Jerk Octopus

Jerk Octopus

It’s fair to say I’ve had a few disasters when it comes cooking octopus. People still say to me, in actual real life rather than just on the Internet, “OH MY GOD THE RED BAG THOUGH,” referring to the time I cooked one in a bag and it came out looking like someone’s blood donation. A friend said this less than a week ago, and the Octopus Red Bag Incident was in February 2013 – we are all still traumatised.

I was experimenting with sous vide at the time (yeah I know, but we all did it) and the octopus released its juices into the sous vide bag and I wasn’t aware that those juices are naturally quite red. Pulling that thing out was quite the shock and I was then too scared to eat it.

Suck up that flavour.

Suck up that flavour.

There have been other issues – mainly to do with getting the octopus tender, and you’ll come across various bits of advice. People will tell you to put a cork in the water when you’re cooking the octopus but don’t bother. I read somewhere that this myth probably comes from a time when they were cooked in huge tubs with corks and string tied to them – the cork would float and make the octopus easier to pull from the water.

Bay leaves and thyme soaking.

Bay leaves and thyme soaking.

I buy a frozen octopus because it does seem to make a difference to the texture and they’re more readily available (though not cheap). I then cook it in a pan with a little water and its own juices – they release so much that it’s enough to simmer them without adding much else although of course, you can add red wine or whatever you like. Once its tender around the skirt (the bit where the tentacles join the head), you’re good to go.



So I wondered why no one ever seems to jerk octopus because – and I’m not even joking here – it tastes quite a lot like chicken. You can jerk seafood too of course and it just all made sense. Was there something I was missing? Well, no, is the answer. The only thing I was missing was jerk octopus in my life. Yeah, it’s a bit of effort but this magnificent creature is prime for a bit of jerkin’ – marinate as usual once it’s cooked, then crisp up those tentacles on the BBQ so they’re charred outside, tender on the inside… fabulous.

Jerk Octopus

We ate it with the most unashamedly 90’s rice salad and I’ve now decided I need to write about that separately. It has huge nostalgic significance for me. Here, then, is a recipe for jerked octopus. There are no sous vide bags, no corks, no shocks and hopefully no mental scarring.

Jerk Octopus Recipe

1.5kg octopus (doesn’t matter really though, the cooking method is so simple)
1.5 tablespoons allspice (freshly ground if you can – buy the berries and grind them)
50g dark packed brown sugar
4 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon thyme leaves
1 bunch large spring onions (about 5)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
3 scotch bonnet chillies, deseeded
Juice of 2 large limes
1 teaspoon salt

Thaw the octopus and put it in a (lidded) saucepan large enough to fit it comfortably. Add some water until it comes halfway up the octopus. Bring it to the boil, turn down to a gentle simmer, put the lid on and cook very gently for 45 minutes to and hour, or until tender when you poke a knife in into the top of a tentacle (where they join the head).

Allow the octopus to cool, then remove the tentacles.

Blend all the marinade ingredients and combine with the octopus. Leave for a couple of hours in the fridge if you can.

Cook the octopus on a BBQ over direct heat – it won’t take long. With chicken I make a bed of bay leaves soaked in water to cook the chicken on but the octopus isn’t on there long so this time, I chucked them in the coals with some soaked thyme which makes lots of lovely, scented smoke. Cook the octopus, flipping frequently until a little charred, brushing every now and then with the marinade (remember: the octopus was cooked before it went in the marinade so there’s no need to worry about contamination).

Serve hot with your choice of sides.

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  • Avatar
    Reply Patrick August 21, 2016 at 12:20 pm

    Is the jerk recipe similar to your chicken one?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 21, 2016 at 12:28 pm

      It’s exactly the same as the jerk chicken recipe I have on here, yes. Not the one I sold, obviously, that would be silly 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply Mabbs August 21, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Can I haz Big Green Egg pwease?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 22, 2016 at 7:45 am

      I say YES! You should have one. You DESERVE one.

  • Avatar
    Reply Patrick August 21, 2016 at 7:14 pm

    Ha. Of course. Many thanks

  • Avatar
    Reply Fraser August 21, 2016 at 8:32 pm

    Do you still sell Beckham jerk?

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 22, 2016 at 7:46 am

      Hi Fraser, I assume you mean Peckham? 😉 not at the moment I’m afraid. I have a very large project I’m finishing (PhD) but once that is out of the way I expect I’ll start making it again. So many people ask for it!

