Northern Calamari

Sepioteuthis lessoniana

Other names: Calamari, calamary, squid, tiger squid.

Family: Loliginidae (calamaries, inshore squids).


Available wild-caught, these marine cephalopods have thick, dark browny-green bodies with long side fins running almost their full length, 8 shorter arms and 2 longer tentacles. They are commonly found in nearshore coastal waters around Australia’s northern coast from northern NSW to south of Shark Bay in WA; they also occur on offshore reefs to at least 100m. They tend to gather near the seabed during the day and spread out at night throughout the water, coming to the surface to feed. They are mainly caught by jigging (using lights to attract them to the water’s surface at night), but are also a bycatch of Prawn trawling and inshore net fisheries off northern Australia. ‘Calamari’ is the Italian word for ‘squids’, but it also refers to those species of squids whose side fins run the full length of their bodies as opposed to those with relatively shorter side fins.

Season: Available year round with peak supplies from Queensland during winter.

Size and Weight: Average 500g-1kg and 20-30cm mantle length, but can grow to almost 2kg and 42cm.

Price: Medium priced.


Californian squid, loligo squid, luminous bay squid, southern calamari.

To Buy:

When purchasing fresh whole calamari look for intact bright skin, with a light brown to purple mottled appearance, intact head, arms and tentacles and a pleasant fresh sea smell. Cleaned tubes should be white without any brown markings.

To Store:

Make sure calamari is gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

To Cook:

To clean whole calamari: grasp the arms and pull firmly to separate head from tube (try not to break the ink sac, as the ink stains), cut below the eyes and discard head and guts, push beak (mouth) out from between the arms. Remove quill, peel skin off by grasping side fins and peeling around the tube. Side fins can be peeled and used; arms and tentacles can also be washed and used. If cutting tube into rings, wash inside well to remove any remaining gut, otherwise, cut tube open along the obvious seam, lay out flat and wipe the inside clean with a clean cloth. Slice into strips, or score in a hatch pattern (called ‘honeycombing’) and slice into larger chunks. It is also possible to cook calamari without peeling it, the skin will turn a dark purple as it cooks. Average yield is 80%. It has a mild, subtle flavour, low-medium oiliness, and is dry with firm texture, which can be tough if poorly prepared, though it is often more tender than most squids. The flesh is translucent when raw and white when cooked.

Cooking Methods:

Steam, poach, deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, bake, braise, grill, barbecue, raw (sashimi). To be tender, calamari must be cooked very quickly over high heat or very slowly over low heat. The flesh of the mantle, fins, arms and tentacles is suitable for a wide variety of preparations, whole tubes can be stuffed and baked, strips or rings can be dusted in seasoned flour and deep-fried or marinated and char-grilled or stir-fried. The ink can be used to flavour and colour risotto or pasta (though cuttlefish ink is traditionally used).

Goes well with:

Black beans, capers, capsicum, chilli, fresh herbs, garlic, ginger, green onions, lemongrass, lemon, lime, mushrooms, olive oil, olives, potato, salad leaves, soy sauce, tomato.


Other calamari, squids, cuttlefish and, in some recipes, octopus.


Various species of calamari are imported whole, as frozen tubes and pre-sliced rings.


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