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This really delicious homemade calamari is lightly breaded, easy to make, and such a fun way to enjoy seafood!
Easy Calamari Recipe
While you can absolutely enjoy calamari at a restaurant, recreating it at home is so fun and surprisingly easy to do! We love this recipe for *so* many reasons:
- It’s easy – while frying may feel intimidating if you haven’t done it before, it’s actually super simple, so we encourage you to give it a try!
- It’s fast – this recipe takes hardly any time to bring together. It’s definitely one of those “feels fancier than it is” dishes.
- It’s different – making your own calamari is such a fun way to get outside of your usual cooking “box” and really stretch yourself. If you’ve never purchased squid before, now’s the time!
What is Calamari?
Good question! The word “calamari” is actually Italian and Spanish for “squid” and typically refers to a battered and fried squid appetizer dish. If you see “calamari” on a restaurant menu, this is what you can expect. Because “squid” and “calamari” mean the same thing in different languages, you may hear someone use them interchangeably.
Squid is a mollusk related to the octopus, and while squid can range in size quite a bit, the ones that you’ll find at the grocery store are typically no more than 12 inches or so in length.
Tips for buying Calamari
Buying squid isn’t nearly as intimidating as it may sound! In fact, many grocery store fish counters carry squid, and oftentimes, you can even find already cleaned squid in the freezer section. If you’re standing at the fish counter and see calamari as your only squid option, know that it is really just fresh squid (there’s nothing special that makes it “calamari”) with a fancier name.
If you buy a whole squid, you’ll have the option of either cleaning it at home yourself (it’s easy – see guide below!), or asking the person working the fish counter if they’ll clean it for you (my preference). If you aren’t interested in buying a whole squid, you can also choose to just buy the tentacles, the cut rings, or a mixture of the two. If you’re making this recipe, we recommend sticking to tentacles and cut rings (one or the other, or both) as opposed to a whole squid.
How to clean Calamari and prepare it for cooking
If you’re jumping all in and buying a whole squid, you’ll have some prep to do before breading and frying it for this calamari dish.
For a detailed squid cleaning how-to (with step-by-step photos), click HERE.
If you purchased tentacles, rings, or a combination of the two (which is what we recommend for this recipe), you don’t have any cleaning prep work to do!
What does calamari taste like?
The squid itself is a firm, white meat that is pretty mild in taste (not overly fishy or briney). When combined with a simple batter, a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, and some sauce for dipping, though, it becomes a wonderfully delicious, restaurant-worthy appetizer – it’s slightly salty, chewy, tender, with some nice texture from the pan fried batter.
Is Calamari healthy to eat? What are the nutritional benefits?
If you know us, you know we’re big fans of seafood because of the host of nutritional benefits that most seafood contains, and squid is no different! It is, of course, high in protein, as well as zinc, selenium, and vitamin B12.
Do keep in mind, though, that if you’re battering and frying squid (or enjoying a calamari appetizer at a restaurant), it turns into a slightly less healthy option than squid all on its own. Remember, though, there is nothing wrong with enjoying calamari (or any other food you love) in moderation!
This recipe only includes a few simple ingredients! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Avocado Oil – you’ll need to have enough oil to fill the pan you’re using a ½ inch deep. We used 750ml of avocado oil for a 12-inch skillet.
- Calamari – you’ll also want to grab 1 pound of calamari (tentacles, rings, or both).
- Sea Salt – to simply season the calamari, you’ll want to grab a ½ teaspoon of sea salt.
- All-Purpose Flour – to bread the squid, you’ll need 1 cup of flour. We used our favorite GF all-purpose blend (King Arthur’s Measure for Measure GF flour), but you can use any all-purpose flour that you love.
- Lemon Wedges – you’ll also want to have several lemon wedges to squeeze over the finished calamari.
- Marinara Sauce – we serve our calamari with marinara sauce (most restaurants do too), but feel free to grab any other sauce that you love and think would go well with this. A garlic aioli or tartar sauce would both be great.
How To cook Calamari
Cooking this calamari is really simple, but because it contains frying, it may feel intimidating, and we totally get that! Because of that, we’re keeping things as simple as possible. Here’s how you’ll bring this calamari together:
- Bread the squid – to start, you’ll need to bread your squid. To do this, simply add the salt and flour to a shallow bowl, whisk to combine, and then add the squid to the bowl, tossing everything to make sure that all of the squid is evenly coated in the flour mixture.
- Heat the oil – add the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat, and let it heat up for 3-5 minutes. After 3-5 minutes, test the oil to make sure it’s hot enough by adding a piece of calamari to the pan – once it sizzles it’s ready.
- Fry the squid – add the flour coated squid to the skillet, working in 2-3 batches to make sure it doesn’t overlap. Cook for 2-4 minutes, until the calamari stiffens, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. If your oil begins to splatter, turn down the heat slightly.
- Drain the excess grease + serve – transfer the calamari to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess grease, then serve with the lemon wedges and marinara sauce.
How can you tell if calamari is cooked?
The calamari is ready to be flipped after 2-4 minutes (once it stiffens), and you’ll know it’s ready to come out of the pan entirely when it turns a really nice golden brown.
Is undercooked calamari dangerous?
You can definitely get food poisoning from undercooked calamari, so you’ll want to make sure you stick to the recipe exactly (flip the calamari once it stiffens, and then pull from the pan when it’s golden brown). Because we’re frying the calamari in REALLY hot oil though, the chances of it being undercooked are pretty slim, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about that for this recipe.
Why does calamari get rubbery?
Perfectly cooked calamari should be slightly chewy, but not rubbery. Calamari actually gets really rubbery when it’s been overcooked, so again, sticking to the recipe exactly is really important here!
How to serve Calamari
We love dipping calamari in classic marinara sauce, but truly, any dipping sauce that you love would be a great option! If you’re looking to enjoy calamari as an appetizer, a pasta dish (like this no-boil pasta bake or this sausage & roasted tomato pasta) would be a great follow-up. If you’re looking to serve the calamari as a main dish, a simple salad and some warm, crusty bread would make delicious accompaniments.
- Avocado oil or other neutral oil of choice*
- 1 pound calamari rings tentacles, or a combination of the two
- 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 cup all-purpose flour*
- Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Marinara sauce for serving
- Add the oil to a large skillet over medium-high heat. Let the oil heat up for about 3-5 minutes. You can test to make sure it's hot enough by adding a piece of calamari to the pan - once it sizzles it's ready.
- Add the calamari to the skillet, working in 2-3 batches to make sure it doesn't overlap. Cook for 2-4 minutes, until the calamari stiffens, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes, until golden brown. If your oil begins to splatter, turn down the heat slightly.
- Transfer the calamari to a paper towel-lined plate to drain the excess grease, then garnish with the parsley and serve with the lemon wedges and marinara sauce.
- You'll need the oil to be 1/2 inch deep for this recipe, I used 750 ml for a 12-inch skillet. If you'd like to use less oil, use a smaller skillet and fry in multiple batches.
- We used King Arthur measure-for-measure flour to make this recipe gluten-free