What Is Calamari and How To Cook It

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Marian Modified: January 30, 2023
What Is Calamari and How To Cook It
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If you ever want to expand your collection of seafood recipes, then it’s about time that you try a delicious calamari dish. But what is calamari, anyway? It basically refers to squid meat that you can cook in a variety of ways. It’s also an excellent addition to dishes like pasta, salads, or stews. 

You might be familiar with the classic appetizer of fried squid rings paired with a dip, sauce, or condiment of your choice. This is only one of the many ways you can cook this yummy seafood. And in this article, we’ll provide you with a guide on how to properly clean, cook, and store this delicious ingredient! 

What is Calamari?

what is calamari, calamari, squid

Calamari literally means ‘squid’ in Italian, and in the culinary world, the term refers to squid meat in general. Fried, braised, and grilled ones are the most popular forms.  

Despite being closely related, calamari is not made of octopus. Not only are the two completely different animals, but they have different flavors (especially when served raw), and textures too. For the most part, a squid is chewy and smooth, while an octopus is also chewy but not so firm. 

READ ALSO: Is Fish Considered Meat?

What Does Calamari Taste Like?

On its own, calamari tastes mildly sweet and nutty. Its meat is white, firm, and chewy to eat. 

Adding other seasonings or marinade can definitely enhance its flavor. Hence, the overall flavor of the dish really depends on the recipe you’re trying to make. That’s why it’s important to choose a recipe that will satisfy your craving. Whether it’s from Eastern or Western cuisine, your dish will surely be bursting with flavor!

How to Clean and Prepare Calamari

Raw calamari really needs to be thoroughly cleaned before cooking. You should remove the head, innards, ink sac, fins, beak, and skin membranes. We only need the tentacles and body for cooking. After that, wash them lightly under running water to remove any more impurities. 

Before cooking the calamari, you have to soak it first in either milk or lemon juice. This will tenderize the squid so that it’s not too firm and rubbery when eaten. The citric acid from the lemon and the lactic acid from the milk actually break down its collagen or tissues, hence its tenderizing effect. 

Simply place the squid inside a bowl and add the lemon juice. Soak it in for about half an hour. The process is the same if you’re using milk, but it’s highly recommended to soak the calamari in milk overnight if you have the time.

How to Cook Calamari

calamari rings with lemon and parsley garnish and white dipping sauce

The most popular ways of cooking squid are by frying, braising, and grilling. But usually, the calamari is cut into rings. To do so, just hold the body down flat, and then start cutting crosswise to get the ringlets. However, if you’re making a dish that requires you to use the whole body, then you can skip this step.

Timing is important when cooking calamari. That’s because if you overcook it, the meat can turn tough. It’s always best to cook it hot and fast, so mind this rule when you try your hand at making your favorite calamari recipes. You may also try to toss it into pasta and salad dishes of your choice! 

Calamari Recipes

Copycat Olive Garden Crispy Deep Fried Calamari Recipe

Here are some of the best calamari recipes to make at home:

  • Fried Calamari – A classic fried calamari recipe for making restaurant-style fried squid rings. 
  • Calamari Fritti (Italian Fried Calamari) – Make traditional Italian-style squid rings by tossing the ringlets in a simple mixture of salt, pepper, eggs, and flour.   
  • Calamari Steak – Instead of the usual fried rings, dredge whole steak pieces and sauté them until golden brown. Serve with a tart and buttery lemon-caper sauce to finish.  

Where to Buy Calamari

Calamari squid is usually available in the frozen section of local supermarkets. It can be sold pre-sliced or whole. You can also buy it in fish markets, or at your nearest farmers’ market if you want them fresh. If you want, you may also ask for some that have already been cleaned. 

What to Consider When Buying Squid

  • Make sure that the fresh squids are shiny and plump. They’re not supposed to be flat or squished. 
  • The body should also be intact with the tentacles. 
  • The color should not be too gray or pink. A fresh and edible squid has a purplish-gray color.
  • For frozen squids, look for signs of freezer burns. These appear as excessive amounts of ice crystals forming around the seafood. 

Since squid is a common kind of seafood, it’s easy to find anywhere. There are a lot of options available for making the tastiest dishes.

READ ALSO: Monkfish: The Tasty Monster Fish You Should Cook

How to Store Calamari

Like any other seafood, you can properly store calamari inside the freezer. It freezes well and can last long when sealed well inside a container. Of course, we recommend that you consume your squid upon purchasing so that it’s extra fresh. However, if you bought in bulk or wish to preserve it longer, then you can choose to freeze it. 

Before freezing, remember that your calamari has to be rinsed and cleaned of its guts. Pat it dry with a damp cloth. Then, you can proceed to place it inside an airtight freezer container or resealable zipper bag. You can also use freezer-safe glass containers with a tight lid on top. Your squid will be good to eat for up to three months. 

If placed inside the fridge, however, it can last for up to two to three days only. Make sure to check your squid from time to time. If the color changes to slightly pink or red, it is no longer safe to consume. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

What Part of the Squid Is Calamari?

Calamari pertains to squid as a whole. This means that even the edible tentacles can be called such. However, the popular rings that most of us know are taken from the squid’s body. The body is cut horizontally after removing its guts and innards to get the iconic ringlet shape. 

Is Calamari Good for You?

Cooked squid meat is not only delicious, but it’s also quite healthy. Seafood, in general, are real foods that are excellent natural sources of daily nutrients like proteins, vitamins, and minerals.

Calamari Is a Must-Try Seafood

Now you know that calamari is a kind of seafood that’s tasty and quite addictive. Starting with classic deep-fried squid, explore other ways of cooking it for a gastronomical dining experience. With our helpful cooking guides and tips, it’s way easier to make a serving of that seafood dish that you’re craving.

Read Next: English Cucumber: Everything You Need to Know


Marian is a content writer who is interested in anything related to history, fiction, and even literary theories. She is currently learning about the connection between food and culture through the many articles she has written. She likes how writing about food creates a communal space for other people to enjoy and learn about the different cuisines and cultures. It also gives her a lot of cooking ideas to try. She is most enthusiastic about learning how to cook Korean and Japanese food.