It doesn't get much better than perfectly cooked calamari with a crispy flavorful coating dipped into delicious marinara sauce, and these air fryer calamari are certainly worth making!
If you love the deep-fried version, you will be amazed at how similar these are to what you would get at your favorite local restaurant and there is no deep frying involved.
These air fryer fried calamari served with your favorite dipping sauce make a delicious appetizer and they can be made in advance and frozen for a quick snack. They take just a few minutes to air fry from frozen and they are absolutely perfect!
I tested this recipe in many different styles of air fryers and they all turned out great, but a few styles of air fryers did require some temperature and timing adjustments, which I will go over later in the article so that you can make them perfectly the first time in whatever air fryer you have!
Kitchen Tools Recommended for Air Fryer Calamari
- Air Fryer
- Shallow Bowls for Breading
Ingredients & Substitutions
Since this is a recipe for calamari, there really isn't a substitution for it. However, if you would like to use shrimp, you can follow this recipe: Air Fryer Fried Shrimp
You can use frozen or fresh calamari if you are lucky enough to live where fresh calamari is available. You can use both the squid rings and the tentacles if you like, but I only used the rings in this recipe because that is what I can find frozen near me. You might also see them referenced as calamari tubes.
I use a combination of all-purpose flour, egg, and water with just a touch of salt in my wet mixture that the calamari gets dipped into before breading it.
I don't see any reason you can't use a gluten-free flour that is designed to replace all-purpose flour in a 1:1 ratio.
You could also skip the flour and use some xanthan gum or guar gum to thicken the water and egg mixture so it resembles a loose pancake batter.
I would combine the xanthan or guar gum with the egg because it mixes well with fats and won't clump. Start off with just ½ teaspoon of either of the thickening agents because a little goes a long way.
Once the thickener is mixed in with the egg, slowly add in the cold water until the consistency is like a loose pancake batter. You may not need all the water or you may need more.
I found that a mixture of regular plain bread crumbs and panko bread crumbs worked best in this recipe. I don't recommend using all panko bread crumbs because they don't cover the calamari rings as well. The difference between regular bread crumbs and panko breadcrumbs is the type of bread used and the coarseness of the grind. Panko is made from white bread and is much coarser than bread crumbs you buy in the store. If you want to make your own bread crumbs, process it until it is fine like cornmeal.
You can use all bread crumbs in this recipe and skip the panko if you can't find it at your grocery store. I always use plain bread crumbs because I like to add my own seasonings, but you can use the Italian seasoned bread crumbs and adjust your seasonings as needed.
How you season your dry breading is completely up to you and how you want to serve the air fryer calamari. For example, if you want to serve it with homemade cocktail sauce, I would consider adding some Old Bay seasoning to the dry mixture instead of the Italian seasonings I used.
You can also make spicy air fryer calamari by adding either crushed red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper to the breading.
You could even make a garlic parmesan version by adding garlic powder or granulated garlic and some shredded parmesan cheese to the breading mixture and then serve them with a garlic aioli.
You can use gluten-free bread crumbs and panko or you can change up the coating by crushing up fried pork rinds and using that instead. I have not tested the recipe with pork rinds, but I have done it in other recipes and it worked just fine.
I'm not a huge fan of them, though; so I much prefer to do a low-carb "breading" with nuts and you can use the ingredients as I use in my air fryer parmesan chicken recipe.
Tips for Making Air Fryer Calamari
- Allow the calamari to thaw completely in the refrigerator
- Pat the calamari rings dry with paper towels
- Air fry in a single layer
- Be generous with spritzing with oil for the best crunch and flavor
- Preheat the air fryer on its hottest setting for a full 10 minutes with the cooking surface inside the air fryer
How to Make Air Fryer Calamari
Mise En Place (Prep)
- Thaw the frozen calamari in the bag in the fridge, this can take up to 24 hours.
- Place the thawed calamari on a tray lined with paper towels to dry them while you get the wet batter and dry breading made up.
- Measure out all of your ingredients.
If you are in a hurry to thaw the calamari, place them in a colander and thaw in the sink under cold running water. Toss them around several times and they should be completely thawed in about 15 minutes. Don't forget to dry them!
In a (affiliate link)shallow bowl or tray, combine the large egg and water. Whisk until combined. I only season with about ⅛ teaspoon of fine-grind sea salt or kosher salt, but you could add additional spices if desired.
Add in the flour and using a fork, combine flour with the wet ingredients until the mixture is the consistency of a thin pancake batter. You can add more water or flour to achieve this consistency.
In a separate bowl combine the panko and bread crumbs. Add the seasonings and mix together.
If you are going to air fry the calamari right away, you can preheat your air fryer now and make sure you have the basket or cooking tray inside the air fryer when you preheat. I like to preheat at the hottest setting for a full 10 minutes.
Battering the Calamari
Once you have your breading station set up and the calamari is patted dry with paper towels, it's time to get them battered up.
Place calamari rings into the wet batter and toss to coat. In the picture below, I am only showing one go into the wet batter, but you can do multiple which is what I usually do.
Once the ring is coated, lift it up with a fork and allow the excess to drip off. Place the calamari into the dry breading mixture.
