Facebook LinkedIn Email Pinterest Twitter Instagram YouTube Icon Navigation Search Icon Main Search Icon Video Play Icon Plus Icon Minus Icon Check Icon Print Icon Note Icon Heart Icon Filled Heart Icon Single Arrow Icon Double Arrow Icon Hamburger Icon TV Icon Close Icon Sorted Hamburger/Search Icon
Ingredient

Okra

Save to Recipe Box
Print
Add Private Note
Saved Add to List

    Add to List

Print
Add Recipe Note

What is it?

If you’re from the American south, chances are you know okra. Below the Mason-Dixon Line, these long, green, tapered pod-shaped vegetable s are a culinary staple, especially from July through September, when they’re at their peak.

A member of the mallow family (which also includes hibiscus and cotton), okra grows in hot climates; in fact, it is actually Ethiopian in origin. The plants can reach up to 6 feet tall, and they have slender branches with long, serrated leaves. Large white and yellow hibiscus-like flowers bloom on the bushy plant before it produces the edible pods. These pods are harvested when they’re 1 to 4 inches long (any larger, and they’re tough).

Okra isn’t just a southern mainstay. It also appears in myriad African, Indian, and Middle Eastern dishes, and there are countless ways to prepare it. You can fry, steam, grill, pickle, and (of course) add it to classic New Orleans gumbo. Its mild flavor has notes of artichoke, eggplant, and green bell pepper. When cooked briefly, it’s crunchy; when stewed, it turns soft and tender.

The most common variety of okra is Clemson Spineless which is green with subtle ridges and a conical stem end. Other varieties include the red-colored Burgundy and yellow-hued Blondy, though these are harder to find.

Sliced pods release a clear, thick liquid (this helps the plant store water) that can act as a natural thickener for soups and stews. But that same liquid can turn slimy with some cooking methods, making okra a turnoff for many people.

Many iconic okra recipes take advantage of its thickening properties. Adding it to New Orleans gumbo gives this smoked meat, seafood, and vegetable stew its characteristic rich, hearty consistency. You can also simmer okra with tomatoes, fresh corn, and a handful of herbs for a side dish or add it to curries and braises.

Pair okra with salty-rich tasso, prosciutto, or bacon and fresh late-summer produce like sweet onions, tomatoes, corn, eggplant, and peppers. Punchy vinegars and warm spices like cumin, coriander, and black pepper lend depth to okra’s mild flavor.

How to choose:

Look for brightly colored pods that are blemish-free, 2 to 4 inches long, and tender but not soft.

How to prep:

The trick to avoiding slimy okra is to cook it whole (try steaming) or to cook it quickly using a high-heat technique, like grilling or frying. When grilled, okra is crisp on the outside and tender on the inside; when sliced into rounds, coated in cornmeal, and fried, it’s crunchy and faintly sweet.

When cooking okra, avoid brass, iron, and copper pans, which discolor the pods. They’ll still be edible but less attractive.

How to store:

Okra is best eaten within a few days of purchase. To store, refrigerate it in a plastic bag for up to three days.

    Recipes

  • Moveable Feast

    Pickled Okra

    You can keep this zesty quick pickle in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

  • Recipe

    Pickled Shrimp

    Giving shrimp and crisp vegetables an overnight bath in a zesty spiced brine transforms them into a bright and tangy dish. They’re fantastic served with flatbreads for a snack or…

  • Recipe

    Pan-Roasted Okra, Corn, and Tomatoes

    Charring okra and corn in a cast-iron skillet brings high-summer cookout spirit to the classic Lowcountry vegetable trinity. The resulting caramelized, sweet vegetable flavor is the perfect complement to the…

  • Recipe

    Summer Vegetable Tempura

    Tempura is a Japanese specialty of deep-fried, delicately battered pieces of fish or vegetables. Here, it’s made with seasonal produce and paired with a habit-forming gingery dipping sauce. If you…

  • Recipe

    Okra Cornmeal Cakes

    Serve these delicious okra cakes in bite-size bits for a cocktail nibble or larger cakes for a side dish. In the middle of summer, try adding fresh corn cut off…

  • Recipe

    Grilled Okra with Smoked Paprika-Shallot Dip

    Grilled okra is great finger food: Just dip and eat. Let the grill heat for 15 to 20 minutes to make sure it’s nice and hot before cooking the okra.…

  • Recipe

    Seafood Gumbo

    If you can, buy fresh shrimp with the shells and heads intact. If not, just the shells can be used to make the stock.

Comments

Leave a Comment

Comments

Leave A Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Delicious Dish

Find the inspiration you crave for your love of cooking

Fine Cooking Magazine

Subscribe today
and save up to 44%

Already a subscriber? Log in.

Videos

View All

Moveable Feast Logo

Season 4 Extras

Paris, France (504)

Experience Paris like a local in this special episode of Moveable Feast with Fine Cooking. Host Pete Evans pays a visit to two culinary icons: chefs Patricia Wells and Guy…

View all Moveable Feast recipes and video extras

Connect

Follow Fine Cooking on your favorite social networks