RSS Feed The Foods that Define Spain - Pulpo a la Gallega

Pulpo a la Gallega While castles, cathedrals and languages are recognised as having great importance in shaping the social and economic development of regions, food is often overlooked. However, recipes using local produce are often a defining characteristic of an area. Being passed on for generations, they provide a continuity in areas which have undergone much physical and social change.

This series of articles looks at some of the foods that define the different regions of Spain. From the wet, mountains Basque Country, to the dry plains of Castilla La Mancha, each region has a signature dish which showcases the uniqueness of the area.

Pulpo a la Gallega

We start in Galicia, in the north-west of spain. Galicia is situated to the north of Portugal and has an extensive Atlantic coastline. Not surprisingly, therefore, seafood is prominent in Galician cuisine. Shellfish and tuna empanadas (pies) are common in the region, and is often combined in meals with potatoes - the most abundant agricultural crop in Galicia.

The dish that is most associated with the region, however, is Pulpo a la Gallega (Polbo a Feira in the Galician language). Pulpo a la gallega is a simple dish with only four ingredients: octopus, olive oil, paprika and salt.

Preparation of Pulpo a la Gallega

Preparing Pulpo a la Gallega With such a simple list of ingredients, the key to making an excellent pulpo a la gallega is in the preparation. The octopus is boiled in a copper pot, with the tentacles first dipped into the water to make them curl slightly.

The octopus is boiled for around twenty minutes, before being left to rest for a further twenty minutes away from the heat. There is a very short time period between the octopus being sufficiently cooked and it becoming rubbery - judging this to perfection is the principle skill in preparing pulpo a la gallega.

After the resting period, the tentacles are separated from the head and are cut into pieces with scissors. The tentacles are tossed in olive oil and sprinkled with coarse salt and paprika.


Pulpo a la gallega is traditionally served on wooden plates with either bread or boiled potatoes. Local custom dictates that it is accompanied by red wine rather than water.

You can find pulpo a la gallega throughout Spain, but the best is still in Galicia. Somewhat surprisingly, the Lugo region has the best reputation fot the dish, despite it having a relatively small coastline.

The dish is not an overly complicated dish, but the key is cooking the octopus to tender perfection. Forget the rubbery stuff you may have had in the past, pulpo a la gallega is the best way we have come across to serve octopus. It is a mouth-wateringly tasty dish.

If you would like to try pulpo a la gallega in Galicia, book on our Camino de Santiago cycling holiday to the region.