What Does Octopus Taste Like?
When cooked well, octopus is delicious and perfectly tender. When eaten raw or undercooked, it is soft and chewy. Some find the idea of eating octopus off putting at first, but when it is cooked well, it is quite delicious.
What does Octopus Taste Like?
Well-cooked octopus has a similar texture and taste as lobster. Its texture and smell are characteristic of the meat, while its flavor is mainly influenced by the ingredients used in the cooking.
Octopus can be eaten raw, and you might want to try it for the experience. But the truth is it doesn’t taste like much on its own. This is why most restaurants serve it with a sauce, adding some flavour.
How to Buy Octopus
The best way to pick out a fresh octopus is to smell it. A freshly-caught octopus will give off a saltwater aroma. Nothing else. If it gives off a strong fishy odor, turn the other way.
Keep in mind that fresh octopus shrinks when cooking, therefore make sure to buy enough. Two to three pounds of octopus will be just enough for four people.
Watch out for “fake” octopus. Poton tentacles (the Pacific giant squid) are sometimes sold as octopus, but it doesn’t taste anything like it. It is easy to be caught out when buying tentacles or slices, but less likely if you buy a whole octopus. Always check the label.
Raw octopus is very different from cooked octopus. And undercooked octopus can be especially difficult to eat, because the meat will be too tough or rubbery. As it is tricky to get it right, when consuming octopus at home, it is best to buy it pre-cooked.
When buying fresh raw octopus from fishmonger, it is sold with casings, which are particularly unpleasant to deal with. So we advise you think carefully about whether you really want to embark on this process from scratch.
If you buy frozen octopus, it comes cleaned and gutted, without ink or guts. And bare in mind that frozen octopus stays fresh for longer and has the same essential properties.
How to Cook Octopus
Fresh octopus needs to be cleaned and cut before cooking. Cleaning a fresh octopus is a meticulous task, as all the entrails need to be removed and rinsed. Buying a frozen pre-processed octopus will save you a lot of work. Once cleaned, octopus resembles a deflated sac with tentacles.
Even if you buy fresh octopus it is advised to freeze it before cooking as the freezing process helps the meat to become tender and easier to cook.
You can soften the octopus in various, complex ways, but probably the simplest is to dip it in water and then simmer it in some red wine.
Cooking time varies from 30 minutes to four hours depending on size. You can check whether it is cooked by inserting a fork into the thickest part of the body. Once it goes in without much pressure, you know it is cooked.
Below are a few of our favorite octopus recipes:
- Greek Sweet Peas with Octopus
- Greek Octopus Wrap
- Grilled Octopus with Roasted Potatoes
- Greek (Santorini) Fava with Octopus
- Braised Baby Octopus with Rocket and Pear Salad
- Spanish (Galician) Octopus: Pulpo a’la Gallega
How to Enjoy Octopus: Sauces and Side Dishes for Octopus
The most common mistake is to eat octopus without sauce, and then complain it isn’t tasty. In Korea, octopus is dipped in sesame oil with red pepper or crushed garlic.
In Malaga, octopus is often stewed with chickpeas; in Catalonia they like to grill the smallest octopuses, and in some southern areas they are left to dry in the sun and then fried. A traditional recipe in Japan is sliced octopus mixed with very thin slices of cucumber and ginger, vinegar and soy sauce then cooked.
Well-cooked octopus gives a slight resistance to the bite, which must be just right to properly enjoy it. If it is too syrupy the meat stays jagged and soft.
Types of Octopus
There is Spanish octopus – very tender and tasty because it lives in softer Mediterranean waters, and Chilean octopus – less tender due to the harder Pacific water.
The octopus from Galicia is darker, mimicking the rocky sea bottom where it hides, and has the hardest skin. The African octopus lives on a sandy sea bottom so has a finer skin and meat with a good flavor. But it is the fishing grounds of Morocco that supply most of the market.