Pulpo a la Gallega – Galician Style Octopus

7 Sep

It was dark when we ate...sorry!

Now, don´t go getting all squeamish on me, because today I´m going to explain how to cook an octopus! This is a dish which traditional comes from the north west of Spain in the autonomous community of Galicia.  It sits on the border with northern Portugal and has both an Atlantic and a Bay of Biscay coastline.

This coming weekend we´re taking a little holiday and heading north to Galicia and Asturias, so I´ll be able to show you some photos of the “real deal” soon.  In the meantime, I´ll just set about cooking one of Galicia´s most famous dishes, Pulpo a la Gallega.

First take your octopus….ok, so I appreciate some of you may not be able to get hold of a fresh, whole one, but if ever you do, you´ll know what to do with it.  They´re white when raw and turn a beautiful purple colour when cooked.  All the nasties (i.e. the muck and eyes) are contained in the head.  If you´re game, just chop the head off, cut off the section with the eyes and scoop out the nasties from the inside.  Give the whole thing a good rinse, including the tentacles and you´re done.  Alternatively you can clean it after it´s cooked, but it leaves you with mucky stock.  And no one likes mucky stock, do they?! Ok, that´s the messy bit over, the fainthearted can join us again now.

For info, you don´t need to beat your raw octopus against a rock until it´s tender like you may have seen in quaint fishing movies.  Just freeze it first for a day or two and when it´s defrosted you´ll have a lovely tender octopus.

Put the octopus into a heavy saucepan and just cover with water.  No need to add salt, this is done when it is cooked.  I think this is where the Galicians leave it, but I like to add a little extra flavour which then gives me an amazing stock at the end to use in other dishes like Seafood Stew. I add a few tablespoons of olive oil, a bay leaf, a dried chilli and a couple of cloves – but this is entirely optional.

Cleaned but still raw

This will now need to be cooked slowly for up to a couple of hours (depending on how much your octopus weighs).  You can´t really over cook it if you take it slowly, and you can either do this on the stove top or in a slow oven.  Test it with a skewer in the thickest part of a tentacle – if it slides in as though through butter, you´re done! Some people do like to go for the quick and fast cook – I think it would be great in a pressure cooker, but I´ve never done it like that so I have no idea of timings.


Meanwhile you are going to boil about 2 medium potatoes per person in their skins.  When you are ready to serve, peel the potatoes and roughly chop into smallish chunks.  It´s traditionally served on round wooden platters, but I know some people won´t have one or prefer not to use them for hygiene reasons.  We throw caution to the wind and are both, so far, still standing….but I promise not to tell anyone if you use a large flat plate.

Pretty Coloured Stock

Lift the pulpo out of the delicious stock and either chop with scissors into little pieces or chop with a knife. Make a base out of the cooked potatoes, pile the pulpo on top and now a good seasoning of sea salt, plenty of pimentón (hot or sweet according to your preference) and a good dousing in olive oil which will soak into those chunks of potato and pulpo.

It´s not a tricky dish to make, it can be pulled together for serving at the last minute and looks pretty impressive.  Most importantly though it tastes amazing….go on, get brave with an octopus!


46 Responses to “Pulpo a la Gallega – Galician Style Octopus”

  1. Mad Dog September 7, 2011 at 00:58 #

    One of my favourites!

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 09:51 #

      Aah – but you´re a connoisseur (is that how you spell it)?!

  2. ChgoJohn September 7, 2011 at 01:56 #

    Oh, Tanya! How my Dad would have loved this dish. Unbelievably, this is the 2nd octopus dish that I’ve seen today. Did I miss a memo?

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 09:53 #

      Oh yes, the memo. I hid your copy, sorry! Yes, in Italy we loved this as kids and it still makes me smile when I have relatives over from Italy and I serve this and the children (and the grown ups too) get all excited, then when the Brits come over with their kids they run a mile…! Like it cooked first, chopped them flloured and quickly deep fried in olive oil…that the lower cal version (!)

  3. ceciliag September 7, 2011 at 02:32 #

    But where did you GET your octopus.. and yes out here on the plains i am not likely to stumble across one, though your recipe looks very tasty. I have eaten octopus but not prepared it!! c

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 09:54 #

      We´re lucky here as I can either get it in the supermarket down on the coast (about 45km) or my fish man who drives past twice a week often has is too. It´s a real treat!

