slow cooked octopus

I mentioned in my Portugal post that we had incredible octopus there on two occasions- the first being in the Azores in a little town called Mosteiros. We should have known the octopus was the thing to order at this place- it was painted on the side of the building.


They didn’t speak any English at this place, which we discovered after the waitress started speaking in rapid Portuguese to Ethan and he basically lost her after “Hello, how are you.”

In every single country he was mistaken for a local. I guess he’s a bit ethnically ambiguous, and he does make a real effort everywhere he goes to learn a few phrases and try to pronounce them correctly.

But also, the beard.

Guess how many countries we went to where they thought I was a local?

We’ll go to Ireland someday.

I may not look remotely Portuguese but I think I did a pretty damn good job replicating this dish. We learned in our cooking class that octopus is one food that benefits from being frozen first, and then cooking it while it’s frozen rather than thawing it in advance. I can’t remember the exact reasoning behind this but thought it was pretty interesting because I never would have thought to do that.


Slow Cooked Octopus

1 package frozen octopus

1 medium sweet onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

2-3 tbs tomato paste

1 cup red wine

1 bay leaf

1 can whole tomatoes in sauce (or crushed tomatoes would be fine)

The sauce we had in Mosteiros definitely had red wine, tomato, and onion in it. So I kept it pretty simple.

One hallmark of Portuguese cooking that distinguishes it from Italian or Spanish recipes is how they start. Olive oil, onion, garlic, bay leaf is a pretty standard beginning. I’ve always heated the oil and then added the other ingredients. But in Portuguese cooking you add everything to the cold/room temperature oil and bring it up together. This results in onions that are soft and translucent but not at all caramelized- no brown in sight. It gives the onions a different flavor. Again, these are things that fascinate me.

Once that part is done, we tomato paste and let that incorporate. Then add the red wine and let that cook down for a few minutes. Then I gently broke up the tomatoes with my hands and added those and the juice. Finally once the sauce has all come together, we add the frozen octopus.


If you have this magical slow cooker, you can do everything right in there. If not, still easy. Just assemble the sauce in a regular pan, and then put it in the slow cooker with the frozen octopus on low for about 6 hours, turning the octopus occasionally.

If you’ve had octopus before and found it chewy at all- this is your recipe. Rubbery texture is gone.

If you’ve never had octopus before- this is your recipe. Skip any that are chewy.


Serve it up with some crusty bread for dipping if it’s your entree. Or it’s a great appetizer!

It’s especially entertaining when people expect pulled pork to come out of the slow cooker and instead it’s tentacles. You know, with Halloween coming..

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jon says:

    how much oil do you use?

    1. just a couple of tablespoons! enough to coat the bottom of the pot

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s