Rhode Island-style calamari is battered in a flour mixture, deep-fried to crispy perfection, then tossed with butter, garlic, cherry pepper, and pepperoncini.
Rhode Island style calamari
Every time my dad took me out for dinner, he’d order his classic seltzer water (are you even from Boston if this isn’t the primary way you hydrate?!), and our favorite- Rhode Island-style calamari- with extra hot peppers.
We’d devour it right off the serving platter after squeezing a bunch of lemon juice over those crispy tentacles. I’d always search for the extra crispy tentacle pieces and take a bite of a cherry pepper at the same time. YUM.
Calamari (Italian for “squid”) is deep-fried squid, but Rhode Island-style calamari is deep-fried squid tossed in butter, garlic, and hot peppers. It’s typically served with lemon wedges and sometimes with marinara sauce.
I am confident I have tried calamari at every single restaurant I have ever eaten at that offers it. I love trying different variations of calamari, but Rhode Island style calamari remains my all time favorite. Probably because it teeter totters on the verge of Italian cuisine.
You are going to love this recipe. The calamari is first battered in a spiced flour mixture, then deep fried until it’s crispy and golden. In a separate pan, butter is first melted, then the garlic and hot peppers are sautèd in the melted butter.
Once all the squid is deep fried (since you’ll have to work in batches), toss it in the melted butter mixture. Makes sure the calamari is nicely coated in the mixture, because butter makes everything better.
Lastly, you can pick what to serve it with! I like to dunk my calamari in marinara sauce, but first, I squeeze a bunch of lemon over it. You can serve this Rhode Island style calamari with arugula, herbs like basil or parsley, or just reguar!
Rhode Island calamari ingredients
- Squid– You can buy a whole squid if you are feeling adventurous and don’t mind cleaning and chopping it up, but I like to buy the cleaned and cut pieces from the seafood department at my grocery store.
- Egg– The squid will be dipped in egg first before it’s coated in the batter. This will provide extra flavor and make the calamari even crispier!
- Flour mixture– All-purpose flour mixed with cornstarch (makes the batter extra crispy), garlic powder, cayenne powder, and a dash of salt is a perfect combo for the batter.
- Butter– Salted butter is melted first to sautè the hot peppers and garlic in…soooo yummy.
- Hot peppers– Cherry peppers and pepperoncini are used to make this dish a little spicy, the classic way to eat Rhode Island-style calamari!
- Garlic– Sauteeing the garlic in the melted butter really elevates this dish!
- Frying oil– You can use canola, vegetable, safflower oil, or any oil you prefer to fry with.
Where to buy calamari rings and tentacles
You can buy fresh or frozen calamari rings and tentacles for this recipe. I have made this recipe with both fresh and frozen and both are very delicious.
Fresh calamari (never frozen) is more tender when it is deep fried compared to frozen calamari. Frozen calamari can get a little chewy, but chances are you’ve been served previously frozen calamari at 90% of restaurants and lived to tell the tale. Still delicious.
You can find squid rings and tentacles in most grocery stores that have a seafood department. You can certainly purchase a whole squid if you are up to the task of cleaning it and chopping it into rings.
Don’t overcook the calamari
This is a fast moving dish, so don’t leave the stove once you start frying! Since frying oil temperatures are high (at least 350 degrees), the calamari only takes 1-2 minutes to cook. Any more time than that and you will have dry, rubbery, super chewy calamari.
Make it your own
You can serve this Rhode Island style calamari with a few traditional fixings. You can serve calamari on a bed of lettuce or arugula for presentation and addition flavors.
Lemon wedges are commonly served on the side of calamari since lemon goes great with just about any kind of sea food. Surprisingly, the lemon juice pairs perfectly with my next recommendation, marinara sauce.
Marinara sauce is perfect for dunking deep fried Rhode Island style calamari in. The tomato and basil based sauce goes great with the buttery, garlicy hot pepper mixture and let’s be real here- anything is enhanced with a good sauce. Mexicans know this the best!
The verdict is in! I took one for the team and ate lots and lots of calamari using different methods to provide you with the crispiest, most tender calamari recipe.
First, I tried dunking the calamari in buttermilk, then a flour and cornstarch mixture. The coating ended up crispy at first, but lost it’s crisp as it cooled. Ok, back to the drawing board.
