What is calamari? Fried Calamari is crispy squid fried to golden brown perfection, that is dipped in marinara sauce or served with lemon wedges. Usually served as a appetizer but scrumptious all the same!
What is Calamari?
Fried calamari, Italian for fried squid and also known as calamari fritti, is a dish served throughout the Mediterranean, but also very popular in the states.
Calamari and squid are synonymous in the US. Squid is the actual name of this mollusk, however, it is commonly prepared in Italian restaurants which refer to deep fried squid as calamari. All parts of the squid are edible except the beak and gadlius (pen).
In the States and Italy, most dishes commonly utilize the mantle (body which produces calamari rings when cut horizontally) and the tentacles
Other Mediterranean and Asian cultures will also use the ink, arms or eat them whole. Squid ink can be used to color and flavor pastas as well, like my Squid Ink Pasta with White Cream Sauce.
The fried calamari lover knows that good calamari can be difficult to come by. Fried too long and it is rubbery and chewy. However, not fried long enough; inedible and squeaky.
There is a saying in the foodie world about calamari: cook it hot and fast or low and slow, but nothing in between.
Things to Know About Squid
- Cleaned squid usually comes in two parts at the grocery store: the body and the tentacles. Sometimes you can purchase just the part you want, other times you’ll need to buy both.
- Most was previously frozen, if it is thawed when you buy it, ask how long it has been defrosted.
- Frozen squid is best within 2 days of defrosting.
- I prefer to buy whole bodies and cut the rings myself versus buying pre cut rings that are sometimes too thin.
- If you squid is fresh or recently defrosted, keep it cold until cooking. The back of the fridge is the coldest place. You can even set it on ice.
Too much breading results in not being able to taste the squid and too little is just a squid ring.
The perfect blend of seasoning is also difficult to achieve. Some folks prefer to do a battered calamari, using something similar to a beer batter slurry. Seasonings to both are generally salt and pepper.
Others like to bread them with either bread crumbs or panko, which is actually a Japanese bread crumb. I am of the latter group.
Some folks also like to soak their squid in milk (lactic acid) to break down the collagen and tenderize, but there is literally no research to prove this works.
PRO TIP: Dry calamari well with a paper towel before starting the breading process. The breading will stick better resulting in crispy fried calamari.
These are all reasons why more people don’t prepare calamari at home, I supposed. Squid is cheap and cooks super fast, making it a no brainer when it comes to party appetizers.
Fried Calamari Ingredients
- Squid – This is your choice of using squid tubes only or a combination of tubes and tentacles. I prefer only squid rings, but, but you can decide your preference.
- Panko bread crumbs –
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper – This delicious appetizer doesn’t need much seasoning, but you could also add cayenne pepper to spice things up a bit.
- Egg whites – A mixture of flour and egg whites provide the best results for the flour coating we need for this tender calamari.
- Flour – The egg and flour mixture is what makes that golden brown crunch so delicious. All purpose flour is just fine here.
- Sweet peppers – To add something extra to the flavor and texture of the squid, I like to throw in some pepper rings too.
- Vegetable oil – This is my preferred oil for deep frying, however, you can use olive oil as well. It not only is great for frying, but also adds a nice flavor.
- Marinara sauce – A simple tomato sauce is my favorite dipping sauce for crispy calamari. You can use my homemade recipe, or buy a jar at the grocery store.
- Maldon sea salt – If you know me, you know I love salt! I like to garnish with extra salt, but this is totally optional too.
- Parlsey – I always like to add a little green to this homemade calamari. It adds a pop of color more than anything, and can totally be omitted if need be.
How to Make Fried Calamari
- Clean fresh squid. Thoroughly clean squid pieces under cold water, running water through tubes. Dab dry. The tips might have a jelly-like tendon that will need to be cut off and discarded. Cut tubes into 1/2 inch rings. Rinse tentacles and leave whole. Set in refrigerator to dry out further.
- Make coating. In a medium bowl combine panko bread crumbs with a few dashes of fine sea salt and a couple turns of a freshly ground pepper.
- Make flour mixture. In another medium bowl combine flour and egg whites to make a paste.
- Prepare oven and baking sheet. Preheat oven to “warm”. Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Coat calamari pieces. Heat oil over high heat. Dredge calamari rings in egg white mixture, working in small batches. Rings do not need to be fully coated. Allow excess coating to drip off and transfer to panko mixture. Pat bread crumbs into calamari and transfer to hot oil.
- Deep fry. Fry until rings are lightly browned, turning throughout the process. This a quick, flash fry. Over cooking will result in a rubbery, chewy mess. Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm.
- Coat pepper rings and fry. Dredge sweet pepper rings in egg white mixture and then panko mixture, following the same instructions as the calamari. remove to paper towel lined baking sheet.
- Serve. Serve your fresh calamari with a side of marinara sauce, tartar sauce or a squeeze of lemon juice.
Storage and Freezing
Storage: Allow your fried calamari to come to room temperature, and then add to an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Freezer: You can also freeze calamari. It will stay in the freezer in an airtight container for up to two months.
More Easy Italian Recipes
Fried Calamari Recipe (Calamari Fritti)
- 1 pound squid , your choice of tubes only or a combination of tubes and tentacles
- 2 cups Panko bread crumbs
- Fine sea salt and freshly ground pepper
- 3 egg whites
- 1/3 cup flour
- 4-5 sweet peppers , cut into rings, seeds discarded
- Vegetable oil , enough to fill your frying pan up to 1 1/2 inches
- 1 cup marinara sauce
- Maldon sea salt , for garnish
- Parlsey , minced, for garnish
- Thoroughly clean the squid pieces under cold water, running water through tubes. Blot dry with paper towels. The tips might have a jelly-like tendon that will need to be cut off and discarded. Cut the tubes into 1/2 inch rings. Rinse tentacles and leave whole. Place them in refrigerator, uncovered, to dry out further.
- In a medium bowl combine the panko bread crumbs with a few dashes of salt and a couple turns of a freshly ground pepper.
- In another medium bowl whisk together the egg whites and flour to make a paste.
- Preheat the oven to "warm" or 170°F and line a baking sheet with paper towels.
- Heat the oil over high heat in a shallow skillet. Dredge the calamari rings in the egg white mixture. The rings do not need to be fully coated. Allow the excess coating to drip off and transfer to the panko mixture. Pat the bread crumbs into the calamari and transfer to the hot oil.
- Fry until the rings are lightly browned, turning throughout the process. This a quick, flash fry, and will only take 2 minutes. Over cooking will result in a rubbery, chewy mess. Remove to a paper towel lined baking sheet and place in oven to keep warm.
- Dredge the sweet pepper rings in egg white mixture and then panko mixture, following the same instructions as the calamari. remove to paper towel lined baking sheet.
- Serve with a marinara sauce or other desired sauce.
- If you've tried this recipe, let us know how it was in the comments or star ratings.