September 7, 2012 3:27 PM   Subscribe

The CSA just left a pound of okra on my front porch (among other things) and I have no idea what to do with it.

All I know about okra is what I've gleaned from pop culture; I'm inclined to run out the back door and come back in a couple weeks when the coast is clear.

Please teach me how to eat it.
posted by notyou to Food & Drink (36 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
posted by capricorn at 3:31 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Grill it! Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Grill until tender and blackened. Blacken it in a skillet if you don't have a grill. (Okra is best fresh, so eat it soon!)
posted by runningwithscissors at 3:31 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Gumbo. Fried okra.
posted by grouse at 3:32 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pickle it!

Slice it and Fry it!
posted by piedmont at 3:33 PM on September 7, 2012

I am SO jealous.

Here's what I do (also, when prepping okra for cooking, think of it as cleaning tiny live animals that you have trapped yourself. This helps make the fur and slime seem like part of the experience):

Wash and pat dry. Slice off tops, cut cross-wise into 1/2-1" pieces. Toss in a big bowl with olive oil, spread in even layer on large cookie sheet/jelly roll pan. Sprinkle salt all over.

300 degrees for 10ish minutes to soften and make that magical texture change happen. Then crank it up to 425 for 5-7 until the ridges are golden and there looks to be some crispiness.

There's a kind of fried sweetness to them this way. Serve with hot sauce and beer.
posted by rumposinc at 3:33 PM on September 7, 2012 [12 favorites]

I love fried okra, but don't really like frying it myself, so here are two suggestions. Alton Brown's Okra and Tomatoes recipe is really good. I like it with rice and other Southern-style foods (black eyed peas, biscuits, etc).

Roasted okra is also really good and really easy. I've only made it a few times so sorry for the lack of specific detail, but basically you halve it lengthwise, place it on a lightly greased baking sheet with some salt and pepper, and roast at maybe 375 degrees for 15-20 minutes, stirring once halfway through. It should be dry and slightly browned and possibly black in few places.
posted by horses, of courses at 3:34 PM on September 7, 2012

* pulls up chair, sits down *


Gumbo. Start collecting gumbo recipes now, because you will want to make them like whoa. This is a great thing to make now that the weather is going to start getting cool again; it says it's a soup, but really it's something hot to ladle over rice so it's a great one-bowl meal thing.


Pickle it! 2 pounds makes about 5 pint jars, which you can either can (if you know how to do hot-water canning) or just stick in the fridge. To pickle just about anything - you make up a "broth" of half-and-half vinegar and water, and add salt. Then you pack the okra in the jars, add a clove of garlic, a dried chile and some spices to each jar, then pour in the brine until it's just a half-inch under the edge of the lid. You can use the pickled okra in the gumbo as well.


Fry it! cut them into 1/2 inch slices and roll them in a breading of half cornmeal and half flour. Fry in about a half inch of oil in a skillet. You can even pre-bread a bunch of it, lay it out on a cookie sheet and stick it in a freezer, to have pre-breaded okra in your freezer ready for frying.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:35 PM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Battered and fried!
Pickled with some hot peppers!
Bhindi Masala!
Mail it to me!

I am jealous of your okra harvest.
posted by at the crossroads at 3:38 PM on September 7, 2012

nithing roasting it. we are obsessed with roasted okra. obsessed. OBSESSED
posted by changeling at 3:39 PM on September 7, 2012

1. Roast it or grill it whole, then serve with a spicy tomato-based sauce.

2. Lots of Indian curries have okra in them, like so.

Okra is amazing, fuck the haters. It's only slimy if you cook it wrong.
posted by showbiz_liz at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2012

Okra and tomatoes:

Okra, sliced in wheels
Tomatoes, diced or chunked; preferably fresh but they don't have to be The Best, and in the winter good canned ones will do.
High-smoke oil (I use coconut)

Get your pan medium hot, so the oil is shimmery. Drop your okra in - only as much as gently covers the bottom of the pan, because you want it to get lots of contact - and step back as it will steam and pop a little. Leave it be for a few minutes, let it begin to brown, and then stir and try to get the other sides starting to brown.