Spoon over the dry breading to completely coat the calamari. While you can put the dry breading into a bag and toss the calamari around, I found that they didn't get coated evenly because the rings like to stick together.
Once coated with the dry breading, remove and place on a rack or tray.
Repeat for the rest of the calamari and I do this in small batches and not one at a time to speed things up.
Air Frying the Calamari
Once the air fryer is preheated, spritz the tray or basket of the air fryer with the oil of your choice. I like to use a neutral oil like avocado oil, but you can use olive oil if you prefer.
Place the breaded calamari in a single layer and spritz the top with oil. Air fry on 400℉/200℃ for 5-7 minutes.
If you have a large calamari ring and a small one, you can place the small one inside the larger one to save space in your air fryer.
Check on them at about 3-4 minutes into the air frying time and flip if needed. If you see any dry breading, spritz it with oil. Continue air frying for another 1-2 minutes. Feel free to taste one and see if the calamari and breading are cooked the way you like them.
I usually cook them for another 1-2 minutes after flipping.
Once they are golden brown, remove them from the air fryer and place on a cooling rack. It's best to let them cool for a few minutes and you want air flow underneath so a (affiliate link)cooling rack is best or something that allows good air flow.
They crisp up more as they cool and if they are allowed to cool on a solid surface they can steam underneath and get soggy.
The calamari are perfectly cooked when they have a firm, but tender texture and they are not chewy. They are slightly chewy when undercooked or overcooked.
You may have to cook the calamari in batches depending on the size of your air fryer and if you want to serve them all at the same time and have them be warm, I suggest only cooking them for about 4 minutes and then remove and do the next batch. Once all the calamari have been cooked for 4 minutes, place them all into the air fryer and heat them at 400°F for about 2 minutes.
Serve with your favorite dipping sauce! Mine happens to be my Quick and Easy Marinara Sauce!
Settings for Various Air Fryers
Different brands and styles of air fryers do cook differently, but I found that most of the ones I tested this recipe in worked great at 400℉/200℃ for 6 minutes, flipping at the 4-minute mark.
Here are the different air fryers I tested the recipe in and the times and temperatures that worked best for me. You may want to cook just one of the calamari rings the first time to see if these settings work for your air fryer and if they don't, you can make adjustments for the full batch.
If you don't have a Ninja brand air fryer you can still use the recommendations below as a guide. For example, if you have a drawer-style air fryer use the Ninja Foodi Dual drawer instructions. If you have an oven-style air fryer, use the Ninja Foodi XL oven instructions.
- Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper 6.5 qt: Air Fry (Air Crisp) at 400℉/200℉ for 4 minutes and flip. Air Fry for 2 minutes and remove to cool.
- Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooker & Air Crisper 8 qt: Air Fry (Air Crisp) at 400℉/200℉ for 4 minutes and flip. Air Fry for 2-3 minutes and remove to cool. The calamari is a little further away from the heating element so going an additional minute may be necessary.
- Ninja Foodi XL Air Fryer Oven: Preheat on 450℉/230℃ for a full 10 minutes with crisping rack in the oven. Air Fry on 450℉/230℃ for 6 minutes. No need to flip.
- Ninja Foodi Indoor XL Grill (would be the same with the Woodfire Outdoor Grill): Air Fry (Air Crisp) at 400℉/200℉ for 4 minutes and flip. Air Fry for 2 minutes and remove to cool.
- Ninja Speedi: Place the rack in the low position and preheat on 400℉/200℃ for a full 10 minutes. Air Fry the calamari on 400℉/200℃ for 6 minutes, flipping after 4 minutes.
- Ninja Combi: Place the rack into the rectangular container and place on the lower level. Preheat on 400℉/200℃ for 10 minutes. Air Fry on 400℉/200℃ for 4 minutes. No need to flip. Remove and cool.
- Ninja Dual Drawer Air Fryer: Preheat on 425℉/220℃ for 10 minutes. Air Fry Calamari on 425℉/220℃ for 5-6 minutes. Flip after 3-4 minutes.
Storage, Freezing & Reheating Instructions
Making the Calamari Ahead of Time & Freezing
There are two ways to freeze the breaded calamari; before air frying them and after air frying them. I prefer freezing them raw after breading and find they cook up in just minutes from frozen. Reheating already air-fried calamari does work, but I found them to be just a touch rubbery when reheated.
It is perfectly safe to thaw seafood in the refrigerator, bread it and refreeze it. For food safety you just want to make sure it is kept at 40℉/4℃ for thawing and that you bread and freeze it within 60 minutes.
Freezing and Cooking Frozen Calamari
Once the calamari is breaded, place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray. Freeze for several hours and then you can transfer them to a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for 3-6 months.
You can also spritz the breaded calamari on both sides with oil before freezing which helps to prevent ice crystals and eliminates the need for spritzing when you cook them.
Air Frying Frozen Raw Calamari
Preheat the air fryer at 400℉/200℃ for 10 minutes with the basket or cooking surface in the air fryer. Place the frozen calamari in the basket and air fry at 350℉/175℃ for 8-10 minutes. Flip after 4-5 minutes. If you didn't spritz with oil before freezing make sure to spritz both sides of the calamari with oil.
