Okra and Tomatoes

Mmm, mmm okra! Yes, some people shy away from this odd little vegetable, usually because depending on the preparation it can be a little slippery slimy. Personally I love okra, any which way, including slimified. Alas, not everyone shares my affection (it’s a texture thing), but the good news is that okra can be a perfectly un-slippery vegetable if it is sautéed quickly, on high heat. That way you get all the benefits of the crunch and flavor, but without the slurp. This recipe is one such preparation. The pairing of okra and tomatoes is classic. In this recipe, inspired by one in Donald Link’s Real Cajun, sliced okra is seared first on high heat, before being simmered together with tomatoes, onions, and garlic.

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Okra and Tomatoes Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 4 as a side dish.

Use fresh okra for this recipe if you want to avoid okra's characteristic slimy texture.

Ingredients

  • 5 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 celery rib, sliced thin
  • 1/2 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 jalapeño chile, seeded, sliced thin
  • 3 garlic cloves, sliced thin
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (use vegetable broth for vegetarian version, and gluten-free broth for gluten-free version)
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 to 3/4 pound fresh okra
  • 5 plum tomatoes, diced
  • Salt and pepper

Method

1 Heat 3 tablespoons of the vegetable oil in a large sauté pan or wide, shallow pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, sauté the onion, jalapeño and celery for 2 minutes, stirring once or twice. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute or two.

2 While the vegetables are sautéing, mix the tomato paste, broth and vinegar until they are combined. Add to the pan with the vegetables and bring to a boil. Add the rosemary and a pinch of salt.

3 As the sauce is boiling, slice the okra on the bias to create diagonal pieces. The reason for diagonal slicing is to expose as much of the interior of the okra as possible. Wait to cut the okra until the last minute because it helps make them less slimy.

4 Heat another pan over high heat for a minute or two. Add the remaining oil and get it almost smoking hot, which should take 1-2 minutes. Add the sliced okra and spread out in a single layer in the pan. Let the okra brown for at least a minute before you move them. The goal is to cook the okra quickly at very high heat without moving it too much. The high heat sears the okra and helps limit the slime factor. Sear the okra for 3-4 minutes, stirring only 2-3 times.

5 As soon as the okra is done, add it to the boiling sauce. Add the diced tomatoes and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes, no longer. The tomatoes should still be a bit firm, and you don't want to cook the okra to the point it starts releasing slime.

6 Turn off the heat, grind black pepper over everything and taste once more for salt. Add if needed.

Serve over steamed rice or with lots of crusty bread.

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Links:

Okra without the slime from Marc of Mental Masala
Southern Fried Okra from Kevin of Seriously Good
Fried Okra and Pickled Okra from The Blue Jean Gourmet
Spicy Pickled Okra from Lisa Fain our Homesick Texan
Greek Tomato Braised Okra from Peter of Souvlaki for the Soul

35 Comments

  1. Tracey

    What is Okra supposed to taste like?

    I’ve had it once and it took on a sour taste which I did not enjoy at all. There were no other sour elements to the dish so I don’t think it picked up the flavor from the other ingredients.

    Tough question to answer. Sort of like asking what a bell pepper tastes like if you’ve never had one. Maybe a cross between a green bean and a zucchini? It has its own unique flavor. ~Elise

  2. Cajun Chef Ryan

    One of my favorite dishes, since I was a child my mom would make this and we still never get tired of the wonderful garden bounty of our okra and tomatoes.

    Bon appetit!
    =:~)

  3. Debra

    Are you using fresh or frozen okra? I’ve never seen it fresh…

    Fresh. ~Elise

  4. PV

    Another tip to make sure the okra doesn’t get slimy – make sure it’s dry. I usually air dry the okra for a couple of hours after washing, but if I’m in a hurry, I make sure to wipe each one dry before I chop it. There are several great okra dishes in Indian cuisine, none of which need be slimy, unless you like it that way.

  5. Lisa

    Oh my goodness, my Southern heart just skipped a beat!!! Okra and tomatoes…one of the dishes I would love to be able to make the way my late mother used to make!! Her version was quite simple: Raid her garden of the necessities, chop the green tomatoes, slice the okra, throw in some flour, salt and pepper, and pile all of it into a pan popping with hot bacon grease! Heaven, I tell you! But mine never tastes the same, sadly. I also love the simplicity of stewed red tomatoes with okra. Yum! So very delicious!!

  6. Peter G @ Souvlaki For The Soul

    Love this version Elise! The jalapeno is a great touch…and thank you for sharing my recipe.

  7. Judy

    I am sorry to confess that I can’t stand okra – the slime really gets to me. I got some from a local farm and tried it again last week, in a stew – the seller told me to put them in whole, and the slime would cook out and thicken the stew. Sadly, it was still slimy!

    This dish looks so good, though – will this cooking method get rid of the slime?

    Yes. This dish was completely un-slimy. Not a bit. ~Elise

  8. Soma

    I am an okra lover too. Love this dish. Very similar to the Indian kind of stir fry we do, except for the vinegar and the broth.

  9. James King

    I’m originally from Columbia, SC, which is very near Irmo, which has an annual Okra Strut festival. It’s always good to see okra recipes. Another way to minimize any slimy texture is to bread the okra with Italian breadcrumbs and pan-fry, stirring while adding breadcrumbs and oil as necessary until the okra will pick up no more breadcrumbs.

    As for the flavor, I’ve always thought it was more squashy than string-bean/bell-peppery.

    Thanks for another terrific recipe. Your website is a treasure.

