Pulpo a la Gallega – Galician Style Octopus

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 thoughts on “Pulpo a la Gallega – Galician Style Octopus

    1. 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 (!)

  1. 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

    1. 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!

  2. 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!

    1. 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….

  3. … 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

    1. 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.

  4. 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 🙂

    1. 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!

  5. 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

  6. 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!

    1. 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!

  7. 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!!

    1. 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 🙂

  8. 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!

  9. 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!!

  10. 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!

  11. 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. 🙂

  12. 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.

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