While we might have exaggerated the battle slightly, seafood lovers still often argue about squids, octopus, and calamari, especially when it comes to their similarities, differences, and which one tastes best.
All three of these forms of seafood are worthy additions to any plate, but one of the most confusing things about them is that they all technically belong to the same biological family, with all three of these animals being cephalopods.
This means that they are head footed, and lack any actual feet.
If you’ve ever been curious about the differences between these three titans of seafood, then this guide is here to help, as we’ll tackle all of the talking points about them, providing you with all of the information you need to know.
Let the battle commence!
Everything To Know About Squids
With all three of these creatures being incredibly similar, we’ll try and break the information down to help you to understand more about these delicious seafood ingredients, starting off with squids!
Squids are a form of soft-bodied mollusk, despite the lack of shell, and as we previously mentioned, are also cephalopods. These creatures are characterized by their triangular head shape, large eyes, and soft lengthy body.
Of course, these creatures also have those eight distinctive arms, plus two tentacles as well.
They’re also incredibly well-equipped to avoid predators, as they can rapidly change the color and texture of their skin to help them to blend in with their surroundings.
In addition to this, they’re also able to escape by deploying ink from their ink sac, which can confuse predators.
Squids are found in oceans all over the world, which is exactly why their meat is such a common ingredient in so many different cuisines, but we’ll discuss that in a little more detail later on.
What Parts Of The Squid Can You Eat?
When it comes to deciding which parts of the squid are edible, and which parts are inedible, it comes down to who you ask.
For the most part, the mantle (or body) of the squid, as well as its arms, tentacles, and the ink is all edible. On the other hand, the beak of the squid, its pen, and most of the other parts are all considered to be inedible.
Despite this, some cultures do eat the eyes of the squid, but most Western cultures tend to leave the eye of the squid alone.
Squid is an extremely nutritious ingredient, and it plays a major role in the Mediterranean diet, which is considered by many people, including medical practitioners, to be one of the healthiest diets of any region.
Squid can be used in many different ways, all of which depend on the country and region in which the squid is used.
Some of the most common ways to use squid include grilling the squid (either diced or whole), as well as stewing it in a sauce, battering, braising, frying, or even boiling it.
Squid isn’t just limited to one type of dish either, as it can be used as an appetizer in tapas, sushi, bar snacks, or even street food.
In addition to this, you’ll also be able to find squid in a range of different noodle and rice dishes, as well as stir-fries too.
Arguably the most popular squid dish though is fried squid, where it is often battered before being fried and is served alongside a variety of dips and sauces.
If you’re looking to try squid, then most local seafood restaurants will include it on their menu, so you’ll be able to sample the great taste of this sea creature!
Cuisines That Use Squid
As previously mentioned, squid can be found all over the world, which is exactly why they’re usually such prominent parts of most cuisines’ seafood offerings.
Two of the major cuisines that use squid the most though include the Mediterranean and East-Asian cuisine. But when it comes to the diversity of squid recipes, East-Asian cuisine comes out on top!
Throughout the likes of Korea, Japan, the Philippines, and China, squid is a popular cooking ingredient and is used in many different ways.
Marinated, dried, and then shredded squid is one of the most common ways it is consumed, and it’s often paired with a dipping sauce, such as soy sauce.
Seafood such as squid is often eaten raw in East-Asian cuisine, with things such as sashimi and sushi being especially popular dishes.
In the Philippines, squid is often cooked in adobo sauce, which is made using chilies, as well as the ink from the squid.
In the rest of the world, more and more cuisines are beginning to adopt squid into their dishes as tastes change. Countries such as Mexico, Italy, Spain, India, as well as much of the Middle East, and South Africa, are all using squid more than ever.
Even in the United States, where people’s taste buds are generally more conservative, squid is slowly seeing a rise in popularity.
People should be careful when trying squid for the first time though, as it contains tropomyosin, which for some people is a major allergen.
Is Calamari Octopus Or Squid?
Now, it’s about time that we tackled one of the most divisive topics in the seafood debate, “Is calamari octopus, or squid?”
It’s something that many people argue over, especially since when you mention one of these three seafood ingredients, the other two aren’t usually too far behind, but what is the reality behind people claiming that calamari is either octopus or squid?
