This Fried Calamari Recipe is made with buttermilk, flour, paprika, chili powder and fried to perfection.
Learn how to recreate the magic in your own kitchen with a step-by-step authentic recipe for Italian Fried Calamari. From the choice of calamari to the secrets of achieving a light and crispy batter, we'll guide you through the process of crafting this classic dish to perfection.
These Fried Calamari are paired with a Lemon Aioli made with just two ingredients, lemon and mayonnaise. So simple, don’t you think? Italian Fried Calamari is more than just a dish – it's a sensory experience that evokes the sights, sounds, and flavors of the Mediterranean coast. Whether enjoyed as a delightful appetizer or a main course, its crispy exterior and tender squid bring a taste of Italy to your table.
This fried calamari is soaked in buttermilk for 30 minutes and then dredged in the flour spice mix and fried till golden brown. It is such a great appetizer option that is even better than what you would get at a restaurant. Let me tell you though, maintaining the temperature at 375°F is absolutely essential and is what will give the calamari the best taste. You will NEED a candy thermometer for this.
- What is Italian Fried Calamari?
- Why you will love this recipe
- Fried Calamari Recipe Ingredients
- How to make Fried Calamari
- What to serve with my Fried Calamari Recipe
- Fried Calamari Recipe Variations
- How to store Fried Calamari
- Fried Calamari Recipe Top tips
- Fried Calamari Recipe
- Food safety
What is Italian Fried Calamari?
Italian Fried Calamari is a popular dish in Italian cuisine that features tender rings of squid coated in a light and crispy batter, then deep-fried until golden brown. The squid rings are typically seasoned with salt and pepper before being coated in flour or a mixture of flour and breadcrumbs. The batter helps to create a crunchy texture while keeping the calamari tender and flavorful. Italian Fried Calamari is often served as an appetizer with lemon wedges for squeezing over the crispy rings. It is commonly enjoyed with marinara sauce or aioli for dipping, adding a tangy and creamy element to the dish. The combination of the crispy exterior and tender squid makes Italian Fried Calamari a delicious and popular seafood appetizer.
Why you will love this recipe
- Flavor: Calamari has a mild and delicate flavor with a subtle sweetness that pairs well with a variety of seasonings and sauces. The tender squid absorbs flavors, making it versatile and delicious.
- Textural Contrast: Italian Fried Calamari offers a delightful textural contrast. The outer coating becomes crispy and golden when fried, creating a satisfying crunch, while the squid inside remains tender and juicy.
- Versatility: Calamari can be prepared in various ways, such as frying, grilling, sautéing, or incorporating it into pasta dishes and salads. Its versatility allows for a wide range of culinary creations.
- Appetizer Appeal: Italian Fried Calamari is a popular appetizer in Italian cuisine, often served in restaurants and enjoyed before the main course. Its crispy and flavorful nature makes it an enticing and enjoyable start to a meal.
Fried Calamari Recipe Ingredients
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this. The exact measurements are listed in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Vegetable oil
- Chili powder
- Garlic powder
- Lemon Wedges
See recipe card for my Italian Fried Calamari Recipe quantities.
How to make Fried Calamari
Add vegetable oil in a large heavy pot on medium heat until the candy thermometer registers 375°F. It is highly recommended to use a candy thermometer. Place the squid in the buttermilk and let it sit in the refrigerator for up to 30 minutes.
For the lemon aioli, combine the mayonnaise and lemon juice. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine the flour and spices. Working in batches, toss the squid in the flour until fully coated.
Once all the squid is coated in flour, shake off excess flour and fry a handful of squid at a time. Fry until golden, about 2-4 minutes.
With a slotted spoon, remove the calamari from the fryer and place on a plate lined with paper towels. Season with salt. Serve with lemon aioli.
What to serve with my Fried Calamari Recipe
- Marinara Sauce: Serve Italian Fried Calamari with a side of marinara sauce for dipping. The tangy and savory flavors of the sauce complement the crispy calamari perfectly. Check out my homemade Arrabiata Sauce.
