Spanish Tapa-inspired Octopus Salad

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A Spanish tapa-inspired take on the classic tender marinated octopus. It can be served alone or on toast. And if you don’t fancy octopus, this dish is also great with cooked prawns or cooked chorizo. 

Spanish Tapa-style Octopus Salad

¡Hola from Spain! During our short visit to San Sebastian in the Basque Country (Northern Spain) we were spoilt with the regions’ culinary offering, ranging from visits to countless pintxos bars to meals at two of the world’s top 10 restaurants.

Our lunch at Arzak was one of the best meals we’ve ever eaten. Juan Mari and his daughter Elena are masters of making classic comfort food dishes shine beyond imaginable. Think Bacon and Eggs on Toast or Fish and Chips kind of comfort but kicked up a few notches. Every dish is crafted with respect that the original deserves, and enough creative flare to make it special but not pompous. A visit to Arzak is one we would highly recommend.

As for the pintxos – Basque version of tapas for which this region is famous, there are plenty to choose from in the town’s Old Quarter. From classic jamon croquetas, anchovies and chorizo, to more modern selection of ceviche, sea urchin and various incarnations of foie.

Tomorrow, after a short scenic drive to Rioja wine country and a stay at this amazing hotel, we head over to Barcelona to enjoy some Catalan sunshine, culture and food influenced by the Mediterranean climate. This is where I first tried this delicious marinated octopus salad a few years back. Served with or without anchovies – both black and white, it is a tasty tapa-style dish that goes well with a glass of chilled wine.


Spanish Tapa-style Octopus Salad (2)

Spanish Tapa-style Octopus Salad
Recipe type: tapas, salad, seafood, octopus
Cuisine: spanish, italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
Cooking note: the secret to a well cooked octopus lies in the cooking time itself. It either has to be flash fried for literally a minute or two, or poached for around an hour in order to achieve a soft, non-rubbery texture. While flash frying is great for baby octopus, poaching medium to large octopus is a much better choice. Serve with toasted bread of your choice. White anchovies are available from many delis and grocers - they are marinated in oil and vinegar much like rollmops.
For the marinated octopus:
  • 1 medium raw octopus, cleaned (approx 300g or 1lb)
  • 1 tbsp vinegar
  • ¼ cup light olive oil
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
To serve as Octopus Salad:
  • marinated octopus, prepared as above
  • 1 medium cooked potato, chilled and diced
  • 1 head baby cos lettuce, shredded
  • 1 dill pickle, diced
  • ⅛ cup olives of choice
  • 1 tsp capers in brine
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1-2 tbsp chopped salted and white anchovies (see note), optional
  • 1 tbsp of the leftover oil
  • toasted bread of your choice
  • lemon wedges
To make the octopus:
  1. Cut the octopus into quarters, removing the head and beak (hard, shell-like bit from the middle near the head).
  2. Bring a saucepan of water and a tablespoon of vinegar to a boil and drop in the tentacles and head. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for 1-1.5 hours or until the tentacles are soft when pierced but not mushy. Drain and cool in an ice bath.
  3. Peel off any of the slimy membranes – be careful not to remove too many of the suckers during this process, they look great and add texture to the dish.
  4. Chop up roughly. Mix oil and lemon juice in a bowl and add octopus. Mix well and season with black pepper. Refrigerate until needed (up to 2 days).
To serve:
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the octopus, diced potato, lettuce,diced pickle, olives, capers and anchovies, if using. Drizzle with oil. Transfer onto serving dish.
  2. Serve with lightly toasted bread and lemon wedges.
dairy-free egg-free nut-free options: paleo gluten-free




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11 Responses to Spanish Tapa-inspired Octopus Salad

  1. Tessa says:

    Looks fresh and delicious! Your photos and presentation is just gorgeous. Fresh octopus is one of those hard to find ingredients here in Oregon. Next time I see it, I will be sure to snap some up and try this.

  2. jesusan says:

    So glad you offered the option of chorizo – I had octopus once, in a restaurant in Florence, in 1967, as part of a seafood salad. No desire to try it again. I am green with envy that you are going to Barcelona. It’s one of my very favorite cities in the world. If you haven’t been to La Sagrada Familia, it is well worth going to. The inside is a wonderful, awe inspiring experience. The other place I loved, also designed by Antoni Gaudi is Guell Park – also worth a visit. I hope you have a wonderful visit.

    • Hi Jesusan, thank you so much for your comment and tips on Barcelona sight-seeing. You are right about Sagrada Familia – I was there in 2008 before any of the interior was finished so it was amazing to see it mostly completed this time. Breathtaking, really. We did also end up going to Park Guell and admired Gaudi’s creativity there as well as at La Pedrera. what an amazing man he was. The city is amazing because of him. As for the octopus, it is an acquired taste but I tend to enjoy it when it’s done well.

      • jesusan says:

        So glad you enjoyed Barcelona. I don’t end up awestruck very often, but Sagrada Famillia did that to me. I think the city may have more going for it than just Gaudi, but he certainly put it on the map. It’s wonderful to be able to experience such awesome talent. 🙂

  3. Woo! what a lovely photo and you are certainly where I’d like to be. 🙂 Have the best time!

  4. Anna says:

    Loving the new website/blog design! And hearing about your amazing travels through Europe 🙂

  5. Raymund says:

    Nice use for octopus, I will definitely love this salad

  6. Nice looking recipe. Does Octopus really have some unique health benefits.