What Is Calamari?

Upon scanning numerous menus in restaurants all over the world, you may have come across the delicious ‘calamari’. 

Usually served in the shape of rings, and with a rubbery flesh that can be made into delicious and tender meat, calamari is like no other. 

what is calamari

This type of seafood is also wonderfully versatile. It can be eaten cold and added to salads, mixed into soups, stews (You might want to check out this delicious soup ‘Goulash’ Recipe), pasta dishes, or fried up as an appetizer. 

However you choose to eat or cook it, it will always be delicious. So, whether you’re a cooking fanatic who wants to try something new, or are just someone who’s curious about this type of seafood, look no further. 

This article is going to be discussing what calamari is, and how you can cook it yourself! 

What Is Calamari? 

The word ‘calamari’ comes from the Italian word ‘calamaro’ which means squid. Therefore, while many have believed that calamari is an octopus, it is actually a squid. 

There are over 300 species of squid in our oceans, but less than a dozen are actually used for cooking. The ones used for culinary purposes measure no more than 12 inches.

They also have thinner and more tender flesh as it cooks quicker. They are normally milky in color whether they are raw or cooked, and as they’re cooked their color turns more opaque. 

Where Do They Come From? 

Aside from the Black Sea, squid are found in all oceans and seas around the earth. In America, squid is normally caught off the coast of California, and Rhode Island. 

This type of seafood has been commonly eaten in several parts of the world, especially the Mediterranean, Southern Europe, and East Asia. 

However, it was mainly used as bait in America until flounder and cod became scarce in the 1970s. It was then that fishermen started selling squid to local markets, and chefs in the USA started experimenting with the fish, cooking it in a variety of ways. 

By the time the 1980s rolled in, calamari had established itself, and could be found in many different restaurants around the country. 

What Does It Taste Like? 

One of the reasons why calamari is so popular, is because it doesn’t have the typical ‘fishy’ taste, that many people are put off by. 

It has a mildly sweet, firm, and chewy texture, and it can sometimes carry a nutty flavor. Another great thing about calamari, is that it takes on the flavor of anything you cook it in very well, so you can have all kinds of fun experimenting with different kinds of recipes. 

Restaurants will often serve it fried in a batter, with some garlic aioli as a dipping sauce. 

How To Cook Calamari

There are a number of ways to cook calamari. It can be eaten raw and used in sushi, or it can be fried, sautéed, roasted, braised, or grilled (Find out Is Sushi Cooked Here). Squid doesn’t take long to cook, so hot and fast is the way to go with this type of seafood. 

This is because cooking it at a high temperature for less time, preserves its delicious texture and flavor, without needing to stand around in the kitchen for too long! 

You also have the option of braising it over a low heat for around 45 minutes. This allows the collagen it contains to break down into gelatin, giving you a seriously tender squid as the final product that melts in your mouth!

This is usually done by simmering the fish in white wine, olive oil, garlic, and other vegetables and spices. 

Whichever way you choose to cook it, it is bound to taste delicious! 

There are normally two parts of the squid that are eaten, the body (tube) and tentacles. The body can be stuffed, or cut into rings, which is normally what you see in restaurants as appetizers.

The tentacles are also a very delicious part of the squid and can be cooked in the same way as you have cooked the body. 

what is calamari

Dishes That Use Calamari

There are an array of popular dishes out there that use calamari, and you may not have known it! You may have eaten it already without realizing. Below are some classic dishes that use calamari. 


Paella is a very famous Spanish rice dish. It consists of rice mixed with spices, vegetables, and occasionally chicken. However, traditional Paella contains a mix of seafood, such as prawns, clams, and calamari! 

This is a truly delicious meal, and if you’re ever vacationing in Spain, it’s the first thing you should try. 

Frutti di mare

Frutti di mare is a popular Italian pasta dish. It consists of a slightly spicy tomato sauce, and includes several different kinds of seafood such as mussels, shrimp (You might want to check out some Shrimp Pasta Recipes here), scallops, and clams. You’ll also find calamari thrown into the mix with this dish, adding an extra flare to it! 

Salt And Pepper Squid

This is a very popular Chinese dish, consisting of deep-fried, battered squid, that has been mixed with salt, pepper, scallions, and red chilies. It is a very popular take-out option. 

Ika Sansai

This option originates from Japan. It is a cold salad with raw squid, bamboo shoots and a variety of vegetables that are marinated in ginger and vinegar. 

A very healthy option for the summer months, you can think of it like a sushi salad as the squid is raw! 


Another raw dish is the Ceviche. This comes all the way from Peru, and consists of raw fish (squid included) seasoned with some refreshing fresh citrus juices. 

As you can see from this list, squid has really made its way around the world, as you’ll find it in many different dishes from all across the globe. 

Final Thoughts

To conclude, calamari is squid. As you can see from what has been covered in this article, it is a very popular seafood item in signature dishes all over the world. 

It is very easy to cook, and takes on all kinds of flavors, allowing you to experiment freely and have fun with it!  

Jeff Pratt
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