Salt and Pepper Squid

Squid is so often banished into a bowl of heavy batter followed by a lengthy stay in the deep fryer that most people don’t realize how fresh and healthy this cephalopod can be. Rich in protein and nutrients with a mild flavor that isn’t at all fishy, squid should be enjoyed with as little cooking interference as possible. If you always pass it by at the fish counter (understandably; the appearance can be a little intimidating), we’re hoping this easy recipe for Salt and Pepper Squid will inspire you to finally cook some at home.

The texture of squid is a bit chewy, a trait exaggerated by overcooking, which is why a quick sauté is an ideal way to prepare it. In the recipe, submitted for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook Contest, Nicola Aylin makes this simple cooking method more interesting by sprinkling the squid with Sichuan peppercorns.

Sichuan peppercorns (also spelled szechuan) are native to China and come from the prickly ash tree. Confusingly, they are not actually part of the peppercorn family, which only includes black, green and white peppercorns from pepper plants. Sichuan peppercorns do share a spice level with black peppercorns but their flavor and aroma is unique: perfumed and yet earthy, with a hint of cedar and lemon. Heating Sichuan peppercorns briefly in a hot pan brings out their flavor and aroma, which is exactly what Nicola recommends in her recipe.

Nicola also includes black peppercorns and fresh peppers in her recipe – you choose whether the fresh peppers are hot and spicy or mild bells. While the peppercorns and fresh peppers up the flavor quotient, they are not meant to overpower the dish. Use just a pinch of crushed peppercorns, as Nicola says, and only add more after tasting the squid. Although Nicola didn’t mention it, we couldn’t resist finishing the dish with a squirt of lemon to bring out the mild, slightly sweet flavor of the squid.

Served hot out of the pan for dinner or chilled for lunch the next day, Salt and Pepper Squid is delicious either way. It’s a meal that can stand alone, but Nicola likes to serve it with the Cucumber and Seaweed Salad in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook. You could also serve it over a simple bed of mixed greens.

Serves 4


  • 2 pounds squid, cleaned (most fish counters will clean it for you)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive, palm or coconut oil
  • 1 large or 2 small peppers, either a spicy variety or bell peppers if you prefer mild
  • 1 small bunch of spring onions or scallions


Many fish counters sell calamari that is already cleaned. If the body is separated from the tentacles you can buy just the body, or throw in some tentacles, too, for variety.

For this recipe, Nicola cuts along one side of each squid pouch to open it out flat. She then scores the inner side in a diamond pattern with the tip of a small, sharp knife and then cuts the squid into 2inch squares. We found that using kitchen shears to cut the squid into rings was a fast alternative.

Heat a frying pan over a high heat. Add the black peppercorns and Sichuan peppercorns and dry-roast them for a few seconds, shaking the pan now and then, until they darken slightly and become aromatic.

Tip the peppercorns into a mortar and crush coarsely with the pestle, then stir in the sea salt flakes. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, then put the peppercorns between two sheets of parchment paper and whack and roll over them with a rolling pin until crushed.

Heat a wok or a large, heavy frying pan over high heat until smoking. Add half the oil and half the squid and stir-fry it for 2 minutes, until lightly colored. Scoop onto a plate, then cook the remaining squid in the same way.

Return the first batch of squid to the wok with the second batch and add 1 teaspoon of the salt and pepper mixture (the rest can be saved for other recipes).

Stir together for about 10 seconds, then add the fresh peppers and onions and saute another few minutes.

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31 thoughts on “Salt and Pepper Squid”

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  1. One year ago today I possibly would have puked over the idea over eating squid. And, looking at the pic would have made it worse.

    But, as soon as I get my hands on some squid I know exactly how I am going to make it. So, where do I find quality squid?

    I just looked up the nutritional profile of squid on nutrition data and noticed that the omega 6 to omega 3 fatty acid ratio is 2 to 1 in favor of omega 6. Great ratio.


    Salmon is 2 to .1 in favor of O3… Just saying…

    Nonetheless, I cant wait to get my hands on squid – it just might be a while!

  2. Yummy! I learned to love squid when I stayed with some family in Greece a few years ago. Sauteed squid, stuffed squid, grilled squid… come to think of it, I was unknowingly pretty primal that summer. Well, except for all the ouzo of course =)

  3. Local family-owned (Greek) bar/steakhouse favorite watering hole has a recipe just like this with hot peppers. I get it regularly. Delicious.

