IKEA Thinks People Might Eat Mealworm Burgers in the Future

Bug burgers, buns made of algae, and other ingredients are part of what they envision for the future of fast food. 

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IKEA's Cool Local Food Lab

chopping food

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

A lot of the foods at modular furniture giant IKEA have attained a cult-like following—hello, Swedish meatballs—and now the company is setting its sights on the future as well. About two years ago, it launched SPACE10, a “future living lab,” to explore ways to live better and more sustainably. And it’s speculating about how fast food might look years from now with the Local Food lab, one of four labs SPACE10 is currently running. We got a peek at some of the creations, and we have to admit that their out-of-the-box takes on favorites like burgers, meatballs, and hot dogs, look delicious! 

Pro Tip: How to Convert Slow Cooker Recipes for Your Instant Pot

Simon Caspersen, communications director for SPACE10, said the Local Food lab chose its ingredients—such as mealworms, spirulina, and other superfood ingredients—after considering our current food system’s impact on water supplies, soil erosion, food waste, and global warming. The lab’s goal was to create meals that are sustainable and healthy without sacrificing flavor.

Here’s how SPACE10’s future fast-food menu would look. Don’t get too attached. These items will NOT be appearing in IKEA’s cafés.

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The Neatball

IKEA The Neatball

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

They reimagined the classic IKEA meatball “to get people thinking about reducing their meat consumption, using local produce and trying alternative proteins.” These contain no beef or pork. One version is made with mealworms and the other with beets, parsnips and carrots. Both are served in the traditional Swedish manner with mashed potatoes, gravy and lingonberry sauce.

Don't Miss: Our Favorite Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes of All Time

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The Bug Burger

ikea bug burger

Photo courtesy of IKEA Space10 

Photo courtesy of IKEA Space10 

This burger combines both versions of the Neatball: Veggies meet mealworms. The resulting patty “comes on a delicious white-flour bun, topped with relish, beetroot and blackcurrant ketchup, chive spread, hydroponic salad mix.”

How do mealworms taste?

“I’ve eaten whole mealworms, and they have a really soft texture," Caspersen told us. The texture of the ground mealworms is close to mashed potatoes. As for flavor, “it’s a little boring in that they don’t have that strong a taste, so we actually add them for the qualities. They contain more protein than many meats and have less fat.”

Also see: Our Best Burger Recipes: Beef, Veggie and Beyond

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The Dogless Hotdog

IKEA The Dogless Hotdog

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

We know IKEA loves to include lots of parts, and this snack is no exception: The green bun is made with spirulina—a microalgae—and it’s stuffed with dried and glazed baby carrots, beet and berry ketchup, mustard and turmeric cream, roasted onions, cucumber salad and an herb salad mix. It’s actually Caspersen's favorite. “It’s absolutely delicious,” he said.

Related: Want to Try Spirulina? Make Our Spirulina Smoothie.

Why microalgae?

"Microalgae is celebrated by the UN as, basically, the best food for humankind,” according to Caspersen. “The problem is that it’s not that tasty. I think seaweed is a similar flavor people are familiar with; you know the taste if you eat sushi. We had our chef explore that flavor.” That chef was successful, and he also uses it for salad dressing and algae chips.

The nutritional benefits were never a hard sell, Caspersen said. “Microalgae contains more beta carotene than carrots, more chlorophyll than wheatgrass, and 50 times more iron than spinach," he said. "It’s packed with calcium and B vitamins and all eight amino acids. It contains more protein that any other source, including meat. It’s also easier for the body to absorb all these nutrients. And it’s super easy to grow, so we’re looking at how to use it to benefit more people.”

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The LOKAL Salad

IKEA The Lokal Salad

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Let IKEA assemble something for once. The SPACE10 gang would love to build you a salad of hydroponic ingredients and microgreens like pink-stem radish, red-veined sorrel and lemon balm. In fact, in life mirroring art, the lab inspired a weeklong pop-up salad bar and farming system in London called LOKAL.

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Microgreen Ice Cream

IKEA Microgreen Ice Cream

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Every fast food joint includes a dessert. SPACE10 envisions ice cream or an ice pop: Both feature hydroponic greens and herbs. If you can’t decide between basil, coriander, fennel or mint ice cream, combine them all for some Green Goodness. The pops come in Spanish chervil, coriander, sorrel or woodruff.



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Other Space10 Labs

salad with neatballs

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

Photo courtesy of IKEA's Space10

In addition to its Local Food lab, SPACE10 is currently running three others:

  • Natural Interfaces researches how to integrate technology intuitively.
  • Shared Living tackles urban issues like loneliness and a lack of affordable housing.
  • Digital Fabrication examines manufacturing and personalized, hyperlocal production.

We can't wait to see what they come up with next.