Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (2024)

Fried calamari is probably one of the most popular appetizers at restaurants. I know my friends and family almost always have an order if it’s available on the menu. That doesn’t mean that every order of calamari is equal in the mouth of the beholder. There are a variety of ways to make the dish.

Some restaurants over-bread their calamari by using flour, eggs, and breadcrumbs. That’s a good way to ensure a crispy outside and that the calamari retains it’s shape without breading falling off. Nonetheless, that can often feel like the heavy breading is the star of the show while the calamari is a rubbery sidekick. Other restaurants sometimes barely bread the calamari at all, which highlights the squid, but can often mean soggy breading that just falls off as it’s plated.

In this recipe, I took the middle ground and used a light breading, but also used milk or buttermilk to tenderize the calamari. This allowed the breading to really adhere to the squid’s smooth surface. Marinating seafood in milk might sound strange, but it’s a great way to remove fishiness from items that may be frozen or less than fresh as well.

The combination of using flour only and milk as a tenderizing binding agent really makes this dish rival some restaurant preparations. That means you too can have restaurant quality calamari at home! The other added benefit to the simple preparation is that the recipe is customizable because you can add your own spices to the flour or flavors to the marinade to change things up between batches.

Some other seafood recipes to try:

Homemade Lightly Fried Calamari

  • Servings: 2
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Print

Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (1)

Fried Calamari with dipping sauces.


  • 1 pound of raw calamari/squid cut into rings
  • 2 cups of milk or buttermilk (or enough to cover the calamari)

    Note: Rather than just relying on the buttermilk to have the flour adhere to the squid, you can also use two beaten eggs mixed with the calamari (obviously after draining the squid of milk or buttermilk).

  • 1/2cup of flour (optionally, try a 1/4 cup of flour mixed with a 1/4 cup of corn flour or cornmeal for a more Southern style)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Canola or vegetable oil (enough to fill an inch deep in a pot or pan)
  • Optional Ingredients:
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
    • 2 chopped garlic cloves
    • Banana pepper rings


  • Small pot or pan with raised sides
  • Slotted spoon/spatula or spider spatula
  • Wide, shallow bowl
  • Large bowl
  • 2 large plates
  • Paper towels or fine wire cooling rack
  • Two forks or two chopsticks
  • Cup and teaspoon measurements


  1. If you have fresh calamari, great. If not, make sure to let it defrost before you try to make this recipe. I won’t go over how to prep a squid into rings, so I’ll assume you already have calamari rings.
  2. Take the calamari rings (and legs if you want), place them in a bowl, and cover with whole milk or buttermilk. This step not only helps to remove any fishiness often found in frozen calamari, but it helps to tenderize it so that it doesn’t get too rubbery during the cooking process. Let the calamari soak covered in the fridge for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (2)
  3. Optional Step: If you want to flavor the milk/buttermilk to add a little something extra to the calamari, you can do that by adding two roughly chopped garlic cloves to the milk or any other flavor you think might complement the calamari.
  4. After the calamari is marinated, place a 1/2 cup of flour (or a mix of flour and corn flour or cornmeal) into a bowl and mix it together with the 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder (this helps to puff up the flour a bit and keep it crispy), the 1/8 teaspoon of salt, and the 1/8 teaspoon of black pepper.Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (3)
  5. Optional Step: You can add other flavors to the flour to customize the calamari. Try adding 1 teaspoon of onion powder and a 1/2 teaspoon of paprika for some variety. You can add other flavors as well if you’re feeling particularly creative.
  6. Optional Step: You can bread the calamari using the moisture from the milk or buttermilk to have the flour adhere to the squid or you can also use eggs. The eggs really help to bind the flour and make the coating more uniform, but they also make the breading a touch heavier. If you want to use eggs, drain the milk or buttermilk from the squid and then mix two beaten eggs with the squid before moving on with the recipe.
  7. Use one fork or chopstick to transfer a couple of calamari rings right from the milk/buttermilk to the flour and use anotherfork or chopstick (a dry one that hasn’t touched the calamari) to dredge them in the flour. You can also use your hands if you want to dredge the calamari rings. The idea is to keep the wet utensils away from the flour to avoid clumping. After dredging the calamari rings in the flour, transfer the calamari to a large plate or tray. Don’t let the pieces touch one another. Repeat this process for all of the calamari. If you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, then you can just use your hands to dredge the calamari. Use on hand to take the calamari and place it in the flour and use the other hand to move flour over it while dredging. That way one hand only touches the wet squid and the other only touches the flour covered squid.Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (4)Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (5)
  8. Optional Step: You can also dredge banana peppers in the flour to fry later. The pepper rings add a tangy and mildly spicy variety to the dish. You can mix them in with the calamari or keep them on the side. You don’t need to bread them either. You can leave them as they are and toss them with the fried calamari. You can also saute them with some olive oil and garlic to create a topping for the calamari. In some circles, this preparation of combining banana peppers with calamari is called Rhode Island-Style Calamari.Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (6)
  9. With the calamari breaded, place enough canola or vegetable oil in a small pot or deep pan to have about an inch of depth. Heat the oil to 350 degrees F (that’s roughly the medium heat setting on a stove if you don’t have a thermometer).Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (7)
  10. Once the oil is hot enough, add a few calamari to the oil to fry. If you don’t have a thermometer you can roughly tell when the oil is hot enough once you can see it shimmer a bit. If you place the end of a wooden spoon or chopstick into the oil and it bubbles, then it’s ready to go. It’s very important that you don’t overcrowd the pot or the calamari will steam and the breading will just get soggy. Just put a few at at time so that they don’t really touch.Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (8)
  11. Let the calamari fry on one side for about three minutes. Then carefully flip them to finish frying for another 1-2 minutes. Watch the color of the breading. You’re shooting for golden or golden brown and crispy. If it gets too dark too fast, then the oil may be too hot. If it seems to just remain soggy or fall off the calamari after a couple of minutes, then the oil may be too cold.
  12. Use a slotted spoon or spider spatula to remove the calamari and place them either on a fine wire cooling rack (preferred) or a wide plate lined with some paper towels to absorb the excess oil. Repeat the process to fry all of the calamari. Between batches, you should try and skim out any noticeable burned pieces of breading that may still be in the oil. If you prepared the banana pepper rings, then fry them after the calamari the same way.
  13. Plate the calamari and serve along with your favorite dipping sauce. Some sauce suggestions are: marinara, tartar, creamy chipotle, remoulade, and hot sauce. You can even use the calamari as a topper for other dishes like zoodles (spiralized zucchini noodles) sauteed in butter and garlic. As for the purists out there, you can try just a squeeze of fresh lemon on top of the calamari.Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (9) Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (10)


