Light and crispy salt and pepper squid is an Australian classic found on most pub menus and is so easy to make at home! You’ll love these bites of perfectly seasoned squid served with a squeeze of lemon and a creamy garlic aioli.
Salt and pepper squid (also known as salt and pepper calamari) is a staple on restaurant, pub and café menus in Australia. It’s a favourite of many but it’s actually quite simple to make at home.
I pretty much always order salt and pepper calamari when it’s on a pub menu because it’s usually one of the only dishes that is likely to be dairy free, plus there is nothing more delicious than tender, well seasoned, lightly coated fried squid dipped in a creamy garlic aioli.
But unfortunately sometimes the seasoning can be underdone and often the squid is oily so I wanted to bring you a recipe that creates the perfect, crunchy and delicious salt and pepper flavour that you expect so if it’s a dish you’re craving you know you can prepare exactly to your tastes in your own kitchen.
I really just love this recipe so much. It’s so simple to make and creates addictingly tender bite-sized pieces of squid with a light coating of salt and pepper fried to crispy perfection. Serve it simply with a salad and lemon wedges or a side of chips for the full pub or café experience.
Squid vs Calamari: What’s the difference?
I couldn’t write this post without addressing the question surrounding the differences between squid and calamari. Both words are commonly used interchangeably for the exact same food, with calamari being most commonly associated in Australia with the deep fried rings we get at our local fish and chip shop.
But while the words have been used to describe the same thing, squid and calamari are technically different with calamari most simply being a type of squid. So all calamari is squid, but not all squid is calamari.
Calamari is more tender than squid and therefore usually more expensive. For this recipe, I’ve just used squid tubes from my local supermarket and am very happy with the taste and texture, but of course, use what you like as either will work for this recipe.
To make this salt and pepper squid, you just need 6 ingredients and then whatever you like to serve it with.
Note all ingredients and their quantities are laid out in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
- Squid tubes – also known as squid hoods you can buy these cleaned and prepared already from your fishmonger or frozen and thawed from the supermarket. You can also clean and prepare the squid yourself if you prefer, however this can be messy so I like to buy the tubes pre-cleaned to make this recipe much simpler.
- Plain flour – also known as all purpose flour in the US, this will form part of our crispy coating.
- Corn flour – also known as corn starch in the US. I like to use a combination of both regular and corn flour for the coating as it gives a light coating that goes crispy when deep fried, but you can use all corn flour for a gluten-free version or simply use all plain flour if that’s all you have on hand.
- Salt – you can use any fine sea salt or regular table salt for this recipe. If you want to use flaked or coarse salt you will need to adjust the quantity.
- Pepper – it’s important to use freshly cracked black pepper for the best flavour.
- Oil – as this is a deep-fried recipe so we do need to use a large quantity of vegetable oil, approx. 1 litre. You can use any natural flavoured vegetable oil such as canola oil or sunflower oil as well.
To make this salt and pepper squid, you’re going to need a sharp knife and chopping board, and a heavy based pot and slotted spoon or skimmer for deep frying.
Start by scoring the squid. This step is what’s going to make the pieces of squid curl up and have that pretty pattern and make them have a little more texture when eating.
Grab your squid tube and insert your knife into the middle and gently slice down the side so the tube opens out as one flat piece. Pat it dry with a paper towel.
Next, take your knife at a 45 degree angle and on that open inside side of the squid, make small cuts without going all the way through. Rotate your squid and do it again so you get a crisscross pattern.
From here, cut the squid into bite sized pieces and place into a large mixing bowl. Repeat this process with the remainder of the squid tubes.
In a bowl, add the plain flour, corn flour and salt and pepper and mix to combine. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the squid and toss well to combine so each piece has a light coating.
In a large heavy based pan with tall sides, heat about 1 litre of oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, fry the pieces of squid in batches, being careful not to do too many at once and overcrowd the pot. Fry the squid for approximately 2 minutes until golden brown.
You want to carefully drop the pieces of squid into the oil individually using tongs to prevent them from sticking together and ensuring that any extra flour is left in the bowl and doesn’t go into the oil as it will burn which may carry into the flavour of the squid. To prevent this, make sure to skim any extra bits from the top of the oil between batches.
Remove the pieces of salt and pepper squid from the oil using a wire skimmer or slotted spoon and place on a wire rack over a baking tray to drain off any excess oil.
Serve the salt and pepper squid immediately with a fresh green salad, some lemon wedges and a creamy garlic aioli. You can also serve it with chips on the side for a full café style meal.
If you don’t eat it all straight away, this salt and pepper squid can be reheated. My favourite way with the best results is using the air fryer as it heats quickly and preserves that light and crispy coating. About 5 minutes in a preheated air fryer is all it will take.
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can also reheat using the oven with similar results. Note that it’s not unusual for the squid to be a little tougher reheated but they will still taste delicious!
More Aussie Classics:
Salt and Pepper Squid
- 700 grams thawed squid tubes approx. 4 tubes, depending on size
- ¼ cup plain flour
- ¼ cup corn flour
- 1-1 ½ teaspoons fine salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 1-2 litres vegetable oil for deep frying
- Lemon wedges and garlic aioli for serving
- Insert your knife into the centre of the squid tube and cut down the side lengthways. Open out the tube so that you have one flat piece and pat dry with a paper towel.
- Score the squid using your knife at a 45 degree angle, making cuts across the inside of the tube in a crisscross pattern, being careful not to cut all the way through.
- Finally, cut the squid into bite size pieces and place in a bowl. Repeat with each squid tube.
- In a small bowl, combine the flours, salt and pepper. Add the flour mixture to the bowl with the squid and toss well to ensure each piece of squid is evenly coated in the mixture.
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan on medium/high heat. You want it to be about ⅓ full.
- Once the oil is hot, add the pieces of squid individually to the oil in batches, cooking for about 2 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the squid from the oil using a slotted spoon to a wire rack over a baking tray to drain any excess oil. Repeat with the remaining squid pieces.
- Serve immediately while still warm with lemon wedges and garlic aioli.
Nutritional information is provided as a guide only and is calculated using automated online tools, therefore we cannot guarantee the accuracy. We encourage you to make your own calculations based on the actual ingredients used in your recipe.