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.
Served with fried pork chops, smoked fried chicken or blackened pork chops. Add some hot water cornbread or buttermilk biscuits as well. Also, consider any of these popular soul food meat dishes.
Checkout my okra guide on how to use okra in other dishes.
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 soul food 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:
Charred Okra with Harissa Sauce
MAKING THIS RECIPE
We hope you enjoyed this recipe for stewed okra and tomatoes. If you give it a try, be sure to let us know what you think in the comments below. And don’t forget to share your photos on social media using the hashtag #foodfidelity. We can’t wait to 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.
Lastly, go to my YouTube channel and subscribe to be notified when new weekly videos are uploaded.
- 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.
Monday 14th of March 2022
Really tasty and easy . Didn’t have dry mustard so just squirted a little regular mustard and only half the salt. I will be making this again .
Monday 14th of March 2022
I love the improvisation!
Sunday 31st of October 2021
This stewed okra was so delicious and everyone loved it! It was pretty easy to prepare, and made the perfect dish for the party. Thank you so much!
Thursday 9th of September 2021
I had never eaten stewed okra before I made this recipe. It is absolutely delicious. I did not have a lemon but other than that I followed your recipe to the letter. This is absolutely perfect. Ate with fried catfish the first night and reheated tonight and ate with baked chicken and white rice. I will be making this over and over. Thank you somuch!
Monday 13th of September 2021
Glad you liked it. I'm sure it went great with the fried catfish!
Monday 24th of May 2021
I have to admit I never quite managed to get okra to taste right, but I think your recipe might finally help me change that!!
Lori | The Kitchen Whisperer
Sunday 23rd of May 2021
What a lovely and comforting recipe. I've never had it stewed and can't wait to try yours. I'm LOVING all of the seasonings and flavors in this recipe!