By: Bettina

Oh pulpo… how I love thee? Let me count the ways!  Octopus isn’t the most common food in North America though I do see it popping up on menus in big cities.  As you guys likely know by now, my family is Cuban, of (very) Spanish origin.  My Mom even lived in Madrid after leaving Havana for several years and my parents were married there. Their roots (and ways of being) are still very Spanish.  

That being said, I don’t remember either of my parents making pulpo for me – what a shame. So I learned how to do it while in Spain visiting my best friend earlier this year. This week I took a chance and made the whole thing from scratch (I actually went through the process of cooking it in boiling water first since in Spain they sell it pre-boiled). It was was surprisingly easy.


Octopus is quite lean and low in calories. A 3-ounce serving of octopus has around 140 calories and more than 25 grams of protein. WOOHOO! Octopus is naturally low in fat, though it is higher in cholesterol, which I know scares all of you but no one is going to eat industrial amounts of octopus so calm down.  The best part for people like me who eat a mostly vegetarian diet, is that octopus exceeds your daily recommended value of  of B12 which is a key nutrient we don’t get from vegetables. It’s high in Iron and Selenium.  And well, it’s delicious!


  • 1 octopus (they come in different sizes – mine weighed about three pounds)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • coarse sea salt
  • olive oil (the virgin extra kind)
  • 1 lemon
  • garlic powder
  • paprika


  1. In a large pot (with lid), bring water to a boil with a generous amount of salt (around 1 Tbsp).
  2. When the water in the pot is boiling, grab the pulpo by its head and dunk it into the water three times. The tentacles will start curling inward. This is an important step so the pulpo won’t peel later.
  3. With the fourth dunk, let the whole thing slide into the water and try to submerge it well. Add the bay leaf.
  4. Simmer with lid on low heat. The timing varies.  For a three pound pulo, I boiled for 30 minutes so let’s estimate 10 minutes per pound.  A trick I heard of is to boil with a potato and cook till the potato is cooked.  (I didn’t try this method).
  5. After the pulpo is cooked through, turn off the heat and allow the octopus to sit in the hot water for a few minutes, so the skin won’t peel off.
  6. Drain the pulpo and cut it into big pieces (first, make sure to remove the head – discard – and then cut off the tentacles one by one. Slice the tentacles however you like: horizontal, vertical, diagonal…
  7. Heat a flat, lightly oiled grill grate as hot as it will go. VERY HIGH HEAT.
  8. Sprinkle generous amounts of garlic powder (and a little salt) on the octopus.  Place the octopus on the grill. I let it grill for 5-7 minutes.  Not wanting to leave it too long or it will get chewy.
  9. Remove the pulpo from the pan and place in a bowl and allow to cool. Deglaze the pan with the juice of a whole lemon.  Let it sizzle a little and throw that lemony sauce onto the octopus.  Sprinkle with paprika and drizzle with olive oil.
  10. Toss everything together and check for flavor (salt).  Serve warm.


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