Bored of the same old, same old when it comes to food? Why not step out of your comfort zone and sample some of the world’s more unusual offerings? From bugs to brains, there are plenty of weird and wonderful dishes out there waiting to be discovered. We should warn you—some of these meals are definitely not for the faint-hearted. Are you brave enough to try them? Read on to see a curated list of the world’s most unusual foods.
1. Fried Tarantulas – Cambodia
Why not start your list of unusual foods with something truly stomach-churning? In the Cambodian town of Skuon, tarantulas are deep-fried and served as a popular street food.These furry critters can grow up to 15 cm in length, making them a pretty sizable snack.
If you’re feeling really brave, you can even eat the legs whole. But if that’s a step too far, the tarantulas are also served chopped up in a spicy chili sauce. Either way, it’s definitely not your average dish.
2. Smalahove – Norway
This next dish is definitely not for the vegetarian among you. Smalahove is a traditional Norwegian dish made from—you guessed it—sheep’s head (6). The skin and fur are removed, before the head is boiled or steamed and served with mashed potatoes.
If that hasn’t put you off your dinner, you should know that this dish is usually eaten around Christmas time. So if you’re feeling festive and want to try something new, this might be the meal for you.
3. Hakarl – Iceland
Hakarl is a traditional Icelandic dish made from fermented shark meat. The meat is incredibly poisonous when fresh, so it needs to be cured for several months before it’s safe to eat.
This dish is definitely an acquired taste—many people compare the smell to that of ammonia (7). But if you can get past the pungent smell, you might just find yourself enjoying this unusual food.
4. Casu Marzu – Sardinia
Casu Marzu is a traditional Sardinian cheese that is made with live maggots. That’s right, this cheese is literally crawling with bugs. The maggots are added to the cheese deliberately, in order to speed up the fermentation process (1).
If you’re thinking of trying this cheese, you should be aware that it’s actually illegal in the European Union. This is because the maggots can cause severe intestinal damage if they’re ingested. So perhaps this is one food that’s best avoided.
5. Century Egg – China
The century egg is a Chinese delicacy that is made by preserving duck, chicken or quail eggs in a mixture of clay, ash, lime and salt for several weeks or months. This process changes the egg’s appearance, giving it a black or dark green outer shell and a translucent, jelly-like inner.
The flavor of the century egg is quite strong, and has been described as earthy, musty or even ammonia-like. If you’re brave enough to try it, this unusual food is often eaten with rice or congee.
6. Fried Brain Sandwich – Indiana, USA
This next dish might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s definitely among unusual foods. The fried brain sandwich is a popular dish in the US state of Indiana, where pig brains are breaded and deep-fried before being served on a bun with onions and pickles.
If you’re feeling brave enough to try this dish, you’ll find it served in a number of different eateries around the state. Aside from the obvious protein hit, pig brains are also said to be rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This might just be a sandwich that’s good for you as well as being delicious.
7. Mopane Worms – Zimbabwe
Mopane worms are the caterpillars of the emperor moth, and they’re a popular food in Zimbabwe. These critters are usually harvested from wild mopane trees in the rainy season, before being sun-dried and then fried or stewed.
Popularly known as ‘amancimbi’ in Ndebele or ‘madora’ in Shona, these creepy crawlers can be eaten dry and crispy as a snack. They can be drenched in sauce (much like your favorite pasta), or even used as a flavoring for other dishes. They have a crunchy texture and an earthy taste. If you’re truly a culinary adventurer, you can pick them fresh off a tree and eat them raw.
8. Lutefisk – Norway, Sweden & Finland
Lutefisk is a traditional dish from Norway, Sweden and Finland that is made from dried cod that has been soaked in lye. This gives the fish a jelly-like texture, and it is often served with potatoes, green peas and bacon.
While eating cod isn’t exactly unusual, the lye-soaking process definitely makes this dish stand out from the crowd of other foods. Lye is a caustic substance that’s used in the making of soap and detergent, so it’s definitely not something you want to eat on a regular basis.
The taste of lutefisk is quite strong, and has been described as ‘soapy’ or ‘slightly metallic’. If you’re thinking of trying this unusual food, you should be aware that it is an acquired taste. Many people who grow up eating lutefisk learn to love it, but it’s definitely not for everyone.
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9. Huitlacoche – Mexico
Huitlacoche is a type of fungus that grows on ears of corn, and it’s considered to be a delicacy in Mexico. This fungus is also known as ‘corn smut’, and it’s black or dark gray in color.
