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This hot and crispy homemade air fryer calamari with salt and pepper flavoring is the appetizer you need. Perfect for when you’re entertaining family or friends.
Whenever I’m having friends or family over for dinner, I know I need an appetizer that will keep everyone happy until we’re ready to eat. That’s why I love making easy, fresh, homemade air fryer calamari!
This hot and crispy starter is irresistibly tasty, and everyone is always so impressed when I say I made it from scratch. They have no idea how easy it is!
Just marinate, add a quick breading, then let the air fryer handle the rest.
Here’s what I’m going to teach you in this post:
- How to make the best salt and pepper calamari in the air fryer
- The easy way to tenderize calamari so it doesn’t turn out tough
- My favorite brand and method for making air fryer frozen calamari
The most dangerous part about this appetizer is not getting too full before dinner. It’s just so tempting to keep reaching for one more!
Either way, you can be sure your guests are going to be talking about your homemade fried calamari for a long time.
I made this recipe using the 5.8 QT Cosori Air Fryer. Its square basket makes it the perfect size for our family of 4.
How to Make Air Fryer Calamari
A full printable version of this recipe with ingredient measurements is available at the bottom of this post.
STEP ONE: Place the raw calamari rings in a bowl with lemon juice. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, then drain in a colander.
STEP TWO: Add the flour and garlic powder to a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and milk together. In a third bowl, combine the panko, salt, and pepper.
STEP THREE: Coat the calamari rings first in flour, then in the egg mixture, and finally in the panko mixture. I like to use a fork to dip the raw calamari to make it easier and less messy.
STEP FOUR: Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
STEP FIVE: Place the breaded calamari rings in the basket of the air fryer in a single layer so that none are overlapping, working in batches if needed. Spray the tops with nonstick cooking spray.
STEP SIX: Air fry for 4 minutes. Flip the air fryer calamari, spray, and fry for 3 minutes longer until the calamari is opaque inside and fully cooked.
Serve with your favorite sauce and enjoy! I love to use Frank’s Sweet Chili Sauce for dipping.
Love seafood? Try these other 35 Air Fryer Seafood Recipes that include everything from shrimp to crab cakes!
Are Calamari and Squid the Same?
Not exactly. Calamari is a type of squid, which is where the confusion can come from. Specifically, calamari is more tender than other types of squid. It’s also usually more expensive.
Grilled squid is often made with calamari as well. But I think it’s safe to say that fried calamari is what this type of squid is best known for.
How Do You Tenderize Calamari Before Frying?
I recommend letting the raw calamari rings marinate in lemon juice for at least 30 minutes. This will ensure they turn out nice and tender after they’ve been air fried!
How Long Does Calamari Take to Cook in an Air Fryer?
For this recipe, I find that cooking the calamari for four minutes on one side and three minutes on the other is the perfect amount of time. You don’t want to overcook calamari or you could risk it turning out rubbery.
Why is My Fried Calamari Tough?
Two main culprits can cause tough calamari. First, it could be that the calamari rings didn’t marinate in the lemon juice for long enough for them to tenderize.
Second, it could be that they were overcooked, so you’ll simply want to reduce the cooking time in the future.
How to Store Leftover Air Fryer Calamari
Any leftover calamari should be stored in a shallow airtight container and placed in the refrigerator right away.
It will stay fresh for up to four days!
Other Appetizers to Serve with This Air Fryer Calamari Recipe
- Air Fryer Avocado Fries with Sriracha-Ranch Dip
- Air Fryer Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Jalapenos with Cream Cheese
- Air Fryer Crab Cakes
- Air Fryer Potato Chips
- Crispy Air Fryer Frozen Popcorn Shrimp
- Air Fryer Garlic Bread
How to Cook Frozen Calamari in the Air Fryer
I almost always have a bag of SeaPak calamari on hand, although you can use any brand of frozen breaded calamari you prefer. Here’s how I make this crowd-pleasing appetizer right out of the freezer:
Note: These directions are for freshly frozen calamari, but frozen prepacked ones will cook the same. Just start at step 5!
- Place the calamari squid rings in a bowl with lemon juice. Allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes, then drain in a colander.
- Add the flour and garlic powder to a shallow bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites and milk together. In a third bowl, combine the panko, salt, and pepper.
- Coat the calamari rings first in flour, then in the egg mixture, and finally in the panko mixture.
- Place the calamari in a freezer-safe plastic zipper bag and store it in the freezer until ready to eat.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F for 5 minutes.
- Place the calamari rings in the basket of the air fryer so that none are overlapping, working in batches if needed. Spray the tops with nonstick cooking spray.
- Air fry for 6 minutes. Flip the rings, spray, and fry for 4 minutes longer until opaque inside and fully cooked.
How to Reheat Calamari in the Air Fryer
- Place the leftover calamari rings in the basket of the air fryer so that none are overlapping, working in batches if needed. Spray the tops with nonstick cooking spray.
- Air fry for 5 minutes at 400 degrees F until heated through.
Other Air Fryer Seafood Recipes You’ll Love:
- Air Fryer Scallops
- Air Fryer Shrimp with Lemon and Pepper
- Air Fryer Tilapia
- Air Fryer Mahi Mahi
- Air Fryer Tuna Steaks
- 1 pound calamari rings, patted dry
- 1 lemon, juiced (3 tablespoons lemon juice)
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 egg whites
- ¼ cup milk
- 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper
- Sweet chili sauce
- Lemon wedges
- Place the squid rings in a bowl with lemon juice and allow to marinate for at least 30 minutes. Drain in a colander.
- Place flour and garlic powder in a shallow bowl. Whisk egg whites and milk together in a separate bowl. Combine the panko breadcrumbs, salt, and pepper in a third bowl.
- Coat the calamari rings first in flour, then in egg mixture, and finally in the panko breadcrumb mixture.
- Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F.
- Place rings in the basket of the air fryer so that none are overlapping. Work in batches if needed. Spray the tops with nonstick cooking spray.
- Cook for 4 minutes. Flip rings, spray with a little oil, and cook for an additional 3 minutes (7 minutes total) longer until opaque inside and fully cooked.
How to Reheat Calamari in the Air Fryer:
1. Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees.
2. Place calamari rings in the basket and cook for 5 minutes, until warmed thoroughly.
How to Make Frozen Calamari in the Air Fryer:
1. Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees.
2. Place the frozen calamari rings in the air fryer and cook for 10 minutes, flipping them about halfway through cooking, until warmed completely.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 591Total Fat: 15gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 154mgSodium: 1104mgCarbohydrates: 87gFiber: 5gSugar: 7gProtein: 26g
This nutrition information is based on the exact products I used in this recipe. Brands and sizes of products could alter exact nutrition and should always be calculated independently.