Mexican Recipes/ Seafood/ Travel

Javier Plascencia’s Charcoal Grilled Octopus (Pulpo a la Brasa)

Until three years ago, I wasn’t much of an octopus fan- it was rarely offered on restaurant menus and I still had nightmares from seeing that giant octopus (or was it a squid?) from the old movie Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Sea. However, that all changed when I visited Finca Altozano restaurant in the Valle de Guadalupe winery district in Baja, California (see my previous post Valle de Guadalupe, Land of Food and Wine).

Finca Altozano is run by chef Javier Plascencia, well-known in Baja and Southern California for his Baja Med style of cooking. This style fuses traditional Mexican dishes with Mediterranean ingredients such as locally sourced olive oils, seafood, feta cheese and tomatoes. There’s also an Asian influence with the use of soy sauce, sake and sometimes lemon grass.

Located 90 minutes south of the US border in Baja California, Finca Altozano is an outdoor restaurant located in a rustic setting overlooking the Valle de Guadalupe wine district. The restaurant has the atmosphere of a family cookout with scores of quail, octopus and beef being barbecued in the open kitchen.

Finca de Altozano- open air restaurant in Valle de Guadalupe, Baja

Quails being barbecued

One of the flagship dishes of the restaurant is Pulpo a la Brasa, char-grilled octopus coupled with Asian flavors of soy sauce, citrus, coriander and peanuts.

According to Javier, many people drive down from the US border just to order this dish which has earned him the nick-name of Dr Octopus! Where could I get this mouth-watering recipe? Luckily for me, Javier recently released his recipe book, The Soul of Baja, which reveals recipes from each of his 8-9 restaurants (the list keeps growing)!  Besides Finca Altozano, Javier and his family also own Caesar’s in Tijuana (home of the Caesar salad), Mision 19, Romesco and Erizo.

Fortunately, I was able to attend Javier’s book signing event in San Diego and saw the recipe for his famed Charcoal Grilled Octopus.

Recipe for Pulpo a la Brasa (Charcoal Grilled Octopus)

Javier states in his cookbook that he wants his readers to use his recipes as an inspiration rather than following his recipes exactly. Therefore, I have made a few alterations to suit my taste, including reducing the amount of lemon juice in the sauce.

First, you remove the head from the fresh octopus and place it on top of some chopped onion and garlic in a large cooking pot.

Add a bay leaf and some salt, then simmer for 45- 60 minutes until the meat is tender. Remove from the pot then peel off the red skin from underneath the octopus.

Soak the octopus in a marinade of soy sauce, lemon juice and chili flakes for several hours, then slice into pieces and charcoal grill for 3-4 minutes (with the lid on).

Make a sauce using Sake, Ponzu sauce and lemon juice then thicken with some butter; add the octopus pieces; garnish with some peanuts and coriander.

Javier Plascencia's Charcoal Grilled Octopus (Pulpo a la Brasa)

Print Recipe
Serves: 2


  • For the cooking liquid:
  • 1.5 lbs Octopus
  • 6-8 cups water
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 yellow onion (roughly chopped)
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • For the marinade:
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • lemon zest
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Crushed chili pepper flakes
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup Ponzu sauce
  • 1 cup Sake
  • 1-2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp roasted peanuts
  • Cilantro (coriander) for garnish



Remove the head from the octopus. Place the garlic and roughly cut onion pieces in the bottom of a large pot and then add the octopus on top. Add enough water to cover the octopus, add the bay leaf and salt and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the octopus for 45-60 minutes until the meat is tender (place a wooden skewer into the meat to test). Remove from cooking pot.


To make the marinade, combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, soy sauce and chili pepper flakes; slice the octopus into pieces and cover with the marinade. Place in the fridge for several hours.


Cook the octopus in a covered charcoal grill for 3-4 minutes each side.


To make the sauce, combine the lemon juice, Ponzu sauce and Sake and add to a fry pan. Let simmer for about 5 minutes until the sauce reduces a little and then add the butter to thicken. Taste the sauce- add a little water if the flavors are too strong. Add the octopus pieces to the pan and cook with the sauce for several minutes. To serve, add the octopus and sauce to a shallow bowl, garnish with several roasted peanuts and some coriander.

