This easy calamari recipe ditches the usual heavy batter and deep frying in favor of a light and flavorful Mediterranean twist. Calamari rings are quickly sauteed with garlic and finished with a zesty sauce of fresh lime juice and white wine. A sprinkle of fresh dill herbs seals the deal. Comes together in less than 15 minutes!
Most people's experience with calamari is limited to heavy-battered fried calamari rings that are served at many American restaurants (nothing wrong with those, I love them too.) But, in Mediterranean cooking, you'll find so many more ways to cook and enjoy calamari.
The Spanish add calamari to paella and other rice dishes. In Italy, you'll find it incorporated in pasta dinners. Calamari is delightful in a beautiful Provençal salad. And in Greece and parts of the Easten Mediterranean like Egypt, where I grew up, you'll find many simple applications like today's saucy calamari.
This calamari recipe is easy, and I personally love how it takes advantage of a few bright ingredients like garlic, lime juice, and fresh dill.
Not everyone is familiar with what calamari is; how to cook calamari; or where to buy it. So let's walk through some of this detail here.
What is Calamari?
Calamari is the fancier Italian word for squid, a cousin to Octopus. There are more than 300 species of squid in the world's waters, but fewer than a dozen are utilized in culinary use. Squid can range in length anywhere from 1 inch up to 80 feet, but most used squid measure less than 12 inches.
Calamari (or squid) is firm and white with a mild, slightly sweeter taste that lends itself to so many flavors--obviously, today I went for lime and garlic.
Calamari Recipe, Mediterranean-Style
In this easy calamari recipe, we ditch heavy batters and the deep frying for a tasty, lighter dish that will transport you to the shore of the Mediterranean.
Here, calamari rings are briefly sauteed with lots of garlic, then we add citrus in the form of lime juice and white wine. The final finishing touch is a sprinkle of fresh dill. If you don't love dill, or if you can't find it, you can finish this dish with another fresh herb like mint, parsley or cilantro.
It's so darn easy, I have just a couple of step photos to show you how to make this calamari recipe...
Step-by-step for this calamari recipe
1. Start by sauteing lots of garlic in extra virgin olive oil very briefly until fragrant (be sure not to burn the garlic. This should only take seconds.) Pat calamari dry and add to the pan. Cook for about 1 to 2 minutes; calamari will release some liquid.
2. Add white wine and lime juice. Cook briefly to warm through (do not overcook.) Season with salt and pepper. If you like a little spice, add a pinch of cayenne. Finally, stir in fresh dill and remove calamari from heat and serve immediately.
Leftovers? But if you do end up with leftovers, you can refrigerate in a tight-lid container for a couple of days. I don't recommend reheating calamari because it has the tendency to get rubbery.
Where to Buy Calamari? Important Tips
Because calamari is not usually top of the shopping list, many people don't know where to find it or what to look for.
Calamari rings are conveniently available in the freezer section of most well-stocked grocery stores. Before use, make sure to properly thaw in the fridge overnight.
Sometimes, you'll find fresh squid tubes, cleaned and ready for use. Important tip: fresh squid should smell like...nothing! If it has any fishy smell, do not take it home. When you take it home, do wash and pat dry, then cut into rings for this calamari recipe.
To serve calamari
This is the perfect warm appetizer with sliced French baguette or crostini. For a super simple dinner, serve this saucy calamari on top of your favorite grain, plain small pasta like orzo, or this Lebanese rice. Add some grilled vegetables or a fattoush salad to complete the meal. Or add this calamari as part of a big seafood feast next to other dishes like roasted red snapper; mackerel; Sicilian fish stew; or baked salmon.
More Recipes to Try:
Easy skillet calamari recipe, cooked in a light garlic lime sauce finished fresh dill. Great for dinner or as a warm appetizer, see serving suggestions.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil (I used Private Reserve Greek olive oil)
- Unsalted butter
- 10 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1.5 lb calamari, sliced into rings
- 2 to 3 tbsp white wine
- Juice of 1 ½ limes
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
- 3 tbsp chopped fresh dill
- In a large cast iron skillet, heat ¼ cup of olive oil and 1 tbsp of unsalted butter. Turn heat to medium-high and add the garlic, saute briefly, tossing regularly, until fragrant (this should take seconds, garlic should only gain a little color, do not burn it.)
- Pat calamari dry and add to the pan, cook for 1 to 2 minutes over medium-high heat (calamari will release some liquid.) Add white wine and lime juice. Cook briefly to warm though (do not overcook or calamari will turn rubbery. You are just looking for the sauce to warm through) Season with salt and pepper. If you like a little spice, add a pinch of cayenne.
- Finally, stir in the fresh dill. Remove from heat and serve (see serving suggestions in notes)
- Serve as Appetizer: To serve as a warm appetizer, transfer calamari to a serving platter, and serve with slices for fresh French baguette or crostini (it will serve 6 to 8).
- Serve as Dinner: Serve this calamari for dinner as part of a big seafood feast next to other dishes like roasted red snapper; roasted mackerel; Sicilian fish stew; or baked salmon. For a simple dinner, just serve this saucy calamari over your favorite grain, pasta, or Lebanese rice. Add a large fattoush salad to complete the meal.
- Cook's Tip for Leftover Calamari: This recipe is best enjoyed immediately. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for 2 nights or so, but I don't recommend reheating calamari; overcooked calamari can be rubbery.
- Recommended for this Recipe: Our Private Reserve Greek extra virgin olive oil (from organically grown and processed Koroneiki olives!)
- Visit our store to browse our spices, olive oils and bundles!
- Category: Entree
- Method: Sauteed
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
Keywords: Calamari Recipe, Sauteed Calamari, How to Cook Calamari
*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015. It has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.