Leveled up stewed okra featuring simple spices heated in oil to dial up flavor and infuse the okra and tomatoes with even more complex flavor for a great side dish in a matter of minutes.
If I go to a “soul food” joint and stewed okra ain’t on the menu, I’m already suspicious of said joint. I ain’t saying you have to have it on your menu to be considered legit, I’m just saying you got more to prove to me aka the soul food snob!
In my experience, stewed okra flavor begins with bacon. Bacon is usually the first ingredient in the pan and then the onions and garlic are sautéed in the grease before the other ingredients are layered in. I decided to ax the bacon to make a true plant-based vegan version.
The other reason I went without bacon was to keep that fresh okra flavor which tends to get lost in the midst of that glorious bacon. No bacon, however, meant I had to rely on a few tricks to make up for the loss in flavor from excluding it. Don't sweat it though, this recipe got plenty of soul. You'll dig it, no doubt.
Okra and tomatoes are an excellent combination that uses fresh summer vegetables favorites. Simple dishes can be made fresh from the garden or farmers market. "Stewed" sounds like a long time, but this recipe actually comes together rather quickly and easily.
STEWED OKRA INGREDIENTS
- Fresh okra
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- Mustard powder
- Smoked Paprika
- Kosher Salt
- Black Pepper
- Bay leaf
- Yellow onion
STEWING OKRA INSTRUCTIONS
Slice the okra into ¼ -½ inch slices. Cut the lemon in half, then using one half, squeeze lemon juice on the okra and let sit 5-10 minutes.
Heat a medium saucepan on low heat. Add olive oil and once heated add the garlic cloves and half the spices. Let the oil simmer 3-4 minutes to allow the infusion of the garlic and spices to occur.
Increase the heat to medium then add onions and saute for 3-4 minutes. Add the sliced okra and cook for 2 minutes, stirring as needed.
Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until they release their juices which should take about a minute. Add the water, cayenne, bay leaf, and remaining spices. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes stirring as often as needed. Stir in juice from the other lemon half and serve.
Salt the okra and then toss in lemon-juice water which keeps the okra from getting all gummy when you cook them
For more complex flavor heat spices and garlic in oil before adding the vegetables.
When adding the tomatoes cook at high heat for them to release their juices, then quickly reduce heat to a simmer
Feel free to use whole or sliced okra. It’s your choice, but if slicing, cut the okra thick
Stewed okra can be made ahead and refrigerated. Reheat slowly in a saucepan.
This recipe absolutely works with frozen okra. My preference is fresh, but if I need convenience or want stewed okra during off-season I will substitute the frozen pods.
If stewed okra isn't your thing because of the okra, substitute green beans in the recipe instead.
Additional Flavor Hacks
This isn’t as hard as you may think. I did two things upfront. One smash up about 3-5 garlic cloves and slowly simmered them in olive oil for about 20 minutes along with some fresh basil and spices. Heating spices intensifies their flavors. I observed this in Indian cooking over the years and adopted this approach in my style.
In the past, when making a similar dish, I’ve borrowed from my Caribbean cousins to make up for the lack of bacon. I’ve either used a Puerto Rican style sofrito or Haitian epis, both of which rely on a salsa-like condiment featuring tomatoes, garlic, and herbs to serve as the base flavor.
I got resourceful and went with the Indian option out of necessity to a certain degree as I didn’t have good fresh herbs on hand. This fewer ingredient okra recipe came out just fine, if not better. If you’re the type who doesn’t like the flavor of okra, then skip to another post, cause okra is in the house; it’s the star!
Try either approach if you wish and decide your preference. I’ll be going back and forth depending on the mood, vibe, and occasion.
Frequently Asked Questions About Cooking Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
Can You Use Frozen Okra In This Recipe?
Frozen okra is fine, but not preferred. Fresh okra is best to fully enjoy that great flavor.
Can You Used Canned Tomatoes?
Canned tomatoes are an ok substitute. I'm still partial to fresh, but if you're going the canned route then use fire-roasted tomatoes for a bit more flavor.
What Do You Serve With Stewed Okra?
Serve these with a Southern inspired menu of easy to make recipes. Hot water cornbread or buttermilk biscuits with sides like red rice and mac and cheese. For main entree options pair with dishes like fried chicken, smothered pork chops, or fried catfish.
How Do You Store Leftover Stewed Okra and Tomatoes?
Leftover okra and tomatoes can be kept in a sealed bag in a fridge for 1-3 days. In reheating mode, simply microwave until warm, or place the skillet on low heat for frying.
MORE OKRA RECIPES
If you’re interested in other okra based side dish recipes or just going deep on the different ways on “How To Cook Okra” which includes okra recipes utilizing several different techniques and flavors. Try any of the below:
MAKING THIS RECIPE
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- 1 lb okra whole or cut into ½ inch slices
- 1 lemon
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1 teaspoon mustard powder
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- ½ tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ tablespoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 3 medium tomatoes chopped
- ¼ cup water
- Cut the lemon in half. Using one half squeeze the juice on the okra and let sit 5-10 minutes.
- Heat sauce pan on med-low heat. Add the olive oil, garlic, mustard powder and half of the salt, pepper, and paprika each. Let simmer for 3-4 minutes to infuse the oil with flavor.
- Heat the pan to med and add the onions and saute 3-4 minutes
- Add the okra and cook for 2 minutes, stirring a few times.
- Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until they release their juices, about 1 minute. Add the water, cayenne, bay leaf, and remaining salt, pepper, and paprika, cover and simmer for 20 minutes stirring as often as needed. Stir in juice from the other lemon half and serve.