Huitlacoche has an earthy flavor that has been described as being similar to mushrooms. It’s often used in soups and stews, or even grilled and served as a side dish. If you’re feeling adventurous, you could even try it in a quesadilla.
10. Escargot – France
Escargot is a French dish that consists of cooked snails. These slimy little creatures are often served in their shells, along with a garlic and butter sauce. While eating snails might not sound too appetizing, they’re actually quite a popular dish in France. In fact, it’s estimated that around 40,000 tonnes of snails are eaten in the country every year.
If you’re thinking of trying escargot, you should know that they’re usually cooked in garlic and butter sauce. This helps to mask their slimy texture and strong taste. If you can get past the texture, escargot is actually a pretty tasty dish.
Because they’re served in their shells, eating them has a bit of a learning curve. You’ll need a piece of freshly baked bread and a fork to help you get the snail out. Once you’ve extracted the snail from its shell, you can dip it in the garlic and butter sauce before eating it.
11. Balut – Philippines
Balut is a popular dish in the Philippines that consists of a fertilized duck egg. The egg is incubated for 14-21 days before it’s cooked, and it’s then eaten whole. Balut can be boiled, baked or even deep-fried, and it’s often served with vinegar or chili peppers. If the thought of eating boiled egg embryo doesn’t sound too appetizing, you can also find balut that’s been cooked with vegetables or chicken.
12. Blood Sausage – Germany, UK & Ireland
Blood sausage is a type of sausage that, as the name suggests, is made with blood. This unusual ingredient gives the sausage its distinctive black color, and it’s often mixed with pork fat and barley.
Blood sausage is popular in Germany, the UK and Ireland, and it’s usually served grilled or fried. Other names for blood sausage include black pudding, boudin noir and kaszanka.
13. Kopi Luwak – Indonesia
Kopi Luwak is a type of coffee that’s made from coffee beans that have been eaten and defecated by the civet cat. These cats are native to Indonesia, and they eat the coffee beans as part of their diet. The coffee beans are then collected from the cat’s droppings, cleaned and roasted to make coffee.
Kopi Luwak is one of the most expensive coffees in the world, and it’s said to have a smooth and rich flavor. If you’re thinking of trying this unusual coffee, you should be aware that it can cost up to $100 per pound.
14. Spotted Dick – UK
Spotted dick is a type of pudding that’s popular in the UK. It’s made with suet (beef or mutton fat), flour, breadcrumbs and dried fruit. The pudding is then steamed until it’s cooked through, and it’s often served with custard or cream.
This unusual pudding might not look too appetizing, but it’s actually quite tasty. The combination of suet, flour and breadcrumbs gives the pudding a light and fluffy texture, while the dried fruit adds a hint of sweetness.
15. Fugu – Japan
Fugu is a type of fish that’s native to Japan, and it’s considered to be a delicacy. The fish is poisonous, and it contains a toxin that can cause paralysis or even death (3). Because of this, fugu can only be prepared by specially trained chefs who have passed a government test.
Nutrition-wise, fugu, like other fish, is a good source of protein and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s often served grilled, fried or stewed, and it can be found in many Japanese restaurants.
16. Haggis – Scotland
Haggis is a type of pudding that’s popular in Scotland. It’s made with sheep heart, liver and lungs, and it’s often served with mashed potatoes and turnips. Haggis can also be made with beef or pork, and it’s usually seasoned with onions, oatmeal, salt and pepper.
This traditional Scottish dish might not sound too appetizing, but it’s actually among quite tasty foods. The sheep heart and liver give the haggis a rich flavor, while the oatmeal gives it a slightly nutty taste.
17. Sweetbreads – France
Sweetbreads are a type of meat that’s taken from the thymus gland or pancreas of a cow, lamb or pig. They’re popular in France, and they’re often served grilled, fried or stewed. Sweetbreads have a slightly sweet taste, and they’re often used as an ingredient in salads or main dishes.
If you’re thinking of trying sweetbreads, you should be aware that they can be quite rich. They’re often served with a sauce or gravy to balance out their flavor.
18. Durian – Southeast Asia
Durian is a type of fruit that’s native to Southeast Asia, and it’s often called the “king of fruits”. The fruit is large and round, and it has a hard, spiky shell. Durian is said to smell like rotting flesh.
