It’s officially summer—and that means it’s okra season! This highly-underrated Southern side dish deserves more love, so we’re breaking down how to cook okra and reap all the rewards it has to offer.
What is Okra, Anyways?
For the unfamiliar, okra looks like a thick, long green pod. (It’s been nicknamed “ladies’ fingers” in some parts of the country.) The veggie is chock-full of vitamins and minerals like vitamin B, vitamin C, calcium and potassium, making things like this delicious Roasted Fresh Okra Recipe a fantastic addition to any meal.
Typically, May through September is the best time to pick up fresh okra, so keep your eyes peeled next time you’re at your local farmers market or grocery store. (You might have good luck at a farmer’s roadside stand, too.) You’ll want to look for smallish, firm okra pods that are free from blemishes or discoloration. To keep your okra at its freshest, be sure to put it in the fridge once you get home. Need an off-season okra fix? You can also buy this delicious member of the mallow family pre-chopped and frozen.
The reason okra has bad rap is due to its slimy texture. This is all thanks to mucilage in the plant, a viscous gel-like substance. The slime may sound scary, but trust us, it isn’t a bad thing! It’s best to embrace the slime and harness its powers for your good. For thickening up a gumbo, okra’s sliminess comes in really handy. (Don’t miss this Seafood Gumbo recipe—wow.)
How to Cook Okra
There are plenty of ways to enjoy okra. You can serve it pickled, boiled, steamed or fried or even even chopped up and served raw as a healthy, low-cal snack.
Pro Tip: For minimal slime, make fewer cuts as you’re prepping your dish.
- 1 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut lengthwise in half
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Toss okra with oil, salt and pepper. Arrange in a 15x10x1-in. baking pan, cut side up.
- Roast 12-15 minutes or until tender and bottoms are lightly browned.
Test Kitchen tip: Want a pop of flavor? Toss with lemon juice, olive oil, smoked paprika and garlic powder before roasting.
- 1-1/2 cups sliced fresh or frozen okra, thawed
- 3 tablespoons buttermilk
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons cornmeal
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic herb seasoning blend
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- Oil for deep-fat frying
- Additional salt and pepper, optional
- Pat okra dry with paper towels. Place buttermilk in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, seasoning blend and pepper. Dip okra in buttermilk, then roll in cornmeal mixture.
- In an electric skillet or deep-fat fryer, heat 1 in. of oil to 375°. Fry okra, a few pieces at a time, for 1-1/2 to 2-1/2 minutes on each side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired.
Pro tip: No need to worry about slime here! When okra is deep-fried, the high heat zaps the mucilage.
More Ways to Cook Okra
Okra’s mild flavor makes it a good canvas for bolder spices and flavorings, so feel free to sneak several okra pods into a curry. Whether you’re using okra to thicken up stews or gumbo, for home canning or roasted as an easy appetizer, you won’t regret incorporating these lovely little pods into your regular cooking routine.