This fried calamari recipe is tender pieces of squid soaked in buttermilk, then coated in seasoned flour and deep fried to golden brown perfection. A quick and easy appetizer option that’s even better than what you’d get at a restaurant!
When I’m entertaining, I like to put out a variety of hot appetizers such as baked potato skins, cheesy spinach dip and this fresh and crispy fried calamari.
Every time I go out to eat, if I see fried calamari on the menu, I must order it. This is one of my all time favorite appetizers! I’ve learned to make this dish at home, and it’s actually much simpler than it appears.
What is calamari?
Calamari is another name for squid, and it is widely available and relatively inexpensive. You can find fresh calamari in the seafood department of many grocery stores, or frozen squid in a bag in the freezer aisle. Calamari is often sold in rings, or as whole squid with both bodies and tentacles. I prefer to make this recipe with both the bodies and tentacles, but if you can only find rings, that will work just fine.
How to clean squid
If you’re purchasing whole squid, you’ll need to cut and clean them so that they’re ready for frying. The first step is to rinse your squid under cool water, then pull the tentacles away from the body. Slice the head off the tentacles and discard. Remove the beak from the tentacles. Clean any innards out of the body of the squid, and remove the clear quill. If there is a membrane on the outside of the squid, remove it, then cut off the large fin on each side of the body. Slice the body into rings. Use the rings and tentacles as directed in the recipe.
How do you make fried calamari?
The first step in this recipe is to marinate the squid in buttermilk. Mix together flour and seasonings to create the coating for the squid. Dredge the calamari in the seasoned flour, then place it in a pot of hot oil to cook. Drain, then serve immediately with your choice of sauce on the side.
How do you tenderize calamari?
For this recipe, I use buttermilk to tenderize the calamari. As an added bonus, the buttermilk also adds a lot of flavor and helps the coating to stick to the seafood. You can also use regular milk or lemon juice to tenderize your squid.
Tips for the perfect fried calamari
- Be sure to use a frying thermometer to keep your oil at the appropriate temperature. If the oil is too hot, the squid can burn. If the oil is too cold, the squid can absorb excess oil and become greasy.
- Fried calamari is best when it’s served immediately. You can store and reheat calamari in the oven, but there’s a chance that the squid will become rubbery from the extended baking time.
- I like to serve my fried squid with cocktail sauce, but other great options include marinara sauce or lemon aioli.
- Be sure to cut your squid bodies into similar sized rings so that they cook at the same rate.
Fried calamari variations
I typically make this recipe as written, but you can add other spices and ingredients to customize it to your tastes.
- Fritto Misto: Turn this into a mixed fried platter by doubling the amount of seasoned flour and adding other ingredients to fry such as small shrimp, fennel wedges, lemon slices or mushrooms.
- Breading: If you prefer a crunchier coating, add 1/4 cup of cornmeal or seasoned breadcrumbs to the flour mixture.
- Seasonings: While I typically stick with a mix of paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder, you can add other seasonings such as cayenne pepper, onion powder, Italian seasoning, dried parsley, or Old Bay seasoning.
Once you make this dish at home, you’ll never need to order it at a restaurant again! It looks impressive, but no one needs to know how easy it really is to make.
More great appetizer options
Fried Calamari Video
- 1 pound calamari rings and tentacles
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt plus more for serving
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika smoked or regular
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- vegetable oil for frying
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
- Place the calamari in a bowl with the buttermilk and stir to combine.
- Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
- Heat 3-4 inches of oil in a large deep pot to 375 degrees F.
- Place the flour, salt, paprika, pepper and garlic powder in a medium bowl; stir to combine.
- Remove each piece of squid from the buttermilk and dredge in the flour. Repeat the process until all pieces are coated.
- Place 8-10 pieces of squid in the oil. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the squid from the oil and drain on paper towels. Repeat the process with the remaining squid.
- Sprinkle additional salt over the squid if desired, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve immediately.
I tried this with frozen calamari and it didn’t work it came out really rubbery. Any tips for working with frozen calamari or is this recipe only for fresh calamari?
Did you thaw the calamari first? It should work the same with frozen or fresh, I’m wondering if it overcooked because the calamari was frozen and took longer to brown in the oil?
Great recipe! So yummy 😋😋
This is by far the best calamari I have ever had. It’s crisp, light and seasoned well. I would recommend using peanut oil instead of vegetable oil. There is plenty of salt in the recipe so I would not add salt after you fry them.
Just finished making and eating over 2 lbs for 5 of us. This was a delicious recipe. The buttermilk worked well, making the flour and seasoning stick perfectly. The instructions were easy to follow. I will be using this recipe again! Thanks so much. We really enjoyed it.
Meant for my rating to be 5 stars. Also forgot to mention I did add cornmeal as mentioned in the recipe for added crunch. It worked well.
I cant vouch for the “tenderizing” but the use of milk and buttermilk is mostly used in giant squid and large squid to rid of the uric acid. If you’re using “market squid” I can’t imagine this being necessary.
I used the flour/bread crumb mixture and used my oven on Air Fry 400 degrees for 9 minutes tossing halfway.