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Restaurant Style Fried Calamari Recipe with Light Breading (2024)


What is the secret to cooking calamari? ›

Soak the rings in a solution of salted milk for 30 minutes (refrigerated) before cooking. I shared this earlier, but this is the trick to tenderizing the calamari meat and it also helps tame the fishy taste. For crispy fried calamari, coat the rings in a mixture of flour, cornstarch, and baking powder!

How do you keep fried calamari crispy? ›

Just place them on a cooling rack set over a baking sheet.

If you've ever seen a high-volume restaurant or fast-food chain kitchen in action, you'll notice that they keep deep-fried foods like crispy, fried chicken wings on perforated trays that act in much the same way as the cooling rack and baking sheet combination.

How do you keep batter from falling off calamari? ›

Dredge the cut up calamari in seasoned flour, making sure it is well coated, and shake off the excess. If you have a sifter, that'll make the job easier. Assuming you've got a sifter, dredge the calamari in flour, throw it into the sifter and shake it until all of the excess flour falls through.

Why does breading fall off calamari? ›

If the oil temperature is too low, the calamari will absorb too much oil and become soggy, or will lose its breading all together. On the other hand, if the oil is too hot, the outside will cook faster than the inside.

Why is my fried calamari rubbery? ›

If you're going to prepare calamari you've got two choices: you either cook it quickly, by sautéing or frying, or you braise it until it is tender. Anything in-between will give you rubber bands.

Why is my fried calamari soggy? ›

Too much squid in the pot will lower the temperature and result in soggy, steamy squid. We don't want that. Give each piece of squid enough room to get a nice golden fry. I usually fry 1 pound of squid in 3 batches.

What is the best tenderizer for calamari? ›

I use baking soda to tenderize calamari. For each pound, I dissolve 1 teaspoon of baking soda in just enough water to cover the calamari. Let sit for about 15 minutes and then rinse very well and pat dry.

What is the best oil to fry calamari in? ›

What's the Best Oil to Fry Calamari In? Any high-smoke-point oil — like vegetable, canola, or peanut oil — will work for frying calamari. I recommend an oil with a very mild flavor so that the delicate calamari flavor shines through.

What is the secret to tender squid? ›

The secret is in marinating the calamari in milk overnight!

Dairy products like yoghurt and milk are the best natural tenderisers. Cut your squid into rings and place with the tentacles in a large mixing bowl.

How do you know when calamari are cooked enough? ›

Properly cooked calamari should be tender, with a slightly firm yet yielding texture. It should not be tough or chewy. Overcooking causes the proteins in the squid to contract excessively and expel moisture, leading to a less desirable, rubbery consistency. If calamari is chewy, it is typically overcooked.

How do you know when calamari is overcooked? ›

One of the main concerns home cooks have when it comes to calamari is overcooking. Cooked calamari should be moderately firm with a tender chew, not rubbery.

What sauce is calamari served with? ›

There are few dishes more emblematic of casual American dining than fried calamari. These crispy, succulent strips of squid are easy finger food, perfect for sharing family-style with a side of marinara sauce for dipping.

Is it better to boil calamari before frying? ›

There's no need to boil the calamari before frying, this will make it tough. Set up a dredging station with the whisked eggs in one shallow bowl, and the whisked flour mixture in another. Cover the squid rings in the whisked eggs, then cover with flour. Fry in oil over medium heat until golden and cooked through.

What makes breading stick? ›

But taking the extra time to soak your meat in buttermilk and let the flour set will ensure that your breading is fully adhered for the perfect breaded pork chops or breaded chicken.

What's the best oil to fry calamari in? ›

What's the Best Oil to Fry Calamari In? Any high-smoke-point oil — like vegetable, canola, or peanut oil — will work for frying calamari. I recommend an oil with a very mild flavor so that the delicate calamari flavor shines through.

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