What Is Calamari Made Of? (Explained)


Calamari is the Italian word for squid. In the U.S., it is synonymous with a particular way that the squid is prepared and fried.

Knowing all about calamari will help you to expand your knowledge about its health benefits.

Squid can also be eaten in a variety of other ways, ensuring you explore new cuisines.


What Is Calamari Made Of?

Fried Calamari


Calamari is made from squid.

Depending on the recipe, a wide array of other ingredients may be used.

American recipes often involve creating a batter for the squid.

Mediterranean dishes may combine it with olive oil, tomatoes, and wine.

In Asian dishes, it may also feature other forms of seafood, chili sauce, lettuce leaves, kimchi, and more.


Is Calamari The Same As Squid?

Roasted whole squid


Calamari and squid are often used interchangeably because of what the word “calamari” means.

It is the direct Italian translation for squid.

In the United States, most people will expect a particular dish when they hear “calamari.”

This is typically a deep-fried appetizer found in bars and restaurants, in which the calamari is cut into strips or rings.

It is battered and fried and commonly served with marinara sauce.

In many instances, people will use the word “calamari” to mean any dish that contains squid.

As such, it’s important to read menu descriptions or ask questions.

This way, you can know what to expect when a dish is served to you.


What Are The Varieties Of Squid?

Fresh squid


While squid and calamari are used interchangeably, there are some differences in the type of squid that is used to make calamari-style dishes.

Realistically, there are about four or five types of squid that can be sold on the market for you to eat.

However, you’ll only find one or two depending on the part of the world that you live in.

Squid is considered cheap and tough meat.

Calamari is more tender (and also more expensive).

As such, you have to be careful with what you are buying.

The flavor can differ.

Most squid that you buy is known as Gould’s squid, which is nototodarus gouldi.

Calamari comes from Sepioteuthis australis, which is also known as the southern reef squid.

It is sometimes known as southern calamari, too.

If you hear reference to northern calamari, it comes from a different squid altogether.

It is the Sepioteuthis lessoniana.

Both northern and southern calamari can be served raw and cooked in a variety of ways.

The two squids that are commonly used for calamari have the same genus (Sepioteuthis), but a different species.

Rather than learning the Latin names, just reference them as southern and northern calamari.

Other squids that you can buy include Luminous Bay Squid and Loligo Squid.

These are commonly grouped with Gould’s squid because they are not used to make calamari.

What you find will depend on the time of year.

Gould squid and southern calamari are year-round while many other varieties are seasonal.


What Is The Difference Between Calamari And Octopus?

cooked fresh octupus


When you think about seafood with tentacles, many think of squid and octopus.

The question is, do they taste the same?

While both are mollusks that are classified as cephalopods, they are quite different.

The octopus has no shell while the calamari has an internal “shell” that is actually a flexible backbone.

This is called a pen.

Squid will usually swim in schools while octopuses are solitary creatures.

Additionally, an octopus is usually much larger than a squid.

When cooked, the flavors of the two are very different.

Even the cooking methods are different.

The only reason they can be mistaken for one another when they are served raw is the appearance of the tentacles.

Once you’ve had both, you can tell the difference by flavor alone.

Calamari is a bit tougher than an octopus, but it has a smoother flavor.

It will soak up butter and sauces easier.

Some will even call calamari the chicken of the sea.

Octopus is commonly compared to pork.

It is low in fat and high in iron.

It is most commonly baked, broiled, or grilled.

It is rarely fried the way that calamari is.

When you’re not sure what kind of cephalopod you should eat, it’s best to try both.

You may find both at a Japanese steakhouse, which is the best option for trying them side by side.

The price difference on a menu is dramatic.

Squid is usually cheaper because they swim in schools.

They’re easier to catch.

Octopus is often considered a delicacy, so it is priced higher to compensate for that.


Is Calamari Healthy To Eat?

Fried squid rings breaded with lemon


Calamari is generally not considered a healthy food to eat when you look at the basics.

It has a high fat content with high levels of sodium and cholesterol.

There are health benefits to eating calamari.

It is high in protein.

According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the protein content of calamari is approximately 31 percent of the daily recommended value.

Calamari is also rich in vitamins.

It will offer a great source of B-12, riboflavin, and more.

Overall, a three-ounce serving of fried squid (calamari) will contain 150 calories, 6 grams of fat, and 6 grams of carbohydrates.

Calamari is healthier if you choose to grill or broil it rather than deep-frying it.


Where Does Calamari Come From?

Very fresh baby squids freshly caught in the sea


The squid that is used to produce calamari can come from all over the world.

The global squid market has been growing as a result of its affordability and its high nutrition content.

Some of the most common places where squid is caught include the United States, Europe, China, Japan, and small southeast Asian nations.

Spain is a large importer of squid and also has one of the largest squid processing industries in all of Europe.

Due to the demand for squid in Asian countries, many of their supplies are exported around the world.

