If you’re not an adventurous eater, you may be hesitant to try this type of seafood, wondering what octopus may taste like. Although the flavor is hard to describe; some people find the taste of cooked octopi meat similar to chicken and pork.
The idea of having octopus may be slightly off-putting. But, the truth is, when cooked to perfection, octopus tastes absolutely decadent and tender. It’s also eaten raw: soft and chewy! Since the meat is bland on its own, it picks up flavors really well and can taste sweet and nutty when paired with umami flavors.
This article will answer all your questions about what octopus tastes like and how it is best eaten.
What does Octopus taste like?
The taste of octopus is supremely delectable, and the meat is absolutely tender. Most people compare its flavor and texture to that of lobster or squid; although octopi are far more tender and juicy than squid or calamari.
Some people compare the taste to chicken or pork, while others find it similar to lobster or prawns.
Contrary to popular belief, octopus neither has a pungent smell nor is the flavor distasteful. On its own, the taste is mild, at best, and not as powerful as you’d expect. In fact, the flavor of the meat is bland at first and is influenced by the ingredients it’s cooked with. For example, in Asian cuisine, octopus is often cooked with sesame oil, which gives it a sweet and nutty flavor. Similarly, char-grilled octopus has a smoky and juicy flavor and is crisp texture-wise. In short, the meat is great at soaking up flavors from marinades and sauces.
The bottom line is, octopus doesn’t taste or smell fishy even in the slightest ways; although it carries a mild sea-flavor. Moreover, when cooked properly, it has a light and moist texture and doesn’t have a distinguishing taste. In fact, the predominant flavor depends on the ingredients used in the cooking process!
Octopus is among those very few seafood that are delectable when served raw. The famous Korean dish, Sannakji, serves up chopped octopus tossed in sesame seeds, sesame oil, and gochujang. Although the fish is not alive, its tentacles are seen wriggling in the dish! Besides Sannakji, you can have raw octopus as carpaccio or Tako Nigiri. Ceviche is a popular Mexican dish, which combines raw octopus with zesty lemon juice, onions, cilantro, and some chili. It’s served with tortillas and chips for a refreshing appetizer!
In terms of texture, live octopus has a tough and chewy consistency. Some even find it to be slimy and rubbery. What’s most strange is the sensation you get from the suction cups on its tentacles!
Furthermore, the flavor of the octopus is so mild that it tastes quite dull at first. Therefore, you’ll find several accompaniments to uncooked octopus, such as dipping sauces, to add a slight kick!
Fresh and raw octopus also has a strong salty flavor of the ocean with a subtle hint of sweetness, as well.
One thing to keep in mind is to chew the octopus thoroughly to avoid the risk of choking. The suction cups on the tentacles are so dangerous they can attach to the mouth and throat, and can even cause death!
Frying is one of the best ways to cook up octopus meat, especially if you’re looking to get a tender and juicy taste. Moreover, frying helps to intensify the otherwise mild taste.
Simply put, fried octopus is succulent and delicious! According to several cooks, it’s the best way to prepare an octopus. Fried octopi develop a decadent taste as absorbs other flavors, just as you would get with grilling octopus meat.
To make octopus more enjoyable and chew-friendly, parboil or blanch it for 5 minutes before frying it at high temperature. This will make the meat tender and smooth.
Grilled octopi, on the other hand, are juicy and tender on the inside, with crisp edges on the outside. The meat is succulent, comforting, and indulgent, and has a smoky flavor because of the char.
When grilled, octopus meat reminds of chicken or pork; although texturally, the flesh is slightly different.
In terms of flavor, the taste depends on the spices, sauce, or marinade used. Moreover, the flesh is tough, like firm Jell-O, and has a gelatinous consistency. To avoid getting a dry and chewy texture, blanch or pre-cook the octopus prior to grilling. Season the meat with a mix of oil, salt, and pepper and lay it over a bed of coals. Finish with a sprinkle of fresh lime and some herbs!
Frying and grilling aren’t the only two ways to enjoy octopus meat! Another interesting way is to have octopus in a bowl of fresh salad. While there are several recipes up on the internet, here’s one way to make it:
Add in your favorite greens to build the salad base. Next, add tangy and flavorsome ingredients, such as pineapple, tomatoes, and green bell pepper. You can also add celery, garlic, and onion.
For the meaty part, you can add in chopped chunks of boiled octopus, shrimps, and mussels. Using pre-cooked seafood would make it tenderer and less on the chewier side. Next, create your own salad dressing by mixing some fresh lime juice, olive oil, and seasoning.
An octopus salad tastes fresh and comforting, and has a savory-sweet flavor. You can serve it as a delightful starter or as a side to almost any dish!
Octopus ink is thick, dark mucus released from the ink sac as a defense mechanism. The octopi use it to blur out its predator’s vision, when under an attack. This allows the octopus to flee and escape, in case of danger.
You can use this ink in various dishes to add a rich color and subtle flavor. Taste-wise, the octopus ink has a briny flavor, which is aptly described as the taste of the ocean. The salinity is like what you’d get from oysters or sea urchin.
It has a mild flavor of clean fish with earthy notes and is almost neutral in taste. Most people use it to add a beautiful, dramatic color to dishes like pasta and risotto, while adding a subtle richness to the taste.
Similar food items
It’s quite rare to find exotic seafood in most grocery stores. Instead, you’ll only find special seafood markets dedicated to such sea animals. So, if your recipe calls for an octopus and you can’t seem to get your hands on one, there’s no need to be disappointed! You can find several substitutes for octopi in terms of taste and texture.
The closest sea creature to an octopus is squid, better known as calamari. Belonging to the same family, the two cephalopods share similar physical characteristics. In terms of flavor, both squid and octopi have a flesh that is firm and smooth at the same time. The meat can be quite chewy and bland on its own, but when cooked properly, it can turn quite juicy. But, keep in mind; squid isn’t as tender as octopus!
You may also use pork or chicken in your recipes, since both are mild in flavor and absorb flavors just as well as octopus! You may also use other seafood, such as lobster, cuttlefish, and even prawns, as they share similar textures. However, you may find a fishier taste in prawns.
Many people also use dried shiitake or king oyster mushrooms, in place of octopus, because of their umami flavor and chewy texture. They’re great plant-based, vegan alternatives that you can use in your recipes to imitate octopus’ taste and texture! It’s the closest you’ll get to an octopus; however, it will not be the same as original.
Should octopus taste fishy?
An octopus having a fishy taste or smell is simply stale and is not fit for consumption. The fishy smell could mean that the octopus was caught way before and has probably deteriorated.
Instead, octopi have a bland taste and only pick up flavor when cooked with other flavorful ingredients and aromatics.
Freshly caught octopi have a briny, ocean-like taste; the salty aroma that you get is a sign of its freshness. Moreover, the taste is so mild, it’s closer to that of chicken or clams rather than fish.
Octopus is an unusual type of seafood, but it’s quite common in Asian, Mediterranean, and Caribbean dishes. The best part about the octopus is that it’s rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids that promote heart health!
When fried or grilled, the flesh is juicy and succulent! Taste and texture-wise, a well-cooked octopus may taste just like a lobster! In comparison, raw octopi may be slightly tough and chewy.
Keep in mind; on its own, octopus may not deliver a rich seafood flavor that you may look for. But, when cooked with flavorsome ingredients and aromatics, it can pack quite a punch!
Now that you know what a delicacy octopus is, there’s no reason to delay trying it!