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Crispy Fried Baby Octopus has a golden-brown crust and tender octopus – a perfect appetizer that’s surprisingly easy to make and sure to impress. The secret is to marinate before you cook, resulting in a succulent texture and unbelievable flavor. Within less than 30 minutes, you’ll be serving up a plate of tender and flavorful baby octopus.
How Do You Make Baby Octopus Tender?
Baby octopus is more tender than full size octopus, but it still benefits from tenderizing. Options include pounding lightly with a meat hammer, marinating for several hours or more, braising the octopus, or sous vide cooking. You can also blanch baby octopus in boiling water for one minute.
Ingredients You’ll Need
Of course, you’ll need baby octopus, which can be found fresh at a seafood market or fishmonger. Otherwise, frozen baby octopus is an easy and convenient option that can easily be sourced at the grocery store.
For your marinade, you will need two simple ingredients – milk and salt. For the mixture to coat your octopus, you will need all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder and seasonings (oregano, cayenne pepper, black pepper). For frying, you will need a neutral oil such as vegetable oil or canola oil.
How To Make Fried Baby Octopus
Step 1: Marinate Baby Octopus
- Clean baby octopus thoroughly.
- Mix salt and milk in a large mixing bowl. Add baby octopus to the mixture and marinate for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Step 2: Coat The Octopus
- Mix together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, dry oregano, ground black pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl.
- Take the octopus and shake off the excess milk. Then toss them in the flour mixture. Coat evenly.
Step 3: Fry The Baby Octopus
- Add oil to a deep-fryer or pot over medium-high heat. Heat the oil to 350°F.
- Gently add a few baby octopus to the oil using a pair of kitchen tongs. Fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the octopus from the oil and place them onto the paper towel. Season with salt immediately. Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!
Tips And Tricks
- The secret to the very best baby octopus is the marinade, so do not skip this step. Marinating your baby octopus for just 30 minutes results in a tender, melt-in-your-mouth texture that you will love.
- For best results, ensure the oil stays at a steady temperature so your octopus can cook evenly.
- Be sure not to overcrowd the pan when frying.
How Long To Fry Baby Octopus?
The ideal frying time for baby octopus is around 2 to 3 minutes. Overcooking can make them tough and rubbery, so be sure to watch carefully while frying.
Do I Need To Boil Baby Octopus Before Frying?
You can definitely fry baby octopus without boiling first, but there are some benefits to this extra step. Boiling helps to tenderize the meat while removing any impurities. If you choose to boil them, do so for 10 to 15 minutes and then rinse with cold water before frying.
What To Serve With Cooked Octopus?
Your baby octopus can be enjoyed on its own as an appetizer or snack, simply garnished with lemon juice. If you wish, you can incorporate the cooked octopus into pasta dishes and salads. Tasty side dishes for cooked octopus include roasted potatoes, cottage fries or fingerling potatoes.
- Italian Style Baby Octopus: This variation simmers baby octopus in a tangy tomato sauce with garlic and onions. The acidity helps to tenderize the octopus as the flavor develops.
- Korean Baby Octopus (Nakji Bokkeum): This spicy dish sautees baby octopus with garlic, soy sauce and Korean red chili pepper flakes. Serve it with steamed rice to balance out the heat!
- Marinated Asian Baby Octopus: This cold dish makes an excellent appetizer with sweet and sour flavors. The marinade includes garlic, ginger and soy sauce with just a touch of sweetness.
- Baby Octopus Salad: This is a classic Mediterranean salad with a lemon-olive oil vinaigrette. The flavors are vibrant and it’s quite easy to make too.
What are the differences between squid and baby octopus?
Because they are both considered cephalopods, squid and octopus look quite similar to each other. But if you look closely, you will see the major differences between them. Octopuses have eight arms covered in suckers while squids have eight arms and an additional two tentacles that are slightly longer than the other arms and covered in hooks. Squids tend to have a triangular-shaped head, while octopuses have a round head. Another key difference is in the habitat of each animal. Squids are most often found in the open sea, while octopuses tend to stick to the ocean floor.
Is calamari octopus?
Calamari comes from the Italian word for “squid.” In the United States, calamari is a popular menu item at restaurants, where pieces of squid are dipped in batter and deep-fried to be served as a crispy appetizer. Calamari is not made using octopus.
Do I need to remove the head from the baby octopus?
No, you don’t need to remove the head from the baby octopus before cooking or eating. The head is edible and considered a delicacy in some cultures.
Is baby octopus healthy?
Baby octopus is a good source of protein, iron and omega-3 fatty acids. It is also low in fat and calories, making it a healthy addition to your diet.
How to grill baby octopus?
Grilling baby octopus is possible, but you need to first marinate it or blanch in boiling water to tenderize. A grill pan is also helpful, as the octopus can be so small they can get stuck between the grates. Grill for about two minutes per side and then serve.
How to cook baby octopus in a frying pan?
It’s easy to pan fry baby octopus. Place a skillet over medium heat. Add some oil and garlic, frying for up to a minute until fragrant. Then add the baby octopus and seasonings, sautéeing for several minutes until opaque and tender. Note: the baby octopus may benefit from some mechanical pounding before sauteeing to make it more tender.
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Easy Fried Baby Octopus Recipe
- 1 pound baby octopus fresh or thawed
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for serving
- 1/2 cup milk
- 1 ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup cornstarch
- 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon dry oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- vegetable oil as needed
- lemon for garnish cut into wedges
Marinate Baby Octopus
- Clean baby octopus thoroughly.
- Mix 1 teaspoon kosher salt with milk in a large mixing bowl.
- Add baby octopus to the mixture and chill for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.
Coat the Octopus
- Whisk together the all-purpose flour, cornstarch, baking powder, dry oregano, ground black pepper, and cayenne in a large bowl.
- Take a few octopus and shake off the excess milk. Then toss them in the flour mixture. Coat evenly.
- Place the coated octopus in a colander. Repeat with the rest of the baby octopus.
Fry the Baby Octopus
- Add 4-inches of oil to a deep fryer or pot over medium-high heat. Heat the oil to 350°F. If you don’t have a candy thermometer, you can test your oil by sprinkling some flour. If it starts bubbling and it’s ready.
- One the oil is ready, gently add a few baby octopus to the oil using a pair of kitchen tongs. Fry for about 3 minutes or until golden brown.
- Remove the octopus from the oil and place them onto the paper towel on top of a wire rack. Season with salt immediately. Repeat for the rest of the baby octopus. Serve with lemon wedges and enjoy!
- Marinating for 30 minutes before frying will produce really tender octopus.
- Make sure the oil temperature stays between 300-350˚F. The temperature may drop slightly after you add the octopus, so adjust the heat accordingly.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan during frying.