Perfect Gluten-Free Fried Calamari à la Scoma’s

Fried calamari is back on the menu thanks to this GF recipe by chef Gordon Drysdale, who clandestinely offers it to all guests at Scoma’s, San Francisco’s blue-chip seafood restaurant. Amazing by any measure and shockingly easy to prepare, this version delivers all of the crunchy-munchy goodness expected from the beloved appetizer.

With a quick flavor- and texture-enhancing brine and a fast dip in a pot of hot oil, this gluten free fried calamari is some of the best around, GF or otherwise. Chef Drysdale fries his calamari in rice bran oil because it has a super-high smoking point, has no residual flavor, and is available non-GMO. Make more than you think you’ll need—there’s never enough!

Perfect Gluten-Free Fried Calamari à la Scoma’s

Servings 4
Author Gordon Drysdale


  • Rice bran oil, peanut oil, or vegetable oil, for frying
  • 1-1/2 pounds calamari, cleaned and sliced into tentacles and ½-inch-wide tubes
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 cup rice flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt or kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon, plus 1 lemon, cut into wedges
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley, for garnish (optional)
  • 1 recipe Cocktail Sauce à la Scoma’s (below; optional)
  • 1 recipe Tartar Sauce à la Scoma’s (below; optional)


  1. Heat 3 inches of oil in a medium pot over medium heat until it registers 360°F on a candy thermometer. Don’t have a candy thermometer to test the oil’s temperature? See if it’s ready by dipping in a wooden spoon handle or a wooden chopstick; if the oil surrounding it produces a steady, but not vigorous, stream of bubbles, it’s hot enough.

  2. In a nonreactive bowl, mix together the calamari and the vinegar and let macerate for 10 minutes. Mix in the baking soda and wait until the frothing subsides, 3 to 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, place the rice flour in a bowl.
  4. Drain the calamari well. Toss it in the rice flour to coat, immediately remove it, shake off any excess, and fry in batches, stirring occasionally, until light brown, about 90 seconds. With a skimmer, remove the calamari and briefly drain on paper towels.
  5. While still hot, transfer the calamari to a bowl. Season with the salt, oregano, lemon juice, and parsley. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and cocktail and tartar sauces.

Cocktail Sauce à la Scoma’s

MAKES ABOUT 1 CUP This punchy dip is also excellent with shrimp. Make it in advance—it tastes better after the flavors have melded. Store in the refrigerator for up to a month.


  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup prepared horseradish
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce


  1. In a bowl, mix together all of the ingredients, adding more Tabasco to taste.

Tartar Sauce à la Scoma’s

MAKES 1/2 CUP Far superior to storebought versions, this creamy classic dip is fried fish’s best friend. It’s also better made in advance so the flavors can meld. Refrigerated, it’ll keep for at least a week.


  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free dill relish
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons chopped Italian parsley
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced shallot or minced yellow onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon gluten-free Worcestershire sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Tabasco sauce


  1. In a bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, relish, parsley, shallot, Worcestershire, a few grinds of pepper, and Tabasco to taste.

Photography Erin Ng

5 Comments on “Perfect Gluten-Free Fried Calamari à la Scoma’s”

  1. Why the vinegar soak and baking soda? Just wondering. Fried calamari is something I can no longer have, and that is tragic!

  2. This recipe is amazing! I followed it exactly, used my T-Fal deep fryer and it came out so tender and perfect.

  3. Hi! I would not dust the calamari with the flour until just before you fry it. However, you can get everything set up, and it just takes a second to dredge them, so you can have calamari very quickly!

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