Perfectly Cooked Boiled Octopus Recipe

There's no need to feel anxious about cooking octopus. It's easy, and getting tender results requires nothing more than time. This recipe for boiled octopus on the stovetop is all you need, and from there you can do whatever you want with your perfectly cooked cephalopod.

An octopus being prepared for cooking.

Serious Eats / Vicky Wasik

Why It Works

  • Adding the octopus to the pot of cold water yields the same results and frees you from having to wait for the water to boil.
  • Cutting up the octopus after it's cooked is easier than when it's raw and slithery.

People have come up with all sorts of crazy tricks for ensuring an octopus cooks up nice and tender, but most of them are unnecessary and ineffective. You don't need an old folk method like adding a wine cork to the pot; you don't need to beat the octopus against a rock (or with a meat pounder); and you definitely don't need to put it in the spin cycle of your washing machine (yes, some people do that). We know because we've tested all of those tricks...except for the washing machine. All you really need is time; you need to cook the octopus just long enough so that the tough and chewy collagen in its flesh converts into silky and tender gelatin. Be patient, and you will be rewarded with exceptional octopus with a lovely texture, ready to be eaten as-is, or seared in a skilled or charred over hot coals on a grill.

The recipe below offers instructions for serving the cooked octopus cold or seared. If you'd like to grill your cooked octopus, follow the instructions here.

Recipe Facts

3.7

(3)

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 75 mins
Active: 30 mins
Cooling Time: 30 mins
Total: 110 mins
Serves: 4 to 6 servings

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Ingredients

  • 1 (2 1/2-pound; 1kg) whole octopus, rinsed well (including inside head cavity); see note

Directions

  1. Fill a pot large enough to hold the octopus with the octopus and enough cold water to cover. Set over high heat. Bring water to a simmer, then lower heat to maintain simmer. Cook until octopus is tender enough that you can pierce the thick part of a tentacle with a paring knife with little resistance, about 1 hour; keep in mind that this time is a rough estimate, and the octopus may be done sooner or it may take longer, but it will get there.

  2. Let octopus cool in the cooking water. Drain, wrap in plastic or store in an airtight container, and refrigerate until chilled. (Chilling helps set the skin so it doesn't fall off later, so it's good to do even if you're planning to serve the octopus warm.) The octopus can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

  3. When ready to serve, carve the octopus by cutting off the tentacles where they converge on the body. At this convergence point, you will also find the hard beak; remove it. Cut away and discard the octopus's eyes as well. You can eat all that remains of the the tentacles and head pouch.

  4. To Serve Cold: Cut tentacles and head into pieces and add to a seafood salad or ceviche.

  5. To Sear: Heat a tablespoon or two of vegetable oil in a skillet over high heat until shimmering. Add octopus pieces and cook until well browned and crisp, about 3 minutes. Turn and brown on other side, about 3 minutes longer. Season with salt and serve as desired.

Notes

While this recipe calls for a specific size of octopus, it truly works for octopus of any size. Just keep in mind that times can vary depending on the octopus.

Make-Ahead and Storage

The chilled octopus can be refrigerated for up to 3 days.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
310 Calories
4g Fat
8g Carbs
56g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 310
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4g 5%
Saturated Fat 1g 4%
Cholesterol 181mg 60%
Sodium 869mg 38%
Total Carbohydrate 8g 3%
Dietary Fiber 0g 0%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 56g
Vitamin C 15mg 76%
Calcium 200mg 15%
Iron 18mg 100%
Potassium 1191mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)