Squid ink dishes are often found on Michelin menus, but cooking with squid ink at home can seem a little daunting. There are a few options when it comes to cooking with squid ink, so we’ve put together a squid ink guide to explain the easiest ways to use this exotic ingredient at home.
What is squid ink?
Squid ink is a natural black dye found in cephalopods (ocypus, squid and cuttlefish), which they use as a defence mechanism to escape from predators. The ink harbours delicate, briny flavours and umami depth, which makes it a fantastic ingredient to cook with.
Squid ink has been used for centuries and is the essential ingredient in regional dishes such as Spain’s famous rice dish, arròs negre, and Italian spaghetti al nero di seppia. Its black truffle richness and complex, earthy flavours are prized by chefs across the world.
Is squid ink the same as cuttlefish ink?
Essentially, yes. Most squid ink that is available to buy is actually cuttlefish ink, so don’t be put off if you see the black ink referred to in that way – the two ingredients are interchangeable in recipes.
Cuttlefish ink and squid ink do have very slight differences – cuttlefish ink is softer, smoother and more well-rounded in flavour, whereas true squid ink can have a strong, metallic taste which can be off-putting for people who are new to it. For that reason, cuttlefish ink is actually the preferred ingredient in most recipes.
The great thing about cooking with squid ink is that after it’s been sterilised it will keep well and retain its flavour for up to four years.
How Do You Buy Squid Ink Products?
There are many ways to buy squid ink – either fresh, or within other products such as dyed squid ink pasta – so take a look at our quick guide below.
A jar of squid ink is a great way to have the ingredient to hand if you’re using it regularly. This particular variety is cuttlefish ink and can be used to colour fresh pasta, risottos and paellas. You only need to use this squid ink sparingly, so use approximately 1g of squid ink with 100g of other ingredients. Use it to colour and flavour homemade pasta dough, or to give risotto a beautiful inky hue.
If you’re experimenting, and cooking with squid ink for the first time, then squid ink sachets are ideal as you don't need to commit to a whole jar. Plus you have the benefit of perfectly portioned quantities.
If you’re looking for a really simple way to introduce squid ink into your kitchen, then Morelli’s squid ink linguine is perfect. It’s a deep black pasta, which forms a striking contrast when served with seafood or fish. It tastes amazing with tuna fish and a simple tomato sauce.