Is Calamari Octopus or Squid

An American favorite appetizer especially during the summer months, Calamari has a chewy texture, but the way it’s prepared can create a multitude of different flavors, meaning there’s no single way to explain what it tastes like but it looks like a mix of an Octopus and a Squid and if you ask anyone they most likely don’t know. Is Calamari Octopus or Squid?

Calamari, which is an Italian word meaning “squid served as food” should be made from squid alone, with the main types being Longfin Squid, Shortfin Squid, & California Squid but experts say most likely it’s a mixture of several types of cephalopods including Squid & cousins Octopuses & Cuttlefish.

Calamari is a favorite appetizer for many seafood lovers like myself. It also has a huge worldwide market appeal and is sustainable seafood and a staple for surf fishermen on the eastern coast who use frozen bait.

What Is Calamari Made Of


Calamari in the Italian language is the word for squid. “what is calamari” on Google, the definition given is “squid served as food.”  Its rise traces back to the Mediterranean, including France, Greece, and Spain. Then around the mid-70s, it finds its way to restaurants in America as an appetizer.

The meat is firm and white with a mild, slightly sweet, almost nutty flavor. Small fried squid are often firm and chewy, but they should not be rubbery. Fried calamari usually gets served with a garlicky aioli or a marinara sauce for dipping, and in any preparation, squid readily takes on the flavor of the dish.

In the U.S., it is synonymous with a popular way that squid is prepared and fried. Calamari is made from Squid.  Normally here in America, it’s battered and fried and served in pepper and lemon.

When most people think of Calamari, their mind usually goes to squid. In an interview for Newsweek Magazine Carmen Gonzales-Valles who is  Market Engagement Director and Squid expert at a nonprofit organization, the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership finds out aid the word calamari can actually include other species, too.

“When we use the name of Calamari, we can be mixing different kinds of cephalopods. So sometimes we just have a final product that is done from several cephalopods, which could be octopus, squid, or cuttlefish. And they can call it calamari,” she said.

Calamari, however, is supposed to be squid alone, she said.

Squid is considered tougher meat than octopus and both are available year-round. Squid swim and live in schools with other Squid again making them more abundant and available for the lovers of this seafood. Octopuses are lone wolfs preferring to go it on their own.

Cuttlefish is another strange-looking type of Octopus. The more than 120 different species of cuttlefish are usually solitary animals and can be found in oceans all around the world. While most live in shallow waters, some species can be found at depths of more than 3,000 feet.



Squid Vs Octopus


Most people think Squid and Octopus are the same creatures.  Well sorta, they are cousins. Calamari is squid, and squid and octopus are both types of cephalopods. Both belong to the group cephalopods a group of marine mollusks that include squid, octopus, nautilus, and snails. 

Both are symmetrical in shape and have no vertebrae, along with their big heads and arm-like tentacles that extend from their bodies. There are nearly 300 species of squids and 300 species of octopus in the global ocean.

Squids generally live in the open ocean water, while octopuses live directly on the seafloor, usually in dark crevices. Both live in saltwater from the tropics to more temperate zones.

Octopuses will diet on crustaceans while Squid will eat shrimp and tiny fish available in the surrounding water. Octopuses have eight arms covered in suckers while Squids have eight arms along with two tentacles used to catch fish and shrimp in open-ocean waters.

Octopus has blue blood because it uses a copper-rich protein to transport oxygen. This helps explain why they need three hearts. One heart pumps blood around the body while the other 2 hearts pump their blood past the gills to pick up oxygen.


Where Does Calamari Come From


Illustration of illex squid commonly known as shortfin squid.
      Shortfin Squid
       Longfin Squid

 Calamari was generally not considered super healthy food to eat when you look at the basics. It has a high-fat content with high levels of sodium and cholesterol but is a favorite for many seafood lovers like myself. It still holds up as a nutritional appetizer before a meal. Squid is a vital source of protein, high vitamin, and mineral content, and healthy fats.

Calamari comes from the global Squid market from all parts of the world which are an $11.6 Billion dollar Industry. Squid is harvested for its high nutritional content and imported by the United States, Europe, China, Japan, and small southeast Asian nations.

                California Market Squid


Frozen squid is popular in southern European markets such as Spain which is the largest exporter of Squid in the world and Italy and its popularity has increased over the last few years.

According to Carmen Gonzales-Valles, Director of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, there are different types of Squid that are harvested by fisheries.

  • Shortfin squid, are found in the shelf waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, at depths between 150 to 275 meters.
  • Longfin squid is common between Cape Hatteras and Georges Bank in North Carolina.
  • California market squid, which is abundant in the seas off of Baja and Monterey Bay, California.

In the U.S., when combined these three squids accounted for $86.7 million in total commercial landings, according to the NOAA Fisheries commercial fishing landings database.


New Jersey Blue Crab Season

How to Prepare Calamari


Squid has long been on the menu for many other cultures across the globe particularly in the Mediterranean region, Southern Europe, and East Asia. In the US, however, the squid was primarily used as bait until the mid-1970s, when popular fish like cod and flounder became more scarce.

As a result, fishermen began selling squid to local markets, and chefs began exploring cooking with it and using it for appetizers Calamari has become a favorite and can be found alongside clams and scallops as bar food or appetizers before the main meal in restaurants across the USA.

Fresh Calamari can be found at most fish markets, and in some cases, in the seafood section at your local grocery store. You can purchase the squid whole if you’d like to clean it yourself or use the squid ink to add flavor while cooking it.

  • Cleaning the squid is important for eliminating all the parts that are inedible: the beak, cuttlebone, entrails, and skin.
  • Freezing it actually helps break down the muscle fibers, making it more tender after cooking
  • Fresh Calamari should be kept cold and eaten within 48 hours
  • Cooked calamari can last in the fridge for two to three days when stored in a zip-top plastic bag, and frozen calamari will last for up to two months.



I use frozen Squid for Surf Fishing Striped Bass on the Jersey Shore. It stays on the hook and the fish find it delicious. I really like Calaramari with lemon pepper and a cold beer and when it’s cooked right this Surf Fisherman finds it delicious too!

I don’t cook so you’ll have to watch the video.



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JimGalloway Author/Editor



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