Portuguese Christmas Dinner: Lagareiro Octopus and Pumpkin Cakes

Tradition is best celebrated in special dates like Christmas, where the table is filled with love and food. In Portugal, where I am from, Christmas is a moment to cook our best and most traditional recipes. Besides codfish, because there isn’t a Portuguese table at Christmas without codfish, there are other dishes that also celebrate the Portuguese culture. One of them is Lagareiro Octopus, an oven dish served with roasted potatoes and a very tender octopus. In this article I bring you this recipe and also another one, which is my favourite Portuguese delicacy for Christmas, Pumpkin Cakes. Merry Christmas and Bon Appetit!

Christmas is only better when the table is “adorned” with delicious food and you are surrounded by people that you love. In Portugal, my home country, Christmas is a moment of happiness where our traditional food plays an important role. Our main dish at Christmas is codfish, but because I already dedicated an article to my favourite codfish recipe, Codfish With Cream (recipe here), this time I decided to bring our favourite octopus recipe: Lagareiro Octopus or in Portuguese, Polvo a Lagareiro.

For whom might be sweet tooth like me, you need to follow the recipe I include in this article. It’s my favourite Portuguese Christmas delicacy, Pumpkin Cakes, in Portuguese Filhoses de Abobora.


Lagareiro Octupus/ Polvo a Lagareiro

Roast potatoes and a soft octopus is a dish that you might judge as comfort food, but there are some tricks to make this traditional dish a “masterchef” meal that everyone will remember. Here goes the recipe.

Ingredients for 5 people:

  • 1.5kg frozen octopus
  • 250ml olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tablesp. salt for the octopus
  • 1 tablesp. salt for the potatoes
  • 900g potatos to bake
  • 900 g
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teasp. white pepper


  • Put the frozen octopus in a pot with water to cover half of the octopus (the frozen octopus will release water) and one full onion without peeling. Add olive oil and one clove of garlic. Boil it until the onion is cooked. A full onion when is cooked, it means the octopus will be ready. Always boil the octopus in water from frozen. If you put a fresh octopus, it gets chewy. This is the trick to get a tender octopus.
  • When the onion is cooked, verify with a fork if the octupus is tender. Let it cool in the water.
  • Wash the potatoes and coat them in salt.
  • Take the potatoes to the oven at 165oC for 30 minutes.
  • Change the potatoes to another tray and add the bay leaves, 200ml of olive oil, 3 cloves of garlic smashed, pepper and the octopus, cutting the head from the tentacles
  • Take everything to the oven at 180oC.
  • Leave it between 20 and 30 minutes until the potatoes and octopus are looking “golden”.
  • Lagareiro Octopus is ready to be served. You can add more olive oil.


Pumpkin Cakes/ Filhoses de Abobora

For me Christmas isn’t Christmas, if I don’t have my Pumpkin Cakes. My Grandma always cooked them for Christmas. My childhood is filled with good memories of me sneaking around to eat as much as I could without she noticing. I got so used to them every Christmas, that now it’s mandatory to cook them when celebrating the Holiday Season. This Portuguese delicacy is the perfect sweet to have with coffee or tea by the end of the Christmas dinner.

It’s an easy recipe, apart from the fact that requires 2 days to prepare, due to the pumpkin that needs to be left to drain one day to another, after being boiled.

Ingredients for 30 pumpkin cakes:

  • 1500g pumpkin
  • 3 eggs
  • Peel of 2 oranges
  • 100g sugar
  • 10g baker’s yeast
  • 600g flour
  • 2dl orange juice
  • 75ml brandy
  • A bit of salt
  • Cinnamon in powder
  • White sugar to coat the pumpkin cakes
  • 1 liter of oil to fry


  • Boil the pumpkin in water with a bit of salt until the pumpkin is completely boiled/soft.
  • Drain the water off and let the pumpkin one day to another in a colander with a cloth covering it. It’s important that the pumpkin gets completely drained one day to another.
  • The following day, in a bowl, put the pumkin, eggs, orange peel, sugar, yeast, flour, orange juice and brandy.
  • With an electric whisk blend everything together until the batter is mixed perfectly. The batter should be consistent enough to be fried afterwards.
  • Let the batter to rest for 2 hours in a warm place, to let the yeast work.
  • After, put the oil in a pot and turn on the stove at a medium temperature.
  • When the oil is hot, put a measure of a tablespoon of the batter to fry. Do it like this until the dough is finished.
  • The pumpkin cakes need to be fried until they are golden.
  • Let it cool.
  • Prepare a small bowl with enough white sugar and cinnamon mixed together and coat all the pumpkin cakes with it.
  • The pumpkin cakes are ready to be served.

Merry Christmas,

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  1. Octopus and pumpkin cakes, I’d love to taste them both!

    1. If you come one day to Tenerife, I can do the Pumpkin Cakes. I don’t mind, since they’re perfect when I’m watching netflix 😀

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