Tacos of a Different Sort
Tacos Mexicanos de Pulpo a la Parilla or Grilled Mexican Octopus Tacos is a favorite at my house. Unless you live on the coast, most people will be purchasing the Octopus frozen. Since I live in Utah, this is the case. A benefit of purchasing frozen Octopus is that it still tastes great and is already gutted and cleaned for you. However, regardless of fresh or frozen, a little preparation is still necessary.
Sourcing Whole Octopus
If you live in one of the coastal areas, sourcing the Octopus won’t be very hard. Even well-stocked grocery stores often carry frozen whole Octopus these days. However, if you don’t have it available locally, here are some links to purchase one online. Amazon, Pikes Place Market, Wholey Seafood, and Epicurean Seafood.
Braising or Purchasing Pre-Cooked
Some seafood vendors have pre-cooked the Octopus for you to skip the braising part of this recipe. However, if you purchase uncooked, which I like to do, the Octopus must be braised for about an hour to make it tender enough to make it enjoyable eating. Braising the Octopus yourself also allows you to layer more flavors into the meat before you grill.
Two Great Marinades on S & S
The first marinade that works great is Cochinita Pibil. Typically, used with pork shoulder, and it works well here. The second is Salsa Negra, commonly used to make Carne Asada or Beef Fajitas.
Octopus Taco Garnish
Sticking with traditional taco garnish, I like fresh thinly sliced/shredded green cabbage, traditional Baja California fish sauce, minced onion/cilantro, thinly sliced radish, and sliced jalapeno (fresh or pickled). In addition, I’ve added a suggestion to reduce the braising liquid as it makes a great condiment to the Octopus taco by re-enforcing the natural Octopus flavor.
While I don’t usually serve cheese with my seafood tacos (except for Tostada de Marlin Ahumado), crumbled Mexican Cotija cheese works best sprinkled on top.
Beverage Pairings: Mexican beer works best; Dos Equis Lager, Sol, Bohemia Lager
Tacos Mexicanos De Pulpo A La Parrilla
- wood or gas grill
- large pot for braising with a tight-fitting lid
- pastry brush
- chef knife
- filet knife
- cutting board
- measuring cups and spoons
- mixing bowls
Braising Solution (Greek style)
- 1 - 4lb Octopus, cleaned and trimmed
- ½ cup red wine
- ½ cup red wine vinegar
- ¼ cup vinegar, balsamic
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 sprigs of rosemary, fresh
- 2 sprigs of oregano, fresh
- 2 whole bay leaf
- 3 tbsp olive oil
(Alternative to Greek Style Braising)
- 3-4 gal water, salted
Grilled Octopus (Pulpo)
- ¼ cup oil for the grill grates (use a folded over, tightly rolled up paper towel dipped in oil with tongs on the grill. Don't try to use your hands!)
- 1 prepped Octopus braised and tenderized
- 1 cup Conchinta Pibil marinade (see recipe this blog) (Salsa Negra works great as well, the recipe is also on this blog)
Traditional Baja California Fish Sauce
- ½ cup sour cream or Mexican crema
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- ¼ whole lime juiced
- 2 tbsp sriracha or your favorite hot sauce
- ¼ whole cabbage, green, cored, and thinly shredded
- 1 whole onion, minced
- ⅓ bunch cilantro, minced
- 5-6 whole radish, cored. and thinly sliced
- To taste extra hot sauce
- 6-12 tortilla, flour, or corn
Cleaning and Prepping the Octopus (Pulpo)
- Cleaning the Octopus is relatively simple. (Assuming the Octopus has been gutted and rinsed.) First, cut out the eye sack with a sharp knife. Second, roll the Octopus over and place your thumbs on either side of the mouth/beak area. Finally, push up with your fingers from underneath, and the beak should pop right out.
- After the first three steps, the remaining Octopus is usable meat. Next, separate each tentacle at the base of the body and reserve. The cleaned head can also be cut in half and used in the finished tacos.
Braising the Octopus
- Using a large pot add the ingredients for the braising liquid. (red wine, red wine vinegar, herbs, garlic, and olive oil) Place the prepped Octopus into the pot fitted with a tight-fitting lid. Place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. After the braising liquid is boiling, lower the heat to a medium simmer and braise for at least 1-hour. Test for doneness by inserting the tip of a sharp knife. Look for the tip of a sharp knife to easily penetrate the Octopus meat.
Prepare the Garnishes
- To prepare the cabbage, start by cutting the cabbage in half. Next, cut the core of the cabbage out using a chef knife. Next, lay the cabbage on the flat side and shred the cabbage as thinly as you can with the same knife.
- Prepare the onion and cilantro by mincing separately and then combine with lime juice. Next, slice the radish and jalapeno thinly and reserve.
- Heat and keep warm and moist corn or flour tortillas.
Prepare the Cochinita Pibil Marinade
- The Cochinita Pibil marinade recipe is on the blog. Please click here to follow.
- Marinate the tenderized Octopus with cochinita pibil marinade for at least 30 minutes before grilling. Reserve
Setting Up Mesquite Grill (a la Parilla)
- Set up charcoal or wood-fired grill as to the instructions given in its owner's manual. I start mine with a chimney-style charcoal starter. Once the coals are hot, arrange them on the grill leaving yourself two zones: hot and no heat.
- After the coals have turned white but still quite hot, add the grill. ( Tip* The grill grate should be cleaned of any old debri before starting) Take a paper towel and fold it over a couple of times and then roll it tightly. Use a set of long tongs, dip the tightly rolled paper towel in a bit of oil, and rub the grill to prevent the Octopus from sticking.
Grilling the Octopus
- Place the braised/marinated Octopus on the well-oiled grill grate over high heat. Cook the Octopus for about 8 minutes and char on both sides. Remove from the heat and prepare the tacos. Cut the grilled Octopus into medium chunks.
Garnishing the Tacos
- Start with a warm tortilla and traditional Baja California fish sauce. Next, add some shredded cabbage and chopped Octopus meat. Top the grilled Octopus chunks with more of the fish sauce and minced onion/cilantro. Lastly, top with thinly sliced radishes and jalapeno. Serve and eat immediately!
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