Are calamari safe to eat raw?

Eating raw or undercooked seafood comes with some risks. However, calamari, or squid, is often served raw as sashimi or lightly cooked. This article explores whether it’s safe to eat raw calamari.

Can You Eat Raw Calamari?

Yes, you can eat raw calamari. It’s common to enjoy raw calamari as sashimi or lightly seared. However, there are some safety considerations.

Calamari for sashimi is sustainably caught, handled safely, and frozen to temperatures that kill parasites. Freezing or cooking calamari properly makes it safer to eat raw. Still, there is always some risk of foodborne illness when eating raw seafood.

Is Eating Raw Calamari Safe?

Eating raw calamari comes with some risks but is generally considered safe when properly handled. Here are some key factors in the safety of raw calamari:

  • Source – Calamari caught sustainably and handled hygienically has less risk.
  • Processing – Freezing or cooking calamari can kill bacteria and parasites.
  • Freshness – Fresher calamari has less time for bacteria to multiply.
  • Your health – Those with weaker immune systems may be more affected by bacteria.

Reputable restaurants and fish markets take steps to serve fresh, sustainable, and properly handled calamari. But there is no way to fully eliminate the risks of eating raw seafood.

Parasites in Raw Calamari

One concern with raw calamari is parasites. Squid can harbor parasitic roundworms if not properly frozen or cooked. Proper food handling techniques like freezing, cooking, or salting can kill any parasites present.

Most cases of parasitic infection from calamari occur from undercooked home preparations. Reputable sushi restaurants take steps to freeze their supplies to control parasites.

Bacterial Contamination

Another risk of eating raw seafood is bacterial contamination. Calamari can pick up bacteria from the environment or poor handling practices. Proper food safety techniques reduce this risk.

Vibrio bacteria is a concern with raw shellfish like oysters but less common with squid. Still, raw calamari should be handled as carefully as any raw seafood.

Food Allergies

Those with seafood or squid allergies should avoid raw calamari due to risks of an allergic reaction. Symptoms like itching, swelling, or trouble breathing can occur soon after exposure in those with seafood sensitivities.

Populations at Higher Risk

Certain groups of people may be more susceptible to illness from raw seafood like calamari:

  • Young children
  • Older adults
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with weakened immune systems

Their increased vulnerability is due to weaker immune defenses against any pathogens present. This doesn’t mean they must avoid raw calamari altogether. Just take extra care in sourcing safe, high-quality calamari.

How to Reduce Risks of Eating Raw Calamari

You can take some steps to reduce risks from eating raw calamari:

  • Purchase raw calamari from reputable sellers and restaurants.
  • Confirm calamari was sustainably caught and processed hygienically.
  • Choose calamari that is transparent and freshly caught, not yellowed.
  • Enjoy raw calamari soon after purchasing for freshness.
  • Cook calamari thoroughly if preparing it yourself.

By following basic food safety practices, the risks of eating raw calamari can be minimized. But pathogens can still be present even with proper handling.

Signs of Illness from Raw Calamari

Signs of illness from contaminated raw calamari may occur within hours or up to a week later. Here are some common symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches

In severe cases, symptoms can include tingling hands and feet, trouble breathing, or paralysis. See a doctor right away if severe symptoms occur.

Parasites in Calamari

Certain parasites may be present in raw or undercooked calamari. Here are some key parasites to be aware of:


Anisakis is a genus of parasitic roundworms that can infect squid and fish. It can cause symptoms if ingested by humans. Proper freezing kills Anisakis larvae.


Diphyllobothrium is a larger tapeworm parasite found in seafood like squid and salmon. It can grow over 30 feet long in the human digestive tract if ingested.


Gnathostoma is another roundworm that may infect squid. Ingesting live larvae can lead to symptoms in humans.

Freezing or cooking calamari prevents risks from these parasitic worms. Japan requires freezing raw squid for sushi to control Anisakis.

Is Raw Calamari Sushi Safe?

Eating raw calamari sushi from a reputable restaurant is generally safe. Sushi chefs are trained in handling seafood properly, including:

  • Sourcing sashimi-grade squid frozen to control parasites
  • Using fresh, high-quality seafood
  • Preparing the squid hygienically to prevent bacterial growth
  • Serving calamari sushi promptly before bacteria can multiply

By following proper food safety protocols, sushi restaurants serve raw calamari that is safe to eat for most people. There is always some low risk of pathogens, but illnesses from sushi restaurants are rare.

Tips for Consuming Calamari Sushi Safely

Here are some tips for enjoying raw calamari from a sushi restaurant safely:

  • Choose an established, reputable sushi restaurant.
  • Ensure the calamari looks fresh, not slimy or yellowed.
  • Avoid sushi made far in advance sitting in display cases.
  • Those at higher risk may wish to avoid raw calamari.
  • Stop eating if calamari tastes unpleasant or makes you feel ill.

Exercising care in sourcing and consuming sushi helps minimize risks from raw calamari and other sashimi.

Properly Cooking Calamari

Cooking calamari thoroughly at home eliminates risks of parasites or bacterial illness. Here are some tips for proper cooking:

  • Clean calamari well and remove the clear quill-like gladius.
  • Bring cooking liquid like broth to a full boil before adding calamari.
  • Cook calamari rings or bodies for 1-2 minutes until opaque and firm.
  • Cook larger squid tubes for 2-3 minutes until tender.
  • Fry calamari for 1-2 minutes at 375°F until golden brown.
  • Check internal temperature using a meat thermometer if unsure.

The FDA recommends cooking squid and other seafood to an internal temperature of 145°F. Cooking destroys any parasites, bacteria, or toxins that may be present.

