Okra and tomatoes is an easy way to use up two abundant summer crops, and it makes a delicious main or side dish.
Southern Okra Recipe photo by Taste of Home

Okra and tomatoes is a classic southern side dish that’s as delightful to eat as it is easy to make. The two garden favorites make obvious companions. Okra and tomatoes are two abundant summer crops, often piled high at farmers markets and produce stands during the dog days. And, botanically speaking, they’re both considered fruits, not vegetables, thanks to their seeds.

Cooked together in this dish, the natural sweetness and acidity of the okra and tomatoes meld together beautifully. Like other okra recipes, okra and tomatoes can be cooked as a delicious main course (just add beans!) or side. And if you use frozen okra with canned tomatoes, it can be enjoyed any time of year.

How do you keep okra from being slimy?

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Okra too often gets a bad rap for its slimy texture, but these long green pods are delicious when cooked properly. To keep okra from being slimy, use a high-heat preparation like grilling, frying or boiling. Fried okra is delicious. Soaking it in vinegar also helps (yay, pickled okra!).

Believe it or not, that characteristic slimy-gooey texture of okra is prized for dishes like chicken and okra gumbo, where it acts as a thickener. Plus, the slimy goo makes okra quite good for you. The viscous mucilage inside okra is full of soluble fiber and antioxidants.

How to cook okra doesn’t have to be a mystery; this recipe is just one of many ways to enjoy it.

Ingredients for Okra and Tomatoes

  • Okra: When choosing fresh okra, look for smallish, firm pods that are free from blemishes or discoloration. Store fresh okra in the refrigerator. Precut frozen okra is fine to use, too; no need to thaw it before cooking it in this recipe.
  • Tomatoes: This is a perfect recipe for using fresh tomatoes when they’re tumbling out of the garden. You can use fresh tomatoes from the grocery store any other time of year, and canned diced tomatoes also work in a pinch.
  • Sugar: Just a small bit of sugar helps balance the acidity from the tomatoes while adding a subtle sweetness to the dish.


Step 1: Boil the okra

Place the sliced okra in a small saucepan, and cover with water. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, and reduce the heat. Let it simmer, uncovered, for 7 to 10 minutes or until the okra is tender.

Editor’s Tip: Why boiled okra? If you’re looking to lessen the sliminess, okra is better suited to short, high-heat cooking preparations, like grilling, frying and boiling. Boiling okra for a short amount of time here softens it, so it’s only a quick stew with the tomatoes.

Step 2: Cook the tomatoes and other ingredients

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and green pepper. Cook the mixture, stirring, until tender, four to seven minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, sugar, flour, salt and pepper. Bring everything to a boil, and cook, stirring, until the tomatoes are tender and juices slightly thickened, three to five minutes.

Step 3: Add the okra

Drain the boiled okra, and stir it into the tomato mixture. If desired, serve okra and tomatoes over rice.

Okra and Tomatoes Variations

  • Add bacon: Bacon makes everything better! Bacon adds smokiness, flavor and fat to the okra and tomatoes. Cook a few pieces of bacon in the pan, turning so both sides get crisp. Remove from the pan, and drain on paper towels, leaving behind 3 to 4 tablespoons of bacon grease. Instead of oil, cook the onion and green pepper in the bacon fat, and then follow the same directions in step 3. Sprinkle crumbled bacon on top of the okra and tomatoes right before serving.
  • Add another protein: Shrimp tastes great with okra and tomatoes. Add peeled, deveined shrimp to the stew towards the end, and cook until they’re opaque and curled into a C shape. Sliced or diced precooked smoked sausage, like andouille, would be fantastic, too.
  • More vegetables: Add celery to the bell pepper and onion, creating the “Holy Trinity” of Creole and Cajun food. You can also add corn to the mix, either freshly cut from the cob or frozen.
  • Make it spicy: Want some kick? A shake of Creole or Cajun seasoning, dash of hot sauce, or pinch of cayenne or smoked paprika will amp up the flavor.

How to Store Okra and Tomatoes

Store okra and tomatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for three to four days.

Can you freeze okra and tomatoes?

Yes, you can freeze okra and tomatoes. It will change the texture of the dish (read: make it mushier), but it will keep in the freezer in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag for up to three months.

Okra and Tomatoes Tips

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Can you use frozen okra instead of fresh okra?

Yes, frozen okra is perfectly fine to use in this and many other dishes. One thing to remember, though, is that frozen okra might be a little bit softer than fresh, so adjust your recipe’s cook time as needed.

What do you serve with okra and tomatoes?

As a main dish, serve okra and tomatoes fluffy with white rice. Buttermilk biscuits or buttery cornbread are no-brainers. You can also serve okra and tomatoes as a side dish to southern entrees like fried chicken, fried catfish or any classic barbecue dish.

Okra and Tomatoes

This recipe dates back generations in my family. I enjoy it so much because I can use the fresh vegetables that are so abundant here in the South.
Southern Okra Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Total Time

Prep/Total Time: 30 min.


6 servings


  • 2 cups sliced fresh okra
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 medium green pepper, chopped
  • 3 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • Cooked rice, optional


  1. Place okra in a small saucepan; cover with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 7-10 minutes or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and green pepper; cook and stir until tender, 4-7 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, sugar, flour, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Cook and stir until tomatoes are tender and juices are slightly thickened, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Drain okra; stir into skillet. If desired, serve over rice.

Nutrition Facts

3/4 cup: 83 calories, 5g fat (0 saturated fat), 0 cholesterol, 333mg sodium, 11g carbohydrate (0 sugars, 0 fiber), 2g protein. Diabetic Exchanges: 1-1/2 vegetable, 1 fat.