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Paleo Fried Calamari (GF, DF fried squid)

Indulge in delicate calamari with a delightfully crispy coating. Dairy free and gluten free!

Paleo Fried Calamari

For the printable recipe click here.

​​Love at first bite

I can't remember exactly when I first tried fried calamari, but I know I was a little hesitant to take that first bite.

Squid? With tentacles? I didn't have the most adventurous palate growing up, so squid was definitely on the weird list.

​There's not a lot of "weird," however, that "breaded and fried" can't normalize.

So I started with a small, ring-shaped piece, dipped it in marinara, and by the end of appetizers, I was begging for more--stringy tentacles and all.

You CAN make restaurant-quality calamari fritti (fried calamari) at home!

While mustering up the courage to taste calamari that first time probably dates back to my mid teens, it took another decade or so to find the courage to make fried calamari on my own. When my first batch turned out as delicious as anything I'd tried in my favorite Italian restaurants, I was floored! This could really be done at home!

But that was before my paleo days.

Could I achieve the same success sans dairy and grains?

There was only one way to find out!

gluten free dairy free fried calamari

​Developing a paleo fried calamari recipe

The brine: I like to marinate/quick brine the calamari (and for that matter, just about anything I intend to break and fry) in a "buttermilk" mixture for at least a few hours for tenderness and flavor. I've read mixed information on whether such an effort actually makes an impact in the flavor department, but I feel like it does, so that's what I do.

We go dairy-free, substituting a mixture of plain, unsweetened almond (or coconut milk) and lemon juice in the place of the buttermilk. Sometimes I throw a little hot sauce in. Since the calamari is rather small and delicate with a much higher ratio of surface area than, say, your Thanksgiving turkey, it doesn't require a super long soak. I feel like the sweet spot is about two-to-six hours, but I definitely wouldn't go for less than 30 minutes or more than 24 hours.

The breading: Since this is a paleo/gluten free fried calamari recipe, we won't be using all purpose flour. My preferred paleo breading for almost any type of breaded-and-fried thing is about one-part almond flour to one-part potato starch, and that's what I use here.

Neither of these products work well for breading on their own--almond flour won't adhere very well all by its lonesome, and potato starch leaves an awkward, white, fuzzy look when it's left to its own devices. But together, they are indeed a magical flour mixture.

If you're wondering about other paleo-friendly flours, I find that coconut flour gets too greasy, and cassava flour and tapioca starch/tapioca flour tend to get a little gummy, but you might be able to substitute some of the potato starch with tapioca starch without it being a problem.

If grains like rice and sorghum are not a concern for you, most gluten-free flour blends will work in place of the potato starch, but I still prefer the texture that the almond flour lends to the mix.

If you are nut-free, I would suggest doing more of a batter than a dredge and deep frying instead of doing a shallow pan fry--gluten-free flour blends such as King Arthur work well in carbonated batters (you can use club soda instead of beer). They are not paleo since they do contain grains, but they may be a great option for some. Batters are not in the scope of this post, but I would love to hear how it goes if you give it a try!

The frying oil: Alrighty. There are several ways you could go here, but I prefer to fry in refined coconut oil. While avocado or olive oil are also great staples of the paleo pantry, refined coconut oil tends to be cheaper than avocado and have a higher smoke point than olive. Unlike virgin coconut oil, refined coconut oil has a very neutral flavor and works equally well for frying onion rings or donuts.

I like to do a shallow fry in a frying pan like a cast iron skillet or heavy-bottomed pot, rather than using a deep fryer, which requires much more oil. If you prefer to use a deep fryer and use something non-paleo-friendly like canola oil that is even more affordable for that larger amount of oil required, of course that is also an option.

The squid: Aha! The star of the show!

Ok, the first time I prepared calamari, I went full-squid. I bought those babies whole and dealt with all the bits and pieces.

Lately, I haven't even seen them for sale like that, so I've bought just the tubes, already cleaned and ready to be cut into rings with a good, sharp knife. I have had great experience with the ones I've found like this at my local Whole Foods Market seafood counter.

Now, I'm not gonna lie: there might be a slight reduction in the quality of the final dish with the pre-cleaned tubes, but for the stage of life I'm in right now, the ease has been more than worth it.

So my recommendation is to buy pre-cleaned squid tubes (and tentacles if desired/available) from the freshest and most reliable seafood counter or fish market you can find. But if you do the whole squid-processing thing on the regular and find it soothing, that's all the better!

paleo fried calamari

How to serve your calamari

Paleo fried calamari can be served with a simple fresh grating of lemon zest, a sprinkling of finely chopped parsley, or the typical lemon wedges and side of marinara sauce, just like at the Italian restaurants. You could also mix things up and serve it with a side of your favorite paleo ranch dressing, cocktail sauce, or even something bright and citrusy, like Orange Dijon Dressing. A roasted garlic-lemon dipping sauce would be a step in the Italian direction, while a chipotle-honey sauce would blaze an entirely new trail. Louisiana Remoulade or Alabama White Sauce could also be tasty, if unconventional, choices.

Whatever sort of accoutrements you choose, I hope this crispy calamari will be one of your new favorite appetizers!

Here's what you'll need:

For the brine:

  • 1 1/2 cups almond milk

  • 1 T lemon juice

  • 3 T kosher salt

  • several shakes hot sauce, optional

  • 3-4 cleaned squid tubes, sliced into rings, about 1 cm in width

​For the breading:

  • 1/2 cup almond flour

  • 1/2 cup potato starch

  • 1/2 tsp baking powder

  • 1/2 tsp oregano

  • 1/2 tsp garlic, 10 cranks black pepper

For Frying:

  • about 1 1/2 cups refined coconut oil, or enough for about 1-inch depth in a heavy-bottomed pot or frying pan

Here's what you'll do:

  1. In a medium-sized bowl or zip-top bag, combine the brine ingredients and add the squid rings. Seal the bag or cover the bowl, and refrigerate for 2-6 hours.

  2. When ready to fry, place a double layer of paper towels over a wire cooling rack and heat the oil to 350 degrees over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed pot or frying pan like a cast-iron skillet.

  3. While the oil is heating, whisk together the breading ingredients in a medium-sized bowl. Use a fork or slotted spoon to transfer several rings of calamari to the breading mixture, and use a fork to toss and turn the rings to coat them completely in the flour mixture.

  4. When the oil has reached the proper temperature, use the fork to transfer the coated rings to the hot oil. Cook small batches of coated rings about 2 minutes on each side, or till light golden brown all over. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked paleo calamari rings to the paper-towel-lined rack, making sure to let them cool in a single layer so they don't steam and get soggy. Repeat with remaining squid rings. Enjoy!

fried calamari

For the printable recipe click here.

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Hey Y'all!

I'm the Monster Momma.

I'm a Christ-follower, wife, mother to five sweet paleo monsters, writer, and

paleo food fiend.

Join me and my family on our paleo journey!

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