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  • Reply
    December 30, 2017 at 5:22 pm

    Oh wow! What an amazing-looking restaurant! And your octopus dish looks soooo good too!

  • Reply
    Fran Flint
    December 31, 2017 at 2:27 am

    Thanks Sarah- octopus especially tastes good when char-grilled!
    Fran Flint recently posted…Javier Placencia’s Charcoal Grilled Octopus (Pulpo a la Brasa)My Profile

  • Reply
    Jean |
    December 31, 2017 at 3:27 am

    Fran, you are soooo adventurous! I admire that, and if I were going to eat octopus I would want it to be your recipe; buuuuttt … something like your Byron Potatoes with Salmon Steaks is much more to my liking. And I love that you formed the patties by hand. I used to pipe everything back in the day, but those days are gone!
    Jean | recently posted…Salisbury Steak – Classic American Comfort FoodMy Profile

  • Reply
    Fran Flint
    December 31, 2017 at 7:56 am

    Thank you Jean- The Byron Potatoes and Salmon Steaks recipe is also one of my favorites- learned this recipe at the Cordon Bleu school in Paris.
    Fran Flint recently posted…Javier Placencia’s Charcoal Grilled Octopus (Pulpo a la Brasa)My Profile

  • Reply
    mimi rippee
    December 31, 2017 at 8:42 am

    OMG you are so lucky!!! What an experience! Aren’t you glad you like octopus now?!! I think real flames are the only way to cook them the best, but it’s certainly not something I can do at home. Will look into this cookbook, although I’m sure it’s seafood-heavy… Happy New Year!!

  • Reply
    December 31, 2017 at 10:00 am

    It’s so funny, Fran, we were thinking of grilled octopus for the New Year but a) the store was out and, b) I didn’t know what to do. Part B is taken care of and I can assure you this will be on our table as soon as Whole Foods is restocked!

  • Reply
    Kathy @ Beyond the Chicken Coop
    January 1, 2018 at 1:13 am

    Octopus scares me a bit! I’ve never cooked with it and I’ve only ever eaten it when my husband orders it in a restaurant and I’ve tried a bite! Maybe my New Year’s resolution should be to try new things! 🙂 This cookbook looks lovely!

  • Reply
    John/Kitchen Riffs
    January 1, 2018 at 11:14 am

    Grilled octopus is wonderful! This looks great — love the pictures. Happy New Year!
    John/Kitchen Riffs recently posted…Party Snacks and Dips Recipe RoundupMy Profile

  • Reply
    January 4, 2018 at 1:57 am

    It would be wonderful to spend some time in a warm climate where you could have tropical seafood and eat outdoors!

    Have a great year in 2018.

    best… mae at

  • Reply
    Karen (Back Road Journal)
    January 4, 2018 at 5:31 am

    I’m like Kathy and only eat a bite or two of octopus when he orders it out. You did a splendid job with the recipe.
    Karen (Back Road Journal) recently posted…Shrimp Cocktail Phyllo BitesMy Profile

  • Reply
    January 5, 2018 at 4:44 pm

    Oh wow! Your octopus dish looks amazing but I think I would not be able to clean the octopus. The part where you cut off the head is too much for me. You are brave! I’d definitely eat it though. Maybe I should get someone to make this for me!

  • Reply
    Makos (@thehungrybites)
    January 7, 2018 at 5:55 am

    These are some of the best-looking tentancles I’ve seen! This must be an awesome recipe!!!

  • Reply
    Stephanie H.
    January 10, 2018 at 4:15 pm

    Javier Plascencia is a master chef- he and his family have opened numerous SUPERB restaurants in Tijuana (e.g. Mision 19, Saverios, Cafe Plascencia to name a few) and Valle de Guadalupe (Finca Altosano). So when I learned he was opening a restaurant right down the street from my law office, I was thrilled.

    I took my husband and father there for my dad’s 85th birthday, and we were treated like royalty. The staff could not have been better and more attentive. Prices were very reasonable-in fact I was shocked when I got the bill, had expected 35% more at least.

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