The mysterious okra (photos by Donna)

Cool surprise in today’s CSA.  Okra!  Something I almost never cook, and something that when I’ve had it, is cooked into slime.

The key to cooking okra is to not cook it too much.  Saute it in a tablespoon of canola oil in a hot pan, salt and pepper, red pepper flakes if you want some heat, till tender but still crunchy. When I was working on Return To Cooking with Eric, he sauted them this way and served them on mahi mahi with a citrus vinaigrette. They’re delectable.  Truly, and so rarely do I eat them, they taste and feel like a delicacy when prepared this way.

Or, cook okra the southern way, dipped in butter milk or egg, rolled in a corn-meal-mixture and fried.  That’s delicious, too.  Goes great with Carolina barbecue!

Summer is still here.  The above is week 14 of our CSA.  Notice the lack of lettuce.  Notice, how can you not, the green peppers  But not only is the corn small and tender,  the beans are slender and tender!  Watermelon.  Tomatoes always welcome because soon they’ll be gone. And maybe it’s time to cave and make some zucchini bread.  Ah but, lo, the sun has just come out.  Maybe a mixed grill of vegetables and some risotto tonight.

Now, off to eat that corn for Summer’s final corn-and-tomato breakfast.


64 Wonderful responses to “How To Cook Okra (CSA Week 14)”

  • gary

    The “southern way” you mention is the way the Texas side of our family always does okra — ‘though I know other Texans who add cayenne (lots of cayenne) and salt to the breading.

    They eat it like popcorn while drinking Lone Star and watching football (this is Texas of course).

    • Noel Rodriguez

      Two things about Okra:
      1. It is agreat grilled vegetable, just roll it in a little salt, pepper, & your favorite seasonings and grill it enough to get the grill marks. Do them whole!
      2. When using Okra in gumbo, add the slightly “al dente” pan sauteed Okra just before you serve it. Or, better yet, put it in a bowl and let your guests add as much Okra as they want in their own gumbo.

  • Karen Downie Makley

    i love okra! i can’t get people to try it and it’s so special and especially good. love it with tomatoes and ginger served with lamb. or pickled okra with oysters and creme fraiche. lucky you!

  • darren

    Hey, Mr. R., have you ever seen the book Preserving Food without Freezing or Canning? I’ve recently gotten it because I heard about it on a local NPR gardening show. There are instructions in it for preserving zucchini packed in olive oil. If I remember correctly it says it’ll keep for 3 years. Hurray! Zucchini coming out of your ears all winter! . . . for three years1

    • Jessika

      That’s my problem if not pickled, the fuzzy slimy feeling. Is probably good but can’t get beyond the consistency of it.

  • Caitlin

    I dislike cooked green peppers – red are another story, but have had great success pickling them in common formulations – giardinera, relish, etc. but they were a welcome surprise in a simple sweet and sour pickle — fantastic on a charcuterie plate, sandwhich or whatever. I like to include pepper, bay, thyme and shallot as aromatics but I’m sure other incarnations would be just as successful.

  • Wilma de Soto

    Slime-Free Classic Okra Stew with Corn and Tomatoes
    Fry a piece of slab bacon cut into chunks and render the fat. Fry the okra in the bacon fat over high heat. This helps to dry mucilaginous aspect of the okra out so there is NO SLIME. Be careful not to burn or crisp it. You will note when the ropiness starts to abate.
    Add peeled chopped fresh tomatoes. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. At the end, add fresh corn kernels and simmer some more. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add red pepper flakes for a bit of heat.
    Serve in a bowl accompanied by good bread or spoon over rice.

    A summer classic with vegetables at their summer peak. SO good!

    Can be eat in a bowl with good bread or spooned over rice.

  • Bucky

    Here’s the trick with okra that I learned from my grandmother many years ago. This helps with the slime problem. Not sure why, but it works. Wash the okra in cool water. Then dry each pod with a dish towel. This is the first important step. I’ve tried skipping this step, and it isn’t the same. Next, lay out the pods on a dry dish towel in one layer. Air needs to be able to circulate. Let the okra dry for at least a few hours.

    Then follow the recipe above: a little oil in a hot pan, add the okra and sear for a few minutes. Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes and a good splash of soy sauce at the end.

    You will be amazed.

  • Bucky

    btw, I always cook the pods whole. Much better than sliced unless you are going to bread them.

    • Mich

      One advantage to slicing the okra (and the bit of viscuous stuff), at least for me, is the spices tend to hang on better. A bit of kosher salt, red pepper, and ground lemon … Mmmm!

