Is Calamari Squid or Octopus

calamari served with lemon, fries and sauceWe hope you’ll agree with us when we say:

 Differentiating between Squid and Octopus is hard. 

That being said, we will be letting you know whether Calamari is a squid or octopus. Many people are confused about the difference found between a squid and an octopus. So we will be taking a look at what unique features are possessed by both the squid and octopus. Furthermore, we have also included some guides on how to cook calamari, what it tastes and looks like, and the history behind this famous dish. So without any further ado, let’s find out what Calamari actually is.

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Difference Between Squid And Octopus:

To find out what Calamari really is, we must first examine the difference between a squid and an octopus is. After all, it is a species of one of the two and to identify what family our Calamari belongs to, we must look at what both the animals possess in terms of taste, look, and other important characteristics.


squids on a cutting boardA squid has only one main part in its whole body that keeps it alive. This is called the mantle. The mantle has two fins projecting from it; one on each side. When we talk about its skin, it has a really unique texture which is covered with chromatophores that allow it to hunt and hide in the ocean and allow it to change colors. The squid species is averagely found to be 12 inches (30 cm). When comparing this body size to an octopus, this seems extremely small and fragile.

Visually, the squid and octopus differ in many aspects. A squid has a large head and fairly small tentacles (when compared to its head). This allows it to move around easily by means of jet propulsion. Meaning they suck water and then release it with pressure using their narrow siphon. Octopuses use the same technique to move around, but squids seem to use their fins to propel themselves as well.

In terms of taste, squid ranges from rubbery to mild. It mostly depends on how you cook it. If it is made over medium heat, it provides a soothing taste that is not overpowering at all and resembles the taste of a lobster or shrimp. And if it is over-cooked, it slides to a rubbery flavor which definitely robs it of its unique taste but gives it more chew and flavor.


deep fried octopus served on skewersWhen it comes to its flavor, an octopus has a tender outside similar to that of a chicken or pork. It is a low-calorie dish with lots of nutrients and fillings. Octopuses have been described to be full of vitamins and high in iron amount.

Most people like to prepare their octopus in boiled water and then bake it. Other methods include a grilling and poaching process but are recommended only to experienced chefs. Octopuses are usually eaten as a side dish with other ingredients that enhance their flavor, so it is preferred to be eaten raw in many parts of the world.

Observably, Octopuses appear to be the exact opposite of a squid. They have a small head and longer tentacles that make them grow to about 12 in–36 in (30 cm–90 cm). But, if they are overgrown and live up to their average age of 5 years, they can even grow to around 4.3 feet (1.3 m)!

Similar to squids, octopuses also use jet propulsion to move around in the waters but seem to have no fins attached to their bodies.

History Of Calamari:

Firstly, let’s take a look at the history of Calamari and where it comes from to better answer the question of is calamari squid or octopus. Calamari, also known as squid in Italian, originates from the Mediterranean. After being invented, the dish which was advertised as a popular deep-fried fish was quickly picked up by thousands of North Americans who savored the dish in 1975. Over the years, the dish has experienced various changes, with the most common one being that it is now made from European squid. Now it is made by battering and deep-frying the squid and seasoning it with lemon and parsley to add a sweet but elegant taste.

Is Calamari Squid or Octopus?

Now that we know everything we need to to look at what Calamari actually is, let’s take a look at the dish called Calamari and its Characteristics:

Although it is quite common for people to confuse and mix up the two, Calamari is actually made from a type of squid. Though both squid and octopus differ in taste, it is hard to distinguish when you are eating one or the other. One simple way you can examine which of the two you are eating is to check what the meat is served with. Most restaurants serve Calamari or squid with a side of Calamari rings. These Calamari rings originate from the squid’s head that is known to be empty from the inside. Creating a ring around the surface that is later served as a side with Calamari.

calamari rings served with ketchupAnother way you can differentiate an octopus from calamari is to take a look at how your meat is cooked. Calamari is usually tougher and harder in comparison to an octopus but it still manages to have a silky smooth texture with a tender and mild flavor if cooked right. Calamari can easily soak up the juices like butter and grease when being cooked hence achieving this tender taste. To prepare Calamari, a number of cooking methods have been adopted by thousands of different cooks with the most popular being braising, boiling, searing, and grilling.

The key to all these cooking methods is either to go extremely fast with a hot surface or extremely slow with low heat. The medium heat doesn’t really work for Calamari and often leaves it tough and rough.

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What Kind Of Squid Is Calamari?

Calamari is a type of squid, but what is this type called? When you go to a restaurant and order squid, you typically receive a Nototodarus Gouldi, also known as Gould’s squid. But Calamari is a different beast. Calamari comes from a squid species called Genus Sepioteuthis which is much softer and more expensive than the Nototodarus Gouldi.

What Does Calamari Taste Like?

Calamari has a unique taste not found in any other squid or octopus dishes. Calamari meat is known to be extremely tender and sometimes chewy depending on how it is cooked. The taste itself can be described as mild and not overpowering. Some preparation methods also provide a slightly sweet taste. You cannot really understand Calamari’s taste unless you understand the sauces it is cooked with as it absorbs the spices it is previously marinated in.

What Does Calamari Look Like?

Calamari is essentially a type of squid. So like most squids, Calamari typically has a smooth texture with a large headpiece and small tentacles making it out to be around 30 cms. Here is an image of a cooked Calamari for you to examine what Calamari looks like:

Calamari dish with sauce

What is Fried Octopus Called?

A question arises of what a fried octopus is called if it is not Calamari. The truth is, in many parts o the world, fried octopus is referred to as Calamari because of the lack of information. In other areas such as professional restaurants, fried octopus is just referred to as “fried octopus” and no external names are used.

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