This 15-minute Italian fried calamari is the best fried calamari recipe ever. It's a simple appetizer using only a few ingredients: fresh squid, flour, olive oil, and fresh garlic cloves.
Authentic calamari fritti doesn't traditionally marinate the squid in garlic paste, so it's optional. I highly recommend crushed garlic, especially if you are a garlic lover!
Traditional Italian calamari is known to be same-day fresh, especially if you are living in a cute Italian coastal town. This is why traditional fried calamari recipes use literally flour, olive oil, and fresh squid.
What I Love About This Recipe
Fried squid can get rubbery if prepared the wrong way. I love that this recipe uses fresh calamari and a simple method for the perfect fried calamari recipe. This is an excellent appetizer for a seafood dinner, like this Mediterranean roasted red snapper or these steamed lobster tails.
- Fresh squid: I recommend buying fresh (not previously frozen) whole squid for the best fried calamari.
- Flour: Use plain all-purpose flour without any salt or seasonings added.
- Crushed garlic: Mash fresh garlic cloves into a paste using a mortar and pestle. Alternatively use a garlic press to crush the garlic.
- Olive oil: You can use any oil, even extra virgin olive oil. Or, use frying oil.
See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for quantities.
How To Make Italian Fried Calamari
Clean the fresh whole squid. Cut the squid into squid rings. Mash fresh garlic cloves into a paste using a mortar and pestle.
In a large bowl, add some flour. Dredge the squid in flour, dusting off the excess flour.
Important! Don't add salt to the flour. Salt is added at the end once the calamari is fried.
Coat all of the squid pieces in flour. Heat the oil in a wide stovetop frying pan. Make sure there is enough oil to cover the bottom of the pan. Test the oil by adding a piece of bread. The oil is hot enough when bubbles form around the bread.
Add the squid to the hot oil in small batches forming a single layer. Flip the squid using tongs once they turn golden brown (about 2 to 3 minutes on each side). Move the crispy fried calamari to a plate lined with paper towels using a slotted spoon.
Taste the calamari and add a pinch of salt as needed. Serve this crispy Italian fried calamari with some lemon wedges!
Tips and Tricks
Get fresh squid. I recommend buying fresh whole squid and cleaning and prepping the squid at home. It takes about 5 minutes to clean and cut the squid. Fresh squid is tender and flavorful. My local grocery store has fresh squid, but you can also check a local fish market. Fresh is key!
Use olive oil. In some regions (like Italy), people fry in olive oil. Olive oil has a delicious flavor that makes this calamari fritti recipe next level!
Don't overheat the olive oil. Olive oil has a lower smoke point than other frying oils, so it's important not to heat it too hot. I usually start with the olive oil on high heat, then turn it down to medium heat for the second batch of squid.
Add the squid to hot oil. The calamari will get overly greasy and not crisp if the oil is not hot.
Squeeze fresh lemon juice right before eating.
Completely thaw frozen squid before coating it with flour and frying.
Use paper towels to drain the excess oil.
Variations and Substitutions
- Restaurants in the U.S. normally serve fried calamari with a side of marina sauce. It's optional but not required to have a dipping sauce.
- Use bread crumbs in place of flour.
- Use a high-temperature frying oil like vegetable oil instead of olive oil.
- Mortar and pestle or garlic press to crush the garlic
- Bowls and plates to dredge the squid in flour
- Wide frying pan
- Slotted spoon or frying spatula
- Tongs to flip the calamari
I do not recommend freezing this Italian fried calamari. You can marinate the squid in the garlic paste for a few hours in the fridge before cooking it.
I recommend using fresh seafood straight away for the best results.
Fry calamari in olive oil or any type of frying oil. In Italy, fried calamari is made with olive oil.
Calamari is a type of squid, not an octopus. The squid's body is cut into squid rings, and the tentacles are cut in a cluster.
If your calamari is chewy, then it has overcooked. The calamari is fried in oil that's too hot for too long resulting in overcooked calamari with a rubbery texture.
Italian fried calamari uses simple ingredients: flour, olive oil, and fresh squid. Other calamari recipes use frying oil, herb flour mixtures, and marinara sauce to dip.
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Italian Fried Calamari (Calamari Fritti)
- 1 lb of whole squid about 3 medium-sized squid
- 1 cup olive oil or frying oil
- 1 cup of flour
- 3 cloves of garlic mashed
- 1 lemon
- pinch salt
- Clean the whole fresh squid. Cut the squid into rings.
- Mash the garlic into a paste with a mortar and pestle. Mix the garlic paste and the squid.
- Add the flour to a bowl. Don't add salt! Drop the squid pieces into the flour. Dust off excess flour. Set aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a wide stovetop pot. Using a small piece of bread, test that the oil is hot enough. Important! You want to ensure that when the bread is added to the oil, it bubbles.
- Add enough calamari to fill a single layer in the pot. Flip the calamari once it forms a golden crust. Using a frying spatula, scoop the fried calamari onto a paper towel lined plate. Repeat until all of the calamari is fried.
- Try the fried calamari and add a pinch of salt. Serve with lemon wedges.