Why you’ll love it
Salt and pepper calamari (also known as salt and pepper squid) is a restaurant favourite and a simple, delicious dish to prepare at home too. Tender squid wrapped in a crunchy flavourful coating, it’s light and seriously tasty.
It’s a pub classic here and the one dish I order pretty much everywhere I go. While I enjoy it, I always feel it lacks a little seasoning – if it’s in the title you need to be able to taste it, right – and this salt & pepper calamari recipe doesn’t hold back and is seasoned to perfection so you can taste everything in every bite.
Check out my post with the full run-down on how to clean squid yourself at home.
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Is this Chinese salt and pepper squid?
This is not the Chinese version of salt and pepper squid. This is just the classic Western version of deep fried squid seasoned just with salt and pepper. The chinese version includes garlic, spring onion, chilli and 5 spice powder and is stir-fried in a wok after the initial deep-fry.
To make the Chinese version, coat the squid just in the flour and deep fry. After frying, fry up aromatics and toss the cooked squid rings in that just like this recipe for salt and pepper prawns.
Just 6 simple ingredients are all you need, plus some lemon wedges to squeeze over on serving.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
Squid / Calamari: If you didn’t know, calamari and squid are the same thing. The word calamari is simply taken from the Italian word for squid. Use fresh squid and clean it yourself for the best flavour or get the fishmonger to clean it for you.
Salt: I use fine sea salt in this recipe. If you’re using sea salt flakes, you’ll need at least double the amount. You can always serve with more salt on the side too, in case you want to add more. If using kosher salt, you’ll need an extra teaspoon.
Pepper: I keep things simple here with black peppercorns but you can sub some for pink peppercorns or sichuan peppercorns for a slightly different flavour profile.
Flour: Just one type of flour is all you need – plain flour / all-purpose flour.
Milk: Milk is great for tenderising meat and it works for seafood too. Half an hour is great or you can marinate for up to 24 hours.
Oil: Use a neutral flavoured vegetable oil for deep frying like canola oil or sunflower oil or it may just be labelled vegetable oil.
How to make salt and pepper calamari
The best tip whenever you’re deep frying is to have everything ready before you start frying. Make sure you have all your ingredients at the ready, a baking tray with a wire rack for draining and your sides ready as you’ll want to serve straight away. This fried calamari recipe is no different as it cooks very quickly.
Jump to the recipe for full ingredients and instructions.
- Prep the calamari: If your fishmonger hasn’t done it for you, follow my guide here for cleaning squid.
- Marinate the calamari: Marinating the calamari in milk (photo 1) first for just 30 minutes really increases it’s tenderness after frying. You can do this up to 24 hours ahead.
- Drain the raw calamari: I just hold the calamari in my hands and squeeze out the excess milk.
- Make the salt and pepper coating: Combine the flour, salt, and pepper in a mixing bowl, then add the drained calamari and mix it well to coat (photo 2).
- Fry the squid in batches: Heat a large pan about ⅓ full with oil over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 180C/350F. Add the calamari in batches (I do about ⅕ at a time) and fry for 1-1 ½ minutes (photos 3&4).
- Drain the fried calamari: Transfer the deep fried calamari using a wire basket (photo 5), slotted spoon or wire skimmer, to a prepared baking sheet (cover the baking sheet in paper towel, then place a wire rack over the top).
Air fryer salt and pepper squid
You can make this salt and pepper calamari in your air fryer too.
- Stick to the recipe up to and including dusting with the flour mixture.
- Preheat your air fryer at 200C / 400F for 3 minutes.
- Spray the calamari generously with oil spray.
- Spray the air fryer basket with oil.
- In two or three batches (depending on the size of your air fryer), cook the squid for 4 minutes, flip then cook for a further 2 minutes until light golden and cooked through.
What to serve with salt and pepper squid
Anything deep fried always benefits from a light salad on the side but this is just as delicious served with some fries on the side. Make sure to serve some lemon wedges to squeeze over the fried calamari.
For a dipping sauce, I recommend something creamy. You could simply do a mix of sweet chilli sauce and sour cream which is yum. I love it serve with my dill mayonnaise (in the recipe card) or even this ranch dip is great.
A simple bath in milk for as little as 30 minutes or up to 24 hours is a great way to tenderise calamari.
Nothing. The term calamari comes from the Italian word for squid (calamaro) so calamari and squid are the same thing.
Did you try this recipe for salt and pepper calamari?
Leaving a rating and comment below the recipe is so helpful!
- 700 g fresh squid (1 ½ lb)
- 1 cup milk
- ½ cup plain flour (all-purpose flour)
- 2 ½ teaspoons fine sea salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper (notes)
- vegetable oil for deep frying (1-2 litres/quarts)
- Lemon wedges and mayo to serve
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- Prepare the squid (see this post for full details): Cut the tentacles off below the eyes, then squeeze the beak out of the centre of the tentacle section and discard the beak. Set the tentacles aside. Grab just above the head and pull away from the body/tube to remove. Scoop anything else out from inside the tube and discard it all. Grab hold of the pen/back bone inside the tube and pull it out. Discard. Pinch the skin and peel away from the tube all over. Discard. Peel the fins away from the body and set aside with the tentacles.
- Cut the body / tube into 8mm (⅓inch) rings. Cut the tentacles in half lengthwise or leave them whole. Leave the fins whole.
- In a medium bowl, combine the squid and milk and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes to tenderize (or up to 24 hours).
- Combine the flour, salt and pepper in a large bowl, making sure it’s all well mixed.
- Using a large, deep heavy based saucepan, pour oil in no more than ⅓ up the side. Heat oil in pan with an oil thermometer attached to the side, over medium-high heat until it reaches 180C / 350F.
- While that’s happening, prepare draining rack. Cover a large baking sheet with paper towel and place a wire rack over the top.
- When the oil is hot, squeeze the excess milk off of the squid pieces and transfer them to the flour mixture. Give it a good mix, making sure to separate all the pieces.
- With a wire skimmer or slotted spoon add the squid, in batches, to the hot oil and fry for 1- 1 ½ minutes bringing the oil back to temperature between each batch until they're pale golden brown. I do 4-5 batches. Exact frying time will depend on the size of your squid but do a tester and check. It should be opaque but still tender when cooked. Take care not to overcook or the squid will become rubbery or tough.
- Transfer to the wire rack to drain, then serve.
- Please take a moment to leave a comment & rating. It's appreciated and so helpful.
- Tablespoons: I use a standard Australian 20ml tablespoon (equal to 4 teaspoons). Check yours before measuring.
- Pepper: For a little twist in the flavour profile, try swapping half of the ground black peppercorns for ground sichuan peppercorns or pink peppercorns.
- Served here with lemon cheeks, dressed rocket (arugula) and my dill mayonnaise with pickles.
- 1/2 cup mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped sweet pickles (or gherkin relish)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
- 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
- salt and pepper to taste, if desired
- Nutrition details are approximate only – scroll below the recipe to find the full nutritional information.
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