Tender Grilled Baby Octopus

There are few animals as visually stunning as a baby octopus when cooked. Purple-tinged arms curl and twist into an eye-catching swirl that looks more like a sculpture in an art museum than a meal on a plate. When it comes to food, however, beauty only goes so far. Eventually you’ve got to stick a fork in it and satisfy your hunger.

Either as an appetizer or main course, this recipe for grilled baby octopus is a stunning meal that will please both the eyes and the palate. An easy three-step cooking method (blanching, marinating, then grilling) creates tender, crispy octopus drenched in a garlicky, herby marinade and dressing.

Plain octopus has a delicate flavor that’s slightly sweet and similar to that of a scallop. In fact, the flavor of octopus can be so mild that it’s hard to dislike but octopus can present a textural challenge. If your last experience with octopus was a little like chewing on a tire, this recipe will win you back. Dropping the octopus in boiling hot water for just a minute cooks it halfway and helps tenderize the meat. A long soak in a marinade continues the tenderizing process and also gives the meat most of its flavor. Finally, a quick sear on the grill intensifies the flavor and gives the edges a charred, crispy texture.

Baby octopus is usually sold frozen at seafood stores although occasionally you’ll find it fresh. If the heads are still on, they need to be cleaned out (see below) or you can just cut the heads off and get rid of them. This is a personal choice: Once cleaned, the head is edible although not always as flavorful as the rest of the body.

Baby octopus…so simple to make, so beautiful to look at and so delicious to eat!

Servings: 2 as a main course, 4 as an appetizer


  • 2 pounds baby octopus
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large lemon
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper


  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest


If the octopus is frozen, defrost completely.

If the octopi still have their heads, you can either cut the heads off and discard them or keep the head on. If you choose to keep the head on, however, make sure it’s cleaned out. If it’s not, then you can approach the task two ways:

  1. Make a shallow cut along the head, being careful not to cut too deep and puncture the innards. Carefully but firmly pull out everything inside.
  2. Cut the head off, turn it inside out and use a knife to scrape away the innards.

In both cases, if a small black, triangular beak does not come out along with everything else, then push your finger up through the middle of the body and the beak should pop out. Rinse the octopi and set aside.

To make the marinade, whisk together the 1/2 cup of olive oil, plus lemon juice, garlic, thyme, salt and black pepper. Set aside.

In a large pot over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Turn the heat off and dump the octopuses into the pot.

Let sit for 1 minute then drain immediately. Rinse with cold water.

Combine the octopus and the marinade, either in a large bowl or sealed plastic bag. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, but ideally 4.

Soak 4 wooden skewers in water. Heat the grill to high.

While the grill is heating, make the dressing by whisking together the rosemary, lemon juice, lemon zest and remaining olive oil.

Skewer each octopus, putting 3 to 5 on each skewer (if you have heads that are separate from the body, skewer them too). Grill over high heat, letting the flames char the outside, but turn the skewers a few times so the octopus doesn’t burn. A total of around 6 minutes on the grill is usually about right.

Remove from the grill; drizzle with rosemary dressing. The octopus can remain whole, or you can slice it thinly. Grilled baby octopus can be served hot off the grill, or you can chill it and serve cold with extra lemon wedges on the side.

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64 thoughts on “Tender Grilled Baby Octopus”

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  1. LOVE baby octupus! I find the best place to find it fresh is an asian market.

    1. LOL! this dish may seem foreign to some and downright alien to others.

  2. This looks so amazing! I am going to look for these this weekend!

  3. Giant Eagle Market District in Columbus, OH, was making and sampling baby octopus one day. I was so hungry at the time I just grabbed one and downed it. It was so naturally salty and good! I wanna eat more, but I’m still a little intimidated about cooking them.

  4. After learning about how intelligent octopi are, I can’t eat them anymore. I’ll eat pretty much any other animal, but if there’s a non-human life form on earth that’s capable of conscious thought, my money’s on the octopus, lol.

    It’s a shame, too, ‘cuz they’re delicious.

