Greek Grilled Octopus

I’ve only just returned from my summer holidays on the Greek island of Naxos (where I spend most of my summers lately) and I already miss the blue sea, that salty breeze, and all of the super-fresh seafood and meat grilled to perfection on charcoal barbecues – but I miss grilled octopus tentacles in particular.

Lightly charred, tender grilled octopus

Despite being a huge fan of grilled octopus I was always a bit wary of cooking it at home. The biggest fear when preparing octopus, of course, is ending up with overly chewy, rubbery lumps that are far from those lightly-charred tender morsels you were dreaming of. After some trial and error (read: octopus burnt on the outside, but raw on the inside, and un-chewable tentacles) I found out there really is not that much to it… all you need is time and patience… and a charcoal grill.

Octopi drying under the hot rays of the Mediterranean sun

There are plenty of methods to prepare and tenderize a tentacle for grilling. Traditionally, Greek fishermen bash the eight-legged creatures against the rocks on the shore for some minutes after them being caught in order to tenderize and break down the meat. However, I am assuming you won’t be catching your own octopus and aren’t in the possession of a rocky shoreline (If you do, invite me over, please? I’ll bring snacks).

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Another traditional method which you’ve undoubtedly seen if you’ve visited Greece, involves hanging the eight-limbed creatures side-by-side on a clothing line under the hot hot rays of the Mediterranean sun for a couple of hours, which is done to draw out water from and enhance the flavor and texture of the meat.

For home cooks, braising the octopus is the best method for tenderising

Be that as it may, while nothing beats sun-drying, for those of us that don’t have access to hot hot Greek sun, or an outside area for that matter, it’s best to braise the octopus in its own liquid on very low heat for about an hour.

The octopus releases a lot of its own liquid when heated

The braising itself, luckily, doesn’t take much more than some of your time (an hour max. unless you’ve got some Kraken-sized monster). You might’ve seen many recipes in which cooks suggest to either add some water, or wine, or even just the cork of a wine bottle to the pot to braise the octopus in, but for this recipe you really shouldn’t! Octopi lose about half their weight (and size) in liquid while being heated in a (initially) dry pot, which eventually results in enough flavorful juiciness to braise it in. Besides, the cooking liquid is most flavorful when it’s not diluted by water and that wine can best be drunk cold whilst grilling, or consuming the tentacles. I would suggest to just add a few aromatics and spices to enhance the flavor of the braising liquid if you want to, but you don’t even really have to.


After braising and a little bit of marinating, all you need to do in order to get a delightful smoky flavour and aroma is to place the tentacles over a hot charcoal grill for a couple of minutes until they are nice and crispy on the ends and lightly charred on the outside. Easy, right? You will never end up with chewy, rubbery tentacles every again. And, if you miss your summer holidays on the Greek islands as much as I do, this Greek style grilled octopus will transport you straight back to that quaint little tavern on the Mediterranean coast… at least for some minutes!

Tip: This grilled octopus makes for a great addition to any bbq, but it can be served as a great appetizer (everybody gets a tentacle!), or main meal for 3 – 4 people when served with some fresh salad and potatoes as well!


Greek Grilled Octopus

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  • GF
  • DF
Greek-style grilled octopus with lemon and oregano
  • Difficulty:Easy
  • Prep Time:20 mins
  • Cook Time:60 mins
  • Serves:4
  • Freezable:No

Nutrition per portion

  • For the octopus:
  • 1.5kg whole octopus (fresh, or frozen)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 all-spice berries
  • 0.5 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • -
  • For the marinade:
  • 40ml olive oil
  • 40ml lemon juice
  • 0.5 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • -
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving
Note: Prep. time and cooking time listed does not include the (+/-) 30 minutes of letting the octopus cool down to room temperature. Prep. time does include marinating time.
  1. Clean octopus by removing the guts, beak and eyes. Scrub the outside of the octopus under cold running water to remove dirt from the suckers.
  2. Braise the octopus: Place octopus in a pot over medium heat together with the 2 bay leaves, all-spice berries and black peppercorns. Cover pot with a lid and wait until the juices have released from the octopus, this will usually take about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium-low and braise the octopus for 45 to 60 minutes (depending on the size) until the octopus is fork tender. Keep the lid on at all times and only remove it to check on the amount of liquid. The octopus will usually release enough liquid, but if you see the liquid has totally evaporated, add a small (!) amount of water, or wine. Once the octopus is fork tender, remove pan from heat and let octopus cool down to room-temperature in the cooking liquid. This step can be done some hours, or a day before grilling.
  3. Marinating: When the octopus has cooled down, remove from the cooking liquid and separate the head from the tentacles. Separate the tentacles from each other. In a large bowl, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, salt and oregano. Place all pieces of cooled octopus in the bowl with the olive oil, dried oregano and lemon juice mixture. Mix well and set aside for 15 minutes, or longer.
  4. When you are ready to grill, heat up your charcoal grill. Make sure your grill is very hot.
  5. Grill octopus: Remove octopus from the bowl with the marinade. Reserve the leftover marinade. Place tentacles and head of the octopus straight onto the grates of the grill. Sear the tentacles on both sides until they become lightly charred and slightly crunchy at the tips. If your grill is extremely hot, this step might take no longer than 2 – 3 minutes on both sides, but you might need up to 5 minutes on a grill that is less hot. Just keep your eye on the food and remove once the tentacles sizzle nicely and become lightly charred.
  6. Serve: Remove octopus tentacles from grill and place on a serving plate. Drizzle on some of the leftover marinade, or sprinkle some new dried oregano and olive oil on top. Serve immediately with some lemon wedges on the side.

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