This really delicious homemade crispy calamari is lightly breaded, easy to make, and such a fun way to enjoy seafood! We’ve included instructions for both the stovetop (think: traditional fried calamari) and the air fryer. Pick your method and let’s get started!

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! If frying your own calamari feels out of reach (we get it!), grab your air fryer and use that instead.
  • 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!
A person dipping a crispy fried calamari ring into a small gray bowl of marinara sauce.

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.

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.

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!

Top view of a plate of crispy fried calamari rings next to lemon wedges and a small bowl of marinara sauce.

Ingredients You’ll Need

This recipe only includes just a handful of simple ingredients! Here’s what you’ll need:

All of the ingredients for fried calamari (squid, avocado oil, flour, lemon, parsley, salt, and marinara sauce) sitting on a marble surface.
  • 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. If you’re air frying your calamari, you’ll just need ____ avocado oil.
  • 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 ½ of a teaspoon of sea salt.
  • All-Purpose Flour – to bread the squid, you’ll need ½ of a 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. 

Tips for Buying Squid

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 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 Squid 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!

How To Cook Calamari

A person whisking flour and salt together in a large glass bowl to make a breading for fried calamari.
A person using their hand and a spoon to toss calamari rings in a bowl of flour and salt.
A person holding a squid ring over a bowl of flour and salt before breading it to make calamari.
Raw calamari rings tossed in flour and salt before being cooked into crispy fried calamari.

When it comes to cooking calamari, you’ve got a couple of options. You can go the traditional route and fry it in oil on the stovetop or you can throw it in the air fryer for a quicker, less finicky option. Here’s the step-by-step for each:

Fried Calamari (Stovetop)

Cooking calamari on the stovetop is actually really simple, but we totally get it if it feels intimidating. To make it feel more doable, we’re keeping the process as simple as possible.

Breaded calamari rings frying in a pan of hot oil.
A person using metal tongs to take a fried calamari ring out of a pan of hot oil while more calamari rings continue to fry.
Fried calamari rings on a paper towel lined plate.
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. 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.

Air Fryer Calamari

Raw, breaded calamari rings in an air fryer basket.
Calamari rings in an air fryer after cooking halfway through and being flipped over.
A person spraying oil onto raw, breaded calamari rings in an air fryer basket.
Cooked calamari rings in an air fryer basket.

While frying calamari on the stovetop is a lot easier than it sounds, we totally understand that an air fryer option may be desirable – it’s even easier than the stovetop method and requires much, much less oil.

  1. Bread the squid – whisk together the sea salt and flour in a large bowl, then add the calamari to the bowl and toss to coat.
  2. Add to the air fryer – add the calamari to the air fryer, working in batches so that they don’t overlap. Spray or brush the calamari with avocado oil.
  3. Air fry – cook at 400°F for 20 minutes, shaking the basket after 10 minutes and then again at 15 minutes.

How to Serve

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. 

A person squeezing lemon juice over a plate of crispy fried calamari rings.

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!

More Favorite Appetizer Recipes

How to Make Crispy Calamari

5 — Votes 2 votes
By Cassy Garcia
Prep: 10 minutes
Cook: 25 minutes
Total: 35 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings
This calamari is perfectly tender with a crisp coating, and only requires 4 ingredients!

Ingredients  

  • Avocado oil or other neutral oil of choice*
  • 1 pound calamari rings tentacles, or a combination of the two
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour*
  • Fresh chopped parsley for garnish (optional)
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Marinara sauce for serving

Instructions 

Stovetop

  • Whisk together the sea salt and flour in a large bowl, then add the calamari to the bowl and toss to coat.
  • 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.

Air Fryer

  • Whisk together the sea salt and flour in a large bowl, then add the calamari to the bowl and toss to coat.
  • Add the calamari to the air fryer, working in batches so that they don't overlap. Spray or brush the calamari with avocado oil.
  • Cook at 400°F for 20 minutes, shaking the basket after 10 minutes and then again at 15 minutes.

Recipe Notes

  • 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

Nutrition

Calories: 190kcal | Carbohydrates: 16g | Protein: 18.7g | Fat: 5.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.8g | Cholesterol: 264.7mg | Sodium: 345.7mg | Fiber: 1g

Additional Info

Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 4 Servings
Calories: 190
Keyword: calamari, calamari recipe, fried calamari

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Amber Goulden


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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Thanks to you, I reign as appetizer queen of Thanksgiving. No kidding. everyone was hanging out around the calamari! deep fried 3 lbs of it…it all disappeared. poof.

    1. I LOVE IT! Appetizer QUEEN! Thank you for sharing, Sandy! That is amazing!