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Pulpo a la Gallega

Origin: Galicia

Pulpo a la gallega

Pulpo a la gallega -Galician style octopus- takes us back many centuries, not because the recipe was the same, but because octopus has been consumed in this autonomous region for longer than we can count.

Octopus was one of the few types of seafood that was transported from the coasts to the interior towns and in fact it was far more appreciated in these towns than near the sea, as those had other products such as lobster, king crab and a great variety of fish.

When America was discovered many products appeared in the Spanish markets, including a fake spice obtained from some crushed red chiles , in Spanish they call it pimentón, in English: paprika.

Not only does paprika give a tempting copperish tinge, but it's also great for preserving food in those time before frozen products and easy land transportation. Now it would be possible to preserve the meat and fish products without problems of rotting, molds or even worse. Eureka

But it wasn't until a few years later that pulpo a la gallega became and actual dish. Some 125 years ago, when muleteers went to cattle fairs, they bought large amounts of octopus and then they'd prepare it with olive oil and paprika. Quite simple.

The name in galician for pulpo a la gallega is "pulpo a feira" (fair style octopus) for a very simple reason. During the cattle fairs the farmers would buy or sell cattle, sell their farm products, etc, and buy groceries such as salt, sugar and other products they didn't have daily access to.

The trip to the town where the fair took place took a long time and most people would stay for lunch or dinner. Those who stayed near the fair venue could eat octopus (as we've mentioned before, it was a very typical dish in fairs).

The "pulpeiras" (specialized in octopus) would cook the animal in copper cauldrons and serve the octopi in wooden plates. It is said that the copper pot gives it an incomparable taste that it's impossible to obtain with any other material

Today the story is a little different, we don't need paprika to preserve food, since we freeze it, but in Galicia, which is still a largely rural region, it's possible to go to cattle fairs and eat pulpo a la gallega and watch the preparation process which has it's own special magic. The good news, it's also possible to prepare it at home.

Pulpo a la Gallega | Galician Style Octopus

Pulpo a la gallega

Ingredients (four portions):

  • 1 octopus of 2 kilos
  • 500 grams of potatoes
  • Paprika
  • Spicy paprika
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


  • If it's a fresh octopus first we must soften the octopus, there are two ways to this, you can either beat it with a wooden rolling pin until its texture softens or freeze it for two days and defrost it the day before cooking it in the fridge (put it in a bowl because it will release a lot of liquid)
  • Dice the onion and add it to a pan with water. When it begins to boil is time to add the octopus. Grab it's head and dip it in the pan three times. After the third time you put it in and take it out add to the pan permanently. Cook for 50 minutes
  • Once cooked remove the pan from the fire and let it cool for 15 minutes.
  • Using the same water in which the octopus was cooked, cook the potatoes (previously peeled and diced). While they boil dice the octopus in medium sized slices.
  • When the potatoes are cooked remove from water and add to a platter. We add the octopus slices on top.
  • The final touch is adding the olive oil and paprika and abundant coarse salt. You can prepare a vinaigrette previously or add the ingredients separately.

So, pulpo a la gallega doesn't present many problems and it's always tastes great, however, it is said that all food is better when tasted in its source of origin. Should you ever decide to travel to Spain, we suggest you ask the locals for the best Galician style octopus in town.