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Calamari with Ancho Chile Mayo

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Making calamari at home can be a fun thing to do with family or friends. It is a popular appetizer on restaurant menus and even kids love it. Making calamari gluten free is easy using different flours. This recipe uses two flours I already have in my kitchen, corn flour and masa harina (the flour used to make corn tortillas).

But making it gluten free isn’t the hard part. For those of us who live far from the ocean squid just isn’t the first thing you think of when serving an appetizer at home. So you need to know where and how to buy it. Then how to cook it (trust me, it’s easy). And lastly you need to be comfortable deep frying which means having some kind of a set up.

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How to Buy Calamari

Squid are found worldwide and fried squid in popular in many coastal cultures around the world. Calamari is the Italian word for squid, but it also refers to a specific type of squid. Calamari is said to be the most tender species of squid.

I had great fun gutting, cleaning and preparing whole squid at the Sydney Seafood School this summer. But that was enough fun. To cook calamari I buy frozen, cleaned squid tubes. They are sold at seafood shops and many grocery stores. Plan ahead and get them into your freezer.

Thaw and slice into rings. That’s it.

Cooking Calamari

There are two ways to cook squid; quickly on high heat or low and slow. Deep-frying is the quick method. Pre-soaking the rings in milk before cooking is one way to get nice tender calamari so plan accordingly.

Deep Frying in a Wok

I deep fry without a deep fryer. Many years ago I created a set up using my wok and I still do it that way. A simple flat bottom wok is excellent for all sorts of Asian cooking but it is also perfect for deep-frying. In my house the wok lives in the cupboard above the fridge. I couldn’t live without it.

A wok gets wider as it goes up so requires less oil than a frying pan or large pot. My wok came with a long handled strainer but a slotted spoon also works to turn and remove food from the oil. A deep frying thermometer is inexpensive, easily clips onto the rim of the wok and is a helpful little tool for occasional use.

After you enjoyed the calamari the oil will have cooled enough to put it away. Set a 4-cup pyrex measuring cup in your sink making it easier to pour the oil into it. Set a strainer over the measuring cup to strain out the food bits. At this point leave the oil in the cup until completely cooled before pouring it back into the jug it came in. With a marker label the container for DEEP FRYING and store it for another use.

Deep-frying isn’t a daunting task if you have a good system for storage. I use the same oil a few times over several months before I throw it away. 

Let me know in the comments below if you make this deep-fried calamari and how it turned out.


4 frozen squid tubes, thawed and sliced into ½” rings
½ cup milk
½ cup corn flour
½ cup masa harina
oil for deep-frying
FINISHING – coconut, lime salt and ancho chile mayo
¼ cup toasted coconut (optional)
2 Tbsp sea salt
zest of 1 lime
½ cup mayonnaise
1 Tbsp lime juice
½ tsp ancho chile powder
salt to taste
GARNISH – lime wedges


Place squid rings in a shallow bowl and pour milk on top. Cover and refrigerate for 3 hours.
In another shallow bowl combine flours and set aside.
COCONUT - If using, toast coconut in 350°F oven for 5 minutes. Set aside.
In a small serving dish combine salt and lime. Set aside.
Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Transfer to small serving dish for dipping. Set aside.
Heat oil in deep-fryer or wok to 350°F. Line a plate with paper towel.
Remove the squid from the milk and place it in the bowl with the flours. Toss until evenly coated. Shake off excess flour.
Carefully put squid in the oil in small batches so it is submerged in the oil. Cook for 3-4 minutes until golden. Gently transfer to a plate.
Allow oil to come back up to 350°F and continue until all the calamari is cooked.
Transfer calamari to a serving platter. Sprinkle with lime salt and coconut. Serve Ancho Chile Mayo and additional Lime Salt on the side.


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