I then tried to dunk the calamari in Red’s Hot Sauce first (I really do put that shizzzz on everything) and then in the flour/cornstarch mixture. The batter fell off a bit in the frying pot and got a bit sloppy. Next idea.
This time, I skipped the dunking and just put the calamari rings right in to flour mixture. The coating ended up super thin and provided little crunch. Not a fan.
I added cornstarch to the flour and cornstarch mixture. I dunked the calamari in the buttermilk, then in the flour/cornstarch/cornmeal mixture. The coating was super crispy but came away from the calamari.
Lastly, I ditched the buttermilk and tried an egg. I dunked the calamari in egg, then in the flour/cornstarch/cornmeal mixture, and fried it. The coating stuck right onto the calamari and it was super crispy! Winner winner,
chicken calamari dinner!
Keeping the calamari crispy
Although the butter, garlic, and banana peppers is a super delicious addition, it can make the calamari less crispy because the butter will soak the coating.
If you would like to keep the calamari totally crispy, you can skip this step and add the banana peppers when you plate the calamari.
How to make deep fried Rhode Island style calamari
- Prepare the frying oil. Pour 3 inches of oil into a heavy bottom pot or a dutch oven. Heat the oil on medium heat until it reaches between 350-375 degrees.
- Batter the squid. If the squid if frozen, defrost it according to package instructions. Pour the buttermilk into a bowl. Mix the all-purpose flour, garlic powder, cornstarch, cornmeal, cayenne, and salt in a separate bowl. Work in batches as you dunk the squid first in the buttermilk, then in the flour mixture. Shake off excess buttermilk or flour.
- Deep fry the calamari. Place the calamari in the frying oil and cook each batch for 1-2 minutes. You will have to work in batches to make sure you don’t overcrowd the pan or lower the frying oil temperature too much. Once the calamari is done cooking, scoop out with a slotted spoon and place it on a paper towel-lined plate to help absorb the excess oil.
- Sauté the garlic and peppers. Melt the butter over medium heat in a pan. Sautè the chopped garlic and cherry peppers and/or pepperoncini for 2-5 minutes until fragrant. Reduce the heat to low to keep the mixture warm while the squid is cooking.
- Combine the butter and calamari. Place the calamari in the same pan as the butter mixture, and stir gently to evenly coat the calamari bits in the butter.
- Serve. Plate the calamari with lemon wedges, fresh herbs, and a side of marinara sauce for the real deal Rhode Island experience. Mangia!
What to serve with Rhode Island style calamari
- You can whip up a marinara sauce in 5 minutes for the perfect dipping sauce!
- Crab stuffed manicotti with homemade alfredo sauce is an easy Italian- American dinner that is hearty, creamy, and packed with cheesy deliciousness!
- These Italian sausage and shrimp kabobs are grilled to perfection and are so easy to make! Talk about the best BBQ recipe out there!
- Roasted Italian vegetables with creamy parmesan polenta is a delicious vegetarian meal that is healthy, filling, and packed with flavor!
- Italian lemon orzo salad is made with juicy cherry tomatoes, fresh herbs, orzo pasta, and more! This is a perfect 15-minute meal!
Rhode Island-Style Calamari
- Dutch oven or heavy bottom frying pot
- 2 medium sized bowls
- 1 lb calamari
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/2 cup corn meal
- 1/4 cup cornstarch
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 large eggs
- 5 tbsp salted butter
- 1 cup sliced banana/pepperoncini/cherry pepper rings
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- frying oil
- Heat 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottom pan over medium heat until the oil reaches 375 degrees.
- Whisk the eggs in a bowl and set to the side. Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, cornstarch, cayenne, garlic powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Dunk the calamari in the egg and shake off the excess. Dunk the calamari in the flour mixture, then shake off the excess. Place the calamari on a plate as you work through it.
- Place a handful of calamari rings in the frying oil at a time. Allow the calamari to cook for 1-2 minutes on each side, until it's lightly browned. Remove the calamari with a slotted spoon, then plate on a paper towel lined plate.
- In a separate pan, melt the butter over medium heat. Sautè the garlic and pepper rings until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Once all the calamari is fried, toss the calamari in the pan with the butter mixture and coat evenly.
- Serve the calamari with marinara sauce, lemon wedges, and fresh herbs like basil or parsley. Mangia!
Nutrition values are estimates, for exact values consult a nutritionist.
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