Everything You Need to Know About Squid Ink

Squid ink is taking over the world, and we've got plates to prove it. Is your kitchen next?

Squid ink is one of those ingredients that has served as a secret weapon for in-the-know chefs for the last couple of years, but never quite made it to the ultra-trendy status of ramps, kale, and Brussels sprouts. The briny ink—which has the consistency of thin, melted chocolate—is a traditional ingredient in both Italian and Japanese cuisines, and as such, has popped up here and there, but, until recently, hadn't become a menu staple.

Well, not anymore. Gone are the days when the ingredient was confined to always-ahead-of-the-curve Danny Bowien's bicoastal Mission Chinese (or to his one-month-only special squid ink bagel, created by the Oklahoma-raised chef for Blackseed Bagels').

Squid is now is being used more frequently, and with even more flair, than ever, from gastro kebab bistros in London to New American heavy hitters in L.A. Here, we share four new exciting plates (and a martini glass!) where the specialty ingredient makes a genius appearance.

Interested in trying your hand at squid ink at home? Check out Regalia squid ink from Spain, $48 on food52.com.

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Squid Ink Flatbread

Le Bab, London

If you think London's hot new "kebab renaissance" project is going to limit itself with traditional Middle Eastern ingredients, you're wrong. Le Bab's BBQ Squid is served over a squid-ink flatbread with a pea puree, roasted red peppers, and mayo.


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Fideos Spaghettini

Hundred Acres, New York City

Fideos ("pasta nest") sounds like a dream home we'd like to spend the rest of our lives in, but it also happens to be the name for the Spanish pasta, shaped like a bird's nest and cooked directly in a sauce (rather than being boiled in water first). Hundred Acres' chef Ayesha Nurdjaja cooks hers directly in a squid ink sauce and serves it with a smoked paprika aioli to balance the ink's dark, sea-salty tones.


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Black Ink Martini

Death Ave, New York City

Death Ave's head mixologist Stamatis Dimakis has kept a black cocktail on the menu for over four years, and this year it happens to be the Black Ink Martini; a surprisingly refreshing drink with salty undertones made of grape brandy, agave, lime, sweet vermouth, and squid ink. "We garnish it with fresh oregano to bring out more of the earthy flavor from the squid ink," says Dimakis, "and it's already a favorite among the guests."


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Patagonian Sea Bass

Red Bird, L.A.

Los Angeles' Red Bird, which bills itself as "modern American," is keen on both aioli and seafood—and with this dish, they've combined their love of both. "We use squid ink aioli to help the fish stay moist," says chef Neal Fraser. "The ink also adds a nice seafood flavor and the color is simply fantastic." Fun fact: Squid ink is often diluted with fish stock to achieve a sharper taste.


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Montauk Squid Ink Salad

Craftbar, New York City

Even at its most varied, squid ink is often used with either starches (pasta, rice, dough) or seafood—so chef Luke Wallace's salad with charred leeks, pickled chillies, and squid ink aioli is a nice departure from its traditional uses. "The squid ink adds an earthy sweetness to the aioli while remaining bright and acidic from the addition of fish sauce and lime juice," Wallace says. "This balance carries through the dish—and all the ingredients compliment each other with the goal of elevating the flavor of the fresh Montauk squid."


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