Octopus Rice – Arroz de Polvo Malandrinho

If you’ve never eaten octopus I think octopus rice is the best way to try it.  This is my favourite way with octopus, the flavour of the rice comes from the water the octopus cooks in and the water it releases during cooking, giving the rice a very meaty flavour and a lovely hue of pink.

This particular style of octopus rice is called malandrinho which means the rice is suppose to be solto (loose), so at the end of the finished dish you don’t want all of the liquid to be absorbed by the rice but neither do you want to be eating soup with bits of rice.

The word malandrinho means a ‘little lazy’, as you would call someone in jest.  I have no idea why it’s called lazy rice, maybe because the rice is loose and doesn’t hold its shape?

To finish my Portuguese language lesson here we add the “nho” or “nha” at the end of words when meaning either a term of endearment for example we will extend people names, mine will become Azelinha, or we use it when kidding around.  Ok enough of our funny ways here’s how to make the rice:

For how to cook the octopus read my post here.  Reserve the stock and cut up the octopus into small pieces

To make the rice soften one medium onion in a little oil on low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes.  You should be able to hear it sizzle away but not fierce enough to burn the onion before it’s soften.

You’ll need two medium tomatoes

A garlic clove is optional but I prefer the rice with it.

Peel the tomatoes.  You can either pour boiling water over them after a minute take them out and the skin will come away easily, or here I cut them into segments and then peeled them.

Chop the tomatoes and the garlic clove.

When the onion has soften, has gone translucent and begins to colour into a pale golden colour it’s ready for the tomatoes.

Add the garlic and half a cup of water.

Put the lid on and cook on medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down.

Type of Rice

You want white long grain rice.  I buy what usually sells here as American easy cook rice, it takes about 10-12 minutes to cook.  You want a reasonably quality rice because it should still be intact by the end of cooking.

Basmati rice isn’t right for this dish, the texture of it at the end of cooking is too soft and fluffy which is not what you want here, you want a rice grain that maintains a more sturdy texture than that.

If your rice takes longer to cook than mine, see the cooking instructions on the pack, then be aware you’ll need to add more stock during the cooking of it to stop it drying out.


For the amount of octopus I had in the previous post which was almost 1.5kg raw it will make enough rice for 4 people, but if they’re Portuguese then we’re talking about 2 people.

I always measure my rice by mugs as I know how many will feed my family, it just so happens a mug measures a cup (US cup).

How Much Stock?

For this dish and this type of rice I’m using, I use more than double the amount of stock to rice.  I’ll list the amount in the recipe.

Exactly how much stock you’ll need will depend firstly how absorbent your rice is and secondly how wide the pan is and lastly how fierce the boiling of the rice is.  For these reasons always leave stock on the side to add towards the end if it’s drying too quickly.

Add the stock, salt and a pinch of cayenne pepper, or chili flakes or half teaspoon of freshly ground pepper.  Bring it to the boil.

Boil on a nicely rolling boil on medium heat but not too fierce.  About 5 minutes from the rice being ready add the octopus.

I’ve tried cooking the rice adding the octopus at the very beginning of cooking the rice and tried it adding at the very end when the rice is ready just heating it through and it didn’t make any difference on the chewiness of the octopus.

Make sure the rice doesn’t dry out and is not burning its bottom.  Don’t stir the rice while cooking, it’s not risotto.

When the rice is cooked but still has a tiny bit of ‘bite’ it’s on the verge of being ready, turn the pan off.

Make sure there’s still some water not absorbed by the rice.  If the rice is dry then add some of that reserved stock, bring it back to the boil which should take couple of minutes then turn it off and follow the next step as normal.

Add the lid with a papertowel underneath it, to lock in all the steam to finish the rice, for 5 minutes.

After 5 minutes the rice is ready.  There’s no cheffy sprinkling of herbs on top to make it pretty, it’s very simple peasant food.

You can see from the photo below there’s still a little liquid around the rice.

Octopus Rice – Arroz de Polvo Malandrinho

Serve 4 people (if Portuguese 2-3 people)

  • Octopus cooked, see how in my post here 
  • Reserved stock from cooking octopus
  • 1-2 tablespoons spoons of vegetable oil (something not strong)
  • 1 medium size onion chopped
  • 2 medium size tomatoes skinned and chopped or you can use 1 level tablespoon of tomato puree (paste)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped finely
  • 1 heaped cup (US) or heaped mug of white long rice.  (check rice package cooking times)
  • 3 – 3 1/2 cups of the stock (or mug) start with 3 and see if needs more.
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp of fine salt, will depend if the stock water is salty (start with half teaspoon, after first few minutes you can taste it and be able to tell if it needs a touch more)
  • pinch of cayenne or chili flakes or 1/2 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
Add the oil to the pan along with the onion and let the onion cook on a low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes until soften, appear translucent and not burn.
Add the chopped tomatoes, garlic and half a cup of water, put the lid on and let it cook for further 5-10 minutes until tomatoes have broken down.  If using tomato puree cook it down until some of that liquid has reduced.
Add the rice, stock, chili and salt and cook on medium heat so that there is a nice even rolling boil, stir the rice initially but then leave it and resist from keep stirring.  The rice I use takes 10-12 mins.  If your rice cooking time will take longer than mine you’ll need to add more water at some point, add enough to see it but not completely drown the rice.
When the rice is a few minutes away from being ready add the octopus, stir it in and cook until the rice is on the verge of being done.  At this point turn off the heat put the lid on the pan with a papertowel underneath it to trap the steam.  Leave it for 5 minutes.
Bom apetito.