Drop your tomatoes in (more steaming and spitting), turn the heat down, and stir. Let simmer until the okra is soft enough for your liking. Give it a bit of salt and pepper.

Also, you can blanch and freeze for some more okra and tomatoes, and gumbo, in the winter.
posted by Lyn Never at 3:40 PM on September 7, 2012

Some people love to pickle it for use in bloody marys.

I would never do that, myself. Okra is disgusting and should be destroyed. With fire.
posted by bilabial at 3:50 PM on September 7, 2012

1) Set oven to 450.
2) Toss whole okra with about 2 tbsp olive oil and several generous shakes of any seasoning (a Cajun spice blend like Tony's, a Greek spice blend, lemon pepper and salt, smoked paprika, pretty much everything works). Make sure it's enough oil and seasoning for all the okra to get some.
3) Lay flat on a greased cookie sheet.
4) Bake 5 minutes, then shake it up.
5) Bake 5 minutes, then shake it up.
6) Bake 5 minutes, then remove from oven.

They'll be nice and crisp. I like to stick them in the broiler for a few minutes, too, so they get some nice crispy edges. Most people who don't like okra complain about it being slimy or mushy. Baking minimizes the mush, and brings out all that lovely green flavor. Hooray okra!
posted by a hat out of hell at 3:52 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Fried pickled okra. Please prepare and deliver to me, ok? Thanks.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:55 PM on September 7, 2012

Oven roasted okra is beyond delicious.

...and workerant is banned for self-linking
posted by workerant at 4:28 PM on September 7, 2012

I'm jealous too!! All these sound Delicious!! Fried Okra is my all time favorite....messy but perfection if done correctly.
posted by pearlybob at 4:34 PM on September 7, 2012

I like to toss it into a random soup with whatever veggies are available. Fresh corn, green beans, tomatoes, carrots, zucchini. Especially if the amount seems overwhelming, you could freeze some of it and add it to soups later. It has a thickening effect and makes the soup seem more hearty.
posted by bunderful at 4:37 PM on September 7, 2012

For more ideas, try googling around with South Asian or Middle Eastern names for okra: bamia, bamya or bhindi are good ones.
posted by gimonca at 4:42 PM on September 7, 2012

Lots of good ideas above, so I'll just leave the okra tip to end all okra tips.

The thing people dislike about okra is the slime. You can avoid the slime if you make sure that the okra does not get wet after it's cut. If you slice the pods, make sure that both they and your knife are bone dry. Wipe the knife off after every few pods.

Coat in flour or cornmeal (I actually use dry polenta) and add straight to hot oil, if you're frying. (I shallow-fry mine in a saute pan.) Cook the okra until golden brown. Full stop. If you're going to be adding anything else -- onions, garlic, tomatoes, whatever -- remove the okra from the pan and drain on paper towels. Saute remaining veg, then add the okra back in. By this point, the other vegetables will have released their water, thereby avoiding getting the okra wet, and you will have no slime.

Likewise, make sure there are no nicks on the pods when you wash them, or they will get slimy.

If you do end up roasting them whole (yum), make sure you leave the caps on -- i.e., keep them whole.
posted by mudpuppie at 4:50 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

pickle that shit
posted by nathancaswell at 5:49 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I made okra refrigerator pickles for the first time this summer and they were awesome. I also like to put sliced okra in curries.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 6:22 PM on September 7, 2012

Okra curry if you like Indian food, usually called bhindi masala.

This version is lovely and oniony.

This version has a video.

I like this version with tomatoes, which I think is Punjabi style.

And this site has some excellent okra recipes.
posted by shoesietart at 6:27 PM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

okra & tomato lamb/chicken/beef stew

if you are vegetarian, sub in chickpeas for the meat. i can imagine well browned cubes of firm tofu would go well too.
posted by scalespace at 7:39 PM on September 7, 2012

I love the gumbos, fried okra and the okra/tomato dishes but if they are small, young pods, I sometimes like to just cook them in salted water, drain and serve with a dab of butter. As long as you don't overcook, I don't find the texture a problem. Leave the pods whole, cut off the stem but not the cap. Simmer until tender--just a few minutes--serve hot with other seasonal veggies and some cornbread on the side. With okra, larger = older = tougher. If they are too tough I don't think there is much you can do to make them palatable.
posted by Anitanola at 8:03 PM on September 7, 2012

