This oven baked octopus recipe is probably the easiest way to prepare octopus! Tender and delicious, it’s the perfect side dish for a Mediterranean seafood dinner.
There is a question I hear often from many people.
How do you cook a whole octopus?
The answer is actually pretty easy and a great example of the philosophy of the Mediterranean cuisine - easy, simple, healthy: You wrap it with foil and you slow cook it in the oven until tender and delicious.
That's how we do it in our Greek homes and it's as easy as it sounds.
This oven baked octopus recipe reminded me of an episode of CSI I watched some time ago, in which there was a scene where a little child was an eye witness to a crime. When the child was asked by the police to tell them what he saw, he told them that the victim had an alien with him! Later on, it was determined that the so called “alien” was actually an octopus!
So, I realize that an octopus may seem like an alien creature to someone who has never prepared it before, but there's nothing to worry about! Once you cook it and taste it, you will cook it again and again! If you serve it as a meze, you should definitely accompany it with some homemade fluffy taramasalata (especially if you adore everything seafood!).
This recipe is one of the two most popular octopus recipes in the Mediterranean! The other one is this Mediterranean octopus stew with elbow macaroni which I highly advise you to check out... It's delicious!
Being raised on an island of the Mediterranean where seafood is in abundance, I hadn’t realized that octopuses may seem strange and exotic to a lot of people!
But if you think about it, octopuses, squids and cuttlefish are extraordinary creatures with a physiology totally different from the animals which walk the earth, so it’s no wonder they may seem strange to some people. The most important thing for recipes like this with just a few ingredients is to find a good quality octopus!
Try to find one that comes from the Mediterranean or the Atlantic Ocean. The Atlantic is saltier than the Pacific something which (to my humble belief) produces tastier fish and seafood. And if you also happen to find some good cuttlefish, don't neglect to make this easy cuttlefish stew!
Today’s Baked Mediterranean octopus is a very easy and simple recipe, so simple even someone with zero expertise in the kitchen can pull through! Actually, it doesn’t even seem like a real recipe because all you have to do is wrap the octopus with baking paper and foil and just bake it for an hour and a half.
The only difficulty you may encounter is during the preparation, where you have to remove the tooth from its center and clean its hood from its internal organs, though in most store bought octopuses this has already been done.
What to serve Octopus with:
- this yellow split pea puree with sautéed mushrooms and caramelized onions is a classic traditional
- fluffy rice
- Greek fried zucchini
- Juicy Mediterranean skillet shrimp (saganaki)
- These olive oil oven chips from foodnetwork also sound good 🙂
The secret for tender octopus:
Traditionally, Greek fishermen use to pound and then rub the octopus against the sea rocks in order to "break" the hard tissue and make its flesh tender.
This procedure however is very cruel - though there are studies that suggest that octopus perceive pain differently than mammals. The other way is to freeze fresh octopus for 10-15 days. The freezer will have the same effect as the traditional pounding.
- Octopus is low in fat and rich in protein, so this dish is considered to be very healthy!
- Keep in mind that octopus has high water content, so it will water out and shrink during baking.
- DON’T add any salt! It already has all the salt it needs.
- Bake it low and slow for a tender and fragrant result!
- If you’re up to it, keep its juice and use it in a seafood risotto or other seafood dishes.
You may also like these similar recipes:
Oven baked swordfish with lemon vinaigrette
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Easy Baked Mediterranean Octopus Recipe
- 2.5 – 3 pounds (1,1 – 1,4 kg) octopus, fresh (or thawed if frozen)
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- Pinch of pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 all spice kernels
- ½ teaspoon oregano
- Some extra olive oil and balsamic vinegar for serving
- Preheat your oven to 320°F (160°C)
- Rinse the octopus and discard any stuff from the inner part of its hood. Remove its tooth from the center (the easiest way to do that is to cut the octopus in half. Otherwise, you can pick it out with your finger, but this may be a bit tricky)
- Make a cross with two sheets of foil, about 1.5-2 feet each. Place a piece of baking paper on the center of the cross and place the octopus on top of it. Pour the olive oil and balsamic over the octopus, add the rest of the ingredients and wrap firmly with the foil.
- Place on a baking tray and bake for 1 hour 30 minutes. Unwrap and check to see if the octopus is fork tender. If it seems a little tough, bake for 30 more minutes.
- Unwrap, take the octopus out of the foil and cut into pieces. Drizzle with olive oil and some balsamic and serve.Eat!
- The secret for tender octopus: Greek fishermen use to pound and rub the octopus against the rocks in order to "break" the hard tissue and make its flesh tender. If you can find fresh octopus it's best to freeze it for 10-15 days. The freezer will have the same effect as the traditional pounding.
- If you buy frozen octopus, then thaw it overnight in the fridge and cook it the next day.