    1. They do have pretty large brain for their size.

      I was at an Asian friend’s house once when his family was eating baby octopus. They gave me the head first as it is considered the best part. The thing just exploded in my mouth. I remember the legs being very chewy.

      It wouldn’t be the last meal i’d ask for if i was on death row, but i’d eat it again, but not as the main source of protein for a meal.

    2. Where did you learn this? I’d love to learn more as I have thoroughly enjoyed the grilled octopus that I have had twice in my life.

    3. But by supporting the fishing of them, we’re placing an evolutionary pressure on them. Those that are the smartest are more likely to think “I better not go into that fishing net!”. And thus, by eating them we’re making them even smarter!

      Do you really want their intelligence to stagnate? You’re cruel.

    4. Agreed. There are very few meaty things I won’t eat, and octopus is one of them. For just that reason.

  5. This could not have come at a more perfect time.

    I used to be scared sick of seafood. That stopped 3 years ago. Over time I have enjoyed all kinds of seafood. I love it all for the most part.

    My latest adventure was octopus. It is now one of my favorite foods.

    Greek Islands in Chicago is one of my favorite restaurants. They serve an amazing grilled octopus. I now wonder if they make it similar to this. It was as tender as any meat could possibly get and full of flavor.

    I’m glad to know I now don’t have to rely on Greek Islands to enjoy Octopus.

    I’ll be trying this very soon! Probably once I am in Olympia.

    Don’t fear octopus! Give it a shot! It truly is AMAZING!

  6. Ok, I’m sorry, but that’s just gross. I’ll personally stick to more conventional methods and types of seafood. For you adventurous types, more power to you!

    1. In much of the world, they are conventional! Here in Italy, they eat them all the time.

  7. Thanks but no thanks. I’ve tried baby octopus. They were very small and came as part of a seafood plate I once ordered in Chinatown. Felt like I was chewing a mouthful of spiders.

    1. “I better not go into that fishing net!”

      All I know about fishing for them is that one method in SE Asia is to wait for low-tide at night, tie a string to a black ball, take a lantern along and troll with the ball.

      The octopus think the ball is a mate, and engulf it in tentacles. Trick is to lift them out of the water and quickly chomp on the head to dispatch, otherwise they’ll wrap their arms around your noggin, and are difficult to dislodge.

    2. Try the grilled octopus at Greek Islands in Greektown in Chicago if you ever make it there.

      They are absolutely divine and those who are afraid of weird things will thoroughly enjoy this dish.

  8. Ewwww — I don’t care about the face or not — too many tentacles! LOL

  9. Brave recipe, Mark. Octopus and calamari are a staple food in my country (Galicia, in northwestern Spain). I remember fighting with my brothers over the tentacles 🙂

    1. I lived nearby Galicia (in Asturias) for one year (wow, 20 years ago approx, I am getting old) … I miss Spanish seafood,the best of the world.
      Pinchos, tapas, percebes …

      1. That’s great! Asturias has such beautiful landscape. I also miss Spanish seafood. I now live in England and it puzzles me how little interest they’ve got in fish, apart from the highly processed and suspiciously looking “fish and chips”; I mean, it’s an island!

  10. Looks delicious, I’ll have to see if I can find some baby octopus for sale around me!

  11. Not sure about the fatty acid profile of eel, but I know I crave it like mad. Ive shamefully gone to those inexpensive buffets just so I can eat the eel right off the rice roll. Lol one time This really sweet guy behind the bar just gave me a nice plate of sliced eel sans the extras,,,,,,,,,oh HEAVEN!!!!!

  12. Hmmm, Chewy tentacles. Exploding head. I’ll pass, thanks.

    Plus, they really are intelligent, at least as smart as my terrier in figuring out how to open things, escape from things, etc. Too intelligent to chow down on, for me.

  13. I always liked octopus, to the disgust of my friends who would watch me with horrified expressions as I bit into each tentacle, savouring the taste. Pre-primal, I would get fried calamari (squid) or baby octopus. After primal, it would be grilled calamari or baby octopus.