- Aioli: Another delicious dipping sauce option is aioli, a creamy garlic mayonnaise. Its rich and garlicky flavor adds a nice contrast to the crispy calamari.
- Lemon Wedges: Squeeze fresh lemon juice over the fried calamari just before eating. The citrusy acidity adds brightness and freshness, enhancing the flavors of the dish.
- Salad: Serve a light and refreshing salad alongside Italian Fried Calamari. A simple green salad with lemon vinaigrette or a tomato and cucumber salad can provide a nice balance to the fried dish.
- Crusty Bread: A basket of warm crusty bread can be served alongside the calamari, allowing you to mop up any leftover sauce or enjoy the contrast of textures between the crispy calamari and the soft bread.
- Pasta: If you want to make a more substantial meal, serve Italian Fried Calamari with a side of pasta. A light tomato-based pasta or pasta tossed in olive oil and garlic can be a satisfying complement to the dish. Check out my Pink Sauce Pasta for a perfect pairing.
- Calamari: Shrimp: Use peeled and deveined shrimp as a substitute for calamari. The cooking time may vary, so adjust accordingly.
- Vegetable Oil: Canola oil, sunflower oil, or any other neutral-flavored cooking oil can be used instead of vegetable oil.
- Buttermilk: If you don't have buttermilk, you can create a substitute by combining regular milk with lemon juice or white vinegar. For each cup of buttermilk needed, use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar mixed with enough milk to make 1 cup. Let it sit for a few minutes until it thickens slightly.
- Flour: Cornstarch or a gluten-free flour blend can be used as a substitute for all-purpose flour if you need a gluten-free option.
- Chili Powder: You can replace chili powder with a combination of paprika, cayenne pepper, and a pinch of cumin for a similar flavor profile.
- Garlic Powder: Fresh minced garlic can be used as a substitute for garlic powder. Use about 1 clove of minced garlic for every ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder.
- Paprika: Smoked paprika or cayenne pepper can be used instead of paprika to add a smoky or spicy flavor.
- Lemon Wedges: Lime wedges can be used as a substitute for lemon wedges if you prefer or if that's what you have on hand.
- Mayonnaise: Greek yogurt or sour cream can be used instead of mayonnaise in a dipping sauce. Adjust the seasonings to taste.
- Lemon: Lime juice can be used as a substitute for lemon juice if needed. The flavor will be slightly different but still refreshing.
Fried Calamari Recipe Variations
- Spicy Calamari: Add heat to the dish by incorporating spices like cayenne pepper, crushed red pepper flakes, or a dash of hot sauce to the flour coating or the marinade. This will give the fried calamari a spicy kick.
- Parmesan-crusted Calamari: Add grated Parmesan cheese to the flour coating to create a cheesy crust on the calamari. The cheese will melt and become crispy during frying, adding a savory element to the dish.
- Panko-crusted Calamari: Substitute traditional flour coating with panko breadcrumbs for an extra crunchy texture. The larger crumbs of panko will create a more substantial coating.
- Seasoned Dipping Sauces: Experiment with different dipping sauces to accompany the fried calamari. Try a spicy marinara sauce, garlic aioli, chipotle mayonnaise, or a tangy yogurt-based dip with herbs and lemon juice.
Check out my Healthy Sweet and Sour Shrimp Recipe.
- Deep Fryer or Large Pot: A deep fryer is the ideal equipment for frying calamari as it maintains a consistent temperature. Alternatively, you can use a large, deep pot to fry the calamari. Make sure the pot is wide enough to accommodate the squid rings without overcrowding.
- Cooking Thermometer: A cooking thermometer is essential to monitor the temperature of the oil accurately. It helps ensure that the oil reaches the right temperature for frying the calamari, resulting in a crispy texture.
- Tongs or Slotted Spoon: Use tongs or a slotted spoon to handle the calamari when placing them into the hot oil and removing them once they are cooked. These tools allow you to handle the squid rings without causing splattering or burns.
