‘Lulas fritas’ (Portuguese for ‘fried calamari’) are deliciously seasoned, perfectly crispy, and served with banana peppers, sliced black olives, fresh lemon and cilantro. The dipping sauce is a combination of butter and hot sauce, and adds the perfect kick to this delicious fried calamari recipe.
This fried calamari recipe is inspired by the ‘Lulas Fritas’ recipe at Riviera Restaurant in East Providence, Rhode Island. This Portuguese style fried calamari is a little bit of a departure from the typical Italian-style of fried calamari that Rhode Island is famous for. What I love about Riviera’s lulas fritas is the crispy, non-greasy texture and the seasoned coating. The olives and banana peppers also add a nice touch!
What kind of squid should I use?
For this fried calamari recipe, I keep it very simple and buy frozen squid rings. They’re conveniently located in the frozen seafood section at my local supermarket. Yes I live in New England, but have absolutely zero qualms about using frozen squid rings.
By all means, please don’t let my pursuit of convenience stop you from cleaning and slicing a fresh squid! If that’s what you want to do then go for it! A quick search on Youtube will show you how to properly get the job done.
Should I tenderize the squid rings?
Some people swear by tenderizing squid. My belief is that you shouldn’t have to. I’ve tried 2 methods of tenderizing squid: 1. soaking it in buttermilk and 2. coating it baking powder. I didn’t care for either method. The baking soda left a metallic taste and the flour coating didn’t stick well when I used buttermilk.
You have to realize that calamari is chewy, it just is. When I hear people complain about the texture, it makes me wonder if perhaps calamari just isn’t their thing. With that said there is a difference between rubbery and chewy.
Rubberiness is often caused by over-cooking. Calamari should not be fried for more than a minute or two. As long as you don’t overcook it, you should have no issues with texture.
Recipe ingredients – Portuguese style fried calamari
- 1 pound of frozen calamari rings, defrosted
- ¾ cups of all-purpose flour
- ¾ cups of cornstarch
- 4 teaspoons of paprika
- 2 teaspoons of kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons of onion powder
- 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon of black pepper
- 1 packet of sazón con azafran (sazón is optional, but if you opt to use it get the one with saffron – yellow box)
- 2 eggs
- 5 cups of canola or peanut oil
Sauce ingredients and garnishes:
- 2 tablespoons of salted or unsalted butter
- ⅔ cup of louisiana-style hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons of vinho verde (Portuguese white wine), or any non-sweet white wine
- a few drops of fresh lemon juice
- banana peppers, sliced black olives, cilantro and a few lemon wedges for garnishing
Tips and tricks for the crispiest fried calamari:
- Use high-quality frying oil with a high smoke point – canola and peanut oil are great choices.
- Make sure the oil is HOT and keep it hot! Heat the oil to 425°F and use a thermometer to measure the temperature. If you guess on the temperature, you’ll probably end up with soggy calamari. Keep the flame high throughout the entire process and make sure that the temperature doesn’t drop below 400°F.
- Fry the calamari in small batches. This is important because the more calamari you add to the pan, the more the temperature will drop. If you notice that the temperature drops, bring it back up again before adding your next batch of calamari.
- Use a metal cooling rack to drain the calamari. I find that placing the calamari right directly on paper towels creates sogginess.
- Work quickly! Not to stress you out, but the longer the calamari sits before serving, the soggier it will become. Make sure to serve the calamari right away.
- Using a deep-fryer yields the best results because you can cook more at once and maintain a steady temperature.
- You can always stick the calamari in a hot oven right before serving, to crisp them up. 400 degrees should do the trick.
To be quite clear, I have zero insight into how Riviera Restaurant breads or seasons their calamari. This adapted fried calamari recipe relies completely on my tastebuds, intuition and a lot of trial and error! In fact, I almost ditched this effort completely because of how soggy my first few attempts were! The tips and tricks above work!
Step 1: Make the sauce ahead of time
Melt the butter in a very small saucepan and slowly add the white wine and a few drops of fresh-squeezed lemon. Let the alcohol cook off for about 1-2 minutes and then whisk in the hot sauce. As soon as the hot sauce starts to simmer, turn the flame off from under the pan.
