How to Harvest Squid Ink




I've been posting Instructables since the site's inception, and now build other things at Autodes...

Clean your own squid, and collect ink for printing or cooking! As seen in Craft Magazine, Vol. 4.

Video by my ever-awesome collaborator, noahw.

Teacher Notes

Teachers! Did you use this instructable in your classroom?
Add a Teacher Note to share how you incorporated it into your lesson.

Step 1: Obtain Squid

Catch or purchase your squid.

If you purchase squid, make sure they are still whole- if they're pre-cleaned all of that wonderful ink will be gone!

A fresh squid has reddish-brown spots on a white or cream-colored body- if the flesh has started to turn pink or smell, buy your squid elsewhere. Boxes of frozen squid should be solid, without evidence of leakage or freeze-thawing. Small squid are tastier and easier to cook, but they have less ink.

Step 2: Remove Ink Sac

You will be extracting squid ink from two sources- the main ink sac in the body, and small secondary deposits behind the eyes.

First, pull the head and tentacles out of the body cavity. The guts will come along with the head: look for the small thin silvery sac about halfway along.

Carefully detach the ink sac, taking care not to puncture it. It's attached at the ends, so just slip your knife underneath and cut away from the center to remove it.

Step 3: Prep Container

Now you'll need a small non-porous glass, ceramic, or metal bowl- squid ink can stain plastic, unglazed ceramic, and cloth.

If you're going to print with your ink, put a tablespoon of matte medium, linseed oil or other ink carrier medium into the bowl. To cook with your ink, use a tablespoon of water or vinegar instead. It's easy to dilute your ink later- start concentrated now to keep your options open.

Step 4: Collect Ink

If the ink sacs are large, gently puncture them your knife, and squeeze the contents into the bowl. If the ink sacs are small, or you'd like to avoid getting your hands any messier and potentially squirting the wall with squid ink, simply drop the entire ink sac into the bowl and puncture it with the tip of your knife.

Squeeze behind the head to extrude the beak, and remove it from the center of the tentacles. Now cut the tentacles off just below the eyes, taking care not to puncture the eyes. From the cut end you can see the ink deposits- they're the dark bits just behind the silvery back side of the squid's retina. Poke your knife into the ink, and gently squeeze the additional drops into the bowl.

Repeat the process with the rest of your squid, setting aside the tentacles and bodies for dinner.

Step 5: Printing

Strain your ink into another non-reactive container, and squeeze any remaining ink sacs against the mesh with the back of a non-staining silicone spatula to make sure they're thoroughly empty.

Rinse the bowl and strainer with more of your ink carrier medium, and scrape both with the spatula to remove any last bits of ink. Discard the ink sacs, and stir your ink into the carrier medium.

Test for color and dilute as necessary, then print as you would with normal ink.

Step 6: Cooking

A classic way to show off your hard-won squid ink is to give color to pasta or rice. Here's an easy recipe for squid ink risotto with squid.

Follow the recipe of your choice, and when it says to add your squid ink either strain it in as for printing, or simply dump it in, ink sacs and all. The sacs are perfectly edible, and generally unnoticeable unless particularly large. Rinse the ink bowl with a bit more liquid, and scrape with a stain-proof spatula to make sure you've got it all.

Step 7: Use Quickly

Be sure to use the ink immediately, or refrigerate it for use soon- just like squid, the ink will start to smell if you leave it out!



      • Spicy Challenge

        Spicy Challenge
      • Classroom Organization Challenge

        Classroom Organization Challenge
      • Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

        Stone Concrete and Cement Contest

      26 Discussions


      11 years ago on Introduction

      That's cool, gross, and crafty all at once. Never tried squid ink anything, though I like calamari. I remember reading somewhere (Wired? Maybe it was RU Sirius's writing) about someone making squid ink pasta and serving it with sauteed endive and gently mashed blueberries and cream. They'd used Gorgonzola cheese (that's not how you spell it, is it?) as the oil for the sautee-ing -- threw a lump of cheese in a really hot skillet so that it separated, and the golden cheese oil was just right for sauteeing the endive. The colors alone were something to behold but supposedly it tasted good.

      2 replies

      Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

      Squid ink is fantastic for cooking, adds a salty flavour without any sodium but the colour is the talking point ! Made this last night, with pasta made with the ink, not fancy, can look a bit gross but certainly a talking point :-)

      2014-10-27 20.34.52.jpg

      Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

      Cool- I love the idea of using a rich cheese for the oil- it must taste fabulous. (I think you got Gorgonzola right!) The squid ink is mainly for color. It adds a bit of flavor, but it's subtle.

      This is truly fantastic: I never would have tried to do it myself, but have wanted to ever since reading an historical anecdote about how sometimes the writing in whaling Captain's logs would change color as they ran out of commercial ink and started using squid "sepia"!


      12 years ago on Introduction

      What is the biggest advantage of spending hours and hours of getting squid ink, over say a 1 dollar bottle of Indian ink? There must be a reason you needed squid ink.

      3 replies

      Reply 12 years ago on Introduction

      You NEED squid ink, because it is possible. Imagine your guests delight, when you tell them your wedding invites were hand-lettered with squid ink. I often use hand-made paper for cards, when cheapo cardstock can be purchased at WalMart for next to nothing. It is the beauty of DIY, not the economic factors that drive such a decision.

      Great answer some people will never get it! I have another idea...imagine you end up on deserted island and you want to write your goodbye letter or bottle letter..what do you do if you cant go to go and catch some squid :-D the reason is we are much closer to canned food and Walmart then to the nature that we came from..sad

      Thanks so much for the video. I found a dying Giant Humboldt squid on the beach in front of my house yesterday and thanks to your video I now have a jar of ink and squid steaks.


      10 years ago on Introduction

      How you made the instructables stamp, you used to make the squid ink print?


      11 years ago on Introduction

      just throw the whole thing in the blender, if you don't end up with black ink, at least you'll have red ink.


      We don't catch a lot of squid in Missouri, but my daughters would love to use the ink in their artwork. And, at least for us midwesterners, this whole "squid thang" is just weird enough to entice them to try it. When my oldest was about 3 she was fighting me for fried Calamari strips - convinced they were french fries! Excellent instructable! Excellent video! Now I'll have to go pick up the "Squid for Dummies" book, unless you've got links to some more resources.


      12 years ago on Introduction

      Well... Squid in it's ink sauce is a yummi traditionnal spanish dish I learned from my mom and grand-ma, quite simple : just squid are prepared like in the video, sliced and sauted in olive oil with a bit of garlic, onions, salt and pepper, and the ink to make the sauce. Then served with saffron rice. Wow ! IN Italy, they make black pasta. Delicious. But I have to say that here in France, it is really really difficult to find whole squids, they sell them empied and clean. And when you re lucky to get them they are very expensive. So I think it is better to make a nice dish for family and friends than to use the ink for printing ! That would be much too expensive and time consuming, not to say I am afraid it could also be a bit "smelly", wouldn't it ! Nice video !


      12 years ago on Introduction

      In Hongkong, They have a squid ink noodle they make. I have had them before.