The taste of durian is quite controversial – some people love it, while others find it to be incredibly unpleasant. If you’re thinking of trying durian, you should be aware that it’s banned from many public places in Southeast Asia due to its strong smell.
19. Natto – Japan
Natto is a type of fermented soybean that among popular Japanese foods. It has a strong smell and a sticky texture, and it’s often eaten for breakfast. What makes Natto unusual and unappealing to some is the stringy, slimy texture that is created during the fermentation process.
Natto is a good source of protein, and it’s said to have many health benefits (4). Like most fermented foods, it contains beneficial bacteria that might help to improve gut health. If you’re thinking of trying natto, you should be aware that its strong smell might take some getting used to. Smother it in a seasoning sauce, or mustard to help mask its odd taste and texture.
20. Scrapple – United States
Also called goetta or livermush, scrapple is a type of meatloaf that’s popular in some parts of the United States. What makes this dish unusual is it uses broth from a whole hog. Hog broth and offal are mixed with cornmeal, wheat flour, and spices. The mixture is simmered until it forms a thick paste, and it’s then formed into a loaf.
Scrapple is usually sliced and fried, and it’s often served with eggs or pancakes. This dish might not sound too appetizing, but it’s actually quite tasty. The hog broth gives the scrapple a rich flavor, while the cornmeal gives it a bit of sweetness.
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21. Frog Legs – France
With all the leaping they do, it’s no surprise that frogs have powerful legs. Frog legs are a popular dish in France, and they’re often served fried or grilled. They have a mild flavor and a delicate texture, and they’re said to taste like chicken.
If you’re thinking of trying frog legs, you should be aware that they can be quite expensive. They’re also not easy to find – you might have to order them from a specialty grocery store or restaurant.
22. Horse Meat – Japan
Horse meat is a popular dish in Japan, and it’s often used as an ingredient in sushi. The meat is very lean, and it has a slightly sweet taste. It’s also a good source of protein and iron.
If you’re thinking of trying horse meat, you should be aware that it can be quite expensive. You might also have trouble finding it – horse meat is not widely available in most countries.
23. Muktuk – Inuit
Muktuk is a type of food that’s made from the skin and blubber of a whale. It’s popular among the Inuit people, and it’s often eaten raw. Muktuk has a chewy texture, and it’s said to taste like chicken. Aside from being a source of food, muktuk is also used for its oil, which is said to have some health benefits (2).
If you’re thinking of trying muktuk, you should be aware that it’s not easy to find. It’s also quite expensive, as whale meat is banned in many countries. Unless you find yourself in Greenland or Alaska, you’re unlikely to come across this dish.
24. Sannakji – Korea
Sannakji is a type of raw octopus foods that are popular in Korea. The octopus is cut into small pieces, and it’s often served with a dipping sauce. What makes this dish unusual is that the octopus is still alive when it’s served (5).
Even after being chopped up, the octopus’ tentacles will still move and writhe on your plate. Wrap it in leaves, spice it up with some gochujang (Korean chili paste), and enjoy.
25. Tiet Canh – Vietnam
Tiet canh is a type of Vietnamese soup that’s made from raw duck blood. It’s often served with rice or noodles, and it has a slightly sweet taste. What makes this soup unusual is the duck blood, which gives it a distinctive flavor and texture.
The soup can be quite confronting if you’re not used to seeing blood in your food. That aside, there may be some health benefits to eating duck blood, as it’s high in iron.
The Bottom Line
Whether you’re looking for something exotic or just something new, these 25 unusual foods from around the world are definitely worth trying. From raw octopus to fried tarantulas, there’s something on this foods list for everyone. Go out and explore – you might just find your new favorite dish.
This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- Casu marzu: The world’s ‘most dangerous’ cheese (2021, cnn.com)
- Cold-pressed minke whale oil reduces circulating LDL/VLDL-cholesterol, lipid oxidation and atherogenesis in apolipoprotein E-deficient mice fed a Western-type diet for 13 weeks (2018, nih.gov)
- Fugu: The fish more poisonous than cyanide (2012, bbc.com)
- Nutritional Health Perspective of Natto: A Critical Review (2022, nih.gov)
- Sannakji (n.d., tasteatlas.com)
- Scary is exciting — sheep’s head is not for wimps (2011, eurekalert.org)
- Unveiling hákarl: A study of the microbiota of the traditional Icelandic fermented fish (2019, nih.gov)