Crispy Calamari Air Fryer Recipe (easy and light)- These crispy-on-the-outside, tender-on-the-inside "fried" calamari are simple to make in the oven or the air fryer! This is a healthier version of an Italian family favorite.
For this recipe I am lightening up the traditional deep fried version-without sacrificing flavor-by air frying the calamari (there is an oven version as well). It is a simple recipe that makes for a show stopping presentation. This is one of the best ways to enjoy calamari!
More Italian seafood recipes: Italian Seafood Salad (Insalata di Mare Antipasto), Spaghetti Frutti di Mare (Seafood Pasta), and BEST Lobster Ravioli Sauce with Lemon Brown Butter.
In Sardinia, Italy, where I am from, we love fresh calamari! You can get a plethora of fresh seafood on the island and almost every meal at a restaurant with our family includes fried calamari. Read this story about our love for calamari: Sunday Story: Calamari Fritti.
Fried calamari is among many peoples favorite appetizers on many Italian restaurant menus. With this recipe you can make crispy calamari right at home.
In Italy, they are usually garnished with lemon wedges, and parsley. I love them with Salsa Fresca (fresh tomato sauce) on top.
- Ingredients for Crispy Calamari
- How to make crispy calamari in the air fryer
- Buying Calamari
- Variations for Crispy Calamari Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Recommendations
- Cooking Calamari in the Oven
- Storing the Air Fryer Calamari
- Re-heating Crispy Calamari
- Top Tips
- What to serve with Crispy Calamari
- Crispy Calamari Air Fryer Recipe
Ingredients for Crispy Calamari
The ingredients are simple and wholesome. The star of this dish is the calamari! You will note there isn't an egg mixture or even all purpose flour (or flour mixture) in this recipe. It is light and focuses on the fresh calamari.
- Calamari (fresh or frozen)
- Plain breadcrumbs
- Olive oil or avocado oil
- Black pepper
- Fresh parsley (for garnish)
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Optional: dipping sauce of choice for serving
See recipe card for quantities.
How to make crispy calamari in the air fryer
Follow these easy instructions to get the perfect "fried" calamari in little time.
Note: Calamari cooks quickly and can turn tough and chewy and even rubbery if overcooked. In order to cook calamari to perfection, you can either cook it quickly over high heat or slow over low heat.
Prepare the Calamari
To help tenderize, pound calamari rings gently a few times on each side using a kitchen mallet or a heavy skillet (be careful not to tear the flesh).
1- Cut the calamari into ½ inch thick rings. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water. Make sure they are dry or you risk that they will be more soggy than crispy.
2- In a large bowl add the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl add the olive oil. Quickly dip the calamari rings in the oil and shake off excess.
3- Toss and coat the calamari rings into the breadcrumb mixture; gently pressing to coat. Lay the prepared calamari on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper as you finish preparing the batch.
Cook the Calamari in an Air Fryer
4- Preheat the air fryer to 400° degrees F. Lightly grease the basket of the air fyer with oil. You can also use greased tinfoil. Place the calamari rings in a basket, in a single layer.
Do not overcrowd the basket, or they won't crisp properly. Cook in multiple batches if needed.
Cook the calamari for 8 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking.
See below for oven instructions.
Calamari, the Italian word for squid, is commonly used as the culinary term for any dish that features squid as the main ingredient. You can buy it at your local fish market or in the frozen section of many supermarkets.
You can use fresh or frozen calamari tubes and tentacles for this recipe.
It’s easy to prepare; unless you’re buying it fresh, most squid comes frozen and already prepped for cooking. You can also ask your fish monger to clean it for you and even cut it.
Look for calamari that have firm, shiny white bodies, with a pleasantly briny aroma, like the ocean. (Pass up any that have a pink or purplish hue.)
The smaller the squid, the more tender the texture. The squid I used is fairly small and I had the fishmonger cut it into rings for me. I bought mine at Whole Foods Market. I also like to support smaller local fish shops when I can.
Variations for Crispy Calamari Air Fryer
- Spicy - add chili pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to kick it up a notch just before serving!
- Bread Crumbs - use panko breadcrumbs instead of the traditional bread crumbs
- Flavor Boost - add old bay seasoning or garlic/ onion powder to the breadcrumbs before frying the calamari
Air Fryer Recommendations
For this recipe you need an air fryer. This link provides a high quality air fryer for a good price. The highly-efficient air frying tool that brings healthier fried flavors to your table!