The first thing we need to address is people’s connection between calamari and octopus, because aside from both being cephalopods, the two share no connection whatsoever.
Octopus meat doesn’t have anything to do with calamari, so anyone who tries to suggest this is wrong.
However, the connection between squid and calamari is an interesting one, as there are two sides to this very often heated debate about whether or not calamari is squid.
If you’ve never really thought much about this, then it’s worth having a read of each side’s argument and making your mind up!
The first argument about calamari being squid usually involves people using calamari as a type of culinary name for squid.
While other arguments suggest that calamari is a type of squid, which means that while squid is a broad term, calamari is simply more specific to that individual species.
When evaluating the biology and the classification of the two, calamari is technically the same as squid, as calamari is simply a species of squid.
It is among the 200-plus species of squid out there, which despite sharing roughly the same characteristics, all have their own differences when it comes to their size, taste, tenderness, and cost.
Some of the confusion surrounding squid and calamari comes from the Italian language. This is because the word calamari is the Italian word for squids, but is used when referring to fried squid – the most popular way of eating it in the Mediterranean.
So if you walk into a restaurant in Italy and decide to order calamari, do not be overly surprised if in return you receive fried squid.
Sometimes, the term calamari can also be used to refer to dishes that have been made using baby squid. But as a whole, most Mediterranean dishes that involve squid are referred to as calamari, so it can be rather confusing.
If you were to go to a fishmonger’s and were to ask for squid, you would usually be sold Loligo squid, Gould’s squid, or on the rare occasion, Teuthoidea.
All of these species are much more tender and better for cooking when compared to some of the larger species of squid you can find, and the same tends to go for calamari too, except calamari is a much more expensive meat to buy.
Both squid meat and calamari meat are as tender as each other, although some people will claim that they find calamari meat more tender than certain species of squid.
Thankfully, if you’re worried about the tenderness of your squid meat, you can always cook it slowly to help tenderize it.
Simmering in sauces, such as tomato sauce, is one of the most popular ways in which seafood is cooked, especially since it helps to make the meat so much more tender. While other people simply prefer to marinate their meat instead.
When it comes to cooking squid and calamari, the two can be cooked in the same ways. So whether you prefer to fry, simmer, grill, braise, boil, or sautee your squid or calamari is entirely up to you, and both taste equally delicious.
The nutritional value of calamari is inherently similar to that of squid too, with both of these meats being packed with a range of nutrients, such as Vitamins B12 and B3, as well as copper and zinc.
We hope that you’ve managed to wrap your head around all of that, because it is somewhat confusing, especially if you’re new to seafood as a whole.
However, at least the good thing is that you’ll no longer get confused between calamari and fried octopus anymore!
How Do Squid And Octopus Compare?
Now that we’ve helped to establish how calamari and squid share a connection, what about octopus?
We already know that squid and octopus are different from one another, but what are some of the major differences between them, and are there any similarities worth mentioning?
One of the key differences between octopus and squid is the inclusion of fins. While squid can be distinguished from the 2 fins found on the mantle, close to the pointed end of the squid, octopuses completely lack any fins on their mantle.
This does exclude some species though, such as the Dumbo octopus, which actually has fins.
Another one of the key differences between squid and octopuses is the amount of meat found on each one. For those who are looking for the most meat, then squid tends to be the preferred option.
As a general rule, squids are much larger than octopuses, and they also have a more elongated body too.
This is because squids have longer lifespans than octopuses do, allowing them more time to grow, and in turn, providing you with more delicious meat to enjoy!
One difference between squids and octopuses that many people fail to realize is that octopuses actually don’t have any tentacles, while squids have those two tentacles at the front of their body.
This fact confuses many people, because we’re always taught that octopuses have eight tentacles, right? Well, what many people think are tentacles are actually classified as arms.
The difference between the two appendages is that while tentacles only have suckers towards the end of their length, arms have suckers covering the entire length.
Why does this really matter outside of identifying between the two creatures? Well, tentacles are generally much meatier than arms, which makes them even more delicious!
An easy way of deducing between squid or octopus is to check the shape of their heads, as they differ greatly in shape. Octopuses have much more rounded heads, while squids have triangle shaped heads.
The head of a squid will always appear to be longer than that of an octopus too, so being able to tell them apart should be easy when you consider this.