- Mixing Bowls: Have a few mixing bowls on hand for various purposes. You'll need bowls for the flour coating, egg wash, and holding the seasoned flour or breadcrumbs.
- Whisk or Fork: Use a whisk or fork to mix the dry ingredients and create the flour coating or batter for the calamari.
- Cutting Board and Knife: Use a cutting board and a sharp knife to clean and slice the calamari into rings if they are not already pre-cut. You may also need a knife for slicing lemons for garnishing.
- Paper Towels or Wire Rack: Place paper towels or a wire rack on a baking sheet to drain excess oil from the fried calamari. This helps keep them crispy and prevents them from becoming too greasy.
- Serving Platter: This makes it easier to serve and enjoy the dish.
How to store Fried Calamari
To store Italian Fried Calamari properly, follow these steps:
- Cool to Room Temperature: Allow the fried calamari to cool to room temperature before storing it. Placing hot or warm food directly into the refrigerator can create condensation, which can make the fried calamari soggy.
- Transfer to an Airtight Container: Place the cooled fried calamari in an airtight container. Make sure the container is clean and dry, without any residual moisture. You can also use a resealable plastic bag if you don't have an airtight container.
- Layer with Paper Towels: To help absorb any excess moisture and maintain the crispiness of the calamari, layer paper towels between the layers of fried calamari in the container. This helps to prevent them from becoming soggy.
- Refrigerate promptly: Once the fried calamari is in the airtight container, refrigerate it promptly. Place it in the refrigerator and ensure that it is stored at a temperature of 40°F (4°C) or below.
- Consume within 2-3 Days: Fried calamari is best enjoyed fresh, so try to consume it within 2-3 days of storage. The longer it is stored, the more the texture and crispiness will deteriorate.
- Reheating: To reheat the fried calamari, preheat the oven to a low temperature (around 300°F or 150°C). Place the calamari on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and heat for a few minutes until warmed through. Avoid using a microwave as it can make the calamari soggy.
Fried Calamari Recipe Top tips
- Fresh Calamari: Start with fresh calamari for the best flavor and texture. Look for squid that is firm, shiny, and has a mild oceanic smell. It's preferable to use tubes and tentacles rather than pre-cut rings for better control over the size and thickness.
- Proper Cleaning: Thoroughly clean the calamari before cooking. Remove the innards, beak, and transparent backbone. Rinse the squid under cold water and pat dry using paper towels. Removing excess moisture helps achieve a crispy coating.
- Optimal Oil Temperature: Maintain the correct frying temperature. Heat the oil to around 375°F for optimal results. If the oil is too hot, the calamari can burn quickly. If the oil is not hot enough, the coating may become greasy and soggy.
- Fry in Small Batches: Avoid overcrowding the frying pan or deep fryer. Fry the calamari in small batches to ensure they cook evenly and achieve a crispy texture. Overcrowding the pan can lead to uneven frying and soggy calamari.
- Quick Frying: Calamari cooks quickly, usually around 2 minutes. Keep a close eye on them while frying to avoid overcooking. They should turn golden brown and have a crisp texture. Overcooking can result in tough and rubbery calamari.
- Drain Excess Oil: After frying, place the calamari on a paper towel-lined plate or a wire rack to drain excess oil. This helps maintain the crispy texture and prevents them from becoming greasy.
- Season Immediately: Season the fried calamari with a pinch of salt and any desired additional seasoning immediately after removing them from the oil. This allows the seasoning to adhere to the hot calamari and enhances the flavor.
- Serve Immediately: Fried calamari is best enjoyed immediately while still hot and crispy. Serve it as soon as possible to retain its texture and flavor. If you need to hold it for a short period before serving, keep it in a warm oven (around 200°F or 95°C) to maintain the crispiness.
- Cook to a minimum temperature of 165 °F (74 °C)
- Do not use the same utensils on cooked food, that previously touched raw meat
- Wash hands after touching raw meat
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Use oils with high smoking point to avoid harmful compounds
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove