If you have an air fryer, you have endless possibilities for making crisp, delicious foods without deep-frying! This air fryer calamari was dipped in a buttermilk batter and air fried to crispy perfection. Make this when you are craving the fried seafood at your local seaside fish shack but want a healthier version. I’ve added a side of garlic-dill fries and broccoli to make it a full meal.
I’ve updated this recipe for 2021 with new photos, a recipe video, and more nutrition information. Enjoy!
Have I mentioned yet that I was gifted an air fryer for Christmas? I am so happy about it because it means that I get to start sharing air fryer recipes here!
Air fryers are awesome if you want to lighten dishes because you can make foods that taste fried without the added oils. Added oils are extremely energy-dense, at around 120 calories per tablespoon. If you are trying to maintain a calorie deficit for weight loss, limiting added oils may make it easier.
My husband got a great Black Friday deal on the 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. It comes with two air-frying racks, a drip tray that doubles as a baking tray, and a rotisserie spit.
It’s big enough to make a whole rotisserie chicken! (BTW, I can teach you to make air fryer rotisserie chicken too!)
The downside is that there are no instructions on how to make most of the foods that I want to make. A cookbook was included, but it doesn’t cover how to cook chicken on the spit. It also doesn’t give instructions for crispy calamari.
Thankfully, after a few tries that were not quite right, I think I perfected this air fryer calamari recipe. The third time ended up being the charm in this case!
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🦑 Calamari Dipping Sauce Options
- ♨️ Best Air Fryer for Calamari
- 🔪 How to Air Fry Calamari
- ⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🥗 Side Dishes
- 🍟 Should you make the fries and the calamari in the air fryer at the same time?
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- Frequently Asked Questions
- 🦐 Other Air Fryer Seafood Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
It’s well known that most folks in the U.S. are not meeting the recommendations for seafood intake. If you aren’t getting your two servings of seafood in per week, don’t forget about this easy calamari recipe! Here are some nutritional benefits of these crispy squid rings:
- Lean Protein: Everyone knows chicken breast is a lean protein, but did you know that calamari is a protein dense food too? Each 4-ounce serving of (plain) calamari is only 45 calories, but provides 13 grams of protein.
- Low in Saturated Fat: If you're looking to lower your saturated fat intake to improve your blood cholesterol levels, you’re in luck. My package of calamari lists 1 gram of total fat and 0 grams of saturated fat per 4-ounce serving. The downside is that because it is so lean, it is lower in omega 3s than fatty fish options.
- Low Calorie: As alluded to above, calamari is a protein dense food, meaning it provides lots of protein for very few calories. If you have a weight loss goal, it’s easy to integrate calamari into a filling and low-calorie meal.
- Healthy: Squid rings are rich in an assortment of essential vitamins and minerals. This includes riboflavin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, and zinc. Their mild flavor and awesome nutrient profile make them a top pick for seafood!
To make the air fryer squid rings recipe, you only need a handful of ingredients:
- Cleaned and thawed calamari rings
- Spelt flour or whole wheat flour
- Old Bay seasoning
- Cooking oil spray
Old Bay is a salty seasoning, so you should not need additional salt on your squid. I also like to have some fresh lemon slices on hand for serving.
My local supermarkets sell packages of large squid rings and small squid rings. I’ve air-fried both, and my family prefers the small rings. They turn out a bit like crispy fried clams and would be great with your favorite seafood dipping sauce.
The last time I purchased squid, the rings came in a package with tentacles! I’ve never prepared squid tentacles before, but that’s going to have to be an adventure for another day. Certain family members of mine are not looking forward to getting the chance to try them out. Haha
I made baked potato fries and broccoli for sides. Here’s what you’ll need for those if you’ll be making the whole meal:
- Russet potatoes
- Olive oil
- Dried dill
- Dried parsley
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Salt and black pepper
- Toasted sesame oil
The main pieces of kitchen equipment for this meal are an air fryer, sharp knife, parchment paper, and a baking sheet.
🦑 Calamari Dipping Sauce Options
I kept things simple by squeezing a little fresh lemon juice over my calamari. Other citrus juices, such as lime juice, would also work.
You could also serve your calamari with a dipping sauce. Here are some ideas:
- Cocktail sauce
- Lemon garlic aioli
- Tartar sauce
- Marinara sauce
If you have kids, serving the calamari with a dip may make them a little more likely to try it. It’s worth a shot!
♨️ Best Air Fryer for Calamari
You should be able to make this calamari recipe with whatever air fryer you have. You can use an air fryer oven or a smaller air fryer with a basket. I’m partial to the large capacity of my inexpensive 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven, but other air fryers are super too.
That said, different brands and sizes of air fryers may give different results. If it is your first time making a recipe with your fryer, I recommend keeping an eye on the food. That way, you’ll be able to prevent the food from burning if the cooking time ends up being shorter than anticipated.
🔪 How to Air Fry Calamari
Thaw your calamari rings and drain them well. Pat them dry with a paper towel.
We’re creating a thick batter that won’t drip away in the air fryer. We don’t want the squid adding a lot of additional moisture to it.
Mix the spelt flour, buttermilk, and Old Bay together to form a batter. Add the calamari rings to the bowl and stir well to coat them with batter.
Mist your air fryer racks with the cooking oil spray. Place paper towels under the racks to catch drips. Spread your battered calamari on the racks.
The mixture is a bit liquid-y at this point and the calamari is not in distinct pieces. This is ok!
Make sure the drip tray is in place in your air fryer oven. We’re ready to get air frying!
⏲️ Cooking Time and Temperature
Your air fryer crispy calamari will bake for a total of 21 minutes at 390 degrees Fahrenheit. Start by putting the racks with the squid in the oven and baking for 10 minutes.
Flip the calamari pieces over and switch the position of the air fryer trays in your oven. Bake at 390F for 8 more minutes.
Flip the calamari over once more. Break up any squid rings that are sticking together with your fingers.
Pop the calamari back in the air fryer oven for 3 more minutes. (Don’t switch the position of the trays in the air fryer oven this time.) That’s it!
🥗 Side Dishes
If you’re making baked fries to go with the meal, I recommend starting them in your regular oven before air frying the squid. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Scrub your potatoes but do not peel them. Cut them into french fries that are ½-inch to ¾-inch wide.
Drizzle the potatoes with the oil and stir in the dill, parsley, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Spread the fry-cut potatoes out on a dark parchment-lined baking sheet. Place them in the top third of the oven.
Bake the fries for 40-50 minutes, flipping halfway through baking time. These are so nicely seasoned, they really don’t need ketchup!
I also served broccoli to go with the calamari. You can steam your broccoli in the microwave or on the stovetop, your choice. Drizzle the broccoli with 1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil right before plating.
🍟 Should you make the fries and the calamari in the air fryer at the same time?
As mentioned above, the air fryer I own has a fairly large capacity. However, trying to cook the fries and the calamari all at once led to overcrowding.
Cooking the calamari and fries together meant that I had to use both racks and the baking tray for cooking. The items on the baking tray did not crisp properly because the air could not circulate through the solid tray. For this reason, I recommend making the calamari in the fryer and baking the fries in the oven.
An alternative would be to make the calamari in one batch and then do the fries in a second batch. I’m going to give air fryer directions for the fries if you’d like to try this. Keep in mind that your calamari may get cold while you are waiting for the fries to finish, though.
(P.S. If you end up loving the fries, you NEED to check out this kielbasa salad with potatoes and mustard vinaigrette. Instead of enjoying them as fries, I’m serving them as chopped, roasted potatoes in an entrée inspired by Polish cuisine. It remains one of my favorite meal preps to date!)
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 1 recipe (may help support fat loss). Typically, I bump recipes containing flour to level 3. However, the squid are a low-calorie and filling lean protein, and there’s only a little flour here. Additionally, air frying has removed the need for the added oils used for typical fried calamari.
I think this is a great choice if you have a fried calamari craving but want a lighter dish. Cocktail sauce is far lower in calories than tartar sauce if you are choosing to add the optional dip.
(Note: either of these condiments may contain added sugar. Making your own is best if you want sugar-free.)
Frequently Asked Questions
It’s possible to make gluten free calamari using almond flour or your favorite gluten free bread crumbs. Here’s a gluten free bacon fried calamari recipe that I think would be fun to adapt to the air fryer.
You could make keto calamari with no batter, or use low-carb flour for the batter or breadcrumbs. Some items to experiment with include almond flour, pork panko, and coconut flour.
Without batter or breading, it’s much easier to accidentally overcook your calamari. If you want to try air frying calamari without batter, mix the rings with a little olive oil and garlic. Air frying will likely take less than 5 minutes.
This recipe used a wet batter rather than a breading. If you’re making breaded calamari instead, milk or beaten eggs works well to get the breading to stick.
Calamari is a bit rubbery by nature, but it can become quite tough and rubbery when overcooked. Try cooking your calamari for less time or at a lower temperature if you are having issues with tough calamari.
Another tip for tough and overly chewy calamari is to try tenderizing it in buttermilk. Soak the raw squid rings in buttermilk overnight in the fridge. The next day, drain the calamari, pat it dry, and it will be ready to use in recipes.
If you’re not too picky about texture changes or foods becoming overcooked, you can reheat just about anything! Haha For the rest of us, I don’t recommend trying to reheat this air fryer fried calamari. Instead, scale the recipe down to only make what you’ll eat that evening.
🦐 Other Air Fryer Seafood Recipes
Air fryers are great at cooking so many things! Feel free to poke around; I bet you find some new favorite foods to air fry! Here are some of my favorite air fryer recipes for seafood:
- Air Fryer Coconut Shrimp with Pineapple Dipping Sauce
- Air Fryer Fish Sticks
- Compound Butter over Air Fryer Tilapia
- Air Fryer Salmon Patties with Lemon-Dill Tartar Sauce
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All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Calamari – Crispy Squid Rings Recipe
For the calamari:
- 12 ounces small frozen calamari rings, thawed, drained well (340 grams; Weigh after draining to ensure you use the right amount.)
- ¼ cup spelt flour
- ¼ cup buttermilk
- ½ tablespoon Old Bay seasoning
- cooking oil spray
- 1 lemon, for serving
- seafood dipping sauce (optional)
For the garlic-dill fries:
- 2 russet potatoes, scrubbed and sliced into ½-¾ inch (1.3-1.9 cm) fries (about 24 ounces/680 grams, do not peel)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried dill weed
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- salt and pepper, to taste
For the broccoli:
- 12 ounces broccoli, chopped (340 grams; fresh or frozen)
- 1 tablespoon sesame oil (toasted)
To make the garlic-dill fries:
- Note: You can bake them in the air fryer or the oven. Keep in mind they are best cooked in a separate batch from the calamari if you use the air fryer.
- To bake them in the oven: Stir all ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Spread the fries out in a single layer on a dark baking tray that was lined with parchment paper. Bake for 40-50 minutes in the top third of the oven. Flip them halfway through baking time.
- To cook them in the air fryer: Soak the cut potatoes for 20-30 minutes in cool water and pat dry (this helps them to crisp up better). Stir all garlic-dill fries ingredients together in a medium mixing bowl. Spread the fries out in a single layer on your oil-misted air fryer rack(s). Bake for 25 minutes at 390°F (199°C). flipping the fries and switching the position of the trays in the fryer halfway through cooking time. You may need to air fry them in two batches.
To make the calamari:
- Thaw your calamari and drain well in a colander. Pat the squid rings dry (gently!) with a clean paper towel.
- Mix the buttermilk, spelt flour, and Old Bay together to form a batter. Add the thawed and drained calamari rings to the bowl and stir well to coat.
- Mist your air fryer racks with oil and put them on top of waxed paper or paper towels to catch drips. Spread the calamari mixture in a single layer on the racks. The mixture is liquidy at this point (and not distinct calamari pieces).
- Make sure the drip tray is in place in your air fryer oven. Put the racks in the oven and bake at 390°F (199°C) for 10 minutes.
- Flip the calamari and switch the position of the trays in the oven. Bake an additional 8 minutes.
- Flip the calamari again and break any rings that are sticking together into individual pieces. Bake for 3 more minutes to finish crisping them up. (You don't have to switch the position of the trays in the oven this time.)
- We served them with a squeeze of lemon but you could also add your favorite seafood dipping sauce if desired.
To make the broccoli:
- Cook the broccoli on the stove top or in the microwave until heated (if previously frozen) or tender-crisp (if using fresh broccoli). Drizzle the broccoli with the toasted sesame oil.
- Plate the calamari, fries, and broccoli and serve.
Worst recipe ever. All calamari went from air fryer to the garbage
Summer Yule says
Oh no, Max! I'm so sorry to hear that the recipe didn't turn out for you! 🙁 What didn't you like about it? Which brand and size of air fryer are you using? It's easier to troubleshoot if you give more details! We've made this a number of times and it has always turned out well for us. It would be helpful to have more information so others can avoid having the same experience. (One thing I can't fix is if you simply have different taste preferences than we do. If that's the case, I'd still be interested in hearing what you think would make it tastier!)
I've only had a calamari a couple of times and they were always rubbery and hard to eat. Cooking them in an air fryer sounds like a great way to avoid that rubbery texture. I don't own an air fryer yet, but it's been something I have been eyeing for a while. There seem to be so many great looking recipes out there using one.
Summer Yule says
Oh, I completely love my air fryer and so any recommendation I make to get one is completely biased! Haha Seriously, a lot of people seem to love air frying, so I hope you get a chance to join in on the fun! 🙂 Thanks so much for dropping in!
Like!! I blog frequently and I really thank you for your content. The article has truly peaked my interest.
Summer Yule says
Thank you for taking the time to leave a positive review! 😀
Hi Summer...Thank you for following CarolCooks2. I have heard many positives about air fryers which I don't have at the moment...As squid cooks very quickly in minutes does the longer cooking in an air fryer make it tough or is it still soft and tender?
Summer Yule says
Hi Carol, thank you for visiting! Air fryers in general do change the textures of foods a bit compared to traditional frying. The batter here starts off very moist and helps keep the squid tender while the outside crisps up. All air fryers are different though, so I highly recommend using a shorter cooking time and checking on it if you have concerns that they may become tough. 🙂
Terrified Amateur says
Oh, the anticipation. Can't wait!
Terrified Amateur says
So, Summer, would you believe this? Just two days ago - two days! - I asked a friend if it'd be possible to prepare battered fish in a air fryer. She thought it might be, but she wasn't really sure. In other words, I was no closer to an answer than when I asked the question.
Then along came your post. A coincidence, or a blogging miracle?
Honestly, I think most reluctance to deep-fry is due to all the oil involved. As luck has it, you show us a way around that particular obstacle. Thanks for the example, and for expanding my culinary universe!
Summer Yule says
Yes, you can absolutely air fry battered fish! I’d like to try some catfish nuggets soon. Aside from the calamari, I’ve made some really terrific air fried chicken wings- will post soon!
Brian Hardin says
I just got an air fryer and was looking for a way to break it in. Great comprehensive meal idea! Thanks for the inspiration!
Summer Yule says
Thank you so much! I am kind of obsessed with my air fryer right now, so there will definitely be more air fryer recipes here in the future 🙂