Trader Joe’s Crispy Battered Calamari Review

Trader Joe’s is the beloved oasis for the adventurous yet time-strapped gourmet! In their latest feat of freezer aisle alchemy, they present us with the Frozen Crispy Battered Calamari. Promising a quick trip from freezer to table, it beckons with the allure of easy, pseudo-seaside dining. But does it truly deliver the crispy, tentacled delight of a beachside shack, or is it just another soggy impostor clamoring for our culinary affection? Let’s dive into the breaded abyss and see if we can fish out any redeeming qualities in this cephalopod concoction.

Every once in a while Trader Joe’s throws us a curve ball and gives us something totally unexpected! I have been expecting more Korean food since the Kimbap thing blew up. We got Jumeokbap as a follow up and it was a giant hit and we also got two types of Bulgogi and they are still selling like hotcakes or whatever hotcakes they sell in Korea, but you get my point. There are trends and frozen Asian food is hot at Trader Joe’s right now.

Trader Joe's crispy battered calamari squid back of bag
Trader Joe’s crispy battered calamari squid back of bag

What I didn’t expect is frozen, deep fried squid… I mean calamari in Italian… That is to make it sound upscale. Like you are living in Naples and the fisherman just brought back his haul of squid and they deep fried it right at the dock…

I’ll be upfront and tell you it’s is extremely hard to deep fry and freeze seafood, especially shrimp and squid because it tends to turn into little rubberbands when you reheat it and I expect no less from this product and would be surprised if it is tender and crunchy all at the same time, but we shall proceed…

Trader Joe's frozen crispy battered calamari
Trader Joe’s frozen crispy battered calamari

What’s in the Bag

The title of the product tells you pretty much everything you need to know. It’s squid. If you read the description on the Trader Joe’s website, they will tell you it’s squid rings and tentacles and the breading is made up of flour, oil, and spices.

There is a full 16oz of product in the bag, and it costs $5.49, which isn’t too bad for a full pound of “crispy battered calamari” because if you wanted a pound of deep fried calamari at a nice restaurant, I’m sure it would set you back at least $20 so this is a deal just for what it is no matter how it tastes.

Each serving size is about 3 ounces making that about five servings per bag but watch out those three ounces pack 240 calories per serving and if you are dipping them in a sauce… I just want to say the calories can add up quickly.

How to Cook the Calamari

Trader Joe’s only offers two ways to cook it on the back of the bag. Air Fryer and conventional oven. (As an aside, I always assumed that Trader Joe’s listed the ways to cook a product in order of preference, but this is the first time I can remember seeing the words “PREFERRED METHOD” list.)

This calamari begs to be cooked in an air fryer. They are cheap and easy to use, so get one if you don’t have one already. I did the air fryer method for this review. Here is the cooking instructions.



AIR FRYER (PREFERRED METHOD): Place calamari in a single layer and air fry at 375°5 for 7 minutes, turning halfway through: Cook until internal temperature reaches 145°F,

CONVENTIONAL OVEN: Preheat oven to 400°5.

Place calamari in a single layer on a parchment. lined sheet pan. Place sheet pan on the center rack of the oven and bake for 12 minutes, turning halfway through. Cook until internal temperature reaches 145°F.




Different Ways To Eat

Just dipping these in sauce is fun and good for a party but if you want to make a full meal out of Trader Joe’s calamari, I typed out a couple of ideas off the top of my head.

Calamari Tacos: Warm some soft corn tortillas, and fill them with sliced calamari. Top with a fresh slaw of cabbage, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime. Drizzle with a chipotle mayo or avocado crema for a zesty touch.

Mediterranean Calamari Salad: Toss the calamari with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, olives, and feta cheese. Dress it lightly with olive oil and lemon juice for a refreshing Mediterranean-inspired salad.

Calamari Po’ Boy Sandwich: Load a soft hoagie roll with crispy calamari and dress it up with shredded lettuce, tomatoes, and a tangy remoulade sauce. This gives a delightful crunch and is perfect for a quick lunch.

Calamari Caesar Salad: Lightly toss the crispy calamari into a classic Caesar salad made with romaine lettuce, shaved Parmesan cheese, and croutons. Drizzle with Caesar dressing and a squeeze of lemon for an extra tangy kick. This twist on the traditional Caesar salad brings a delightful seafood crunch that pairs wonderfully with the creamy dressing and crisp lettuce.

Asian-style Calamari Stir Fry: Quickly stir-fry the calamari with vegetables like bell peppers, snow peas, and carrots. Toss in some soy sauce, sesame oil, and a hint of ginger and garlic for an Asian twist. Serve over rice or noodles for a complete meal.

Trader Joe's crispy calamari with sauce
Trader Joe’s crispy calamari with sauce

Final Thoughts and Rating

I fired up my air fryer to the recommended 375 and dumped a large handful in the basket and let it rip for for 10 minutes. I shaked it up a couple of times during the cook and at 10 minutes, they didn’t look quite done so I went another two minutes and then they looked dark enough and cooked and crispy.

I dumped the calamari into a bowl lined with paper towels and let them cool for a minute. I pulled out one of my favorite sauces, Trader Joe’s Sweet Thai Ginger Sauce, instead of some tomato based sauce, but you can use one of the large selection of sauces to dip your squid into.

You can see the different rings and tentacles in my picture, you get a good mixture of them. If they make you squeamish, then you shouldn’t probably buy them! 😉

I thought the Sweet Thai Ginger sauce was an excellent match. The squid smell great coming out of the air fryer and looks excellent. I tried a variety of pieces from rings to tentacles and some I couldn’t identify and it was a mish mash of excellent tender consistency to tough rubbery. The flavors of the batter are excellent but I would say about 50% of the pieces are rubbery. But this is what I mentioned at the beginning, it’s hard to get this squid to come out tender unless you get fresh squid and deep fry at home.

When you look at the price and that the fact that it came from Italy, then it really looks like a deal. I think if you use these squid in some of my suggestions, that might be a good way to cover some of the rubbery texture.

At the end of the day, I will give them 7 out of 10 Stars. Good but not great!

Trader Joe’s Crispy Battered Calamari

One comment

  1. I thought these were horrendous. Fishy smell as soon as they hit the air fryer. The pieces were super rubbery and the breading fell off of each piece. Glad I only made half the bag so I could return the rest. Epic fail in every way.

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