional value per 100g of earthworms:


– Protein: 60-70% of total calories. Provides essential amino acids. Quality comparable to fish, better than beef.

– Fat: 6-10% of total calories. High in omega-3 fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

– Carbohydrates: 15-20% of total calories. Mainly glycogen and mucopolysaccharides.


– Iron: up to 100-300% RDI. Heme-iron has higher bioavailability than iron from plants.

– Calcium: up to 27% RDI

– Phosphorus: up to 30% RDI

– Magnesium: up to 70% RDI

– Copper: up to 50% RDI

– Zinc: up to 31% RDI

– Selenium: up to 13% RDI

– Vitamin B12: up to 300% RDI

So in summary, earthworms contain complete protein comparable to fish and meat, omega-3 fatty acids, and significant amounts of iron, calcium, magnesium and B12. However, most of these nutrients are more abundant in common food sources. Overall, earthworms are not a nutritionally dense or efficient food source.

Health Benefits of Eating Earthworms

There are a few potential health benefits associated with eating earthworms:


The high protein content (60-70%) makes earthworms a good source of essential amino acids for maintaining and repairing muscles, bones, skin and blood cells.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Earthworms contain omega-3s EPA and DHA which have anti-inflammatory effects and cardiovascular benefits such as lowering blood pressure and triglycerides.


Earthworms are very high in heme-iron which is more bioavailable than non-heme iron from plants. The abundant iron can prevent deficiency and anemia.

Other Benefits

– Weight loss – high protein is satiating and may boost metabolism.

– Digestion – contains enzymes like protease and amylase which aid digestion.

– Calcium for bones

– B12 for cell metabolism

– Anti-oxidants that neutralize cell damage

However, these potential benefits have not been widely studied in humans and may be outweighed by the risks of raw consumption. More research is needed on the health effects of eating earthworms.

Do Earthworms Taste Good?

The taste of earthworms is often described as a cross between fish and beef. Their flavor is mild, but also carries earthy, dirty, and metallic notes. The slime they secrete gives a soft and wet mouthfeel.

Here are some of the common taste descriptions of earthworms:

  • Earthy, dirty taste from living in soil
  • Fishy, seafood-like flavor
  • Metallic, iron-rich bloody taste
  • Meaty, reminiscent of beef
  • Mild overall flavor
  • Slimy, soft and wet texture

When cooked well, the earthy taste becomes mellower and the meaty notes are more pronounced. The slime dissipates, creating a mouthfeel akin to squid or cooked greens. Proper preparation like boiling, frying or grilling can make the flavor and texture more palatable.

Seasonings like salt, pepper, spices, butter or oil can also help balance the earthiness. Sweet or savory sauces pair well with cooked earthworms.

The taste appeals more to some than others. The richness can be attractive and the mild flavor allows other seasonings to shine. But the sliminess and dirt undertones can deter some foodies. Overall, earthworms have a unique taste profile closer to seafood than meat.

Where to Buy Earthworms for Consumption

It is possible to buy earthworms specifically for eating purposes:


– Amazon: live earthworms for freshwater fishing bait can also be eaten

– eBay: some sellers offer packaged edible earthworms

Local Fishing Bait Shops

– Buy live bait worms intended for freshwater fishing like nightcrawlers or red wigglers

Vermicomposting Farms

– Some vermicompost operations will sell excess worms for eating

Commercial Earthworm Farms

– Large scale earthworm farms may supply earthworms to meet demand for human consumption

When sourcing earthworms, ensure they are:

  • Cultivated specifically for eating – not wild-harvested
  • Raised in contaminant-free, organic soil
  • Purged of soil and slime
  • Kept refrigerated below 50°F for freshness

This helps minimize the risks from toxins, pesticides and parasites. Properly farmed earthworms intended for consumption are safer options.

Risks and Precautions When Eating Earthworms

If you choose to eat earthworms, here are some important safety precautions to take:

Source Carefully

Only eat earthworms cultivated organically for human consumption, not wild ones. Avoid earthworms from soil possibly treated with toxic pesticides, herbicides or other chemicals.

Clean Thoroughly

Rinse and soak worms well to remove dirt, slime secretions and purge the digestive tract. Sterilize with mild bleach or vinegar solution if desired.

Cook Completely

Boil, sauté or grill worms to an internal temperature of at least 165°F for over 10 minutes to neutralize parasites, bacteria and toxins.

Eat Fresh

After cooking, eat worms immediately or refrigerate for up to 3 days. Discard older portions as bacteria can regrow on dead worms.

Portion Control

Limit portion to 1 ounce on first try to assess tolerance, then gradually increase as tolerated. Too many raw worms may irritate the digestive tract.


Avoid eating earthworms if you have a known allergy to them. Seek medical care immediately if you experience allergy symptoms like itching, swelling or anaphylaxis.

Medical Risks

Don’t eat raw or undercooked earthworms if you have a compromised immune system or are pregnant. Consult your physician about parasite risks.


Harvest earthworms sustainably without damaging essential soil ecosystems. Rotate harvesting from different areas.

So while eating earthworms can be done safely, it requires taking necessary sanitary precautions during harvesting, preparation and consumption.


Earthworms are edible and can be eaten raw or cooked. However, there are health risks associated with eating raw earthworms such as exposure to parasites, bacteria, toxins and pesticides. These can be reduced through proper cooking methods like boiling, frying or grilling. But the greatest safety lies in sourcing earthworms carefully from organic and contaminant-free soil. There are small amounts of protein, omega-3s and iron found in earthworms, but minimal evidence of health benefits from eating them. The taste divides opinion with some enjoying the earthy, fishy and meaty flavor, while others find it unappealing. Overall, while earthworms can technically be eaten raw, food safety experts advise against consuming them uncooked due to the potential parasitic and bacterial hazards. Proper sourcing, handling and cooking is required to minimize these risks.

Leave a Comment