You may have seen squid ink incorporated in some trendy pasta dish and thought: "Well, that looks terrifying!" But fear not, squid ink is actually edible and is popular in Italy and Spain. However, many people are curious to know exactly what squid ink is.
Well, squid ink is what you think it is - a dark-colored blue-black ink that comes from squid! When squid or any other cephalopods (cuttlefish and octopi) feel like they are in danger, their defense mechanism is to release their ink as a way to distract and blind their predator. Honestly, that's pretty cool!
The ink contains melanin, which is a pigment that is found in our hair, skin, and even eye color. But the melanin in the squid ink is the contributing factor to why the color is so dark.
Squid ink is most common among pasta dishes, as well as some risotto recipes. In Spain, they actually have a dish called chipirones en su tinta which translates to "squid in its ink" and contains baby squid that are fried and then served in an inky broth. Weird, huh?!
While squid ink may have some health benefits (we'll get into that later), there are two main purposes that squid ink serves. The first purpose would be to act as a coloring agent; Squid ink can add rich color to any bland-colored food. While that might turn some people off, it will definitely ignite conversation at the next potluck you attend! The second purpose of squid ink is to add some savory flavor to any dish you make; Just a few drops can go a long way with packing any meal with a ton of flavor!
The ink actually derives from two places: the main ink sac on the squid's body and the from the small deposits behind its eyes. The ink sack is then carefully detached from the squid and put into a non-porous bowl and mixed with a tablespoon of water (if the purpose is for cooking). Depending on the size of the ink sac, the ink is either punctured with a knife (for larger ink sacs) or lightly punctured by the tip of a knife, over a bowl (for small ink sacs). The deposits behind its eyes are also punctured or gently poked by a knife, to release the ink.
If you are wanting to remove the ink from a squid you purchased for cooking, just make sure to strain and rinse though your ink. But if you want to be daring, you can always just add all of the contents from the squid in your dish - the sacs are edible!
The taste of squid ink depends on what type of dish it's used in. However, when it's used as an ingredient while cooking, squid ink can create a savory, umami flavor; Think - sweet and salty! The flavor is brought out more when the squid ink is incorporated with spices or tomatoes and onions!
The answer is yes, squid ink is safe to eat. But it should be noted that people who suffer from any allergic reaction towards shellfish might want to stay away from squid ink!
If you, personally, do not have any kind of shellfish allergy, just make sure that you only consume squid ink in small amounts. Fair warning though: Squid ink's color is powerful and can temporarily stain your teeth or clothes - really whatever it comes in contact with. So maybe avoid any squid ink meal if you're on a first date or formal business lunch!
It should be noted that many of these potential health benefits were not tested on humans. Therefore, there is no 100% proof to attach to any of these health benefit claims. However, many studies tested the effects of squid ink on smaller animals, like rats.
As stated earlier, the most common recipes that squid ink works well with are typically in sauces for pastas or risottos. But we've come up with our top 5 recipe ideas that you should try squid ink with!
You can check any international grocers nearby and see if they carry squid ink. However, it might be easier to just go online and order from a trusted website!
Here are some places that sell squid ink online:
If you're wanting to purchase items that already contain squid ink, the following carry squid ink spaghetti/rice that is ready to be cooked!