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’ve done this recipe 3 times! So delicious! Thank you!
Great calimari recipe, really enjoyed it! I used frozen squid and milk instead of buttermilk and it all was a hit – thank you!
Best calamari recipe ever!!!!!My husband is in love with this recipe !!!
Absolutely perfect. I didn’t change a thing.
Thank you from London Uk
Thank you. I tried it added a few more spices and it was great. I was worried about it being tough but it wasn’t. Thanks again
I was so impressed by the result of these Calamari that I had to leave a review. I have tried many recipes from famous cooks to online recipes for fried calamari, but this one is my favorite. They turned out tender & crispy, easy and fast to do. I didn’t have buttermilk, nor half & half, so I substituted with 35%+milk. Thank you, Sara, for this recipe. I’m give it a 5 stars. Job well done!
Oddly, after my one hundred years of cooking, at least it feels that way, I had yet to cook calamari . My wife and I judge every restaurant we go to but this simply dish. If they can’t turn out a decent calamari the rest is usually down hill. This recipe is good..with some modifications. I prepared to batches, one marinated in buttermilk and the other in regular milk. While the buttermilk made the calamari a bit more tender, it had a bit more trouble adhering to the calamari and was less crisp. The other batch I drained of the milk marinade and replaced it with half half. This batch held firm and remained crisp. As well I replaced the all purpose flour with semolina flour. Not to be confused with corn meal. I was not looking for a crunchy hard coating but rather a slightly more granular texture. It worked masterfully. Lastly being this was a test batch I opted for frozen calamari from my local market. Sadly, there is no substitute in quality for fresh calamari. Seek it out when possible. Buono appetito!
Can half and half be used
Instead of buttermilk?
Yes i made this recipe on Christmas and all i had was half and half, they still came out amazing !
Went quick! Loved by all. Excellent recipe!
Can you soak the calamari in buttermilk overnight?
Yes that’s fine!
I’d be hesitant to leave calamari in buttermilk for much more than an hr, or so. Do to the enzymes in Buttermilk, I believe it will end up basically cooking or kind of pickling if you will. I’ve caught and cooked many squid over the yrs. After cleaning and cutting in up to 1/2 inch rings,. I marinate in buttermilk for a couple hrs at most. then add a bit of milk to the marinade so as to thin it out some. you don’t want a thick coating on the squid.Drain excess liquid, then dredge in flour with garlic powder and a little kosher salt. Squid fry in a flash. hot oil, small batches are best. Eat immediately.Squirt of lemon, n dip in marinara. Love it.
Haven’t made this yet. I’ll planning to Christmas Eve. Has anyone used an airfryer?
I am planning on doing the same this evening! I’m also not sure what temp for air fryer or how they come out, any success? Merry xmas Eve!
How did they come out in the air fryer. I am wanting to try this weekend and would love to use my air fryer.
Thank you so much for this recipe, it looks amazing and gets rave reviews. Going to make it Christmas Eve as part of our 7 Fishes dinner. Will add hot cherry peppers (breaded & fried like squid) to make it “Rhode Island” style 🙂
YAY LITTLE RHODY! i make these with cornmeal all the time and add the peppers! btw, I am from rhode island and LOVE this recipe.I also add 2 tbsp of buttermilk to the flour mix to add a crumbley crunch to it 🙂
That was so good and easy.. never done it before. Found some ‘must be used’ squid rings half price and thought I’d give it a go. I’m not a seasoned cook so I was a bit dubious as to whether I could do it. Made the buttermilk myself with milk and a bit of lemon juice, as I do with soda bread. I have no way of checking the oil temperature so as long as it was bubbling I was happy. Followed the coating recipe to a T. I must have been fortunate with the heat of the oil because this was quite simply THE BEST calamari I’ve had. Having holidayed in Andalucia and Greece a lot, I have eaten a ton of the stuff. Many, many thanks. This will be a regular dish from now on.
Digital cooking thermometers are inexpensive and widely available. They take so much guesswork out of your fave recipes that they are as indispensable as cooking oil.
Thank you so much for this recipe!! It was easy and came out AMAZING. I did add some corn starch to the flour and also decided to double coat before frying for extra crispiness. Other than that, I followed exactly! It came out so good that my family honestly didn’t believe I made it myself!
Do you have to soak in buttermilk?
It helps to tenderize the squid, you can make your own buttermilk if needed by mixing 1 tablespoon of lemon juice into 1 cup of milk, then let the mixture sit for 10 minutes and use like buttermilk.
As other have said, no you don’t. I really think good fresh calamari has a wonderful texture and needs no tenderizing. Just the same I tried it and the results were lovely as well.
I have been looking for calamari recipe and tried quiet a few but by far this is the best one .
Very easy to make, I only added a pinch of chili powder and it turned out really good!
Thanks for sharing your recipe.
This is an amazing recipe! The family loved it. My first time making it and it was so easy to follow. Thank you!
Great recipe! Calamari is always a must have for us when it is on the menu. We have missed it since we have not been dining out. Unfortunately it is not the same when it is delivered. It loses it’s crispiness as it steams. We made it last night and it was fantastic. Served with a side of blended mayo, meyer lemon, capers, cilantro, salt and pepper. Thanks for posting! Will make again soon!
This recipe is so easy and delicious! Didn’t change a thing. I will be making this again!! Thank you!!
Absolutely amazing! I added some plain breadcrumbs to the flour for the extra crunch and they came out so crispy-crunchy and not remotely rubbery. Can you save the oil for another time?
You could strain the oil and use it again within 48 hours.
Dont forget to add a side dip, of mayonnaise lemon olive oil, and garlic powder, great recipe.
Really really good. Mine only needed 90 seconds. I made a dip of fresh garlic, lemon juice, mayonnaise and ketchup. Sounds weird but it’s so good.