Okra is a popular vegetable used in a variety of savory recipes around the world. This uniquely textured vegetable, whether fried, grilled, or stewed, is simply irresistible.

What is okra?

Okra is the fuzzy, green unripe seedpod of the plant Abelmoschus esculentus. The name “okra” comes from the West African word “nkruma” meaning “great”. Because of its slender, long, tube-like shape, it’s also known as “lady’s finger”. Interestingly, okra is a fruit by classification, but it’s widely used as a vegetable in the kitchen.

Okra is rich in vitamin C, K, and folate, much like kiwi fruit (although not relatively as high as kiwi). The light green seed pods are sliced or cooked whole in a variety of ways, depending on personal preference. Where some people prefer deep-fried okra, others prefer grilled, sautéed, or roasted okra alongside the main course.

Flavor of okra

Image Credit: Mirko Sajkov from Pixabay

Okra offers a grassy and sweet flavor similar to eggplant. The sweetness gets deeper with prolonged cooking time. Okra is well known for its unique texture which can range from silky to crisp to slimy, depending on how it is cooked. Needless to say, okra’s unique texture can be polarizing. 

Okra uses in cooking

Image Credit: Brett Hondow from Pixabay

Okra has something for everyone, whether you’re stewing it until tender for a rich Creole stew or frying it until crispy for a fast side dish. Okra can be used in several ways; here are our 5 favorite okra recipes: 

1) Gumbo

This Louisianan recipe, gumbo, is by far the most popular and divine okra recipe in ages. It’s prepared by slow-cooking of meat stock, meat, vegetables, spices, and seasonings. Gumbo is most likely responsible for okra’s slimy reputation: the vegetable is sliced and simmered until all of its gel has leached out into the strew. Okra acts as a thickening agent for the recipe and gives the signature texture to this nutritiously rich stew. We love Toni Tipton Martin’s recipe for gumbo, which leans heavily on okra. 

2) Fried okra

Try deep-frying whole okra in peanut oil after coating in a mixture of cornmeal, salt, and pepper. Fried okra gives the desirable savory flavor with the perfect crunch, and is usually served as a side dish in South Asia. We love this Southern-style fried okra recipe. 

3) Grilled okra

Grilled okra is by far the easiest okra recipe to treat your tastebuds with a unique grassy flavor. Simply toss the whole okra in a flavorful dressing of salt, crushed black pepper, and cayenne powder after they’re being grilled and charred. The high heat and quick cooking time keeps the okra from getting too slimy. 

4) Pickled okra

Pickled okra, a Bloody Mary must-have, seems to have a slight slime factor but so much flavor that you won’t even notice. 

5) Roasted okra

Roasted okra is an amazingly healthy yet delicious snacking recipe. Try roasting seasoned okra with olive oil until they’re tender and browned. You can add red chile powder into the seasoning to give your roasted okra a spicy kick. When roasting okra, we recommend high heat (around 425°) to ensure the okra stays crisp. 

Where to find okra? 

When it’s in season, from May to September, you’ll have the best chance of getting okra at your local grocery store. It’s also available precut and frozen okra in 12 to 16 ounce bags at most grocery stores, and can be easily found online.

Feature Image: Santanu Manna from Pixabay

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