Salt and pepper fried squid

Crispy, golden fried squid (or fried calamari) is the perfect summer appetizer. Flavored simply with salt and pepper and served with a squeeze of lemon and garlic mayo, it’s the kind of recipe that is guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

What is calamari?

Calamari is the Italian word for squid. While many people think Calamari is made from octopus, it’s in fact a type of squid which is a relative of an octopus. Calamari is most often fried and served with lemon, tartar sauce or other dipping sauces and is a very popular dish in the Mediterranean and Middle East.


While some calamari or squid recipes use a batter to dip the squid in, I prefer using only seasoned flour. No need for buttermilk or eggs. This results in a super light, crisp coating that cooks quickly which also prevents the squid from overcooking. I seasoned the calamari very simply with salt and black pepper but you could add other herbs and spices if you prefer. Cayenne pepper, oregano, paprika or chilli flakes will all be delicious.

  • Squid. I used small squid heads/squid tentacles but you can use calamari rings or calamari tubes too. I prefer buying clean squid from the supermarket or fishmonger as cleaning it yourself can be quite a process.
  • Flour. I used all purpose flour.
  • Cornstarch. 
  • Baking powder. 
  • Salt.
  • Black pepper. 
  • Oil, for frying. I used canola oil but peanut oil or sunflower oil (any vegetable oil) can also be used.
  • Garlic mayonnaise, to serve. (optional)
  • Lemon wedges.

How to cook Calamari or squid

  1. Prepare the squid: If using frozen calamari/squid, defrost overnight in the fridge then drain off any excess liquid and pat dry with paper towels. If you’re using whole squid, cut the tubes into thick rings with a sharp knife before dredging with flour and deep frying. If you’re using very large squid, you might need to tenderize it before cooking. Soaking the calamari in milk seasoned with salt for 30 minutes in the fridge will tenderize as well as remove some of the fishiness. Because my squid were so small and tender, I didn’t feel the need to do this step.
  2. Make the seasoned flour: In a large bowl, mix together flour, salt and black pepper. Add the squid to the flour mixture and dredge, making sure each piece of calamari/squid is completely covered and that the pieces are separate. If you don’t use enough flour, the calamari can absorb a lot of the flour and turn gummy.
  3. Fry the calamari: Heat enough oil to fry the Calamari in a large pot or Dutch Oven over medium high heat (or use a deep fryer). Once the oil is hot, shake off the excess flour then add the calamari in batches and cook until golden brown and crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels or a wire rack before serving.
  4. Serve: Serve the squid with garlic mayo and lemon wedges.

Can I make calamari in an air fryer?

You could, the result won’t be as delicious though. Lay the calamari in the air fryer basket in a single layer then spray generously with cooking oil spray. Cook at 190º/375ºF for 10 minutes, turning halfway, until golden and crisp.

What to serve with fried squid

Any dipping sauce and fresh lemon juice is always a good idea when serving crispy fried calamari. Tartar sauce is a classic but here I simply stirred some minced fresh garlic into store bought mayonnaise. If you’re serving the squid as an appetizer or starter, serving it only with a sauce is sufficient but if you’d like to make a meal of it, adding the squid to a mezze platter or serving it with a big greek salad is a great idea.

  • Easy tartar sauce.
  • Greek salad.
  • Mezze platter.

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