  • Mats

    One trick that helps making okra less slimy is NEVER to cut the pods in pieces. When trimming the pods, make sure that you don’t cut to much of the top away. If you see any small holes on the top of the trimmed pod you have cut away to much. It is a lot of time conuming work to trim them right, but it pays off.

  • Edsel

    I planted two varieties of okra this year, and the hot weather made the plants go nuts. (Unexpected for North-East Ohio). I’ve had a bumper harvest. My late father would be proud – it always pained him that I didn’t like okra when I was a kid. If he could see me now…

    I love using okra in biryani. That’s something I learned from chef Radhika Rajwade, guest chef at Fire Food & Drink. Doug Katz talked her into cooking special Indian dinners at Fire. If you like Indian food, those dinners are highly recommended. Her biryani is magnificent.

  • pam

    I have always hated okra. So, last year when my CSA gave me tons, I cut it up and stuck it in a bag in the freezer, thinking, maybe it would just disappear or something. Then, one winter day when I was making a big pot of beef vegetable soup, I tossed a handful in right towards the end. It was great!

  • Debbie

    I could eat my weight in fried okra, I love it. I also like it sauteed with onions and tomatoes and cayenne pepper, and served over rice.

  • kim

    Try dusting them ever so lightly in Wondra before the saute and they won’t get slimy.

  • diane , white on rice couple

    oh I love love okra! love slime.
    My mom puts it in her sour catfish soup and it’s yummy, extra slimy and soppy delicious.
    And we make a wonderful soup out of okra leaves, eaten with rice and pickled eggplant.
    Yum. Mom says okra is great for digestion and stiff joints. Okra is medicine. 😀
    Hi Donna, great picture!

  • Vivian

    I love okra. But you are right, overbooked it becomes slimy. If you ever get enough in your CSA box try pickling them, pickled okra is absolutely fantastic.

  • David Valentin

    We like to slice them lengthwise and dip them in a tempura batter. They are a great substitute for fries with lamb sliders!

  • Warner aka ntsc

    How do you do gumbo without okra?

    There actually is a novel out of WWII, If it Moves Salute it, where okra plays a pivotal role, being from Illinois with very provincial parents, I had no idea what okra was.

  • Barbara | VinoLuciStyle

    I’ve had okra in gumbo and friend okra. That’s it. Neither has been evident of having a slime factor, in fact it’s part of what thickens the gumbo and well, though not from the south, I loved there for ten years and fried okra was it, period.

    I have heard from friends that adding some vinegar to okra eliminates the hated slime…but have to admit, so many other veggies I would choose first I don’t worry about it!

    Great photo, just beautiful even though green peppers are included.

  • Abigail @ Sugar Apple

    I love okra and don’t mind the slime, maybe because I was raised on the stuff down South. It’s used here in the West Indies in soups and stews and in a lot of traditional dishes like fungi, coo-coo and callaloo. One question – I’ve heard never to cook okra in cast iron or it will turn black but I fry okra in my cast iron skillet and have never had a problem. Maybe it shouldn’t be stewed in cast iron? Anyone ever had issues with okra and cast iron?

  • Natalie Sztern

    In my area of the country (Montreal suburb) this is the weekend for all my Italian neighbors to be doing their tomato sauces for the winter. Most of them are in the open doored garages on tables and in teams of family members. Oh and yes, they have the floors covered.

  • Sophia

    I love okra! I grew up on that stuff back in Malaysia. My mum steams them for a short while and we eat them plain (dipped in Budu ) and eaten with a fresh fried mackarel and rice and we’ve got a basic and delicious dinner.

    Another vote for tempura batter and frying, although we do it whole.

    I’ve never cut it up when cooking except maybe half if it’s too long but then again I don’t really have an issue with it being slimy. Another use of it in Malaysian cuisine is in fish head curries or in a dish called Sambal Okra – yum!

  • DonR

    We love to roast okra. This does best with red okra (Alabama Red) which is a bit drier than green okra. Salt, pepper, EVOO, and a 425 degree oven. Brown on a sheet pan on one side (about 7 minutes), flip and brown on the other side. My wife can eat it like popcorn–nicely crunchy.