  14. This article made me hungry. LOVE calamari, and have been dying for a primal-ized recipe so I don’t have to assuage my cravings with the deep-fried (thoroughly marvelous) dish at our local pizza place. Whoever came up with this recipe, THANK YOU!

  15. Tentacles and a break? Oh god, no. I don’t even like *seaweed*. The ocean is safe from me!

  16. I love octopus!! Gotta cook it right, though, and these recipe gets it right. I’ve had bad overcooked, rubbery octopus, and it was like eating a tire. But good octopi, cooked right, you just can’t beat it! Heck, I’d venture to say that most cephalopods are as tasty as octopi, given that their muscle meat is denser than fish, making it more substantial and satisfying, in my opinion.

  17. Oh man…must kill and devour octopi posthaste (after I fill my auto with petrol and revulcanize my tires, of course)!

  18. Japan – baby octopus marinated in chilli oil (raw) – it just tasted of the sea, with a little tang mmm…

  19. I need to come here regularly… how did I miss the post on grilled baby octopus?!

    I love a good calamari, especially the tentacle-y ones, but the fried-ness makes it an occasional treat. I have to imagine this is even better, being all fresh and grilled.

  20. Great recipe, thank you! BTW, it’s not “octopi”, it’s “octopuses” (“octopodes” will also do).

  21. made this recipe the other night when entertaining family & it was fantastic. a real crowd pleaser, thanks 4 the recipe 😉

    1. Finally someone who actually commented about how the recipe worked rather than trying to sound funny or smart.


  22. Living in a country where it’s almost winter the entire year, I’m wondering what the best alternative for grilling is, if your working inside.. Just in a pan? I don’t really see the oven working I guess..

  23. This came out so incredibly wonderful!!!!! My first time cooking it and eating it. Does anyone have the nutrition info on this?

  24. I just read this article after making a soup with half a pound of baby octopus. They were delicious, but I didn’t know about cleaning out the heads. I didn’t taste anything funny, and I didn’t encounter any beak. I couldn’t believe how perfect and bulbous they were. So tender and delicious. I guess my question would be, where do they get enough baby octopus to harvest? I’m thinking they are farm raised, and having looked at a couple of videos of octopus laying and hatching broods of thousands in captivity, it could be they are a sustainable food source.

  25. On the comments section of a youtube video I classified octopus as delicious along with squid I’m a racist. LOL

  26. I made these this summer as an appetizer – my first time cooking and eating baby octopus- it was DELIGHTFUL!! after grilling i sliced then tossed with dressing and served with grilled baguette slices i had rubbed with garlic – I am cooking again tonight as an appetizer for a weekly top chef dinner I have with my two best friends!

    1. Yep, octopus eat other critters all day long, their disrespect for life is disgusting. I agree with you that we should keep them in check by eating lots of them.

  27. I did the prep and my husband skewered and grilled them, then dressed them.. They were really delicious. Flavour was great, and more tender than I expected. Wonderful recipe. Thank you.

  28. Excellent recipe.
    All steps covered.
    For restaurant-prepared meal of octopus, go to Mazatlan on Pacific coast of Mexico, order Pulpo Asado at any of the seafood establishment.
    As far as I am able to know, available year round.
    Start with a shooter of Osuna reposado–pair your entre with a home town Pacifico

    1. Really gorgeous plated. Not quite scallops. But good. Didn’t have time to do the long marinade. Has anyone tried it both ways to see whether it is worth the time invested? Am a bit concerned on an ethical level, especially after seeing Arrival, but good point above about octopuses being carnivorous too – if they are not as evolved to have that concern maybe having them for appetizers is fair. . Or maybe some of them are just eating seaweed too . . .

  29. Tried this recipe yesterday and oh my!!!!! It reminds me of when I had this few years ago in Greece!!!!!
    It’s a keeper thank you for sharing <3

  30. This recipe is fantastic. I have been looking for a baby octopus recipe to replicate the octopus dish I ate on the Amalfi coast in Italy. This recipe comes pretty close to nailing it. Thanks, Mark!