  4. JamieAnne September 7, 2011 at 02:36 #

    Very interesting. My guys would mutiny if I made octopus, but thus was very neat to see.

  5. Karen September 7, 2011 at 03:37 #

    Thank you for the tip about freezing the octopus to help tenderize it. I can’t wait to hear about your trip.

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 09:57 #

      Yes, someone else told me about the freezing (probably Fish man) and it really does work. Am so excited about my trip – love going to new places.

  6. Rufus' Food and Spirits Guide September 7, 2011 at 03:52 #

    The only thing that could possibly make this better would be a side of pig trotters! Ha, seriously this looks amazing to me. I love me some octopus and living in a landlocked state without a wandering fish man, I have to go without! Oh and octopus stock. Oh man what you could do with that!

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 09:59 #

      Tee hee! I haven´t shown you my recipe for breaded fried goat´s brains yet (and yes, I´m serious)! Fish Man is a bit of a hero – he took August off for a long holiday though….I was really missing him and then last week I heard his cheery little van “toot, toot” and I breathed a sigh of relief….

  7. ....RaeDi September 7, 2011 at 04:06 #

    … but it leaves you with mucky stock. And no one likes mucky stock, do they?! Ok, that´s the messy bit over, the fainthearted can join us again now. I had to leave for just a few but am doing better! T love octopus but I have not acquired the want to taste yet… working on it! One day I hope to like it, but coping with a whole octopus. never say never… but ….RaeDi

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 10:00 #

      Glad I made yuo chuckle! Maybe you could start with a little tin of octopus pieces in olive oil (not sure of they sell this where you are) which you could eat as a tapas or stir into pasta just to start you off gently! I can understand people´s concerns though….I just started eating it as a child in Italy so it never struck me as odd or different.

  8. Tandy September 7, 2011 at 07:20 #

    we (read Dave and Nico) often catch octopus when out crayfishing. I never get them as Nico’s wife has a MINE MINE MINE attitude but maybe this year I will snag one 🙂

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 10:02 #

      The cheek of it! You´ll have to make little flags on cocktail sticks with “Tandy & Dave” written on them, and when Dave goes fishing this year, each time an octopus is caught he can quickly stick a flag in it!

  9. thecompletecookbook September 7, 2011 at 10:09 #

    I haven’t eaten octopus for the longest time – no wait, actually not that long ago – I had it for lunch with my brother while we were living in Mauritius but I digress – your dish sounds fabulous! I have never prepared octopus myself and was silly not to buy it when it was readily available on the island.
    Have a happy day.
    🙂 Mandy

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 10:30 #

      It does look a bit daunting if you haven´t prepared it before – but it´s more mucky than tricky. Maybe you´ll come across some again soon?!

  10. Fired Up Cooking SA September 7, 2011 at 10:37 #

    Well, you certainly know your stuff! That was very professionally prepared and written about…

    I shall firmly remain one of the faint-hearted and neither clean nor eat it 🙂

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 21:07 #

      Thank you so much! And you stay faint hearted…I can understand it!

  11. Bluejellybeans September 7, 2011 at 11:52 #

    Nice recipe Tanya. I made Pulpo a la gallega (Tower of Galician Octopus -Pulpo a Feira) the other day, but have to admit I bought it already cooked… 😉

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 21:07 #

      And I don´t blame you – its just that my Fish Man only sells it raw so I don´t have much choice!

  12. gardenfreshtomatoes September 7, 2011 at 14:08 #

    I love octopus, and will order it from restaurant menus when given the chance, but I’ve never cooked it myself… The only kind availible here comes from the Phillipines (sp?) in frozen blocks. I used to buy a case every now and then for a couple of customers…and to use for a Halloween display!

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 21:06 #

      I can understand the Halloween thing – it´s a scary looking beastie in all its glory! I had never cooked it until I came here, and I thought “what the heck” and found it didn´t bother me all. I´m sure the frozen would be fine. And probably already cleaned too!

  13. spicegirlfla September 7, 2011 at 18:42 #

    Tanya, I am so impressed!! a) that you touched this fish and b) that it sounds fabulous! You’re my hero. I will never reach your fame simply because I could never do that! On the other hand, I’d love to be invited over for octopus dinner!!