  4. I suspect this will be one of the least commented posts of all time on MDA. Ick.

  5. Oh my, one of my all time favourite dishes from a fantastic Singaporean restaurant near Brisbane was salt and pepper squid. I shall look forward to trying to make it at home!

  6. This looks absolutely amazing. I wonder where we can find squid in Utah?

  7. It’s usually in the frozen fish cabinet, frozen in a square box or you can buy the calamari rings.
    Looks ick, tastes delish.

  8. Coming from a Portuguese family, and after a lifetime of working in restaurants, we have eaten our fair share of squid, octopus, shrimp and shellfish, etc…usually in a fairly spicy sauce with lots of butter and garlic…yum..and peppers! (and little spicy olives, too)
    After developing an allergy to fish(?!) in my mid twenties…I try to incorporate as much SHELLFISH as I can for the Omega 3’s…I know, it’s
    I still do not regularly enjoy a cold seafood salad..maybe this will do it! Looks Yum!

  9. BTW if you can get your hands on it fresh or whole, you need to remove the “ink sac” or you will stain everything on you and your work surface a deep purple/midnight blue/black..this ink is used by many cultures as a dye…for a reason. As a kid in one restaurant I worked in, this was one of my jobs..remove the ink sac…intact, then seperate the body (tube), cut into rings, tenticles, etc. So delicious fresh. Mostly sold “cleaned” now I think, (no ink sac) but look for it fresh if you can find it. It is worth slipping out the sac yourself!

  10. I tell ya Mark, your website and all these great recipes has reinvigorated my passion for health and fitness. Things I never thought I would try, I now find myself loving! Go primal!

  11. Where do you get fresh squid? Not at my local grocery store. Or do you buy it frozen?

    1. A lot of the Asian grocery stores near me have a dedicated seafood section, maybe try your luck at one of those if there’s one in the area?

  12. I tried this recipe last night, and it was wonderful using ghee for the oil. I bought the wild caught squid at Whole Foods for $6.99 lb. It was neither fishy nor rubbery, but it was chewy. I tried Sichuan peppercorns for the first time which I loved. Wow, what a simple recipe.

  13. We cooked and ate a lot of squid in Uruguay. I had never tasted it without being fried before spending time there.

    We called them chipirones. A delicious dish is Chipirones Lionesa. I’m not sure if there is any one recipe for this dish, but what I had at one restaurant seemed to be a simple butter garlic sauce.

  14. Just made this for dinner tonight. It was awesome! Both my fiancée and I loved it (and I usually don’t like grilled calamari). It was pretty easy and quick to make as well, I found.

    We used chili peppers and I put a little too much though. It was really spicy.

    It was my first time eating szechuan peppercorn. It had a very interesting aroma (good kind of interesting).

    I bought the calamari frozen from chinatown.

  15. Ok I need some help. I cannot find the sichuan peppercorns anywhere where I live, including the asian markets. I already went and bought all the other ingredients, only to find out after two days of searching that I cant find the peppercorns. Does anyone know of a good substitute that I can use.

  16. I have made it without them, it is still yummy as long as you don’t overcook the squid.
    You can change the flavour by using garlic and maybe a squeeze of lemon.

  17. Odd you could not find the peppercorns, I just checked my bag and they are called “sichun peppercorns” on the bag.

  18. Thanks nicola. Yeah. It’s hard to find some thing around here. But I’ll give it a try without and I’ll just order some online for next time!

  19. Thanks for the lovely recipe.Looking forward to trying it. I’m going to Portugal tomorrow and I’m very excited about all the great seafood there.
    If I come across some great recipes, I will share it with the Grok’s.

  20. I’ve made this recipe several times now and I love it! Thanks for posting it. Used the pepper mix this evening to make a quick chicken, cabbage, courgette, onion, and pepper stir fry. Delicious and addictive.

  21. Made this last night and it was awesome! But cleaning whole squid was a huge pain, haha. I wonder what the nutritional content of the innards are? I felt bad throwing it away.

  22. This may not be the best place to ask about this, but I want some reviews on a local business that’s located near me in Tampa but can’t seem to find enough feedback. I only need a simple AC service.They are named – Castellano Air Conditioning, 2206 1/2 N Armenia Ave, Tampa, Fl 33607-3414 -(813)877-6997