The Basics

Ingredient of the Week: Sepia

What is it? Sepias are cephalopods - in the same class as octopus and squid - and have the largest brain-to-body size ratios of all invertebrates, so they're pretty clever little creatures. While it's also known as a cuttlefish, the sepia isn't actually a fish, it's a mollusk.

The ink of the cuttlefish is also known by the name "sepia," which came to describe an entire genre of photography using ink made from the cuttlefish. In the wild, it releases this ink to ward off predators. The ink is prized in the culinary world and is used in pasta and rice, giving it a rich flavor and a distinct, dark brown, almost black, coloring.


What is it used for? Sepia is often used in a dish to make black risotto in Italy - the flesh of the cuttlefish as well as the ink. There are also recipes for grilled sepia and soups, stews and pastas made with the flesh (including paella).

Sepia ink is used in dyes and pigments as well as flavoring in certain dishes.

Where can I buy it? I found sepia for sale at Eataly in New York City (which prompted this post), but I'm guessing you could find it at Central Market and possibly some of the larger Asian markets in town, like Super H Mart and 99 Ranch Market.

Recipe: Black Risotto With Sepia: Courtesy of

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Amber Ambrose