Frozen squid is often imported to European markets such as Italy and Spain.

The largest exporter of squid in the world is Thailand.

Other countries that will export include China, Peru, Spain, and India.

Some countries choose to catch solely for their own use, including Australia.

In the U.S., California tends to catch a significant amount of squid as well as other seafood, which is then shipped to other states throughout the country.

Some squid is also exported to China—approximately 80 percent.

The squid can be found throughout the Pacific Northwest coast, including Oregon, Washington, and even Alaska.


What Does Calamari Taste Like?

woman eat tasty fried calamar squid rings on plate


Calamari has a slightly nutty and sweet taste.

The white meat is firm but slightly chewy.

If cooked properly, it should never be excessively chewy.

Squid is extremely versatile. It will often take on the flavor of the dish.

Strong flavors like fish sauce, chili sauce, or garlic can have a dramatic impact on what the calamari tastes like.

Many believe that calamari is a good intro to seafood because of its mild flavor.


What Country Is Calamari From?

deep fried squids on a plate


Calamari, due to its name, originated in Italy.

Specifically, it is used throughout the Mediterranean, including France, Greece, and Spain.

Calamari made its way to North America as a fried appetizer in 1975.

Most American restaurants will batter and deep-fry the squid.

Then, it is garnished with lemon and parsley and served with a side of marinara sauce or garlic aioli.

Almost every European country has a unique dish that claims to be the original version of calamari.

In Italy, where calamari is typically credited as originating, there are five popular dishes.

Calamari alla Marchigiana contains squid, anchovy fillets, and white wine and originates from the region of Marche.

Calamari in Zimino contains squid, Swiss chard, white wine, and tomato paste and originates from the region of Tuscany.

Other popular dishes from Italy include Seppi in Umido from Venice, Totani e Patate from the Amalfi coast, and Calamari Ripieni from Sicily.


Why Do People Love Calamari?

Homemade Breaded Fried Calamari


People love calamari because of the many flavors that it can take on throughout the cooking process.

It is a beloved protein found along the coasts of many countries.

The meat is tender and quick to cook, making it a reliable substitution for chicken and other proteins.

The slightly sweet flavor found in calamari makes it something that people enjoy eating again and again.

Often, restaurants view calamari as “trendy” and use it in new dishes as a way to get people to try the protein.

Food & Wine Magazine has even introduced people to an extra-crunchy calamari dish that is soaked in buttermilk.

This gives it a similar crunch and flavor as fried chicken.

It’s popular as an appetizer because easy to share with a group.

You can eat a few pieces of calamari without spoiling your appetite.

It’s also considered an affordable option in comparison to many other proteins on the market.


What Are The Benefits Of Eating Calamari?

white ceramic bowl with some calamares a la romana


You’ll find that there are quite a few health benefits of eating calamari.

Not only will you sound sophisticated when you order this Italian seafood, but you can also improve your health.

Here are five benefits you might not have realized about calamari.

  • It is rich in protein. When you are looking to eat a protein-rich diet, such as what is common on keto, calamari can be a great option. In a single three-ounce serving of squid, you’ll consume 13 grams of protein. This can make it easy for you to have more energy and build muscle with relative ease.
  • It’s full of vitamins and minerals. Some foods can help you to achieve your health goals. Calamari is popular because it’s high in potassium, iron, copper, and phosphorous. These essential nutrients can help you to build a stronger immune system and help to strengthen your bones.
  • It can help prevent cancer. Calamari is rich in antioxidants. Whenever you can consume more antioxidants, it helps your body fight free radicals which are known to cause cancer. Additionally, squid will help your body to increase the number of white blood cells, which are commonly depleted during chemotherapy treatments.
  • It fights anemia. Anemia is a deadly disease of the blood because there are insufficient blood cells. Copper is found within calamari in generous amounts, allowing you to get a key mineral that will not only prevent anemia but fight it if you have been diagnosed with it.
  • It can improve fertility. Just as you eat oysters as an aphrodisiac, you eat calamari when you want to be more fertile. This is because of the presence of selenium and Vitamin E. It helps to promote normal body growth as well as fertility. If you look at fertility vitamins, one of the top ingredients is selenium.


Is Calamari A Lean Meat?

Fresh frozen squid rings in white plate


Calamari may be white meat, but it is not lean.

The high amount of saturated fat means that it’s not the leanest protein that you can choose.

It should be eaten sparingly, especially if you’re eating other foods that are high in fat.

Further, calamari is high in both cholesterol and sodium, so it should be eaten with caution depending on your diet and health concerns.


Is Calamari High In Mercury?

squid a la romana, fried in a rustic atmosphere


The mercury level of some seafood can be high.

When there are high levels of mercury, you need to limit the number of servings that you consume in a week.

Calamari typically contains 0.02 parts per million of mercury, making it one of the healthier seafood options available to you.

It is considerably lower than such options as tuna, swordfish, or shark.