If you consider yourself to be fairly adventurous, and plan on hunting for squid and octopus meat yourself, then it’s always worth knowing what the habitats of these two creatures are like.
If you’re looking for octopuses, then you’ll need to try and hunt around the seafloor level, as they often like to camouflage themselves amongst the terrain at the bottom of the sea.
Meanwhile squids usually prefer to hang out in open waters, which means that they’re much easier to hunt, and to purchase too!
Both octopus and squid meat offers a relatively similar nutritional value, so there’s no real benefit to picking one of the other if you’re looking for the healthiest option.
Finally, one of the biggest misconceptions you will have likely heard about squid and octopus, especially if you’ve never tried them before to know otherwise, is that they’re difficult to chew, and have a slimy texture.
If the meat is cooked properly (although it can be eaten raw), then it is not nearly as chewy as you might think!
What Does Squid Taste Like?
Describing how squid tastes to someone who’s never tried it before can be slightly difficult, especially because it’s such a hard meat to cook right, so you might be put off if you eat squid meat that has been poorly cooked.
To begin though, it’s worth acknowledging that you can eat squid raw, you can eat baby squids either cooked or raw, the roe (ripened egg masses found inside of the squid), and of course, you can eat adult squids too.
For many people, the taste of squid provides a somewhat mild flavor that is most commonly compared to shellfish.
When raw, the meat of a squid is rather chewy, and with many Asian cultures, the meat of a squid is eaten raw, so it’s worth preparing yourself for this. However, it’s not so chewy that you won’t be able to manage it though, so you should be fine.
If you dislike it raw, then it’s still worth trying it cooked, as cooking it helps to tenderize the meat, making it much more manageable.
Another one of the misconceptions about squid meat is that it has a somewhat fishy taste, which actually isn’t true at all.
And despite what some people might say, the actual taste of squid is nowhere near as weird as you might initially think, so just be sure to open your mind and savor every mouthful.
One thing to remember is that the taste of the squid can also depend on the age of the squid when it was killed.
Older squids will have a much tougher and chewier skin than younger squids will, which are known for their tender and juicy flesh, when cooked properly of course.
Before you cook and eat your squid, just be aware that it’s super important to clean your squid properly first. Not only is it for hygiene reasons, but the process of cleaning your squid can also have an affect on the taste too.
To clean the squid properly, you should be sure that you have removed the viscera, fins, skin, ink sacs, beaks, as well as the inner cartilage too.
Unless you plan on eating the squid whole, you should remove the head too, and while it’s down to you whether or not you want to eat the sexual organs and the liver, eating them isn’t usually recommended.
If you’re planning to try cooking squid at home to try, then you’ll either want to focus on cooking it incredibly slow, or incredibly fast.
If you do anything in the middle of these two methods, then you’re going to end up with rubbery squid meat that is too chewy for you to enjoy.
For the fast methods, the best way to ensure that your squid tastes good is probably deep frying, which will allow you to have your squid cooked in around three minutes.
Just remember that if you’re going to be frying your squid for eating, then they’ll definitely benefit from a batter first, for which there are plenty of recipes online.
On the other hand, if you plan on cooking your squid slowly, then we highly recommend using a gravy or tomato sauce to simmer the meat in.
Another way that squid is enjoyed, especially in East-Asian cuisine, is by drying them.
Dried shredded squid is considered to be the perfect snack or appetizer, and works especially well when paired with a beer too, which means that it’s worth a try if you’re looking for something new to bring to your game day snacking.
If you’re stuck on how to incorporate squid into some of your own dishes at home, just remember that it makes for the perfect addition to all types of dishes, including sushi, soups, stews, stir-fries, paella, and even pasta too.
What Does Octopus Taste Like?
Now that you’re familiar with the way that squid tastes, you’re probably wondering what both octopus and calamari taste like, and whether or not there is any difference between the three.
Don’t worry, as we’re going to explain everything you could want to know about the taste of these two other meats, but this shouldn’t mean that you don’t try them for yourself too!
The texture of octopus meat, much like squid meat, can be chewy when raw, but despite this, the taste itself is incredible. Once you’ve tried some for yourself, you’ll soon be able to understand why so many cuisines use it throughout their cooking.
