Korean Firecracker: Spicy Stir-Fried Octopus (Nakji Bokkeum)

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Looking for a taste of Korea? This spicy stir-fried octopus (Nakji Bokkeum) is an explosion of flavor that’s sure to tantalize your taste buds. Tender octopus gets a fiery kick from gochujang paste, balanced with the sweetness of vegetables and the umami depth of seafood. It’s a quick and easy dish perfect for a weeknight meal or a fun appetizer for your next gathering.


Spicy stir-fried octopus (Nakji-bokkeum)
Spicy stir-fried octopus (Nakji-bokkeum)

1 pound fresh or frozen octopus, cleaned and cut into bite-sized pieces

  • 1/2 cup gochujang paste (Korean chili paste)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated ginger
  • 1/2 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 bell pepper, thinly sliced (any color)
  • 1 cup chopped scallions
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • Sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

  • Instructions:

    1. Marinate the Octopus: In a large bowl, combine the octopus, gochujang paste, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sugar, garlic, and ginger. Mix well and marinate for at least 30 minutes, or up to overnight for deeper flavor.
    2. Stir-Fry the Vegetables: Heat a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Add the sesame oil and swirl to coat the pan. Once hot, add the onion and bell pepper. Stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, or until softened slightly.
    3. Add the Octopus: Add the marinated octopus along with its juices to the pan. Increase the heat to high and stir-fry for 5-7 minutes, or until the octopus is cooked through and slightly browned. Be careful not to overcook, as the octopus can become tough.
    4. Finishing Touches: Reduce heat to medium and stir in the scallions. Cook for another minute until softened.
    5. Serve: Transfer the stir-fried octopus to a plate and garnish with sesame seeds (optional). Serve immediately with steamed rice for a complete meal.

    Nutrition Facts:

    (Per Serving)

    Calories: Approximately 300 (depending on ingredients)

  • Protein: 25g
  • Fat: 15g
  • Carbs: 20g
  • Sodium: High (due to soy sauce)

  • Note: This is an approximate nutritional breakdown and may vary depending on the specific ingredients used.


    Spicy stir-fried octopus (Nakji Bokkeum) is a delicious and versatile Korean dish that’s sure to become a new favorite. With its combination of tender seafood, fiery gochujang, and fresh vegetables, it’s a dish that packs a punch with both flavor and nutrients. So next time you’re looking for an exciting culinary adventure, give this recipe a try!

    Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

    1. Can I use frozen octopus for this recipe?

    Absolutely! Frozen octopus is a readily available and convenient option. Just thaw it completely under cold running water before using.

    2. What if I don’t have gochujang paste?

    Gochujang is the key ingredient that gives this dish its signature Korean flavor. However, if you can’t find it, you can substitute with a mix of sriracha sauce and red pepper flakes. Adjust the amount to your desired level of spice.

    3. Can I make this dish ahead of time?

    While the stir-fried octopus is best enjoyed fresh, you can prepare the marinated octopus up to a day in advance. Just store it in the refrigerator and cook it as directed when ready to serve. However, be aware that the texture of the octopus might be slightly different.

    4. What are some other vegetables I can add to this recipe?

    Feel free to experiment with different vegetables! Broccoli florets, carrots, and zucchini would all be delicious additions.

    5. What other side dishes can I serve with Nakji Bokkeum?