    • chicaandaluza September 7, 2011 at 21:04 #

      Aw shucks! I´m brave when it comes ot things like this, but present me with a cut finger and I go to pieces! You are most definitely invited over for octpus dinner next time you are in the neighbourhood 🙂

  14. chaiselongue1 September 8, 2011 at 15:57 #

    I love eating this dish, but I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to cook it. I did see a fisherman beating an octopus against the quayside many years ago in Greece….but then I suppose people didn’t have freezers then!

    • chicaandaluza September 9, 2011 at 13:01 #

      You could always “cheat” a little and buy the packets of vac packed cooked and sliced octopus if you have them – they´re usually pretty good!

  15. ambrosiana September 8, 2011 at 20:50 #

    I have always heard of Pulpo a la Gallega, but have never seen the dish!! Thaks for sharing! I think the way you cooked octopus is the best way: to boil it in a heavy saucepan with herbs (I love bay leaves) and spices!! Potatoes are a lways a great pair for octopus. Great post Chica!!

    • chicaandaluza September 9, 2011 at 13:02 #

      Glad you liked it! It looks nice when it´s presented on the wooden platter and tastes great 🙂

  16. Erin from La Tortuga Viajera September 10, 2011 at 19:56 #

    I think I’m just going to leave the pulpo preparation to my local tapas bar :). Not sure what I’ll do if I ever move back to the States, though!

    I can’t believe I’ve never come across your blog sooner! I never shut up about food – particularly my beloved Spanish cuisine. I’m getting really hungry just writing this!

    • chicaandaluza September 14, 2011 at 18:12 #

      Hi there and thanks for visiting – glad you like what you´ve seen. Am in Galicia currently and they really are the pulpo experts!

  17. ReFashionista September 12, 2011 at 22:56 #

    That purple color is gorgeous! I’ve had baby octopus once at a sushi joint and really liked it. Your cooked grown-up octopus version looks even better. 🙂

    • chicaandaluza September 14, 2011 at 18:22 #

      It is a great colour isn´t it?! We are eating lots of octopus this week as we are in Galicia – and they do it so well!

  18. Michi September 13, 2011 at 01:07 #

    Ooooh yum!!! You really encourage me to get out there (in the kitchen sense!) and try new things!! I LOVE Pulpo a la Gallega, but would have never thought to make it myself. Now I’m considering it. You truly are quite the adventurer!! I’m still so glad I stumbled upon your site. 🙂

    • chicaandaluza September 14, 2011 at 18:24 #

      Aaah – thanks for your kind words! Do give it a go (you could even buy it ready cooked from Mercadona) – you´ll feel very proud of yourself 😉

  19. Wholesome Cook September 16, 2011 at 04:55 #

    Love cooked octopus! And potatoes too… yummy looking ‘salad’ 🙂

  20. StefanGourmet October 19, 2013 at 21:44 #

    Going to make this soon! Should the pimentón be unsmoked?

    • Chica Andaluza October 20, 2013 at 17:00 #

      Usually it is pimentón picante but unsmoked – but I’d use whatever you enjoy best!

  21. satria adhitya February 26, 2016 at 08:19 #

    it’s delicious eat especially for dinner, sorry if permitted I would give some feedback for this octopus dishes. I’m from Indonesian, in indonesian octopus can cooked with some seasoning, example lime or tamarind, lime leaves, chili, onion, etc that will make these foods become more delicious. i have we have sharing for this cooking. thank you.

    • Chica Andaluza February 26, 2016 at 17:59 #

      Sounds delicious – I love to hear about how other people cook, thanks for sharing!


  1. Galicia and Asturias – Where You Could Never Go Hungry! | Chica Andaluza - September 19, 2011

    […] is very famous for its Pulpo a la Gallega, so we enjoyed this several times.  A particularly good one was eaten in the beautiful town of O […]

  2. Well…it was a nice idea….”Carpaccio of Octopus” | Chica Andaluza - September 11, 2013

    […] we are lucky enough to have an octopus delivered, I usually make Pulpo a la Gallega. Octopus cooked in the style of Galicia. And very good it is […]

  3. Raya a la Gallega – Galician Style Skate | Chica Andaluza - July 27, 2015

    […] you!) will know that I am a great admirer of the food from Northern Spain. A great favourite is Pulpo a la Gallega – Octopus Galician Style which basically means served with boiled potatoes and seasoned liberally […]

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