Calamari with muhammara sauce

Do you eat a plate of deep-fried calamari and feel guilty afterwards (from eating fried food)?

I do.

This is a tasty and speedy alternative to the fried calamari that has become ubiquitous in restaurants all over the globe.

INGREDIENTS: 8 servings (as a main dish)

  • 2 pounds  of calamari
  • 1  onion (smallish, 1.5 ounces or 40 g.)
  • 1/4 cup of red pepper paste
  • 1 cup of water (8 ounces or 250 ml.)
  • 2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
  • 3 cloves of garlic (1/2 teaspoon of garlic paste)
  • 1/2  teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1/4 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of ground walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon of ketchup
  • 1/2 tablespoon of anchovy paste
  • rind of an orange (optional)
  • 2 lemons or 1 cup of plain yogurt


  1. Cut the calamari in fine slices and set aside.
  2. Chop the onion and chop the garlic. Place the chopped garlic in a mortar and pound into a paste with a dash of salt.
  3. Heat the olive oil and fry the onions for a few minutes till translucent (cover the skillet for two minutes); add the red pepper paste, water, cumin, garlic paste, pomegranate molasses, walnuts, anchovy paste and orange rind. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time to mix the ingredients well.
  4. Add the calamari and stir every 15 seconds  over medium heat. When the calamari rings look opaque (after about 5 minutes), they are done.
  5. Serve piping hot with quartered lemons; this dish can be served with Lebanese couscous (moghrabiyeh) or fine-grain couscous or pasta or a loaf of bread.

NOTE: This dish is delicious served with a side of yogurt.

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  1. Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:00 pm | Permalink

    You know how to win my heart! I LOVE calamari but often find the way it’s done here a bit…bland…and this is a great way to kick it up a notch!

  2. Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

    I have yet to try making this muhammara sauce at home. What a delicious treat. I bet this would taste scrumptious over pasta too. Is moghrabiyeh similar to the Italian Fregola?

  3. Posted April 4, 2011 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Never cooked calamari before…only eaten it in restaurants.

  4. Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

    ça change des calamars frits, j’aime ta recette!!

  5. savoringtimeinthekitchen
    Posted April 4, 2011 at 9:43 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never made it at home either – order it often when we’re out. I do love it and this sounds like a wonderful recipe.

  6. Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:49 pm | Permalink

    I rarely cook calamari because I end up cooking it for too long and it ends up rubbery. must try your muhammara sauce

  7. Posted April 4, 2011 at 10:58 pm | Permalink

    This looks incerdible and so different to thr fried calamri – fantastic and creative! Thanks Joumana :)

    chow! Devaki @ weavethousandflavors

  8. Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:16 pm | Permalink

    Yum!!! I have never had calamari like this …and clearly I have been missing out.

  9. Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:22 pm | Permalink

    What an interesting way to prepare calamari…looks so tasty and full of flavor. Love it! Have a great week!

  10. Posted April 4, 2011 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous color on the calamari!

  11. Posted April 5, 2011 at 2:51 am | Permalink

    An original way to eat calamari! This looks really good!!

  12. Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    That dish looks mighty good! What an awesome combination.



  13. Posted April 5, 2011 at 3:16 am | Permalink

    Wonderful! Such a nice variation from the battered-fried calamari typical here in Spain.

  14. Posted April 5, 2011 at 6:59 am | Permalink

    Wow, your calamari sound delicious! I don’t particularly like them fried, but this sounds like a great alternative.

  15. Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:11 am | Permalink

    This is the PERFECT reminder that I should make some muhammara with the rest of my pomegranate molasses! This sounds like a delicious alternative to fried calamari…bet you wouldn’t even miss the grease and oil!

  16. Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:13 am | Permalink

    Never eaten calamari like this before..looks so tempting and YUM!

  17. Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    Vibrant and colorful calamari ! I have never tried but now thinking to give it a try!

  18. Posted April 5, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    I love calamari and admit that it is ubiquitous in restaurants… fried. I remember a friend telling me she hated it any other way because of the texture… it was more palatable when fried and not RUBBERY.

    Well, hard to convince someone so against something… but well prepared it is soft and delicious. Great flavors here… will try it your way!

  19. Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Frankly, I’m just thinking about that sauce on chicken. Or shrimp. Or fish fillets. (But you’re right: the fried calamari in restaurants is often not worth it. And too rubbery, to boot.)

  20. Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Guilt free calamari? Lead me to it! Although I confess, I’ve only used it in salads at home; I save the fried on rare occasions dining out.
    The muhammara sauce looks wonderful and has some fabulous flavors!

  21. Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    This sounds like a terrific preparation of calamari, the sauce is very unique and flavorful with the pomegranate molasses and cumin and everything!

  22. Posted April 5, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    Watch me throw guilt out the window as I tackle your method, Joumana. It looks delicious and now I must try to find calamari in my local grocery store. Wish me luck!!!

    Thanks for sharing…

  23. Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    My favourite is grilled calmari but a quick stir-fry is also very good too! Brilliant colour and I’m looking for the tentacles…love them!

  24. Joumana
    Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    @Louise: Check out Asian stores in your area, they will certainly have it!

    @Juanita: The pomegranate molasses impart a fruity taste to a dish, it is not really sweet, actually a little sour. The molasses is extracted from sour-tasting pomegranates.

  25. Posted April 5, 2011 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Lately Joumana I eat a lot of things and I feel guilty afterwards. It seems that kilos are stuck in my behinds and do not wish to leave! This calamari looks very crunchy and I would love to try it even with a touch of guilt afterwards!

  26. Posted April 5, 2011 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    I have never cooked calamari at home before because I live inland and cannot get calamari fresh enough, and the frozen kind is just too watery, which is such a pity as the tastes in your recipe are truly inspired!
    I have never heard of pomegranate molasses. Does that impart the taste of pomegranates to the dish, or only sweetness?

  27. Posted April 5, 2011 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    LOVE calamari any way but I do love it fried and I never make it at home because we almost never fry. So this is perfect! We both will love it and the amazing flavors!

  28. Posted April 5, 2011 at 2:34 pm | Permalink

    I love kalamari! My parents have a Greek deli and I it was my favorite food growing up. I would love to try it like this, without being fried. It sounds delicious, and the coloring is just beautiful. I’ll have to make some for Easter :)

  29. Posted April 5, 2011 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

    I love this! What a perfect way to serve calamari! I did buy some pomegranate molasses, now I just have to hang around here to find out different ways to use it!

  30. Posted April 6, 2011 at 12:22 am | Permalink

    I’d lived for over 10 years in the Middle East before I tried Muhammara (on a visit to Syria) and I was instantly hooked. Love the idea of it with calamari.

  31. Posted April 6, 2011 at 6:37 am | Permalink

    Just saying the name Muhammara out loud has amused me. The ingredients did the rest to convince me that I have to make calamari this way very soon. I really like the sweeter aspect to the sauce ;o)
    I also just lately tried out the moghrabiyeh couscous variety…very interesting grain. Hopefully I’ll post about that at some point also.

    Have a great day,

  32. Posted April 6, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

    This is a lovely alternative to the fried version. I just wish all restaurants cook prepare calamari without getting to the rubber stage lol. Great recipe

  33. Posted April 6, 2011 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

    Such a grand tribute to calamari…beautiful dish and I also like that it is not fried :)

  34. Posted April 7, 2011 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    My mouth is watering like crazy just looking at that picture.

  35. Posted April 7, 2011 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Great – I love muhammara and am always looking for new ways to ‘eat’ it. Making some this weekend!

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