Edible Insects : Axayácatl (Ahuautli)

Mesoamericans ate a wide range of insects. The Aztecs (and modern “in the know” locals) ate ahuautli. Ahuautli is the name for the edible eggs of an aquatic fly in the Corixidae or Notonectidae families. They are found in the lakes of the México basin. The eggs (like michihuautli)(1) look (and supposedly taste – although this is subjective) like fish roe. Cakes of it were (and still are) made which are dried and stored for future use.

1 michihuautli – fish amaranth. See Post Amaranth and the Tzoalli Heresy See Post Quelites : Romeritos

Axaxaiacatl in the Florentine Codex (bottom left corner of image)
Close up of image in the Codex

Axaxaiacatl (axayácatl) as depicted in Book 11 (Earthly Things) of the Florentine Codex penned by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún.

“Axayácatl” are the adult form of the insect while “ahuautle/ahuautli” is the name for its eggs. They are commonly called mosquito eggs but they are in fact the eggs of the insect known as a “water boatman”.

The Corixidae insect

The Mexica often cooked ahuautli, the tiny eggs of this freshwater bug with a herb known in modern times as romerito. The eggs are known as ahuautle, which literally means “the amaranth of the water”.

Ahuautli eggs .
(Much) larger than actual size.
Raw (left) and puffed (right) amaranth seed for comparison.
Ahuautli is smaller in size than the amaranth seed on the left.


Nutritional value per 100 g

(Source: Digestibilidad in vitro de algunos insectos comestibles en Mexico : Nutritional Value of Edible Insects from the State of Oaxaca, Mexico : Ramos-Elorduy etal 1997)
Amino acids Nutrient Value
Eggs – Adults
Tryptophan 0.6g – 0.4g
Threonine 4.0g – 2.6g
Isoleucine 2.9g
Leucine 5.3g – 4.5g
Lysine 3.8g – 2.8g
Methionine 2.7g – 0.1g
Cysteine 0.1g – 0.6g
Phenylalanine 2.7g – 2.4g
Tyrosine 7.3g – 5.0g
Valine 2.0g – 2.7g
Arginine 3.9g – 3.4g
Histidine 1.9g – 1.5g
Alanine 5g – 4.4g
Aspartic acid 1.8g – 4.6g
Glutamic acid 8.8g – 7.1g
Glycine 3.8g – 3.7g
(oxyproline) 5.65g
Serine 5.6g – 3.0g
Niacin (B3) 2.64 – 4.14mg
Riboflavin (B2) 0.81 – 0.76mg
Thiamine (B1) 0.41 – 1.01 mg

Tortitas de ahuautle y amarantos (Amaranth and Ahuautle Pancakes)



  • 1-2 eggs
  • Salt (al gusto) (1)
  • 20g  ahuautle
  • 30g  toasted (or puffed) amaranth
  • 1-2 eggs
  1. Al gusto – to taste


  • 3 tomatoes
  • 4 guajillo chiles
  • 20g chopped onion
  • 40g nopalitos (thin strips)
  • 25g dried shrimp (Optional)


  1. Toast the amaranth and ahuautle (separately) on a comal. Take care not to burn them as it may give the dish a bitter taste
  2. Gently beat the eggs and add to the amaranth and ahuautle. You want it to resemble a thick batter. Add about a teaspoon of salt (or to your liking)
  3. In a pan put enough oil to shallow fry the tortitas. Heat the oil to approximately 180°C. Gently place spoonfuls of the ahuautle, amaranth and egg mixture in the oil.
  4. Flip them carefully so that they brown on both sides.

For the sauce

  1. Toast the guajillo chiles in a dry pan (being careful not to burn), remove the veins and seeds.  Place in a bowl and cover with hot water. Soak until soft (about 15 minutes)
  2. Grind together the tomatoes, onion and chile (include the dried shrimp at this stage if using them). You can also roast the onion and tomatoes on the comal (before grinding them of course) to add a deeper level of flavour to your sauce.
  3. Fry the sauce in a little oil in a pan until it thickens. Adjust the seasoning. If necessary, water or chicken stock can be used to adjust the consistency of the sauce to your liking.
  4. Add the tortitas and the nopalitos to the sauce and serve.


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