  • Avatar
    Reply Marcus Bawdon August 22, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Love this recipe, definitely need to try it, have had various octo disasters too…

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 22, 2016 at 4:34 pm

      Ha! I think many people have. Let me know if you try the recipe…

  • Avatar
    Reply Ed Jones August 26, 2016 at 10:18 am

    Hey Helen

    Where did you manage to find the frozen octopus. Been keeping an eye out for one for a while but no dice.



    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 26, 2016 at 10:58 am

      Hi Ed – are you local? They sell them in Moxon’s on Lordship lane but – warning – they are pricy. About £15 which is quite ridiculous. A cheaper option would be to buy a fresh one and freeze it yourself. They must have them or if not, they will order one for you. I’ve also seen them at Soper’s in Nunhead and I believe Morrison’s do them too.

      • Avatar
        Reply Gordon Barkaway September 1, 2016 at 8:18 pm

        We buy frozen baby octopus and frozen whole cleaned octopus (rather endearingly branded “Nigel”) from See Woo Chinese supermarket on the Greenwich peninsula. I don’t remember how much we pay but I am sure it’s a lot less than £15. So versatile and yummy and I also love that I can say “shall we barbecue Nigel for supper?” The frozen fish and seafood aisles at See Woo are pretty amazing and they also do good French chicken, head and feet still attached , if that sort of thing excites your tastebuds !
        Best wishes

        • Avatar
          Reply Helen Graves September 4, 2016 at 2:24 pm

          Yeah I buy the Nigel one but from Moxon’s in East Dulwich – think they may be putting quite a mark up on it!

  • Avatar
    Reply Dom August 27, 2016 at 1:48 pm

    what a glorious recipe and how summery do those little octopus look! I just had to go and read about the red bag incident… I too had one or two rather odd sous vide incidents over the years… I sold the beast on eBay a couple of months ago and i’m so glad it’s no longer taking up space! lovely recipe… I need to go buy octopus clearly!

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves August 27, 2016 at 1:58 pm

      Why haven’t I sold mine?! Bloody thing. Maybe no one would want it now 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply Charlene Flash September 3, 2016 at 8:04 pm

    This is so wonderful, never had jerk octopus before. Lovely x

  • Avatar
    Reply Nicholas Ng September 17, 2016 at 11:55 am

    This looks gorgeous! Do you need any specific type of octopus to cook this? I’m just worried about overcooking octopus as the rubbery texture can be quite disappointing. I’m not able to sous vide so I would need to find another method of reproducing it.

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves September 23, 2016 at 8:02 am

      No, any octopus is fine. Do you live in London? Over cooking isn’t generally the problem, it’s getting the thing tender enough that people struggle with. I would be amazed if you managed to over cook it to be honest.

  • Avatar
    Reply Shu Han September 24, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Hey Helen! Was thinking of trying this recipe out – looks ace, and love the unusual flavours! Where do you get frozen octopus?? Thanks so much for sharing! x

    • Avatar
      Reply Helen Graves September 25, 2016 at 10:36 am

      Hey! I get mine from Moxon’s which is in East Dulwich but they’re usually knocking about in the freezers at most fishmongers I think x

  • Avatar
    Reply Jeremy April 18, 2017 at 2:28 pm

    Hello Helen, a customer was asking me about octopus recipes and I must admit I have had to do a little research and have come across your page. Great recipe btw. Question; We sell octopus in a few forms whole, tentacles and sliced tentacles. . Cooking a whole octopus can be a little daunting, do you think the recipe would work out ok if they started with sliced tentacles or whole tentacles? Jeremy – ‘The Fish Society’.

  • Avatar
    Reply Seafood August 21, 2017 at 2:19 pm

    Thanks Helen, this is a useful page for us as we sell octopus and will be linking it to here as a recipe that we recommend. We provide the octopus prepared ready to cook so no need to have to deal with the prep yourself, which saves time. Thanks again, great recipe 🙂

  • Avatar
    Reply common octopus April 27, 2018 at 8:50 am

    Such an unusual combination of ingredients to cook octopus! It does look really yummy, will definitely give this a try, thanks for sharing!

  • Avatar
    Reply Eileen Rawling October 9, 2020 at 9:41 am

    Definitely going to try it, Loved the recipe.

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