Tapas such as octopus with paprika are not only common in bars—at home, when guests arrive, it is common to serve a small homemade tapa or something to nibble before sitting down to the meal. What we Spaniards love about tapas is the philosophy of life they represent. It’s an unhurried, enjoyable and sociable time, and involves being in good company and catching up with friends, discussing business or even politics. This leaves us with a much happier heart, and often ready for a siesta if the tapas have been plentiful.

–Inés Ortega

*How do I keep octopus tender?

The first step in this recipe is to freeze your octopus overnight. Don’t even think about skipping this as it’s there for an important reason. Not to get cephalopod super-technical about it, but the freezing forms ice crystals that create micro-lacerations in the flesh and, long story short, there you go. Tenderized octopus.

Wooden bowl of octopus with paprika, bowl of paprika, cruet of olive oil

Octopus With Paprika

5 / 2 votes
Octopus with paprika is a popular Spanish tapa offering, made with 4 simple ingredients. And it’s quick—taking octopus from frozen to tender and savory in minutes.
David Leite
Servings6 servings
Calories378 kcal
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes


  • 2 1/4 pounds octopus
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Pinch hot paprika
  • Salt, optional


  • To tenderize the octopus, you need to freeze the octopus overnight before cooking. Don’t skip this part.
  • When you’re about 45 minutes away from your desired serving time, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, add the frozen octopus, and cook until tender, about 35 minutes, depending on the size and age of the octopus. You’ll want to test a piece of octopus to ensure it is cooked thoroughly. Drain the octopus and rinse it under cold running water.
  • Remove and discard any dark skin from the octopus. Using kitchen shears or a sharp knife, cut the octopus into bite-size pieces. 
  • Place the octopus in a bowl, pour the oil over the top, sprinkle with hot paprika to taste, and season with salt, if desired. Mix well, ensuring the octopus is thoroughly coated. Serve immediately or transfer the octopus and oil to a heatproof bowl, cover with aluminum foil, and keep warm in an oven that’s as low as it goes. Originally published July 13, 2010.
The Book of Tapas

Adapted From

The Book of Tapas

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Serving: 1 portionCalories: 378 kcalCarbohydrates: 4 gProtein: 25 gFat: 29 gSaturated Fat: 4 gMonounsaturated Fat: 20 gCholesterol: 82 mgSodium: 392 mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2010 José Andres. Photo © 2010 Mauricio Salinas. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

This has to be the simplest possible way to prepare octopus. If you think it’s too simple to be good, think again. This is a great recipe for folks who live inland, because you can start with frozen octopus and cook it directly from the freezer. Make sure your olive oil and paprika are of good quality, and you’ll have perhaps the easiest, and most delicious, tapa you’ll ever make.

About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.

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Recipe Rating


  1. 5 stars
    This is by far my favourite octopus recipe. Tried it first time in Galicia and made it a couple of times since then. I usually buy cooked frozen octopus instead of boil it myself cause it’s hard to get the right texture to it, and it also saves you lots of time!

    1. Cooked Octopus, I absolutely agree with you. We have something similar in Portugal, where my family is from.

  2. I’ve loved octopus since our trip to Portugal a couple years ago. Here in Oregon, I can only find it frozen, already cut into very small pieces. I’m a complete novice — how long would you suggest I boil these small pieces? And, how do I know it is completely cooked? (I think I’ve been grossly overcooking, in an effort to not undercook.)

    I am excited to try them with paprika (another favorite of mine!).

    1. Colette, not sure if you already got this answered, but I have always done it the following way. With the octopus still frozen I put it in a pressure cooker filled with water and a full onion. Cook it for about 20 minutes. Check it; if fork-tender remove it right away, if not, cook a little longer but do check it every 5 minutes. I usually prefer to buy the baby octopus. Have you every checked Asian market or a fish market? They should have whole. Even here in the middle of the country (WI) I am able to find it.