Pulpo a la Gallega

Tapas Time

This is a great way to share a dish of octopus with friends. The Maltese also love their spuds so you can't go wrong with this recipe.

Octopus is one of the main seafood delicacies of the Mediterranean kitchen. Throughout the Mediterranean, the clever octopus falls prey to enthusiasts with a simple snorkel and harpoon. It is a summertime sport which used to be a common pastime of several Maltese in their youth.

We have decided to share this recipe which is on the menu from time time at Maldonado Bistro. It is a sure winner with customers as it is a lovely looking dish but also convenient to share. Since Maldonado was a Spanish Knight of the Order of St. John, we have a keen interest in Spanish recipes to celebrate Maldonado’s time as Governor of Gozo.

Pulpo a la Gallega is a tapas dish with its origins from the North-West of Spain. The dish is a main pick on tapas menus throughout Spain all the way down to Barcelona. Here in Malta we love octopus. And we love potato. Both local ingredients to make this lovely seafood dish.

How to tenderise your octopus

We completely understand the importance of fresh fish. But octopus is one of those rare things that you need to freeze before you cook. This is because the octopus is full of water and collagen. The crystallisation of the octopus’ water content tenderises the collagen tissue during the freezing process.

Other traditional methods could be that you bang the octopus on your kitchen top or hammer it with a pan. We believe freezing the octopus is a more dignified way to celebrate the sea creature.

Try it at the barbecue

This could be an interesting ‘starter’ at the barbecue. All you need to do is prepare everything in advance. Leave the octopus tentacles intact and give them a quick char over the hot coals before you slice them up.

Pulpo a la Gallega

This is a popular tapas dish originating from the North-West of Spain.
Servings 6 people
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins


  • Big Pot
  • Cooking Spider
  • Mandoline Slicer
  • Knife and chopping board
  • Zester
  • Whisk
  • Squeeze Bottle
  • Measuring Jug
  • 2 Mixing Bowls
  • Flat Round Plates (to serve)


To cook octopus

  • 1 Octopus, medium size (approx. 2-3kg)
  • Water (enough to fill half pot)
  • 2 Bay Leaf
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns

To prepare aioli

  • 100 ml Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic (finely sliced)
  • 1 Egg yolk
  • 1 Lemon (zest and juice)

To assemble plate

  • 4 Small potatoes (boiled and peeled)
  • 2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Chilli (deseeded and finely chopped)
  • 1 handful Parsley (finely chopped)
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • Sea Salt (to season)
  • Black Pepper (to season)


Cook the Octopus

  • Bring a pot of water to the boil. Lift the octopus from the head and dip and lift the tentacles in/from the hot boiling water up to 3 times.
    The dipping helps strengthen the octopus skin and tentacles so they don't peal off when the octopus is ready.
  • Once the tentacles curl then dip the octopus one final time and leave to simmer for around 1 hour with bay leaves and black peppercorns.
  • Once the octopus is tender, set aside from the pot and leave to cool.

Make the aioli

  • Infuse olive oil and garlic in a heavy-bottom pan on medium heat. The aim is to flavour the oil, not fry and burn the garlic.
  • After 5 to 10 minutes, take the pan off the heat and leave the oil to cool down. Transfer to measuring jug and discard the garlic.
  • Zest the lemon and reserve for later.
  • Juice the lemon and whisk with egg yolk and a pinch of salt in a glass bowl. Then very slowly pour in the garlic oil while continue whisking until mixture has lightened in colour and thickened.
    Taste and adjust with salt or white wine vinegar or both.
  • Transfer aioli to a squeeze bottle and set aside until needed.

Assemble the plates

  • Dissect the octopus tentacles from the head. (There are always 8!)
    Cut off the curly edges of the tentacles and slice the remaining part of the tentacle at an angle (profile).
  • Place octopus in a bowl and marinate with extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, chilli (optional), half of the smoked paprika, some of the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.
  • Slice the potatoes thinly and spread on your plates.
  • With the squeeze bottle, squirt aioli on each slice of potato.
  • Spoon a piece of octopus on the aioli on each slice of potato.
  • Sprinkle remaining smoked paprika and chopped parsely. Salt, pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Serve immediately.


The traditional method of this dish would be without the aioli. But since garlic aioli is so integral to Spanish tapas, we decided to include it in the recipe. It is up to you on how authentic you would like to go.
This is a great dish to start your dinner party. Prepare all the items beforehand and all you need to do is assemble the plate on the night.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mediterranean, Spanish
Keyword: Cold Starter, Food, octopus, pulpo, seafood, tapas

Did you try this recipe?

Please let us know how it turned out for you! Send us an e-mail or tag @maldonadobistro on Instagram and hashtag it #amaltesepantry.

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