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School of Tapas: Grilled Cuttlefish with Roasted Garlic Alioli

School of Tapas: Grilled Cuttlefish with Roasted Garlic Alioli

Grilled cuttlefish

Grilled cuttlefish in bite-sized pieces, dipped in a mild roasted garlic alioli.
By Miriam Garcia

Grilled cuttlefish

After my vacation break, back to my tapas series with a reinterpretation of a classic: sepia a la plancha, aka grilled cuttlefish. Grilled cuttlefish… I’m sure many people outside Spain shudder at the thought. And even people from Spain (my kids, for example). But it is indeed a very traditional food in the Mediterranean coast and well cooked and seasoned it can be utterly delicious. In this recipe the grilled cuttlefish chunks are dipped in a tasty alioli (like garlic mayonnaise) made with roasted garlic instead of raw, for a softer taste experience.

Cuttlefish belong to the same family as octopus and squid, and share features of both. In Spain they are easily found already clean at supermarkets, but if you attempt to clean them yourself… well, you can make a real mess in your kitchen. You need to remove tentacles, eyes and beak. Then you have to gut the head and extract the ink sack. After that, you need to get rid of as much outer membrane as possible (yes, cuttlefish have like an outer skin which is better removed). The clean head has a pleasant, firm consistency and a healthy white color. It can be sliced or cubed and cooked in a variety of fashions. On the other hand, tentacles can be cooked in fish stews or used to obtain a broth… have I already discouraged you to cook cuttlefish? Overcome prejudices and you will taste something truly delicious.

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On the other hand, in the old days preparing tender cuttlefish used to be trickier than today. The thing can easily acquire a tough consistency, especially if you overcook it. But nowadays the first thing you need to do to tenderize the cuttlefish is to freeze it, if it hasn’t been frozen before getting to the shop. Then you need to eliminate as much skin as you can. Lastly, the grill needs to be really hot before placing the cuttlefish chunks on it and they are to be cooked no longer than 1-2 minutes on each side. Then total success is at the turn of the corner.

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School of tapas: Grilled cuttlefish with alioli

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5 from 3 reviews

  • Author: Miriam García
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 2 1x


Grilled cuttlefish in bite-sized pieces, dipped in a mild roasted garlic alioli.


  • 1/2 head cuttlefish, clean
  • Virgin olive oil

Roasted garlic alioli

  • 1 whole head of garlic
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 whole medium egg and 1 yolk
  • 1 cup virgin olive oil


  1. First to the alioli: wrap the head of garlic in aluminum foil and roast in the oven preheated to 170ºC (340ºF) half an hour or till tender. Let cool and peel.
  2. Mash the roasted garlic with the salt in a mortar. Transfer the mash to a food processor or blender, add the egg and yolk and mix thoroughly.
  3. Measure the oil. Turn on the blender or processor at medium-low speed and start pouring the oil in a tiny steady stream, until you finish all the oil. Transfer the alioli to a container and set aside.
  4. Preheat a heavy skillet. Cut the cuttlefish head in bite-sized pieces and brush them with olive oil. When the skillet is hot, place the cuttlefish pieces to grill. They won’t need longer than 1-2 minutes per side, in fact overcooking them yields a tough rubbery cuttlefish.
  5. When done, serve them immediately with a bowl of alioli on the side.
  • Prep Time: 25 mins
  • Cook Time: 35 mins

And enjoy! This roasted garlic alioli is also wonderful with all kinds of grilled meat and fish. So if you don’t dare to try the cuttlefish, try at least this scrumptious dip.

View Comments (10)
  • Miriam, It is so nice to meet you and to read your blog. I just found it. Your tapas series sounds wonderful and I can’t wait to start my culinary adventures with your fine food recipes. I have not had much Spanish food per say. Mexican is what I have always had. I’m so looking forward to learning from you. Mucho Gusto Senora.

  • If I ever manage to find sepia I will try this. I am a bit more hopeful of success when you mention that an initial freezing of the cuttlefish actually helps the process. I learned to love all these tentacled foods in Spain–even octopus! Getting out the ink sac always reminds me of a dissection experiment in eighth grade biology class. It didn’t go so well: while I leave it to your imagination, at least we were dissecting in a large tray which did a good job of containing the mess.

  • I love your tapas school – thanks so much! Cuttlefish are one of my favorites of all time, but I’ve never tried this recipe. Will do!

  • Just came upon your blog. I live in Texas. I am giving a wedding shower for my girlfriend’s daughter. She is getting married to a Spainard in Madrid this Dec.
    I decided to do a ‘tapa’shower. Right now just collecting a variety of tapas. Any suggestions would be great! Thanks

  • Miriam,

    This was awesome!

    Wife and 7 yr old daughter loved it.

    I’ll make again and again just like this.



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