Octopus salad has always been one of my favorite dishes, especially during the warmer months. It’s a delightful and refreshing combination of tender octopus, crisp vegetables, and a zesty dressing that leaves me feeling satisfied yet light.
Originating from various cuisines across the globe, including Italian, Mexican, and Japanese, octopus salad is an incredibly versatile dish that can be tailored to suit your preferences and taste buds.
I remember the first time I tried octopus salad; I couldn’t believe how flavorful and tender the octopus was. Although I was initially hesitant due to its unique texture, I quickly fell in love with the dish. For more delicious crispy salad recipes check out cucumber onion salad, chicken kale salad, or Kenyan kachumbari.
Choosing Fresh or Frozen Octopus
Choosing between fresh or frozen octopus for salad depends on factors like quality, availability, and texture preference. Fresh octopus, if high-quality and accessible, has a delightful, sweet scallop-like flavor.
If unavailable, especially away from coastal regions, frozen octopus is a fine alternative. Interestingly, freezing octopus can tenderize it due to ice crystal formation that softens muscle fibers, making it less tough post-cooking.
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Regardless, both need careful cooking, perhaps a gentle simmer and cooling in the poaching liquid, for a tender, flavorful result. Ultimately, whether fresh or frozen, a tasty octopus salad can be achieved with the right recipe and method! For more octopus recipes check out Octopus to Squid Cookbook.
How to Prepare Octopus
First, I start by cleaning the octopus. To do this, I hold the octopus firmly by the head and rinse it under cold, running water.
I make sure to clean all the nooks and crannies, paying particular attention to the area around the eyes and beak.
Once the octopus is thoroughly rinsed, I remove the eyes and beaks by carefully cutting around them with a sharp knife.
Next, it’s time to tenderize the octopus. I like to massage the octopus using coarse sea salt or a meat mallet. This process helps to break down the tough muscle fibers and ensure a tender final product.
How to Cook Octopus for Salad
There are more ways of cooking octopus, and I’ve tried different techniques besides grilling. Boiling is a popular method, especially when serving octopus in salads like Insalata di Polpo.
Pressure cookers are also a great option for cooking octopus, significantly reducing the total cooking time. After some trial and error, I found that this video on YouTube helped me with the nuances of cooking octopus using a pressure cooker.
In my experience, grilling octopus is one of the most popular and delicious ways to prepare this seafood delight. Here’s what I did:
- First, I prepared my octopus by boiling it in water with some lemon wedges, which helps to tenderize the meat. Make sure to cook it until it is fork-tender, which usually takes around 45-60 minutes.
- Next, removed the octopus from the boiling water and let it cool down before proceeding to cut it into smaller pieces for easier grilling.
- Then marinated the pieces with olive oil, lime juice, and some spices of my choice for about an hour.
- Finally, I grilled the marinated octopus over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes on each side, making sure that it was cooked through and slightly charred.
What is octopus salad made of
Octopus – The main protein in this dish. It has a unique flavor and texture when cooked properly.
Tomato – Provides freshness and acidity, balancing the rich flavors of the octopus.
Cucumber – Adds crunch and hydration to the dish.
Red Onion – Contributes a slightly sweet and sharp flavor.
Lemon – The juice will add acidity and brightness to balance the dish.
Olive Oil – Used for its rich, fruity flavor, it acts as a dressing for the dish.
Green Onions – They offer a mild, sweet flavor and a hint of color.
Bunch of Parsley – Fresh herb that adds a pop of green and a slightly peppery note.
For cooking the Octopus:
Stalk Celery – Adds a savory depth to the cooking liquid.
Sprigs of Thyme – Imparts a subtle, earthy flavor to the octopus.
Bay Leaf – Provides a distinctive woody and slightly floral flavor.
Chili Pepper – Adds a fiery touch to the dish.
Pinch of Salt and Sugar – Enhances flavor and balances the heat from the chili pepper.
How to Make Octopus Salad
Prepare the Octopus: Clean the octopus under cold running water. Remove the beak and eyes and rinse the inside of the head thoroughly.
Prepare the Cooking Liquid: In a large pot, combine celery, thyme, bay leaf, chili pepper, salt, and sugar. Add enough water to submerge the octopus and heat until boiling.
