I was living in Atlanta the first time I had calamari tacos. I pretty much had a mouthgasm and my mind was blown. I had just about everything you could think of nestled into a warm pillowy tortilla…but fried calamari just sent me over the edge (the good edge, not the bad one). I had made my own variation of this delectable little thing many, many times. Sharing it was always a goal, but now I finally got around to it. If you want to saute your squid instead of frying it, please be my guest. Just know that you’re missing out on a really phenomenal texture — the crunch of the tender squid with the crisp bite of the slaw, encased in that soft, tender tortilla. I ate these hours ago and now I want a few more. The fiancé and I killed these.
Calamari Taco Tips
Calamari tacos come together very, very quickly. Squid is one of the fastest cooking proteins, so I implore you to get all your ducks in a row for this recipe. Make the slaw first! It’ll need time to chill in the fridge for at least a half hour anyway. Mix your dredge second, set it to the side. Right before you fry your squid, heat your oil and toast your tortillas. If you have an open flame, I recommend you heat them over a low fire. You could also use a non-stick skillet over medium-heat to warm them. Wrap them in foil and keep them in a warm 200-degree oven. Fry and salt your squid last, then immediately start building your tacos. You want the calamari to be HOT in the tortilla against the cool crisp slaw — again, it’s a texture thing. If you don’t like corn tortillas, you can use flour (but see notes in recipe).
Serve with hot sauce (I recommend Tapatio), lots of lime wedges, cold creamy avocado, and extra cilantro.
Enjoy these. They’re fun, easy, fast, and delicious.
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Crispy, tender calamari tacos with sweet chili slaw, creamy avocado chunks, fresh lime juice, and fresh cilantro on warm and toasty corn tortillas.
For the calamari
- 1 pound calamari (tubes and tentacles), cleaned and thawed
- 2 egg whites, whipped until foamy
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1 cup cornstarch
- 1/4 cup corn meal (optional)
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
Corn or flour tortillas, lime wedges, hot sauce, extra cilantro, and avocado for serving
Canola or vegetable oil for frying, about an inch+ deep
For the slaw
- 1 small head (about 4 cups) cabbage, thinly sliced
- 1 large carrot, julienned
- 1 cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 2 jalapeños, diced small
- 1 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped (stems included)
- 1/3 cup sweet chili sauce
- 1/2 cup Japanese mayo (Kewpie), regular mayo is fine
- 1/2 cup rice wine vinegar, plus more if needed
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon crushed red chili flakes
- generous pinch of kosher salt and black pepper
Make the slaw first. Place cabbage, carrots, red onion, jalapeños, and cilantro in a large bowl. In a large measuring cup or small bowl, combine the sweet chili sauce, Japanese mayo, rice wine vinegar, sugar, and whisk to combine. Adjust consistency if needed by adding a little more rice wine vinegar. It should be creamy and pourable, but not watery. Pour the sauce on the veggies, and toss to combine. It’ll start to wilt within minutes, but still stay crisp. Cover with plastic wrap and keep it cold until ready to use.
Heat your oven to 200-degrees, or the “Warm” setting.
Vigorously whisk two large egg whites until foamy. Pour the egg white foam all over the cleaned and well-drained calamari, tossing to evenly coat. Working in batches, toss a few pieces of the squid in the flour mix, and make sure each piece is coated evenly. When finished, place the coated pieces on a large plate or baking sheet.
Keep the squid cold in the fridge while you heat your oil to 375-degrees (use a wide shallow pot or skillet).
While the oil is heating, warm your tortillas over a medium-low flame, or in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until slightly blistered and charred around the edges. Keep the tortillas warm by tightly wrapping them in aluminum foil, and placing them in the warm oven until ready to use.
When oil has reached proper frying temperature, gently fry 10-15 pieces of squid at a time for about 2 to 3 minutes or until lightly golden. Drain on a baking rack or paper towels, and immediately sprinkle a little sea salt on them while they’re still hot. Make sure your oil stays at 375-degrees, and continue frying the rest of your squid in batches.
Remove the tortillas from the oven, and the slaw from your fridge. Immediately build your tacos, placing a generous amount of hot crispy squid on the bottom, the slaw on top, and creamy avocado chunks. Feel free to add extra cilantro, and be sure to douse them with lots of fresh lime juice and hot sauce.
If using flour tortillas, be sure to wrap them in a damp paper towel prior to wrapping them in foil to keep them from drying out. Feel free to use homemade tortillas.
Keywords: tacos, appetizers, calamari, calamari tacos, squid
Chef Resha is an accomplished self-taught private chef, home cook, public figure, and recipe developer based in the DC Metro area. Creator and owner of CarnalDish — an incredibly delicious and renowned website full of sinful comfort food recipes made with love. CarnalDish has been featured on Good Morning Washington, Ebony magazine, Essence, Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, Newport, The Dr. Oz Show, and many more notable publications.