Due to the low mercury levels, you can safely consume two or three servings of calamari a week without any negative health effects.


Is Squid Poisonous?

Raw squid on cutting board


Squid is not a poisonous type of seafood on the market.

Most people consider it safe to eat, as long as it is consumed in moderation.

The biggest risk of eating squid has to do with shellfish allergies.

There’s a substance in squid known as tropomyosin, which is what some people are allergic to.

Many who are allergic to shellfish are also allergic to dust mites, all because of the tropomyosin link.

If you are allergic to shellfish, you might encounter dizziness, abdominal pain, swelling of the lips, throat, or other parts of the body, and may even break out into itchy hives.

If you encounter any of these issues while eating squid, stop eating.

Visit a doctor and talk about your concerns about it being an allergen.


Can You Eat Squid Ink?

concentrated paste squid ink


If you’re familiar with squid, they have ink sacs.

The ink is used as a defense mechanism so that they can escape from their prey.

The ink, when dispersed in the water, creates a dark cloud.

It prevents predators from being able to see while the squid swims away.

The ink that is squirted can be consumed.

Most chefs will say that squid ink tastes like the sea.

Others will describe it as being briny.

The taste is fairly neutral.

It is used more for coloring purposes than it is for flavor.

Squid ink can be added to a broth, pasta dough, and a variety of Mediterranean and Japanese dishes.

It can add a hint of umami to a dish.

It also adds a dramatic blue-black color to the food.

Squid ink can contain the same allergens as the squid itself.

As such, if you are allergic to calamari, you shouldn’t eat anything that contains squid ink.

In addition to eating, squid ink can also be used in commercial printing ink as well as in cosmetics such as mascara and hair color due to the distinctive black hue.


How Do You Prepare Squid?

clean squid by removing its cartilage


When you are ready to cook squid, you have options.

Buy it already prepared or prepare it yourself.

Preparing squid can be intimidating, especially if you are concerned about the ink sac.

With a bit of knowledge, it’s easy to prepare calamari.

First, it’s important to know that the ink sac is located within the innards.

If you’re just cooking the tentacles, you won’t have to worry about ink squirting everywhere.

Also, you may want to save the ink.

It can be used to flavor and color pasta and more.

Just be ready with a spoon or small bowl for when you puncture the sac.

You need to pull the finned tube away from the tentacles.

This just pops right off with a little bit of effort.

Wiggle your fingers inside the tube so that you can pull the cartilage out.

Hint: That’s the transparent thing that looks like a plastic quill.

You can choose to scrape the dark skin off of the tube or leave it on.

It’s edible, but it’s just not pretty to look at.

Don’t squeeze or cut above the eyes or you’ll have ink all over the place.

Slice below the eyes, just above the start of the tentacles.

Keep the tentacles and discard the rest.

In the center of the tentacles is a beak-like component.

Pull it out and toss.

Rinse all of the tubes and tentacles under water.

Slice as your recipe instructs and cook accordingly.

Once you prepare squid a few times, the process becomes easier.

If you’re short on time or just don’t know what to look for, go to the seafood counter and buy pre-cleaned squid.


Ways To Prepare Calamari

Squid rings and tubes with lemon rosemary


Calamari doesn’t have to be the fried appetizer served in almost every American bar.

You can explore the way that squid can take on all sorts of unique flavors.

Learn how to cook it with a Greek or Sicilian style, and find out how it’s incorporated into paella.

You can fry, bake, sauté, and stew squid if you have the right recipe.

  • Baked stuffed squid. If you can find whole squid, this is the perfect chance to stuff and bake it. You’ll create the stuffing out of chopped squid tentacles, Portuguese sausage, partially cooked rice, and an array of herbs, tomatoes, and white wine. You’ll stuff the squid and bake it over a bed of ingredients for a tender, delicious flavor that is a meal in and of itself.
  • Greek-style fried squid. What makes this squid unique to the Greek culture is the use of lemon juice on the squid before dipping it into an egg mixture and rolling it in flour. The squid tentacles are cut into small pieces and pan-fried.
  • Sicilian-style fried squid. Sicilian-style squid is simply salted and rolled in flour before being fried in the pan with hot fat.
  • Mariner’s Stew. A stew is created using chopped onion, peas, water, tomato paste, herbs, and cubed potatoes. The squid is cut up and placed into the stew along with cooked white rice. It’s usually served with a slice of French bread to help soak up the broth.
  • Paella. In addition to calamari, the other proteins included are shrimp, clams, mussels, and chicken. A variety of ingredients are added, depending on cook times, to a Dutch oven along with celery, long-grain rice, garlic, pimiento, saffron, and oregano. Typically, the chicken goes in first, followed by the clams, calamari, and shrimp. This ensures that none of the proteins will overcook.

With the right recipe, calamari can be a great affordable addition that is delicious and high in protein.

You can even learn to use calamari as a substitute for chicken in many dishes, including cacciatore, jambalaya, and more.