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What is the difference between squid and calamari?

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Squid, calamari and cuttlefish are closely related cephalopod molluscs found in virtually all of the world’s oceans. They range from the very small to huge, deepwater inhabitants such as the giant squid (though deepwater species aren’t suitable to eat as they taste strongly of ammonia!).

Cuttlefish differ from squid and cuttlefish in having an internal ‘cuttlebone’. Calamaris have longer fins than the squids. There are many species of each, though.

Squid is cheaper and tougher; calamari is more tender and expensive. Squid is generally Nototodarus gouldi, also known as Gould’s squid, but a species named Teuthoidea is also targeted. Calamari come from the genus Sepioteuthis. You can see the word “sepia” in the name, which refers to their ink.

You can tell squid from calamari by the fins that form an arrow shape on the end of the squid’s hood. The fins of calamari extend almost all the way down the hood.

You can make squid as tender as calamari by marinating it with kiwi fruit. Try buying smaller squid, chopping up their fins and tentacles and stuffing these back into the hood with breadcrumbs and slowly cooking in a tomato and garlic sauce. The slow cooking tenderises the squid’s flesh.

Preparation & Cooking:

  • Nearly all parts of squid, calamari and cuttlefish are edible, including the bodies (known as ‘hoods’ ‘tubes’ or ‘mantles’), fins (or ‘wings’), tentacles and the ink, which can be used to colour and flavour rice or pasta dishes. See Spaghetti al nero di seppia (squid ink spaghetti).
  • Generally, cuttlefish are the most flavoursome of the three and calamari flesh is more tender then that of squids. squid, cuttlefish and calamari can be used interchangeably.
  • The rules for cooking of squid, cuttlefish and calamari are all the same – they require either a short cooking time on a high heat (such as frying, deepfrying, grilling or BBQ’ing) or a long slow cook on a low heat (usually with a wet method such as a braise). Anything in between will result in a tough product. Scoring the flesh will allow heat to penetrate quickly and evenly, aiding cooking and resulting in tender eating qualities.
  • The flesh of these species pick up flavours well and so are suited to marinating.
  • The shape of the ‘tubes’ make them suited to stuffing.
  • Very fresh specimens can be eaten raw or marinated in citrus for a ceviche.


  • Calamari has long triangular flaps on both sides of the body. Squid has pointed flaps which are smaller, at the narrow end of the body.
  • Squids are larger in size than Calamaris.
  • Calamari has side fins running along the whole length of the body on both the sides. In squids, the side fins are found only for a shorter length of the body on both the sides.
  • Calamari flesh is tenderer than that of squid.
  • Squid is best for stuffing and stewing, while Calamari is best for frying, stir frying, and grilling dishes.
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