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.

What Is Squid Ink?

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?!

What Is Squid Ink's Purpose?

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!

Where Does Squid Ink Come From?

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!

Ink

What Does It Taste Like?

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!

Is Squid Ink Safe To Eat?

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!

Squid Ink Pasta

Potential Squid Ink Health Benefits

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.

  • Antioxidants: There have been many studies that prove that squid ink has antioxidants that can help lower the risk of heart disease! Antioxidants are extremely important because they protect our bodies from potential damage to our cells. The antioxidants can also be useful when trying to fight against aging, by reducing wrinkles in the skin.
  • Cancer-Fighting: A study was performed on mice, who were given a chemotherapeutic drug. These mice were experimented on to test if squid ink had any effects on chemotherapy. “The data suggest that squid ink extract can protect the hemopoietic system from chemotherapeutic injury and could be employed to develop cell-protective drugs for use in clinical treatment of tumors.”
  • Aids Against Stomach Ulcers: Studies have shown a significant reduction in acid production in animals, when given squid ink. This can be beneficial in preventing stomach ulcers, which occur when the thick layer of mucus that protects your stomach from digestive juices, thins out.
  • Antimicrobial Properties: One study looked into how freeze-dried squid ink could be ground into powder and what antimicrobial properties it contained. "Fresh squid ink was used since it was a raw material and it was also considered as a waste product. The result showed microbial content was below from standard value of fisheries products as stated in Food Act 1983 and Regulation 1985."

Recipes That Incorporate Squid Ink

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!

  1. White Cream Sauce Squid Ink Pasta: Slightly salty, but aesthetically pleasing, the sauce in this recipe give this pasta dish a cool effect!
  2. Black Ink Risotto With Scallops: Risotto and scallops are a great idea for dinner, but why not add in some squid ink? This recipe focuses on achieving a jet black color for the risotto.
  3. Smoked Salmon Squid Ink Gluten-Free Pizza: Who says you have to have normal pizza crust? Try adding squid ink into your pizza dough, just like this recipe!
  4. Seafood Ramen With Squid Ink: Ramen-lovers everywhere might be a little frightened by this, but this recipe is packed with flavor and could be fun for Halloween.
  5. Squid Ink Seafood Ravioli: Ravioli is always a crowd favorite! Try adding squid ink to your dough base for the ravioli, just like this recipe!
Squid Ink Risotto

Where To Buy Squid Ink

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!

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