You can julienne it and put it in salad. Make those slices thin.
posted by crazycanuck at 9:10 PM on September 7, 2012

I love doing indian-ish (which has been covered) or, alternately, fairly straight-up (not very spiced) fried okra. (I'm not a breader)

I haven't had much slime trouble. I like cooking on pretty high heat. I've read drying it well helps the slime problem. In the indian mode, I'll throw in a bunch of whatever I have among garlic, onions, ginger, fresh hot peppers, fresh tumeric (got a great intl market around the corner) and then just throw it in and stir til it's awesome. I really do like it a lot.
posted by spbmp at 9:21 PM on September 7, 2012

Fry it, pickle it, slice it, sautee it. If you have a food dehydrator, make some okra chips. Make gumbo. Stew it with some tomatoes.
posted by honeybee413 at 11:40 PM on September 7, 2012

People have mentioned fried okra, but no one has actually told you the proper way to make it. I'm from West Tennessee, and during the summer, we would eat it at least 3-4 times a week. I remember when I was considered grown-up enough to be sent into the garden with a sharp knife to harvest a bowlful for dinner - it felt like quite a milestone.

I live in England now, and the okra I can get at the grocery here just isn't the same - too old and big and tough. I also have to special order white cornmeal. I miss fried okra.

You need a BIG frying pan so everything has plenty of room. My Tennessee relatives always use one of those big rectangular electric frying pans.

Slice okra into 1/4 inch rounds. Throw away the stems but not the points - these are the best. Toss with a handful of white cornmeal in a plastic bag and leave it for a few minutes before fishing the okra out with a fork or your fingers.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of oil - not too hot, but hot enough so that the okra sizzles softly when you throw it in the pan. Make sure it's not crowded. Remember, this isn't batter - it's a crust, so there's going to be lots of green showing. That's how it should be.

Let it sit for a while without disturbing it, until it forms a crust on one side. Then stir it a little, flip over the bigger pieces with a fork, and let it go for a little while longer. If it seems like it's been cooking for a long time but it's not turning brown, turn up the heat a little. Don't leave it though - you need to keep an eye on it, especially if you're new to fried okra.

If my grandad is around, he'll be the one to tell you when it's "done enough" (he can't cook anything but he's an expert on the results). If not, you'll just have to try a piece. The bigger pieces will be mostly soft with a pleasant bit of crunch. The smaller pieces will be dryer and crunchy-chewy.

When they come out of the pan, give them a good shot of salt. Serve with purple-hull peas, sliced tomatoes, chow-chow, and cornbread if you can.
posted by cilantro at 1:57 AM on September 8, 2012 [6 favorites]

Cut okra in 1cm pieces, throw away stems, keep the ends. Chop few cloves of garlic finely. Chop couple of green chillis.
Put little oil in the pan, put mustard and cumin seeds if you have them. Once they crackle or otherwise add chopped garlic and chopped chili. Once garlic is little brown, add chopped okra, mix everything. Add salt as per your taste. Put little lime or lemon juice and then let it dry for a while till it get crispy on small flame.

If you have, add chopped cilantro. We eat this all the time as a side dish.
posted by zaxour at 7:52 AM on September 8, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks, everybody.

Lot's of great ideas. Too many, in fact.

I've decided to fry some, and grill the rest. I'll report back tomorrow with my findings.
posted by notyou at 8:00 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

cilantro's recipe is the best, according to my saintly dead Georgia grandmother. That's the only way to do proper fried okra in my mind.

I also like to occasionally make it in (my weird version of) the Indian style. Toss the sliced okra in curry powder and a little cumin. Heat some peanut oil in a pan. Churn a cup of plain yogurt and add 1/2 tsp each of masala, turmeric, salt, and chili powder. Heat some peanut oil in a pan, add okra, cover for 10 minutes on medium heat. Remove the pan, reduce the heat, stir in the yogurt mix. Drain the excess liquid periodically. I believe this is "daha bhindi" but don't quote me.

