I love okra now, but I didn’t always. My early experiences featured slimy pods so I avoided it at all costs. I was fortunate to be introduced to crispy, crunchy okra later that inspired me to research and create several slime-free recipes. So today, I will show you how to cook okra so that you can enjoy all it has to offer.
Okra is kind of a big deal.
I’m not alone in my love and devotion to okra. Popular culture is filled with a few examples that demonstrate its present underground status which could grow and develop into something BIG! There is currently an Okra App. It’s not about okra per se, but merely the naming of an App Okra shows much respect due. The app actually tracks all black-owned restaurants in the entire U.S. It’s a great tool for supporting businesses and food-ways dedicated to African-American cuisine.
There is also a cool song by Tyler the Creator, titled “Okra” that needs more airplay. It’s in heavy rotation for me but needs to catch on with others. However, my personal favorite “Okra” song is by Olu Dara, the jazz artist and also father of my favorite MC, Nas.
What is okra?
For those of you with no connection to the U.S. South, West Africa, the Caribbean, or India, it’s understandable if you’ve never encountered okra. Okra is a vegetable seed pod with a long, slender, tubelike shape that resemble lady fingers.
How does okra taste?
It has a mild, grassy taste that is comparable to green beans. However depending on how it’s prepared the flavor/taste can change dramatically. Quickly cooked okra tends to be country and mild, but long, stewed okra gets tender and has a more complex depth of flavor.
Why is okra slimy?
Okra contains a fair amount of mucilage which is the gooey stuff that helps plants store and transport food and water. When heated the okra’s mucilage increases in viscosity when heated.
What Are Solutions For Getting Rid Of The Slime?
Interesting enough it’s the sliminess that makes okra a great thickening agent. But, I get it, I get it, you don’t want to hear anything about okra recipes until I can offer up a way to get rid of the slime factor. Let me address the issue head-on, right off the bat. Eazy peezy here are a few things to consider in avoiding the slime factor:
- The smaller the pod, the less slime you’ll get
- Wash and dry okra very thoroughly. Drying is key!
- Generally speaking, cook okra at high heat levels quickly using methods like roasting, searing, frying, or grilling.
- Make sure your cast iron skillet, grill, or fryer are hot before you start cooking okra. Shoot for a good external sear/char that has the added benefit of nuking the slime
- Cook okra in small batches. Overcrowded pans bring temps down which leads to steam which leads to slime
- Acid is the anti slime. Viner, lemon juice, wine, or canned tomato juice will add flavor plus slime control
- Add okra at the very end when you’re ready to eat the dish as this will minimize contact with moisture.
How To Cook Okra In Different Ways
Given its global culinary status, okra is prepared and eaten in a variety of ways. It’s roasted, grilled, fried, and stewed. It’s eaten as the main ingredient or as a supporting role in a main dish entree. There are also many options for preserving from pickling to canning.
Different Okra Recipes By Preparation
Roasting in the oven at high temps is easy, fast, and delicious, especially if you season them right. Olive oil, salt, pepper, and perhaps a cajun spice blend goes a long way. Try this simple roasted okra recipe.
How to Cook Okra on the Grill
The great thing about grilled okra is their great flavor stands out and pairs well with the smokiness from the grilling. The charring is almost like a bonus treat. Like roasting they don’t require much work but net outstanding results. Pair these with flavored mayonnaise. I like to take my favorite hot sauce and mix it with the mayo. I like to slice the tips of the okra with scissors. This helps against slime and also makes for a great presentation.
How to Stew Okra
Stewed okra is a Southern classic, but Indians have great versions too. Tomatoes make the perfect pairing with stewed okra so most recipes call for them including my version. To take your stewed okra up a notch I recommend infusing your cooking oil with your spice selection before adding the okra and tomatoes. This adds complexity to the dish. The other benefit is you don’t have to use bacon to flavor. Please do not take that as an anti-bacon sentiment. I’m good with bacon, but want to make sure my vegan and/or health-conscious crew had great tasting options. Try this stewed okra recipe.
How to Fry Okra
Fresh, summertime okra - who doesn’t like it fried. I prefer a light airy texture for my fried okra recipe and achieve this by using corn starch to perform the most crispy execution of fried okra you can imagine. You'll want to add this fried okra recipe or this cornmeal crusted fried okra to your recipe list.
How to Pan-Fry Okra
Often-times the best recipes are the simplest and this okra recipe qualifies as such. Blistering okra with tomatoes in a super hot pan/skillet first-off nukes the hell out the slime, but the charring also adds depth and flavor in just a few minutes for a dope and delicious side dish. Let the pan get as hot as possible; if it's smoking then great.
How to Cook Okra Using A Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot) Okra
Instant Pots are perfect for a good okra soup/stew. For maximum flavor saute the vegetables in the pan first. For an example try this okra soup with smoked chicken. I added lime juice for a bit of acidity to balance against the smoked chicken.
Pickled okra despite not “technically” being cooked has no slime. As a matter of fact, vinegar a key ingredient in most pickling recipes is an anti-slime agent. I’ve made salads featuring raw okra soaked in vinegar before topping my salad.
Other Okra Recipes
What Are Some Health/Nutritional Benefits of Okra?
One of the main reasons for having okra recipes in your repertoire is its nutritional profile. Okra has a long list of health benefits of which I’ll provide a few of the essential ones.
Okra is a major nutritional power. Did you know in a single cup of raw okra there are only about 30 calories and .1 gram of fat but plenty of dietary fiber, protein, and essential nutrients and vitamins? These qualities make okra perfect for tackling issues like diabetes and kidney disease.
It doesn’t matter how you like to cook okra, you can be blessed with its bountiful benefits. Consider the following health issues okra addresses:
Vegetables and fruit high in Vitamin C are great against asthma. Okra contains 21mg per cup.
Okra’s high fiber content promotes good digestive health and good cholesterol levels. Put simply, okra contains no cholesterol and minuscule levels of fat. In other more scientific words, soluble fiber can be dissolved in water, which means that it breaks down in the digestive tract. There, it also binds to cholesterol in other foods so that it can be excreted along with other wastes. Bottom line, cholesterol levels take a big dive according to the Harvard Health Publications.
Helps Manage Diabetes
That soluble fiber I mentioned earlier is the key to okra’s effectiveness against diabetes. The insoluble fiber helps stabilize blood glucose by slowing the rate at which sugar is absorbed from the intestinal tract.
Prevents Kidney Disease
There is a strong link between diabetes and kidney disease. Many cases of kidney disease develop directly from diabetes. So it’s a reason to chance that if you reduce diabetes risks you get the double benefit of lowering chances of developing kidney disease. A 2005 study published in the Jilin Medical Journal found patients who ate okra daily reduced clinical signs of kidney damage more than those who were on a diabetic diet.
For greater detail check-out the Healthline article, 7 Nutrition and Health Benefits of Okra.
Don’t take my word for it. Try some of the okra recipes mentioned in this post. This is a low risk, high reward proposition. Fresh okra is pretty cheap, yet it's extremely healthy and highly versatile in terms of its fit with different types of recipes. If you try one of the recipes, get on the bus and join the campaign. Help me get okra off the sideline and out of the background.
If you make any one of these okra recipes come back and leave me a comment below with your feedback. Definitely take a photo of the dish and be sure to tag #foodfidelity so that I can see them.
You can also keep up with my food exploits as well as original recipes!