If you like scrolling through Instagram looking for interesting foods, no doubt you’ll have seen some sort of squid ink-infused dish. The shocking black color is extremely hard to miss, which is what makes it such an Instagrammable food.
All of the other colors are pretty common when it comes to both raw and cooked foods. Fruits, vegetables, sauces, are commonly found to be yellow, blue, purple, green, gold, etc. So, when you see the strong contrast of the jet black squid ink in pasta or another dish, it really stands out!
But, as I found when I took a trip to Venice and tried squid ink for the first time, it’s so much more than just an Instagram gimmick. So, what does squid ink taste like? It has a somewhat briny taste, with a hint of umami, like a mild soy sauce from the sea.
In this article I’ll cover everything you need to know about squid ink. I’ll take a look at its flavor, nutritional benefits, and best ways to use it.
Is it Safe to Eat Squid Ink?
Yes, squid ink is completely safe to eat for most people despite its somewhat intimidating color and that it’s used as a defense mechanism against predators.
Research suggests that it actually has a few health benefits as well, which I’ll talk about a bit later. I said that squid ink is safe to eat for most people because while it’s not poisonous per se, it may trigger a reaction if you have an allergy to shellfish, seafood, or squid allergy. So, if you have any of those allergies, you’ll probably want to steer clear of eating anything that contains squid ink to be safe.
For most people though, the biggest threat that squid ink poses is its ability to stain clothes.
So, if you’re going to cook with it, or you’re eating squid ink pasta at a restaurant, handle/eat with care! It’s ink after all and can be difficult to get out of your clothes. Also, don’t be alarmed if you have a slightly black smile afterward. Your teeth will lose the black tint in no time.
What Does Squid Ink Taste Like?
Briny, which is the taste of the sea, is commonly used to describe the taste of squid ink.
But that’s perhaps too simplistic.
You could also describe the taste of squid ink as a perfect combination of silky, salty, and bull-bodied yet mild. It’s rich and salty like an oyster while at the same time evoking fond memories of truffles.
Generally, it’s used in pasta mainly for dramatic color presentation rather than changing the taste. As well as its subtle flavor, squid ink adds very vivid and deep color to your dishes.
If the black color puts you off, you shouldn’t worry. Because while the color is shocking, you won’t find the taste to be the same way.
This is perhaps why it’s used not only in pasta, squid ink risotto, or other salty dishes but also in things like ice cream and bread! So, if you’re interested in trying squid ink, don’t let the color get in the way.
What Does Squid Ink Pasta Taste Like?
Unlike the shocking color, the flavor of squid ink is quite nuanced because it has a unique flavor but it’s not over pronounced.
It can be a great addition to any number of pasta dishes. The squid ink not only gives a pasta dish a gorgeous black color, but it also adds an amazing, yet subtle flavor.
There’s two ways in which you’ll see squid ink used with pasta. It can be used as a sauce, made with white wine and served with ‘regular’ cooked pasta. In that case, the color of the dish isn’t quite so striking but you still get the squid ink flavor. The other use is infusing fresh pasta with squid ink when it’s made, imparting the jet black color as well as the taste.
When squid ink is used in a pasta dish, you get a slight hint of sea saltiness or brininess, which makes for a perfect pairing when making seafood pasta. So, you’ll likely see black pasta served with other seafood like fish, crab, shrimp, muscles, etc.
The slight saltiness of the squid ink won’t overpower the other ingredients in the dish, which makes the use of squid ink all the more appealing, right?
What Does Squid Ink Bread Taste Like?
On the scale of totally normal to totally crazy in terms of how crazy a dish looks, squid ink pasta is probably three-quarters of the way to totally crazy. This is because while it looks pretty shocking, it’s somewhat common enough for people to have seen it before, whether it’s at a Japanese or Mediterranean-style restaurant. But, if you want to see something really shocking, you should try out squid ink bread.
For me, seeing bread with the jet black color looks totally unnatural. It seems that it’s been put into the oven or breadmaker and it was forgotten about for 3 days while it turned into a charcoal brick. But, this is the exact reason why you should try it. Eating a burger on a black brioche bun is a treat for both the eyes as well as the taste buds.
But, what does squid ink bread taste like? Well, it doesn’t actually taste like much.
Unlike when you eat squid ink spaghetti, pasta, risotto, or another similar dish where the squid ink plays a bigger role, you don’t get that when you use it to make bread.
When it’s used in bread, there still is a slight briny taste, but it’s more of a food coloring tool than anything. If you eat the bread plain, you’re more likely to taste the slight brininess. But, if you’re eating a sandwich or burger, the other ingredients will almost certainly overpower the faint sea taste of the squid ink.
However, just trying pure black bread is a good reason as any to give it a try.
Nutritional Benefits of Squid Ink
Besides culinary uses, squid ink is sometimes used in medicines as it’s thought to have a wide range of health benefits, including:
Some studies have shown that squid ink may help to promote antitumor activity.
Several studies have shown that squid ink is effective against bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Squid ink also has antibiotic properties against some infectious bacteria.
Reduce Pain and Inflamation
Due to its anti-inflammatory properties, squid ink might be able to treat chronic health issues like heart disease.
Boost Your Immune System
The ink from cephalopods contains compounds that protect your immune cells and boost your immune response.
Reduce High Blood Pressure or Hypertension
A component of Squid ink is an enzyme that lowers blood pressure and prevents hypertension.
The antioxidant properties of squid ink can provide protection against free radical damage and oxidative damage. This is why anti-aging products might contain squid ink.
While there are a number of ways that squid ink is thought to be beneficial, since it’s used in relatively small amounts, the positive impact that it may have may also be somewhat minimal. However, it can be healthy, and at the very least, an interesting food item to incorporate into your diet.
Culinary Uses for Squid Ink
I’ve briefly mentioned a few different ways you can use squid ink but there are many more.
While squid ink pasta is perhaps the most common, you can also use squid ink in crackers, ice cream (or other desserts), waffles, tortillas, soup, and sauce.
So, if you’re interested in trying out squid ink, there is no shortage of culinary uses for it.