Greek Grilled Octopus
June 24, 2016 | Updated June 17, 2020
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
I wish I could tell you that I first ate grilled octopus while sitting at a seaside bistro in Greece, staring out at a Peloponnesian sunset and knocking back tumblers of ouzo, made milky with ice.
But I can’t. Sadly, I’ve never been to Greece, although I’ve wanted to go. The Fates seem always to prevent me. Someday.
I can, however, tell you that this Greek-inspired recipe is so wonderful I’d happily feed it to Aphrodite, or some mortal facsimile thereof… like Holly, who just so happens to be part Greek. Holly loves grilled octopus, and so do I. Enough to post a recipe for a store-bought ingredient.
Yes, it’s true. I did not catch these octopuses. I bought them at a fish market. It is my one weakness when it comes to buying fish or meat. If you’ve ever purposefully tried to catch octopus, you know it’s not that easy, even if you are a diver. They are world-class escape artists.
There are any number of methods to tenderize octopus, but over the years I’ve found the best way is to slowly braise them in their own juices, over a bed of mixed herbs. If you want a science-based tutorial on how to prep an octopus, read the great Harold McGee’s method in the New York Times.
After the octos are tender, the grilling part only adds some char and scorch to the party. Serve your grilled octopus simply, with lemon, a drizzle of fine olive oil and a grind of black pepper.
Bread is a must, as are olives. I like some feta cheese with my octos, too. And you gotta have either an austere, crisp white wine — I recommend a Greek Assyrtiko or a French Sancerre — or lots and lots of ouzo or raki or tsipouro.
If you like calamari, you will like grilled octopus. If you like octopus, you will love this recipe. So much so that you will find yourself eating more than you think you might be able to; Holly and I ate this full two-pound recipe at one sitting. And we were not sorry.
Looking for other options with octopus? Try my recipe for Spanish pulpo a la gallega.
Grilled Octopus, Greek Style
- 2 pounds octopus
- 3 to 4 bunches of herbs such as parsley, oregano, fennel fronds and green onions
- 4 to 6 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Juice of a lemon
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
- 1 chopped fresh hot chile, or 1/2 teaspoon chile flakes
- Fine olive oil, black pepper and lemon wedges for garnish
- Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and blanch the octopus for 90 seconds. Remove the octopus and let it drain on a colander.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300°F. Line the bottom of a brazier, a Dutch oven or other large, ovenproof pot with the herbs and bay leaves. Lay the octopus on the nest of herbs, cover the pot and cook in the oven until tender, which will be somewhere between 90 minutes for small octopus to 4 hours for a really gigantic one. Two hours is about normal.
- When the octopus is tender, cut it into chunks. Leave small octopi whole. Mix the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and chile and marinate the octopus in this for at least 1 hour, and as much as a day or two.
- To finish, get your grill blazing hot. Make sure the grill grates are clean. Grill the octopus over high heat until you get a little bit of charring here and there; they're already cooked, so you are just adding flavor. Drizzle your grilled octopus with really good olive oil, grind some black pepper over them and serve with a wedge of lemon -- and a shot of ouzo.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
How long should I braise a 4 ½ octopus?
Frank: Until it’s tender. Hard to say exactly, but my guess is that you’re looking at about 3 hours.
Thanks! I’m making this tonight. For a 3 lb octopus do you cook/use the head as well?
John: I do. I remove any viscera though.
This sounds great. One question, for the braising in the dutch oven it doesn’t say to add any water to the dutch oven. Don’t you need some sort of liquid for it to be “braising”.
John: Nope. The octopus is so juicy it braises in its own juices if you do this slow and low.
We tried this recipe tonight and it is every bit as good (or better) than anything you’ll find in a restaurant. I made a couple of small modifications which worked for us. Excellent!
I am Greek and have been eating octopus since I was a kid.
I tried this recipe for Greek Easter and everyone was blown away.
The whole family loved this recipe. We are foodies and wanted to make this again the same night!.
Giving it a try. My wife and I just returned from Greece… ate octopus everyday, All sun dried. Came home, ate at a local “Greek” restaurant, octopus not even close
I’m guessing that Japanese style octopus traps are a no go in your parts.
Thank you for sharing- I love octopus & grilled is my favourite. I’ve always cooked it by boiling it for about 30 minutes & letting it cool in the water. I do like the sound of your braising as – to be honest- I never boil anything else. Would you say the octopus has more flavour your way?
Maja: I think so. It seems to be less watered down, with a better texture.
Is any liquid added to the pot with the herbs? I’ve never cooked octopus before and don’t want to screw it up.
Beth: Nope. It cooks in its own liquid. That said, if you have a big pot an not too many octopuses, you will want to add a little water. But if everything’s nestled in tight, the octos will cook in their own juices.
Lovely. I always prepare it the same way also. The brief dip blanch does seem to work. I also find if you freeze it first, then slowly defrost before the dip blanch stage it also helps tenderise a lot, especially for larger ones.
I believe in Greece they used to smash the large ones against the beach rocks to tenderise 🙂 I have never had to beat them using the freeze/defrost and dip blanch method.
Cool! Do you think this would work on squid?
H: Yes, but skip the braising step.