How to Freeze and Reheat Leftover Cooked Calamari
After the calamari is completely cool, place them in a freezer bag and freezer for up to 6 months.
When you want to reheat them preheat your air fryer on 400℉/200℃ for a full 10 minutes. Air Fry on 400F/200℃ for 5 minutes. You can put more than a single layer in the air fryer basket and toss them around 1-2 times during the air frying process.
Frequently Asked Questions
Calamari is a little rubbery when it is undercooked or overcooked. When it is perfectly cooked it should be firm, but tender and not chewy at all.
Yes, absolutely. If you want to cut the recipe in half, I would still make up the entire batch of wet ingredients, but you can cut the dry breading mixture in half. The cook time is the same.
To make a double batch, you can keep the wet ingredients the same, but you would want to make 2 separate batches of the dry breading. I don't recommend making a double batch all at once unless you mix it all up in a different bowl and add it to the shallow bowl half at a time.
This is because as you dip the calamari into the wet batter and then into the dry mixture some of the wet mixture gets into the dry mixture and it clumps. If you try to do a whole pound of calamari with the same dry breading it would be very clumpy towards the end of the breading process and the results won't be as good.
Absolutely not. You may notice a bit of an ocean smell which is completely normal, but if it has a strong fishy odor I would throw it away.
The flavor of calamari is very mild and it takes on the flavor of what you cook it in.
Air Fryer Seafood Recipes!
I love using my air fryer to make my favorite deep-fried seafood recipes without having the fuss of all the oil and cleanup. Here are a few favorites.
Air Fryer Calamari Recipe
- Air Fryer
- 1 large egg
- ½ cup cold water
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ⅛ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ cup fine bread crumbs
- ½ cup panko bread crumbs
- ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 8 ounces calamari rings thawed
- oil for spritzing
- lemon wedges for serving
- marinara sauce for dipping
- Thaw and pat dry the calamari with paper towels.
Breading the Calamari
- In a shallow container whisk the egg and water togehter. Add a pinch of salt and then add in the flour. Mix until combined.1 large egg, ½ cup cold water, ½ cup all purpose flour, ⅛ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt
- In a second bowl combine the bread crumbs, panko, and seasoning. Stir to combine.½ cup fine bread crumbs, ½ cup panko bread crumbs, ½ teaspoon fine grind sea salt or kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper, ½ teaspoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon oregano, ½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Dip the calamari into the wet batter to coat and remove with a fork. Allow the excess to drip off and then place in the container with bread crumbs. Using a spoon, spoon over the dry bread crumbs to completely coat the calamari. Once coated, remove and place on a cooling rack while you finish the rest.8 ounces calamari rings, oil for spritzing
Air Frying the Calamari
- Preheat the air fryer with the basket or cooking surface inside the air fryer so it gets hot on 400℉/200℃ for a full 10 minutes. Spritz the cooking surface with oil and place the calamari in a single layer. Spritz the top of the breaded calamari and air fryer on 400℉/200℃ for 4 minutes. Flip and If you see any dry looking bread crumbs, spritz with oil again. Air fry an additional 1-2 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove and place the finished calamari on a cooling rack. Repeat if you need to do several batches. *see recipe notes for tips
- Serve with your favorite dipping sauce and garnish with lemon wedges if desired. Enjoy!lemon wedges for serving, marinara sauce
Freezing and Cooking Frozen CalamariOnce the calamari is breaded, spritz them on both sides with oil. Place them in a single layer on a parchment-lined tray. Freeze for several hours and then transfer them to a freezer bag and store them in the freezer for 3-6 months. When you are ready to cook them, preheat the air fryer at 400℉/200℃ for 10 minutes with the basket or cooking surface in the air fryer. Place the frozen calamari in the basket and air fry at 350℉/175℃ for 8-10 minutes. Flip after 4-5 minutes.
Freeze and Reheat Leftover Cooked CalamariAfter the calamari is completely cool, place them in a freezer bag and freeze for up to 6 months. When you want to reheat them preheat your air fryer on 400℉/200℃ for a full 10 minutes. Air Fry on 400F/200℃ for 5 minutes. You can put more than a single layer in the air fryer basket and toss them around 1-2 times during the air frying process.
ABOUT THE RECIPE AUTHOR, LOUISE LONG
Louise is a full-time recipe creator and food blogger @ The Salted Pepper. She has over 30 years of experience with cooking and recipe development. She owned a restaurant for several years and was a full-time RN until retiring to blog full-time.
She published her first cookbook in the Fall of 2018 and is very interested in writing several more.
Louise is also the creator of an online Ninja Foodi Pressure Cooking Course with over 100 instructional step-by-step videos. People absolutely rave about the course and all the value they have received from it.
Louise has several very active Facebook groups that help people with the basics of cooking and getting the most out of the Ninja Foodi.
Louise is also a YouTube creator and you can find most of her recipes in video format on The Salted Pepper YouTube channel.
She is very responsive to messages and eager to help in any way she can. Get more Information about Louise & contact information
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