  • Saffoula

    Try Greek-syle okra, in Greeklish- Bamyes. Some recipes call for putting the okra in the hot sun for an hour with the vinegar on it. I’ve heard that if you do not nick into the flesh in the prep that it will help with the slime factor. I like this link to this Greek standard:

  • Kathy

    Michael, you have been feeling oppressed by too much zucchini of late. I am currently living in Paris and the other night I was served a very delicious first course that was called zucchini carpaccio. I shall try to load a photo for you. It was at a small wine cave called La Robe et La Palais in the 1st arrondissement on the right bank. There is a woman chef in the kitchen that does great appetizers. This is paper thin slices, raw I think, but could be blanched, with an nut oil like hazlenut or walnut and some other seasoning which I don’t know what it was, very subtle and quite good. Maybe a little balsamic, and some herbs, but that doesn’t do it justice. Try it….Well shoot, I am in over my head and can’t seem to get the photo to transfer. Anyway, you get the idea.

    • Nancy McAfee

      I make zucchini carpaccio. The trick is to salt the very thin ribbons and let them drain a bit. Then squeeze the water out between paper towels. Pine nut oil+salt+pepper. You can also add these raw to cooked pasta. Very wide pasta works well. Add parmesan.

  • Victoria

    What a beautiful and bountiful CSA basket.

    We planted our zucchini late this year so it’s not too huge, and tonight I am making the recipe for zucchini parmesan in Marcella’s Italian Kitchen, my second favorite Marcella Hazan book (I consider Books 1 and 2 essentially the same as Essentials, even though that’s not completely accurate). I have not made this recipe before, but I have no doubt it will be good, especially since not only is the zucchini from my own garden, but the tomato sauce was made from my own home-grown tomatoes.

    The temperature is 30 degrees cooler than it was on Thursday. Fall is lurking around the corner. I imagine this weekend will be the end of the corn until next year.

    Oh, well. I love braised short ribs and apple tart.

  • Kathy

    Do you know about the Fruit Loop in Santa Barbara, run by Laurence Hauben at Info@Market Forays? She is a French woman who conducts market tours and then you go to her house and cook what you bought. Usually about 10 people. Her boyfriend has a farm/orchard in the Sierras and brings his fruits, etc. down to the Santa Monica mkt every week and she disperses some for him. Its called the Fruit Loop and people contact her when they want to pick up whatever she has. She is big in the slow food movement on the west coast. Very charming, lovely person. You should connect.

    • John

      I met her while working at The Hungry Cat in Santa Barbara. She is indeed charming, lovely and very knowledgeable. Her boyfriend’s hachiya persimmons are amazing! Especially the Hoshigaki! They’re just like candy from the heavens.

  • John

    One preparation I stumbled upon while working for a vegan family early on in my career was dry roasted okra from a book fittingly entitled 1000 Vegetarian Recipes. The okra is first split lengthwise, then lightly packed with a mixture of dried mango powder, togarashi spice, and chopped dried onions. The okra is seasoned with salt and drizzled with a light tasting oil such as rice bran or canola, then roasted at 450°F for maybe 10 minutes.

  • Frank Ball

    Grew up in the South and have eaten (and loved) okra my whole life in all the traditional ways. But Eric R’s method of preparation is revelatory! We had it tonight and declared it our favorite okra ever.

  • DebbieQ

    Oh Mr. R., the key to cooking okra is to go to Luby’s Cafe in Waco, TX and ask for some deep fried okra. No muss, no fuss, delicious. Of course then there is pickled okra which is also divine.

  • Kevin Carlson

    When deep frying okra, I like to slice the pods lengthwise, which leaves only two large pieces to bread. Also, they seem to retain more of their natural crunchiness and brightness when prepared this way.

    I also sauté okra in a little oil before adding it to gumbo. It makes a big difference in the slime factor…

    • Nancy McAfee

      I took a cooking class in New Orleans and they told me to blanch okra in boiling water for a minute to get rid of the slime. Then use it in gumbo.

  • bill law

    – little chunk of “fatback” rendered in a saucepan until browned.
    – cut up okra fried in the fat for a few minutes
    – bunch of chopped fresh tomatoes added along with some salt
    – then stewed until its sweet and chunky.
    a staple of my south carolina native mother and one of my best childhood memories (served of course with a big chunk of cornbread)

  • Lissa

    Okra is largely unsung and it makes me sad. Great in all kinds of delicious stuff or just fried with lots of salt. I miss it so much.

  • Mary

    This method takes a long time but is worth it. Just put it on the back burner while you tend to other things. Slice okra into 1/3 inch pieces; toss with salt and enough flour to coat. Pour the entire volume into a skillet with about a tablespoon full of oil, stir to coat pieces with oil, then pack down lightly and leave on medium low for about 20 minutes before stirring. Cook another 20 minutes, then stir again. Continue until okra is very brown and crispy…..will take about 1 1/2 hours for a big pan full.