Reheating Leftover Calamari

It’s important to reheat leftover calamari thoroughly to 165°F. Cold storage can allow bacterial growth. Reheating to 165°F kills pathogens.

Bring leftovers to a boil on the stovetop or reheat in a 350°F oven until hot throughout. Discard any calamari refrigerated more than 3-4 days.

Storing Raw Calamari Properly

Proper storage helps keep raw calamari fresh and safe until ready to eat or cook. Follow these guidelines:

  • Keep fresh raw calamari chilled below 40°F such as on ice.
  • Refrigerate sashimi-grade frozen calamari at 0°F or below.
  • Thaw frozen calamari overnight in the refrigerator, not at room temperature.
  • Use fresh raw calamari within 1-2 days.
  • Store cooked calamari for no more than 3-4 days refrigerated.
  • Wrap or cover calamari to prevent cross contamination in the fridge.

By chilling calamari properly and using it quickly, bacterial growth is slowed and freshness preserved.

Can You Freeze Raw Calamari?

You can freeze raw calamari at home to help make it safer for eating raw. Freezing calamari kills any parasites present. Follow these guidelines:

  • Clean and dry raw calamari thoroughly before freezing.
  • For sushi, slice bodies into rings and score tubes.
  • Spread pieces out in a single layer on a tray or pan.
  • Freeze raw calamari rapidly at -4°F or below for 7 days.
  • Transfer frozen pieces to an airtight bag or container.
  • Store frozen calamari for up to 2-3 months at 0°F.
  • Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before use.

Freezing for 7 days at subzero temperatures ensures any parasites are killed while preserving freshness longer.

Pickling Raw Calamari

Pickling in an acidic brine can make raw calamari safer to eat. The salt and acid help inhibit bacterial growth.

Clean squid bodies thoroughly and slice into rings. Use a pickling solution of 4 cups water, 1 cup vinegar, and 1/4 cup salt. Submerge squid rings and refrigerate 1-2 days before eating.

Discard any brined calamari that becomes slimy or develops an off smell or appearance. Properly pickled calamari can keep refrigerated up to 3 weeks.

Ceviche with Raw Calamari

Ceviche is a Latin seafood dish where raw fish or shellfish is marinated in citrus juices. The acid “cooks” the proteins without heat. Here is a recipe for ceviche using calamari:


  • 1 lb calamari tubes, sliced into rings
  • 1 lb raw medium shrimp, peeled
  • 1 cup lime juice
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 serrano chilis, sliced
  • 1 cucumber, diced
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • Fresh cilantro


  1. Clean and slice calamari into rings. Combine in a bowl with shrimp.
  2. Add citrus juices and salt. Toss to coat seafood. Refrigerate 30 minutes.
  3. Drain citrus liquid. Add onions, chilis, cucumber, avocado, and cilantro.
  4. Cover and refrigerate 1 hour more to allow flavors to blend.
  5. Serve ceviche chilled with tortilla chips.

The lime and lemon juice chemically cooks the proteins in this no-heat preparation. The citrus makes it safer to consume the calamari and shrimp raw.

Drying Calamari

Dehydrating or drying calamari can extend its shelf life while making it safer to consume raw. Salt and drying inhibit bacterial growth.

Clean and slice calamari bodies into rings 1⁄4 inch thick. Soak in saltwater for 30 minutes before draining well. Arrange in single layers on dehydrator racks.

Dehydrate 6-10 hours until squid pieces are leathery but pliable. Store dried calamari in an airtight container up to 1 month refrigerated or 6 months frozen.

Fermenting Calamari

Fermented squid is enjoyed in some Asian and Mediterranean cuisines. Salt-curing and fermentation help preserve squid while creating unique flavors.

One traditional fermented squid dish is ikizukuri of Japan. Cleaned squid is cured in salt and rice koji mold to make a probiotic preparation used in sushi.

In Italy, squid may be fermented in salt and wine similar to boquerones. The process tenderizes the meat while developing tangy, enzymatic flavors over several weeks.

Health Benefits of Calamari

When safely handled, calamari provides excellent nutrition in addition to its delicious taste. Here are some of the top nutrients this seafood offers:

High Protein

Calamari is an exceptionally high protein food, with around 16-20 grams of protein per 3 ounce serving. The amino acid profile is complete, meaning it provides all essential proteins we need from food.

Low Fat

Calamari is very low in fat, with only around 1-1.5 grams per serving. It provides healthy fats like omega-3s while being low in saturated fat.

Vitamin B12

A serving of calamari provides over 100% of the RDI of vitamin B12. This nutrient aids brain health and energy metabolism.


Calamari is high in selenium, a trace mineral that supports thyroid function and antioxidant activity.


Zinc is needed for immunity and cell growth. Just 3 ounces of calamari offers around 25% of the daily zinc requirement.

Enjoyed in moderation, calamari offers excellent nutrition as well as great taste to any diet.


Raw calamari can be safely enjoyed when properly handled, frozen, or prepared. Reputable restaurants and fish markets take steps to provide high quality squid that has been frozen to control parasites and bacteria.

There is always some low risk of foodborne illness when eating raw seafoods like calamari. But following basic food safety practices can help minimize risks.

Most people can eat raw calamari from trusted sources in moderation with low risk of issues. However, children, the elderly, pregnant women, and those with weak immune systems may wish to avoid raw or undercooked squid.

Calamari cooked at home should always be prepared thoroughly to recommended safe internal temperatures to destroy any parasites present. Keep raw or cooked calamari properly refrigerated and use within a few days for best safety and quality.

When handled properly before and after catching, calamari is a nutritious seafood that can be safely enjoyed either raw or cooked.

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