Why do Saúva ants taste like lemongrass?

When we invited Alex Atala of D.O.M. about 3 years ago at The Flemish Primitives, he brought Saúva ants along with him from Brazil. Tasting these ants changed our perception from weird little appetite discouraging creatures with not much flavor into a delicacy that can be used as a spice. These Saúva ants taste like lemongrass, ginger and cardamom.

alex atala

The taste of lemongrass in an ant

Neral and Generial

In the aroma-analysis of the ants we see the strong presence of 2 isomers of citral; neral and geranial. Geranial has a strong citrus odor, while neral is less citrusy, but more sweet. Lemongrass contains about 1–2% essential oil in a dry weight basis. The essential oil is characterized by a high content of this same neral and geranial.


The ants also contain large quantities of linalool. Linalool is an important flavor molecule, present in fruits and many more ingredients. It smells floral, citrusy, woody. This molecule is also found abundantly in Belgian white beers, coffee, gin and flowers such as elderflower, jasmine and hibiscus.

Sneakpeek of possible Foodpairing® combinations with Saúva ants

With the Foodpairing Inspiration Tool we can discover which ingredients have an aromatic link with the Saúva ants.

Here is a sneakpeak of fruits that pair well with the Saúva ants. The ant matches very well with mango and banana but can also be paired with cherimoya or even pineapple!

Foodpairing Inspiration Tool

tool ants

Recipe by Alex Atala (D.O.M) with Saúva ants and pineapple

recipe brazilian ant pineapple alex atala

More from the same author

Need inspiration?

Sign up now