  • marcia

    Grew okra again this year after a long hiatus…and didn’t know what to do with it since you only get 2-3 pods per day per plant. So, just decided to try the old standard: pickled okra from the Ball Blue Book (ok, I’m thinking, pickled swirly thing for my fall martini). Just made a big jar of brine and threw them in every day. OMG – they were terrific! Be sure to add fresh garlic and a nice hot pepper. Way crunchier than homemade cucumber pickles, and totally eliminated the slimey thing.

  • JW

    Simple is best. Toss uncut okra in a small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill over high heat until the flesh blisters (about 5 minutes). Remove, cool slightly, sprinkle a bit more sea salt. You’ll be amazed at how much of this stuff you can actually eat!

  • Vivek Surti

    I love Okra! We eat it a lot in our house as it’s fairly common in Indian cooking.

    What’s interesting is that when picked freshly (like yours are), there is very little slime.

    Your CSA basket looks awesome!

    Best, Vivek
    Vivek’s Epicurean Adventures

  • Emily

    I like the Lee Brother’s recipe for deep frying okra. My Southern father ate like 4 or 5 bowls of the stuff! I picked up some okra for cheap at the farmer’s market here in Michigan. I guess no one here knows what to do with it. Some things are just better fried. I think anything slimy is better fried, like oysters.

    My great-aunt, who has passed away, had a great way of pan-frying okra in a cast iron skillet with hardly any oil to speak of, and it just basically dried them out and made them crispy (dredged in a little cornmeal and salt). I couldn’t figure out how to do it right. Maybe she didn’t use oil at all?

  • luis

    You guys have given me an idea?… along the lines Bucky and Michael suggested…
    I think I will wash the Okra, dry it in kitchen towels then drag out my drier and chop and dry it for a couple of hrs. Afterwards I can sautee it in olive oil as Michael suggests and finish it with a citrus vinaigrette or fry it in a batter southern style.
    Another twist is fold it with fresh corn, onions, chives, red pepper flakes and other goodies into a nice savory Arepa. Either way I go it should be great!

  • Rohan

    I’ve seen some mentions of Indian cooking in the comments – one of my favorite Indian veggie dishes in bhindi masala (bhindi = okra).

    However, there is a cuisine that I really encourage people to try if you can find a restaurant serving it – Chinese-style Indian (or Indian-style Chinese, I guess). We’ve got a bunch of these places in the NYC area. Our local restaurant serves crispy, batter-dipped okra in a sauce of red chilies, ginger, garlic, and soy and it’s pretty great.

  • luis

    Rohan my Indian cookbook lists a recipe for Okra Masala….. great idea.
    (bhindi = okra).
    ( red chilies, ginger, garlic, and soy/ not? )
    More like
    (Turmeric, chili powder, cumin, coriander, salt, sugar,lemon juice,cilantro) and other fresh ingredients of the same… you holding out on us?
    Great dish either way

  • luis

    Rhulman, I get confused with terms such as masala, gravy, sauce, on and on… you know there is a universe of interchangeable terms that just confuse the average Joe…The elements of cooking really makes no attempt to organize these very similar terms into something a Joe can grab onto. Don’t you know?

  • luis

    BBQ Okra from BBQ USA. Steven suggests that after washing and drying the Okra you should only de-stem it and Not Chop it! as that will expose the seeds to air and bring on the slime. He direct grills it after rubbing it in the usual suspects everyone has reported here. His new twist is that he rubs butter over it before he uses the dry rub and grills it hot.

  • Nick

    One of my favorite ways to prepare okra is to saute it with onions, garlic, tomatoes, corn, pimenton & tobasco (in that order).

  • Liam O'Malley

    I actually recently tried roasting okra, with great success. Season it with salt, pepper, cayenne, some smoked paprika, maybe even a little brown sugar, and roast for 45 minutes or so and you’ll get a lovely little crispy snack or appetizer.

  • luis

    I am researching this bhindi, okra, thing…. and one thing keeps re-occurring whether is from a local or an Indian chef ….
    Sure the love of a veg they have learned to master… ok. but the slime thing…. its all about the D R Y I N G… which is why my genius idea to put the crappy ronco dryer on this job still makes good sense.
    A nicelly washed and dried okra… is a versatile platform for a spice thriathlon….. and then a nice frying substitute for the alluring salted to insanity(as in irresistible) potatoe chip.


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