- Another great way to prepare octopus, for a complete meal: Mediterranean Octopus Stew with Elbow Macaroni
- This creamy cucumber salad will pair really well with this recipe.
- You may also want try this homemade falafel recipe
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Spectacular. I could not get fresh octopus in central Ontario but found pre-cooked and recipe still produced a great meal. Used the yellow split pea recipe with green and worked well. This is such a great site. My favourite recipe book! A substitute section would be great for folk who struggle to find ingredients
Thank you so much for your nice words Henry! 🙂 🙂 🙂
Sometimes substitutions can be tricky, but I will try to suggest any substitutions I can think of in the notes section of my recipe cards. Hope this is helpful! And don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions 🙂
Fran @ G'day Souffle'
Hi Makos, I've prepared octopus several times, but first simmered it slowly in water on the stovetop, then marinated it and barbecue-grilled it. Next time, I'll try baking it like yours- your method seems easier! Happy New Year!
Hey Fran! Happy New Year!!!
Grilling and slow simmering are also great ways to prepare octopus!
Absoulutely delicious - tender and tasty! Up until now, my husband always took on the role of cooking the octopus on the hob - he is the one who catches them as well btw. But, this time, I thought two of us in the kitchen was one too many so I looked for an easy way of doing it in the oven and came across your recipe. To be honest, I was a little sceptical as to how tender it would turn out but I was delighted with the results - as were all my guests!
Thanks - this will be a regular feature on our table!
Thank you Liz!
You're very lucky to have access to fresh octopus!
Hi Makos! What are your favorite side dishes to accompany octopus? Easy prep and cook time etc. I'm recently married and my husband and I love to cook different cuisines. Mediterranean is something we both love but have little experience in.
You can put some vegetables in a large pan and bake them with the octopus. The octopus is baked at a medium temperature, so if you want the vegetables caramelized on the exterior you may have to take the octopus out of the oven and bake them for another 10 minutes at a higher temperature.
You can also try the following recipes:
Mediterranean potato salad
balsamic glazed vegetables
I loved this recipe! I had to tweak it a little bit tho. So, I didn’t have 1 1/2 hour for dinner last night. So I improvised and I started boiling the Octopus for 5 minutes with 1/2 an Onion, 1/2 small carrot, salt, 6 cloves of garlic and one bay leaf, this lowered my cooking time to 40 minutes. My partner loved it too and it is added to my omg-it-came-out-great recipe list!
I'm so happy to hear that! I'm also making it again tomorrow 🙂
I haven’t made this yet but I want to try it soon. How do you serve the octopus? I see only tentacles in that gorgeous photo. Is the head useable? If so, how do you cut it so that it looks appetizing? Thanks!
Yes you can eat the head (I remove the eyes and the tooth in the center before baking)
After baking, you can cut the head in quarters and remove any parts of thick skin- they will peel off very easily. Unfortunately, the head will not look as appetizing as the tentacles, that's why I didn't include it in the shots 🙂
That is gorgeous!
Hello, I love to pair lemon with seafood, and was wondering if subbing the balsamic vinegar with lemon juice would work. Does the octopus not pair well with the sourness from a lemon?
I also like to add fresh lemon juice to my octopus, especially when it's grilled over charcoals.
Unfortunately I've never made this recipe with lemon instead of balsamic so I can't tell how it will turn out. My main concern is that perhaps the lemon juice will make the octopus tough (or the lemon flavor will disappear during cooking).
You can certainly add lemon juice to the octopus after it's baked though!
A few years back we were down in Austin for a Music festival and visited a restaurant several nights where we enjoyed grilled Octopus at the bar. I had octopus many times in Portugal and italy but never this tender. I finally got the chef to give me his recipe. He braises the whole octopus overnight at 175 degrees. Let’s it cool then grills it for customers as needed. i’ve done this now at home and it is incredible. Finger tender and absorbs whatever taste you want to add to the braising.
That sounds delicious, thank you!
Coming from the Mediterranean and Cyprus myself, Octopus is a delicacy it cannot be found easily anywhere else in the world. Love your recipe and explanations. Unfortunately I am currently living in the Netherlands, where fresh octopus is a rare phenomenon. I have to stick to frozen Octopus for now. Would the same cooking procedure apply to a frozen one too? Or would you say it requires more cooking time? Also, instead of cooking it in the over, would it work for frozen octopus to boil it instead and then grill it?
Actually many fishermen advise to put fresh octopus in the freezer for a few days because it "breaks" the tissue and softens it. The recipe will work the same, you just need to thaw it overnight in the refrigerator.
I haven't boiled and grilled it, but if I remember correctly a reader of the blog told me she's done it with success. Hope that helps 🙂
Many greetings from Greece!
I made tour recipe and it worked very well!
I had some leftovers though, how do I reheat them? Should I put it back in the oven or use a pan?
If you have a microwave oven it will work fine, otherwise a few minutes in the oven will do the job
Thank you very much!