Cook the Octopus: Once the water is boiling, dip the octopus tentacles first into the water three times, waiting a few seconds between each dip. This “shock” process helps the tentacles to curl beautifully. After the third dip, fully submerge the octopus in the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 45-60 minutes, until the octopus is tender when pierced with a fork.
Prepare the Salad Ingredients: While the octopus is cooling, dice the tomato and cucumber, slice the red and green onions, and finely chop the parsley.
Assemble the Salad: In a large bowl, combine the diced octopus, tomato, cucumber, and onions. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad and drizzle with the Spanish olive oil. Toss until well combined.
Season and Serve: Season the salad to taste with additional salt, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve chilled or at room temperature.
What Does Octopus Taste Like?
When I first tried octopus, I was surprised by its unique taste and texture. The taste of octopus is quite delectable, with a mild, slightly sweet flavor that sets it apart from other seafood. It doesn’t taste overly fishy, which is a common expectation, but rather has its own distinctive profile.
The texture of octopus can vary depending on how it’s prepared. When cooked well, it can have a tender and slightly chewy texture that’s truly enjoyable. However, improperly cooked can turn quite tough and rubbery – something no one wants in a delicious dish. I found that the best way to achieve that tender texture is to cook it slowly.
Greece (Mediterranean): A delightful octopus salad seasoned with olives, capers, and lemon juice, along with kalamata olives, cilantro, and olive oil.
Italy: “Insalata di Polpo” is a hearty octopus salad with potatoes boiled in their skin, cut into wedges, and a touch of red pepper flakes.
Argentina: The unique “Drunken Octopus Salad” uses sautéed carrots, celery, onions, and garlic in olive oil, creating a rich aroma and flavor.
These global variations offer exciting ways to enjoy octopus salad.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to tenderize the meat?
Before cooking the octopus, I find it helpful to tenderize the meat by massaging it gently under cold running water. This breaks down some of the tough muscle fibers, making the octopus more tender and less chewy after cooking.
Why boil the octopus?
Boiling the octopus is an essential step in making your salad tender and delicious. The slow, gentle cooking process breaks down the tough muscle fibers and tenderizes the octopus, making it much less chewy than if you were to grill it raw.
What are good side dishes?
Some of my favorite side dishes to serve alongside octopus salad include crusty bread, roasted or grilled vegetables, and a simple cucumber and tomato salad. These light, refreshing sides complement the rich, bold flavors of the octopus salad well.
Why do you boil octopus?
Boiling octopus is key to achieve its tender, delightful texture! This process breaks down the tough muscle fibers, making it pleasant to eat. So next time you’re enjoying a tender bite of octopus, remember – it’s all thanks to a good boil!
Octopus Salad (Ensalada de Pulpo)
For the Octopus:
- 10 oz Octopus
- 1 Stalk Celery
- 2 Sprigs of Thyme
- 1 Bay Leaf
- 1 tsp Chili Pepper
- Pinch of salt
- Pinch of sugar
For the Salad
- 1 Tomato
- 1 Cucumber
- 1 small Red Onion
- ½ Lemon
- ⅓ cup Olive Oil
- 2 Green Onions
- ½ Bunch of Parsley
Prepare the Octopus
- Clean the octopus under cold running water. Remove the beak and eyes and rinse the inside of the head thoroughly.
Prepare the Cooking Liquid
- In a large pot, combine celery, thyme, bay leaf, chili pepper, salt, and sugar. Add water to the pot until the octopus is fully submerged, then heat until boiling.
Cook the Octopus
- Once the water is boiling, dip the octopus tentacles first into the water three times, waiting a few seconds between each dip. This "shock" process helps the tentacles to curl beautifully.
- After the third dip, fully submerge the octopus in the boiling water. Reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for about 45-60 minutes, until the octopus is tender when pierced with a fork.
Cool and Slice
- Remove the octopus from the cooking liquid and let it cool. Once cooled, cut the octopus into bite-sized pieces.
Prepare the Salad Ingredients
- While the octopus is cooling, dice the tomato and cucumber, slice the red and green onions, and finely chop the parsley.
Assemble the Salad
- In a large bowl, combine the diced octopus, tomato, cucumber, and onions. Squeeze the lemon juice over the salad and drizzle with the Spanish olive oil. Toss until well combined.
Season and Serve
- Season the salad to taste with additional salt, if needed. Garnish with chopped parsley and serve chilled or at room temperature.