Cooking Calamari in the Oven
If you don't have an air fryer and don't plan on getting one you can make this recipe in the oven. Some newer oven even have an air fryer option, so look out for that. If your
Oven cooking instructions:
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Line large baking sheet with tinfoil and spray generously with cooking spray.
Place prepared calamari (not touching or close together) on the baking sheet and cook for about 8-10 minutes turning over half way through cooking.
For the last minute of cooking turn oven on broil to get a nice crisp on the calamari.
The calamari will be slightly less crispy when cooked this way compared to the air fryer. They are still delicious!
Storing the Air Fryer Calamari
Let the calamari strips cool down at room temperature.
Transfer the leftover to an airtight container. Properly stored, the cooked calamari can last 3-4 days in the refrigerator or up to 2 months in the freezer.
Re-heating Crispy Calamari
To reheat frozen fried calamari in an Air Fryer: Cook in the preheated air fryer at 400°F for about 8 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
To reheat in the oven: Preheat oven to 450°F. Place frozen calamari rings and tentacles on the baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.
- Make sure to pat the calamari dry so the excess water doesn't steam the calamari instead of making them crispy.
- Do not overcrowd the calamari when cooking or they won't cook evenly, or have a nice crust.
If you are looking for a healthier way to make fried calamari, you'll love this recipe! This air fryer calamari is so crispy and it's made with a small amount of oil.
Deep frying is also a bit messy and this method makes for easy clean-up after cooking.
What to serve with Crispy Calamari
This air fryer calamari recipes makes a great appetizer or light meal. Side dishes that go well with this simple dish: Warm White Bean Salad Arugula Mozzarella (Video), or Italian Fennel, Citrus, Pomegranate and Salad and some warm Fast Italian No Knead Ciabatta Bread.
Serve along side Classic Italian Lasagna Bolognese with Bechamel Sauce for a more filling meal. Don't forget dessert! Classic Italian Tiramisu Recipe (Authentic)!
Calamari turns tough only when it is overcooked. The trick to coaxing it to a soft, tender texture is to cook it quickly over high heat or slowly over low, whether sautéing, roasting, stir-frying, grilling, or even deep-frying. See recipe for technique to air frying calamari.
Defrost frozen calamari overnight in the refrigerator by placing them in a clean bowl and cover with plastic wrap. If you are in a hurry- thaw calamari in the original packaging or place in an airtight plastic bag then thaw in a large bowl or cool water for about 30 minutes per pound of calamari.
Yes, calamari is a healthy seafood option. In just a 3-ounce serving, calamari provides 13 grams of protein. It is chock full of vitamins and minerals including vitamin b12 known for helping with anemia.
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- 1 pound calamari cleaned and skins removed
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- ¼ cup olive oil or avocado
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Optional: dipping sauce of choice for serving
- To help tenderize, pound the calamari gently a few times on each side using a kitchen mallet or a heavy skillet (be careful not to tear the flesh).
- Cut the calamari into ½ inch thick rings. Pat dry with a paper towel. Make sure they are dry or you risk that they will be more soggy than crispy.
- In a large bowl add the breadcrumbs and season with salt and pepper. In a separate bowl add the olive oil. Quickly dip the calamari rings in the oil and shake off excess. Toss the calamari rings into the breadcrumb mixture; gently pressing to coat. Lay the prepared calamari on a baking sheet or cutting board lined with parchment paper as you finish preparing the batch.
Preheat the air fryer oven to 400° degrees F. Lightly grease the basket of the air fryer with oil (or line with tinfoil and spray). Place the calamari rings in a basket, in a single layer. Do not overcrowd the basket, or they won't crisp properly. Cook in multiple batches if needed.
Cook the calamari for 8-10 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking.
Transfer the calamari to a plate and immediately season with a sprinkle of salt. Repeat the steps above with the remaining calamari. Eat the calamari immediately with some lemon wedges and dipping sauce (if desired).
Cooking in the Oven
Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Line large baking sheet with tinfoil and spray generously with cooking spray. Place prepared calamari (not touching or close together) on the baking sheet and cook for about 8-10 minutes turning over half way through cooking. For the last minute of cooking turn oven on broil to get a nice crisp on the calamari. The calamari will be slightly less crispy when cooked this way compared to the air fryer. They are still delicious!
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 10 minutes
- Category: Savory
- Method: Italian
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: Calamari, Italian, fried calamari, air fryer calamari, seafood, easy recipe