Much like squid, people often expect to be greeted with a fishy taste when eating octopus, which simply isn’t true, as there is no fish taste at all with this meat.
The meat of an octopus has a much more subtle flavor than most people expect, and is more comparable to pork or chicken than it is to squid.
One of the best aspects about using this meat for cooking is that it’s great at absorbing the juices of whatever it’s cooked in, which means you’ll be able to create some extremely flavorful dishes with a meat that is both juicy and tender – with some people even considering octopus meat to be much more tender than squid!
When it comes to buying your octopus, you should always be sure that you choose fresh over frozen if possible, as fresh squid tends to be much healthier than frozen octopus.
Despite this, so long as the frozen octopus you choose is of good quality, then you should have no issues with matching the test of fresh octopus.
In fact, one of the biggest benefits about frozen octopus is that it tends to tenderize slightly as it thaws, which means that the meat won’t be as chewy as it usually would be.
Of course, much like squid, you should always clean your octopus before you even begin to consider how you’re going to cook it. For the most part, you can follow all of the same precautions and steps as you did when preparing your squid for cooking.
Alternatively, some fishmongers and butchers will offer you the option of a pre-killed and cleaned octopus that is ready to cook, which can certainly reduce the stress!
Much like cooking squid, you should try to aim to cook your octopus either incredibly fast, or incredibly slow.
You can also employ all of the usual methods for cooking squid when cooking octopus too, such as braising, boiling, grilling, simmering, roasting, frying, and poaching.
What Does Calamari Taste Like?
Finally, it’s time for us to take a look at what calamari tastes like. It’s not really comparable with squid or octopus, so if you’re familiar with those meats, and are expecting something similar with calamari, then prepare to be shocked!
Rather than trying to overcomplicate things, we’ll just describe exactly how calamari tastes: amazing!
The meat of calamari is a white and chewy meat, which has a firm texture too. The taste is a combination of both sweetness and nuttiness, and is also packed with nutrients, much like octopus and squid are.
Cleaning calamari is much of the same process as octopus and squid, but just to be sure, we’ll run you through it again, so you know what you’re doing when it comes to it.
Firstly, you’ll want to begin by detaching the head of the calamari, which you can do by twisting it. Usually, the innards of the calamari will come off with the head, so you won’t have to worry too much about doing it yourself.
Next, you’ll want to ensure that you remove the ink sac, before cutting off the tentacles, removing the beak (which is completely inedible), and cutting the suckers off of the arms.
Once this is done, you can take away the tail-tube cartilage, as well as the skin membrane. Finally, all you need to do is to cut the meat however you want, and then wash it with some water before cooking!
You can cook calamari in all of the same ways you cook octopus and squid, but one of the most common ways you’ll find calamari served is in calamari rings.
Making these rings at home isn’t too difficult, just be sure that you prepare a light and thin batter, which will help to make sure that the coating isn’t too bready or heavy.
Remember, fast or slow, and nothing in between!
Is It True You Can Eat The Cephalopods’ Ink?
Whether you’re preparing calamari, squid, or octopus, all three of these creatures will feature an ink gland and an ink sac. The gland is what helps to produce the ink, while the sac is what helps store it.
These animals use the inc to help distract predators attempting to hunt them, allowing them to escape.
The ink can stain badly, which is why it’s important to wear gloves when harvesting the ink from your squid/octopus/calamari. If you’re not buying a whole squid, you won’t have to worry about this though.
What many people don’t realize is that the ink from one of these creatures is actually edible, and is completely safe for consumption. That being said it is only really the ink from a squid that gets used for much in the way of cooking.
The ink brings two main characteristics to any dish: It will color the dish black (unless you’re using a particularly small amount), and it will also bring a slight briny flavor to your dish.
Many people add the ink to dishes such as risottos, pastas, and paellas. But it’s worth noting that using too much of the ink can actually ruin the dish entirely, so you should always be certain to be extra careful when using cephalopod ink in your cooking.
So there we have it, our guide to the battle between three of seafood’s biggest cephalopod titans; squid, calamari and octopus.
For some people, the idea of eating any of these creatures is way too exotic, but when you actually try well-cooked meals involving any of these meats, you’ll soon discover just what you’ve been missing out on.
We just hope that you get to try some of these meats soon. Thanks for reading!