Crispy Calamari Air Fryer Recipe (Easy and Light)

Jump to RecipeLeave a Comment

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read our disclosure policy.

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.

Plate of air fried calamari with lemon wedges and lemon slices side of sauce.
Light and crispy air fryer calamari
Want to save this recipe?
Just enter your email and get it sent to your inbox! Plus you’ll get new recipes from us every week!
Please enable JavaScript in your browser to complete this form.

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!

If you crave deep-fried, try Fried Butterfly Shrimp Recipe (Easy and Crunchy).

More Italian seafood recipes: Classic Lobster Bisque Recipe (Easy), Crab Cakes Recipe (no egg), Italian Seafood Salad (Insalata di Mare Antipasto), Spaghetti Frutti di Mare (Seafood Pasta), and BEST Lobster Ravioli Sauce with Lemon Brown Butter.

Crispy Calamari Air Fryer Recipe (Easy and Light)

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 people’s 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.

In America, they are served with cocktail, marinara, or aioli dipping sauce. I love them the traditional Italian way with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice!

If you love calamari, try Italian Stuffed Calamari Recipe in Tomato Sauce.

Simple 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.

Ingredient shot for calamari recipe
Ingredients for Crispy Calamari
  • Calamari (fresh or frozen)
  • Plain breadcrumbs
  • Olive oil or avocado oil
  • Black pepper
  • Salt
  • 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 quickly.

Note: Calamari cooks quickly and can turn tough, chewy, and even rubbery if overcooked.  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 a few times gently 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. Please ensure they are dry, or you risk they will be more soggy than crispy.

preparing the calamari before air fryer
Prepare the calamari by patting it dry with paper towels.

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.

dipping the calamari in bread crumb mixture
Dipping calamari in bread crumb mixture

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.

example of breaded calamari ring
Calamari ring breaded
Calamari breaded and ready for the air fryer
Breaded calamari rings ready for the air fryer

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.

placing the prepared calamari in the airfryer
Placing the prepared calamari in the air fryer.

Buying Calamari

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 prepped for cooking. You can also ask your fishmonger to clean it and cut it.

Look for calamari that has firm, shiny white bodies, with a pleasantly salty 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 pretty 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.

Plate of air fried calamari with lemon wedges and lemon slices side of sauce.
“Fried” calamari on Sardinian plate

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 breadcrumbs
  • 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 reasonable price. The highly-efficient air frying tool that brings healthier fried flavors to your table!

*affiliate links

Plate of air fried calamari with lemon wedges and lemon slices side of sauce.
Beautiful and simple calamari recipe

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 ovens even have an air fryer option, so look out for that. If your

Oven cooking instructions:

Preheat oven to 500 degrees F. Line a 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 halfway through cooking.

For the last minute of cooking, turn the 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!

Plate of air fried calamari with lemon wedges and lemon slices.
Add cherry tomatoes for a pop of color

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. 

Top Tips

  • 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.

You’ll love this recipe if you want a healthier way to make fried calamari! This air fryer calamari is so crispy and made with a small amount of oil. 

Deep frying is also a bit messy, and this method makes for easy clean-up after cooking.

Plate of air fried calamari with lemon wedges and lemon slices.
Enjoy as an appetizer or light main meal

What to serve with Crispy Calamari

This air fryer calamari recipe makes a great appetizer or light meal. Side dishes that go well with this simple dish: Warm White Bean Salad with Arugula Mozzarella (Video), or Italian Fennel, Citrus, Pomegranate and Salad, and some warm Fast Italian No Knead Ciabatta Bread.

Serve alongside Classic Italian Lasagna Bolognese with Bechamel Sauce for a more filling meal. Don’t forget dessert! Classic Italian Tiramisu Recipe (Authentic)!

How to make calamari not rubbery

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 the recipe for a technique to air frying calamari.

How to defrost frozen 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.

Is calamari healthy?

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.

More recipes for you!

💙 MADE THIS RECIPE AND LOVED IT? 💙 Please leave a ⭐️STAR rating and COMMENT below- I love connecting with you! Tag me with your creations on Instagram and find me on Pinterest.

Print
clock clock iconcutlery cutlery iconflag flag iconfolder folder iconinstagram instagram iconpinterest pinterest iconfacebook facebook iconprint print iconsquares squares iconheart heart iconheart solid heart solid icon
Crispy Calamari Air Fryer Recipe on a plate with lemons.

Crispy Calamari Air Fryer Recipe

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

5 from 1 review

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.

  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 46 servings 1x

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 pound calamari cleaned and skins removed
  • 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or avocado
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • Fresh parsley, chopped (for garnish)
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Instructions

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  3. 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. 
  4. Preheat the air fryer oven to 400° degrees F. Lightly grease the basket of the air fryer with oil (or line it 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.
  5. Cook the calamari for 8-10 minutes, flipping them halfway through cooking.
  6. 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).

Notes

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!

  • Author: Elena
  • Prep Time: 10 min
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Savory
  • Method: Italian
  • Cuisine: Italian

You May Also Like

About Elena

My dream is to share delicious wholesome recipes that you will share around the table with all your loved ones. The memories surrounded by food are the heart and soul of CucinaByElena.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe rating 5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star

1 Comment