Stewed Okra and Tomatoes – fresh summer ingredients slowly simmered with a flavorful sofrito sauce for a balanced yet Southern classic stew-like side dish. It’s prepared the Southern way, but with a Caribbean twist.
This stewed okra recipe kicks off what I’m calling Dallas month in honor of my hometown. So for the rest of the month, all recipe posts will feature my version of foods I ate at home or at various new and old local restaurants. Likewise, all music will feature Dallas artists. Interestingly, I currently live in Austin, TX which bills itself as the music capital of the world, but Dallas arguably is home to the best musicians in Texas. Erykah Badu, Lisa Loeb, Roy Hargrove, Steve Miller, etc. all hail from Big D and represent a diverse group of genres.
My grandmother aka MaDear made stewed okra and tomatoes at least once a month. She called her dish okra gumbo, which is how you will see it on some Southern menus. Smothered okra is another common name. In her recipe, she added corn, which I appreciated for the additional texture. Corn kernels add a much-needed crunchiness in my humble opinion. I also recall MaDear being very heavy-handed with the paprika which adds a smoky and earthy flavor. Now I say start with a tablespoon and adjust as necessary depending on your tastes.
The best part about cooking stewed okra is the aroma that is produced via the slow cooking of the ingredients which includes fresh herbs and spices. Whenever I get a whiff smokey paprika and/or stewed tomatoes and okra I think about Home. Home for me is MaDear’s house in Oak Cliff, Dallas, TX and the music of the incredible Roy Hargrove.
What is Sofrito?
I tweaked the recipe by including a sofrito sauce. This is optional, but I highly recommend it as it adds some bottom to the dish. My Uncle Slick always used to say that music wasn’t good unless it had that bottom provided from a bass. If you’re unfamiliar with sofrito, it’s commonly used in Caribbean cuisine, especially Puerto Rican and Cuban, to season stews, beans, and rice dishes. It’s basically a Caribbean version of a French Miropioux or Cajun Holy Trinity featuring a blend of garlic, onions, peppers, and herbs cooked slowly. I prefer to let mine sit in the refrigerator overnight to allow all the flavors to come together. Depending on where you live, you can find store-bought sofrito, but it’s more fun and tasty to make your own. I like sofrito in this dish because it allows you to add mucho flavor while keeping this dish purely plant-based. Most stewed okra dishes include bacon or bacon grease.
What Do I Serve With Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
I served the stewed okra with creamy stone ground grits, but there are several other options for consideration. I’ve eaten them with simple rice, as well as used as a topping for fish or chicken. Topping these with sauteed or grilled shrimp is a great way to make this a main dish while utilizing dishes you’re likely to already have on hand. Perhaps my favorite besides just eating it alone as an okra gumbo is to grill a spicy sausage like andouille and using the stewed okra as a topping, sometimes going as far as using as a complement to a sausage dog.
Stewed Okra Cooking Tips
- As much as possible use fresh ingredients. The fresher the better
- Make a big batch of the sofrito and use to flavor other dishes
- Onions sauteed in bacon fat is a quick way to add flavor, but you lose that clean garden fresh flavor you get with a sofrito base
- Choose smaller, younger okra pods. The bigger ones have that wood-like texture and also produce more slime. Don’t worry long slow stewing nets slime-less okra.
- Corn adds texture with its crunch which I particularly like.
- Stewed okra and tomatoes can be covered and refrigerated overnight. I actually prefer waiting a day, because the dish is even more flavorful after a day of sitting.
Making Stewed Okra with Sofrito
If you make this okra gumbo recipe please 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! You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. If you like any of the music you find on the site, visit me at Spotify to find curated monthly playlists.
For other okra recipes try this grilled vegetable salad, roasted okra, or blistered okra. Or better yet, just check-out this “Eat More Okra” post which includes a comprehensive list of delicious okra recipes for all occasions as well as detailed info on the many health benefits of okra.
Stewed Okra Ingredients
- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 2 teaspoons garlic minced
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika.
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
- 14 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 14 oz can corn rinsed and drained
- 2 cups fresh sliced okra
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 cups water/vegetable broth or more if necessary
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cooked Stone Ground Grits optional
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium red onion diced
- 1 red bell pepper cored, seeded, de-veined and diced
- 4 large garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 small can no-sodium diced tomatoes
- 1/2 cup dry red wine
- 1 cup fresh herbs medley basil, oregano, parsley, etc.
- Salt and black pepper to taste
Make the sofrito:
- In a medium-sized pan, heat the oil. Add the onion, peppers, and garlic, and cook over medium heat until onions are translucent and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Stir in the tomatoes and let cook for about 5 minutes, until it thickens and reduces. If liquid remains, continue cooking for another 5 minutes. Add the wine and herbs and let cook for 5 minutes, until the wine reduces and the flavors combine.
- Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour mixture into a blender or food processor. Puree for about one minute, until the sauce still has some texture. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Will keep refrigerated for 5 days, or freeze for up to 3 months. Makes about 2 cups.
Make the Stewed Okra
- Heat a saucepan with about 1 tablespoon of oil. Add onions, garlic, bay leaf, thyme and paprika then saute for about 2 -3 minutes.
- Then add tomatoes, cayenne, and corn, cook for about 5 minutes.
- Stir in okra, add water/broth, sofrito, salt and cook for about 5 minutes or more stirring occasionally. Adjust seasonings to taste
- Serve with grits or rice.