Foods You Can Make With Squid Ink

If the idea of sitting down to a meal that's exceedingly dark – as in jet black – is appealing to you, get yourself some squid ink and start having some culinary fun. Squid ink is a dark liquid used as the cephalopod's defense mechanism; when predators approach, the squid releases ink from its ink sac and clouds the water with a black pigment, obscuring the predator's view and providing an escape route (via The Guardian).

According to Berkeley Wellness, squid ink is an excellent addition to a variety of dishes, and it's used in both traditional dishes (in Italy and Spain) and, more recently, in trendy dishes in the U.S. The ink is typically sourced from cuttlefish rather than squid, and it's used to color and season pasta, rice, sauces, and other dishes.

What does squid ink taste like? Marky's Gourmet Blog reveals that squid ink tastes and smells like the sea – similar to fresh seafood, with hints of umami. Upland Coast suggests we imagine a really delicious, clean, full-bodied fish with an earthy ocean flavor.

Must we wrestle a squid to enjoy the unique flavor of its ink? Thankfully not; the ink is harvested directly from the sac, which is located between the gills of the squid (via The Daily Meal). You can often find jars or packets of squid or cuttlefish ink at your local fish market and at some specialty food stores (via Taste).

Cross over to the culinary dark side

Squid ink adds a distinct black-blue sheen and rich, savory taste to a variety of dishes, making it a unique and exciting way to change up your culinary repertoire. Healthline explains that the delectable quality of the ink comes from its high content of the amino acid glutamate, and foods high in glutamate have a cherished umami quality. Food 52 emphasizes that squid ink is briny and earthy, not fishy, and its distinct saltiness pairs well fish, shellfish, pasta, rice, and bread. They also note that a little goes a long way, so start adding it sparingly.

The Recipe enjoys squid ink no less than twenty different ways and features recipes for squid ink-enhanced noodles, croissants, hamburger buns, meringue cookies, risotto, black rice, ice cream, and pizza sauce. Great British Chefs crafted an inventive baked fish with "nero" sauce, and a squid ink mash with leeks. Need more squid-spiration? Cookpad delivers a bounty of squid ink-infused recipes, including pasta, stew, soup, chili, and paella. 

In terms of nutrition, squid ink contains powerful antioxidants, essential minerals such as potassium, iron, and copper, and (as stated above), the amino acid glutamate, which not only imparts umami-ness, it's associated with boosting brain health and improving memory (via Livestrong).