Crispy Calamari with Fried Basil and Giardiniera Mayo


Lots of people shy away from cooking squid at home, but actually, it cooks in 3 minutes making it the quickest cooking protein option on the market! If working with calamari freaks you out, this is a great entry-level recipe to get you past your fears. It’s simple, and it’s deep fried, which means it’s pretty much guaranteed to be delicious.

Active Time: 35 Mins

Total Time: 45 min



  • 2 lemons
  • 1 handful basil leaves 


  • kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup hot giardiniera
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup medium grind cornmeal
  • Vegetable or canola oil, for frying (4 cups)


  • 1 cup buttermilk


  • ¾ lb cleaned squid tentacles and tubes

1. Soak that squid:

  • If your squid is in whole bodies and tentacles, slice the bodies crosswise into ½” rings. Add all the squid pieces to a medium bowl and pour 1 cup buttermilk over it. You can do this up to 6 hrs in advance.
  • Thinly slice half a lemon and add to buttermilk as well.

2. Make the giardiniera mayo:

  • In a small bowl, stir together ½ cup mayonnaise, ¼ cup finely chopped giardiniera (if it’s in large pieces, chop it finely before adding) and the juice of half a lemon. Season with salt and pepper.

3. Dredge and fry:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together 1 cup all purpose flour, ½ cup medium grind cornmeal, 1 teaspoon salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper.
  • To a medium pot, add enough oil to come 1 ½” up the sides. Heat over medium until it reaches 375 degrees when probed with a thermometer.
  • Line a baking sheet with a double layer of paper towels.
  • Using a slotted spoon, and working in 2 batches, add the squid, allowing the buttermilk to drip back into the bowl, into the bowl of flour and toss well to coat.
  • Carefully lower the squid and lemon into the oil (only add as much as can easily fit in a batch). Fry, moving around with a slotted spoon or spatula, until light golden brown and crisp, 2-3 minutes per batch. Transfer to the lined baking sheet and season the calamari with salt. Repeat until all of the calamari and lemons have been fried.
  • Lastly, pick a large handful of basil leaves from their stems and add to the oil (be careful, they may sputter, so stand back while they fry!). Fry 30 seconds, until the leaves stop bubbling and turn bright green (they go very quickly, I promise). Add to the calamari.

4. Serve:

  • Pile the fried calamari and basil on a serving plate, squeeze the juice of the rest of the lemon over everything and serve with giardiniera mayo and more lemon wedges alongside.

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