pulpo a la gallega

Pulpo a la Gallega

Probably the most typical and most famous dish from Galicia: Polbo a feira. It’s beloved in whole Spain as a tapa and outside of Galicia it is simple called pulpo a la gallega, octopus Galician style. This dish consist of cooked tentacles of an octopus (pulpo) from Galician waters, sliced into small parts and served on traditional wooden plates. You won’t find a party where pulpo a la gallega isn’t served!

When in Galicia it’s impossible to miss Pulpo a la gallega. You will find it at the menu of every restaurant and it’s served at every party. A plate of pulpo at the table and you and your company can pick some delicious parts.

Rumors says the dish originates from fairs at the end of the nineteenth century. Merchants brought their own octopus and cooked it with olive oil and lots of paprika. Within time the recipe became tradition and got its name polba a feira. Feira means party in Galego, the Galician language. And even today pulpo is still eaten a lot at fairs and parties.

Nowadays polbo a feira is that popular in Galicia that it has it’s own annual ‘festa do polbo‘, pulpo fairs. The biggest pulpo fair is in Carballino. Since 1962 this place receives thousands of visitants. Everyday there is eaten around 40.000 kilograms of pulpo. And very remarkable: Carballino is located in Ourense, the only Galician province without coast!

Recipe: how to make Pulpo a la Gallega

As mentioned before, pulpo a la gallega is an easy dish made of octopus. It only consists of 4 ingredients. With good material and some patience everybody can make it!


  • Octopus (cleaned). Tip: often it’s also possible to buy just some tentacles
  • Extra virgin olive oli
  • Paprika powder
  • 2 of 3 bay leaves


1. Preparation of the octopus

Before cooking the octopus, the meat must be tenderized. In earlier days this was done by smashing the pulpo against fhe wall or floor. The tentacles consist mainly of muscle and need to relax. Nowadays there are easier ways to make the meat tender. You can just freeze the octopus and then thaw it again. That’s it!
Note, often a octopus has already been freezed when you buy it. Ask your seller!

2. Cooking

Use a large pen where the octopus fit’s in. Fill the pan with water and boil it. Add the bay leaves and some sea salt. When the water boils you slowly put the octopus (tentacles) in the water. You will see the tentacles curl lightly and the water gets some color. Let the pulpo cook for about an our. Some times it even takes a bit longer. Just try with a fork if the meat is ready.

3. Serving

Once cooked you take the octopus out of the pan. With a scissor you cut the tentacles in some parts. In Galicia pulpo a la gallega is traditionally served on a wooden plate. But you can use a regular plate as well off course.

When the pulpo is cut into pieces and put on a plate the decisive finishing touch comes in. Drizzle the octopus with some good quality extra virgen olive oil and with paprika powder. Add some cocktail sticks to pick the pieces. Enjoy your meal!

Cut the pulpo in pieces with a scissor

At the table: drinks and side dishes

Traditionally gallegos drink a young red wine with pulpo. Preferably Ribeiro in classic white porcelain bowls, named cuncas in Galego. But well, another typical Galician grape also test very good with pulpo. I’m talking about Albariño off course.

Pulpo a la gallega can be an excellent tapa, or a dish to share. Often cooked potatoes are attached to the dish for the filling. To add some vegetables you can add a nice a nice plate of pimientos de Padron, another delicieus dish from Galicia!

Personally I regularly make a delicieus pulpo a la gallega. Even living in Holland it’s possible to find good pulpo at the fish markets. 2 or 3 tentacles mostly serve us, as a family with small children.
I often combine the pulpo with a fresh Ensaladilla Rusa, a typical Spanish recipe with potatoes and vegetables.

Enjoy your meal!