Set the hot sauce aside until the calamari is ready to be served. You can re-heat the sauce slightly before serving, but don’t overcook it or the ingredients will separate.
Step 2: Rinse and drain the squid rings
Rinse the squid rings, drain, and set them aside until you’re ready to use them. There’s no need to pat dry if you drain the rings properly.
Step 3: Pre-heat the oil
Preheat the oil to 425°F in a deep pan or dutch oven. Make sure to use a kitchen thermometer to get the oil to the correct temperature. This step takes a while so you can proceed to the next steps while the oil comes to temperature.
Steps 4 and 5: Prepare the coating and egg wash
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and sazón. Set the seasoned flour mixture aside.
In a separate small bowl, create an egg wash by beating the eggs.
Step 6: Bread the calamari
One by one, dip each of the squid rings into the egg wash, and then into the seasoned flour. Set the dredged squid rings on a plate (space them apart and don’t set them on top of each other). You may need to use 2 plates so you have enough room.
Step 7: Fry the calamari in small batches
Once the oil reaches 425°F you’ll want to work in batches of about 5-6 rings at at a time. Give the squid rings another coating of flour (don’t dip them in egg again!) Shake them off gently and drop them in oil for about 1 minute or until golden in color.
Make sure to keep the flame on high at all times and monitor the oil so it doesn’t drop below 400°F. Maintaining a hot oil temperature is what keeps the calamari from getting greasy and soggy.
Step 8: Drain the calamari
Transfer the fried calamari to a metal cooling rack to drain the oil. Make sure to drain the calamari in a single layer. Don’t pile the rings on top of each other, as this will cause them to get soggy. If you want to keep the calamari in a warm oven while you finish the other batches, that’ll help prevent it from getting cold.
A cooling rack is highly recommended to keep the breading crispy. Placing the calamari directly on paper towels may cause it to become soggy.
Step 9: Garnish and serve!
Arrange the fried calamari rings on a plate or serving platter. Garnish with fresh cilantro, and a few lemon wedges. Serve the hot sauce, banana peppers and sliced olives on the side.
Check out my other seafood recipes!
Portuguese Style Fried Calamari Recipe - Lulas Fritas
- 1 pound frozen calamari rings defrosted
- ¾ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cups cornstarch
- 4 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 packet sazon con azafran optional
- 2 eggs
- 5 cups canola or peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons salted butter
- ⅔ cup hot sauce
- 2 tablespoons vinho verde or any non-sweet white wine
- a few drops of fresh lemon juice
- Make the sauce by melting the butter in a very small saucepan and slowly adding the white wine and a few drops of lemon juice. Let the alcohol from the wine cook off for about 1-2 minutes and then whisk in the hot sauce. As soon as the hot sauce starts to simmer, turn the flame off from under the pan.
- Rinse the squid rings and drain them. Set aside until you're ready to use them. No need to pat dry.
- In a deep skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil over a high flame. You'll want the oil to reach 425°F, which will take a while, so proceed to the next step while the oil is heating.
- In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornstarch, paprika, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, black pepper and sazon.
- In a separate small bowl, create an egg wash by beating the eggs. Set them aside.
- One by one, dip each of the squid rings into the egg wash, and then into the flour. Set the dredged squid rings on a plate (space them apart and don't set them on top of each other). You may need to use 2 large plates to fit them all.
- Once the oil reaches 425°F, you'll want to work in small batches of about 5-6 rings at at a time. Give the squid rings another coating of flour (don't dip them in egg again!) Shake them off gently, drop them in the oil and fry them for 1 minute or until they turn golden-orange in color.
- Transfer the fried calamari to a metal cooling rack to drain the oil. Make sure to drain the calamari in a single layer. aDon't pile the rings on top of each other!
- Once you've fried all of the calamari, arrange them on a plate or serving platter and garnish with fresh cilantro, lemon wedges, sliced olives and banana peppers. Serve the sauce on the side.