What is Squid Ink: Usage & Benefits

by Vanya Sharma last updated -

Squid ink is a fairly new addition to Mediterranean and Japanese cuisine. With its distinctive savory taste and unique color, it makes for an interesting recipe addition. However, you may be wondering what exactly this squid ink is and if it has any health benefits. So in this article, we talk about that and more. Let’s take a look.

What is Squid Ink?

Squid ink or cephalopod ink is a dark-colored ink produced by various cephalopod species. It is usually released by these water animals as a protective measure to hide from their predators. [1]

The main compound in this ink is melanin, which gives it its dark or blue-black color. Melanin is a pigment present in most organisms responsible for their skin, hair, and eye color. It also contains various amino acids including aspartic acid, alanine, leucine, and arginine among others. Squid ink is also a rich source of taurine which helps in improving your energy levels. [2]

Spoon with concentrated paste squid ink on white background

With its distinct savory taste & unique color, squid ink makes for an interesting recipe addition. Photo Credit: Shutterstock


To use squid ink, you can either extract it from the sac of a squid or buy the packed product or bottle from a specialty store or online. However, if you are buying it online, make sure to read the label properly as most of these packaged inks are from cuttlefish. This is due to the more palatable flavor of cuttlefish ink. Traditionally, this ink has been used for various purposes including the following:

  • Writing
  • Painting
  • Food additive
  • Cosmetics

However, now its main use lies as a food additive in various recipes such as these:

  • Pasta
  • Sauce
  • Risotto
  • Rice
  • Dumplings
  • Salads
  • Flatbread

What Does Squid Ink Taste Like?

Many people say that the taste of this ink is really salty, almost tasting like brine. Others, more appreciative of the ink, claim it to be very mild and almost unnoticeable – with many people trying it just for the experimental and shock value (pertaining to its dark black color).

The actual taste of squid ink is somewhat salty or briny, but when used in the right quantity, it adds a very rich and clean touch to the dish, hinting at a very sea-like flavor.


This peculiar food additive may have a few health benefits to its belt, thanks to its rich nutrient profile. Let us take a look at these below.

Antimicrobial Effects

As per a research published in 2014, this ink is known to help fight fungal infections. Squid ink has antimicrobial properties against various human pathogens. This antimicrobial property also helps in improving the shelf life of this ink. There are also possibilities of developing squid ink into a drug for antimicrobial, anticancer, and antioxidant effects, according to a study published in the Marine Drugs journal. [3] [4]

A close up shot of a plate of squid ink pasta kept atop a wooden platform

The squid ink is what gives the pasta it’s gorgeous black color. Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Chemo-protective Effects

According to an animal study published in the Marine Drugs journal in 2009, squid ink helped in improving the levels of erythrocytes, leukocytes, and hemoglobin in the body that get affected by chemotherapy. The study also revealed that it increased the bone marrow cells and the antioxidant ability of spleen among the test subjects. [5]

Antioxidant Effects

Due to the presence of melanin in squid ink, it is known to have some great antioxidant potential. These antioxidants help fight free radicals and prevent oxidative damage, thereby reducing the risk of heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer. [6]

Final Word

It is safe to have squid ink as far as animal studies and test-tube studies are to be believed. However, these are only preliminary level studies, and further investigation into its health benefits is still required. Given that this ink is only added to food in small quantities, it does not pose any risk to those who are consuming it. A certain amount of caution is still advised to those allergic to shellfish or seafood in general.

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About the Author

Vanya Sharma is a writer at heart with interests in the health and nutrition domain and has experience in content creation, collaboration, and content strategy. Vanya has completed the “Introduction to Food and Health” certificate program from Stanford University, US. She aims to bring unbiased and helpful information to all those seeking to make their health and lifestyle a priority.

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