Charred okra recipe featuring okra pan-fried on high heat and then topped with a mildly spicy harissa sauce for a great side or fancy appetizer. Cooks in less than 5 minutes and requires only a few ingredients, what’s not to love?
Summertime in Texas is hot as hell, so I limit my cooking time. The oven basically gets no run. It’s a stovetop or grill pretty much in the Brown household. Thank god for cast iron skillets! I don’t know about you, but it’s easily my most used and most important kitchen item.
Charring vegetables, especially okra is a favorite cooking technique. It requires little thinking, planning or effort. Plus it’s a straight-up, almost primal, power move. All you need is a hot ass skillet and simple seasoning. I could have just stopped at the salt and pepper mix, but had some leftover harissa sauce I made a few days earlier. Something about it kept calling me! I manage a few different gardens. And with travel, kids activities, etc. I get behind on actually cooking the stuff I grow. During these times, to get rid of inventory and just eat good healthy farm-fresh food, I get my char own whether its a single vegetable or medley of them.
What Is Harissa?
Harissa is a North African chili paste that’s used as an all-purpose condiment pretty much on anything including grilled meats, vegetables, and grains. I buy the paste at my local grocery store (you can find it in the “international aisle”) and doctor it up with lemon juice, honey, and rice vinegar.
Okra, whole of halved, takes exceptionally to charring. The super high heat knocks out the slime first of all. Secondly, charring adds flavor and gives it a texture that basically makes the okra a snack. When I’m making charred okra, I make it first. It takes about 5 minutes to make, so I just make a big platter that I leave on the countertop. I snack on ‘em while I cook and the family does walk bys until the main meal is ready. Plus that char just makes the okra look irresistibly delicious.
What other vegetables are good for charring?
In addition to okra, I’m also a big fan of the green trio of broccoli, asparagus, and green beans. People sleep on green beans, but they are made for charring. With green beans, you get the flavor, plus the crunch and the beauty of the crunch is the juiciness of the beans when you bite down. Cherry tomatoes are also perfect. My blistered tomatoes recipe perfectly showcases the wonder that is charred tomatoes. Done right they maintain their snap but explode with sweet juices that have been concentrated by the high heat.
How do you char okra (vegetables)?
Charring is absolutely the easiest of cooking techniques to master. The keys are as follows:
- Use a skillet that retains high heat well aka purchase a damn cast-iron skillet or stovetop grill pan
- Cook at highest heat setting possible
- Don’t use too much oil, if any at all
- Don’t overcrowd the pan with too many items. Overcrowding leads to condensation and thus moisture
- Let the okra sit still for a good 3 minutes to get a nice char. Do not move or flip over before 3 minutes!
- Oh, I almost forgot – turn your cooktop fan on high so your kitchen isn’t smoked out.
Can this recipe be made on an outdoor grill?
Yes, of course! Just make sure you have a vegetable or seafood grill pan. Otherwise, your okra will slip through the grate and burn up quickly. If using your grill, the same rules and technique apply. Make sure your grill pan is piping hot before adding the okra.
Making Charred Okra
If this charred okra recipe intrigues you, definitely make it and let me know what you think by leaving a comment or even posting a picture on Instagram using the hashtag #foodfidelity.
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If you’re interested in other okra based recipes or just going deep on the history and health benefits of okra read my earlier post “Eat More Okra” which includes okra recipes utilizing several different techniques and flavors including stewed, southern fried okra, and roasted okra.
- 1/2 lb okra halved
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 2 tbsp harissa sauce
- 2 stalks green onions chopped
- Heat pan on high heat.
- Toss okra pods in olive oil. Lay okra cut side down on pan and cook for 3 minutes. Flip and cook for another minute.
- Remove okra to a serving plate/platter and season with salt, pepper, and garlic.
- Top with harissa sauce and garnish with chopped green onions.