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Pulpo a la Gallega


pulpo a al gallega

Pulpo a la Gallega

In the mid-80s, I arrived in Santiago del Compostella and was overwhelmed by the sight of a procession of men in long gowns wearing conical pointed hats covering their faces. These were the Confraternities, religious brotherhoods, and parishioners who actively participated in the Easter processions. They were wearing traditional robes and hoods, known as Capirotes, symbolising penance and humility. Not the KKK.
One notable procession is "La Procesión del Encuentro," which typically takes place on Good Friday. This event symbolises the encounter between the Virgin Mary and the resurrected Christ. Participants carry statues of the Virgin Mary and Christ, and the meeting of these figures is a poignant moment in the procession.
After the procession, I found a cafe serving almost nothing but seafood. The best of the dishes that I tried was 'Pulpo a la Gallega', boiled octopus with smoked paprika. It was divine!
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Tenderise 1 day
Total Time 1 day 1 hour 5 minutes
Course appetiser, Main Course, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine Galician, Spanish
Servings 4 people


  • Large saucepan


  • 1.5 kg whole octopus 2-3 pounds
  • 1 large onion peeled and halved
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 5 medium waxy potatoes
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp Spanish smoked paprika (pimentón)
  • 1 tsp coarse sea salt to taste


  • 1 tbsp Fresh parsley (chopped)


Prepare the Octopus

  • Clean the octopus thoroughly under running water.
  • Place the cleaned octopus in a plastic bag or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap. Freeze it for at least 24 hours. Freezing and thawing the octopus helps to break down the cell structure, making it more tender. This is a common method used in Spain.
  • Remove the beak from the centre of the tentacles.
  • Fill a large saucepan with water. Add the halved onion, bay leaves, and 1 tablespoon of sea salt.
  • Bring the water to a boil.

Cook the Octopus

  • Submerge the octopus into the boiling water three times, holding it by the head, to help curl the tentacles.
  • Leave the octopus in the boiling water and cook for about 40-50 minutes or until it becomes tender. Check tenderness by inserting a fork; it should penetrate easily.
  • Once cooked, remove the octopus from the pot and let it cool for a few minutes.

Prepare the Potatoes

  • While the octopus is cooking, peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.
  • Boil the potatoes in salted water until they are tender but still firm.
  • Once cooked, let the potatoes cool slightly. Then, cut them into thin slices.

Slice the Octopus

  • Slice the octopus into bite-sized pieces. Aim for a thickness of about half an inch.

Assemble the Dish

  • Arrange the sliced potatoes on a serving platter or individual plates.
  • Place the sliced octopus on top of the potatoes.
  • Drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Sprinkle with Spanish smoked paprika and coarse sea salt to taste. Adjust the quantities based on your preference.

Garnish and Serve

  • Garnish the dish with freshly chopped parsley.
  • Serve Pulpo a la Gallega warm as a tapa or a main course.

Accompany with Alioli (Garlic Mayonnaise)

  • Some variations of this dish are served with a side of aioli. You can make aioli by mixing crushed garlic with mayonnaise until you achieve a creamy consistency. Serve it on the side for dipping.


Enjoy this delightful Galician dish with a good crusty bread and a glass of Albariño wine for an authentic Spanish experience!
Keyword Galician, Octopus

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