Man, I wish I had a pound of okra right now... it would be gone
posted by zvs at 8:02 AM on September 8, 2012

I've eaten fresh young okra raw and it was delicious. So my advice on how to eat it: put it in your mouth.
posted by MadamM at 10:10 AM on September 8, 2012

cilantro, I'm originally from Kentucky and grew up on fried okra. When I lived in Dublin, I had decent luck getting good small okra at groceries that catered to the Muslim population in my neighborhood... You might try a small shop like that to find okra.
posted by Slothrop at 10:12 AM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

I had never seen okra until I moved to Oklahoma for college. Then my only experience with it was nasty cafeteria fried okra.

But now I live in a place where okra rules. Our okra is generally 5-6 inches long. Yes, roast it, grill it. Delicious.

I also love it in salads. Cut it up then throw it in a pot of boiling water with a bit of vinegar in it for just a couple of minutes The vinegar will cut the slime for you.

My favorite local use of okra is caruru, which perfectly combines the main flavors of this part of Brazil.
posted by wallaby at 10:58 AM on September 8, 2012

A little late here, but my story: Once soem well-meaning yankees cae to my home town to help people with their homes. One elderly lady needed her porch rebuilt and I was on that crew, One of the teens working came to me worried that this 80 year old lady had a alternate form of income. "I think she's growing pot." I laughed, but agreed to go see what he was so worried about. In the back of her yard, at the edge of the shadows on the trees that lined the rail-line right of way was her patch of okra. I assured the young man that it was not pot and would happily have him over for some pickled okra. That said, my recipe for pickled okra, which will make even the most nervous yankee happy:

1/2 bushel okra
2 cups apple cider vinegar
1 cup water
1 Tbs brown sugar
1tsp salt
1/2 tsp red pepper
1/2 tsp mustard seed
1/2 tsp dill
bulb garlic

Grab a few mason jars. Boil them, pull them out of the pot with tongs and set them upside down on a clean towel.

Take all the above ingredients BUT the okra and garlic, put them in a pot and bring them to a simmer.

Take the above jars and drop one peeled garlic clove into each jar. Now shove each jar full of okra. Cram it in there. Don't be delicate, dammit, it's cabinet space. Now fill those okra stuffed jars with the simmered vinegar mix.

Now put those jars into a stock pot filled with water, and bring that water to a boil and let sit for 10 minutes. (This bit may actually be more complicated than I may have expressed here, but my grandmother did it this way, and I stand by it. try it at your own risk)

Now let it sit for a week. Or less if you're hungry, but at least four days. Now pop those jars open and make the best damn bloody mary ever, and gently laugh at those poor yankees who didn't know the joys of okra.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:21 PM on September 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I'm back.

Last night I made okra two ways: fried and grilled.


I followed cilantro's recipe with a slight modification: I combined yellow corn meal and yellow corn flour.

Great texture (no slime, nice crunch, soft chew).

Definitely needs salt. Maybe it was the quality of the okra I had, but there's not much flavor to the things, and frying seemed to cook most of that away. Green steminess followed by a hint of spicebite.


Looked at several recipes here and decided to keep it simple: washed and dried whole okra, stems removed, but not the caps. Tossed in olive oil and liberally doused with salt and pepper. Then straight to the gas grill.

Fried texture is definitely better. This wasn't bad, just a little strange. Soft bite, chewy tips, a slight bit of vegetable stringiness (again, perhaps due to the quality of my sample?) and then things got slimy and interesting when the okra met the saliva. I thought it was just fine and kind of intriguing; my wife didn't.

The salt and pepper, along with the nice sear marks and carmelization imparted by the grill, made these a bit more flavorful than their fried fellows. More of the green stemminess came through and more of the spicebite. I understand why so many of you advised more complex seasoning regimens; okra is more feel than flavor.

Overall? We ate all of it, but we were not floored by it. Some of that underwhelm is probably due to the skill of the cook and some of it is probably due to the quality of the ingredient. I'll definitely do the fried variation again.

But before I fry again, I'm going to try one of the curry recipes shared above. Adding gobs of flavor definitely seems like the the right way to treat an okra.

Thanks again!
posted by notyou at 7:38 AM on September 11, 2012 [1 favorite]

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