    Hmm, yep, maybe it is more squashy than green-beany. I have the hardest time describing flavors to people. It’s like trying to describe color, or music. Thanks for the breading suggestion! ~Elise

  10. Glauco

    love okra!! Here in Brazil I call it monday food. Because of my mother cooking and speedy lunch on mondays… and it was like this…a quick rice, tomatoes and sautee okra. Oh, and a shiny fried egg. This is my confort food. Thanks Elise

  11. Natalia

    Hi Elise, will this recipe work with thawed frozen okra?

    I don’t see why not, though I haven’t tried it with thawed frozen okra. ~Elise

    Update: I checked with Hank who knows more about okra than I, and he says you can use it, but the okra will have its characteristic slimy texture. ~Elise

  12. Uma

    I remember an Indian friend telling me that the tomato’s acidity helps reduce the okra’s sliminess. I never experimented with that theory so don’t know if it’s actually true. Interesting though.

  13. idiotproofdummy

    OKRA. Wow, I missed this! And, weirdly enough (or not. Depending on your stand on the whole thing) I actually prefer it slimy. With hot rice, and dipped in some dark soy sauce and lemon/lime. YUMMY. :)

  14. Val from PA

    Yummm… My Mawmaw always makes okra and tomatoes for me when I visit her in Alabama. She cooks hers forever on the stovetop though – I’ll have to see what she thinks about this version, but it sure looks great to me! Will definitely have to give it a try sometime.

    Fried okra is really good too – don’t be fooled by the fried okra they serve in Cracker Barrel though (they must bake theirs or something) – homemade is wayyy better!!

    Glad to see you promoting this vegetable, Elise!!

    Hi Val, most okra tomato dishes are more like stewed tomatoes with okra; they have cooked a lot longer than this dish. In this one the vegetables are barely cooked and the okra still has some crunch to it. More like a side dish of veggies. Of course, you could always just cook this one longer if you wanted to. ~Elise

  15. Nancy Lyden

    I love okra and would like to try this.Can I use frozen okra? Thanks

    You can use frozen okra, but the structure of the okra will have broken down a bit in the freezing and the result will be slimy. It will still taste good though. ~Elise

  16. Cheryl

    My picky 13 year old has loved okra since she was 2, so we have it a lot. I think it is better slimy; it seems to have more flavor and isn’t dried out.

    Try tossing in some corn…either fresh cut off the cob or some frozen. Corn, okra and tomato is another good combo. Probably the best place to add corn in this recipe would be to the sauce at the same time the okra is added.

  17. Rumana

    Super duper easy okra stir fry dish: fry some chopped potatoes and onions until halfway cooked and add okra (fresh or frozen, whole or chopped, doesn’t matter) to the pan with salt, teensy bit of turmeric powder and 2 or 3 slit green chilis and keep frying until the okra turns into an olive green color and the potatoes are fully cooked. So delicious.

    If you want this dish to be non-slimy, use fresh okra and chop it up.

    Sounds great, thanks! ~Elise

  18. CarolinaGirl

    I too am from Irmo, SC, home of the Okra Strutt! Although I’m not a fan of okra, I do believe that my husband will love this over rice! Found your site courtesy of the PW, looking forward to trying out some more of your recipes!

    I heart Pioneer Woman. :-) ~Elise

  19. Nishta

    I, too, love okra in all its forms! my friend Stephen makes a version similar to yours, but without the jalapeno, and I’m betting that I would love the addition. with okra & peppers in my garden right now, I think I may have to make this for dinner.

    thank you for linking to my okra post as well–I’m flattered!

  20. BIllL

    Coming from then south, this vegetable(actually it is a fruit) was a staple while growing up.
    I grow okra every year, Several varities in fact. The dwarf spineless, clemson spineless, and just plain old southern okra that gets to be 10 to 15 feet tall in my garden. We eat it fried, cut up and put into a batter and fried in patties, and I like to add it to soups in the winter(yes, I freeze it) to add more veggies and to thicken the soup.
    This recipe is similar to one we’ve used for years. Good stuff!!

  21. Ally

    Yum! Okra and tomatoes is one of my favorites. It’s also great made with fresh corn cut off the cob. Must have some cornbread with fresh field purple hull peas as your side if serving as a main dish. Slice some cucumbers and onions and make some sweet tea and you have the essence of the South. The naysayers do not know what they are missing.

  22. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme

    Having grown up in the south I’m quite familiar with okra and its many preparations. I quite like it stir-fried like this or stewed with tomatoes, too. The bit of acid from the tomatoes helps keep down the slim factor. In the south we also cook boiled okra and will even toss a handful into a pot of field peas. My favorite, though, is fried okra (recipe for that on my blog). Kinda like popcorn, hard to stop eating it :-)

  23. Phil

    Coming from the South, I’ve always liked okra any way it can be fixed. Fried, or cut, boiled and mixed w/ pinto beans.

  24. Vegas Shopper

    I’m an okra fan, just like you, and when I lived in the Southeast it was abundant. Here in Las Vegas, not so much. The best way to get good okra is to grow it. That way you can pick the young pods less than 2″ long and they will not be slimy when you boil them whole. Let it grow a bit longer, say 4″, for slicing, breading and frying.

  25. Magda

    I have to make okra that way, I always make my okra slimy, not that I don’t like that, I love when okra is slimy :) but I’m just wondering how does it taste when it’s crunchy.

  26. Betty

    My husband & I love Okra as a matter of fact we are having Okra & Tomatoes for supper tonight. My Okra isn’t slimey when cooked. I roll it in flour, salt & pepper it then fry it in canola oil or whatever you use.
    For okra & Tomatoes I don’t roll the okra in anything. I just open a jar or can of Tomatoes, pour a couple of cups of sliced okra in the tomatoes, season it with some bacon fat or salt pork. This is delicious with cornbread but it’s not for the dieters.

  27. diane & Todd

    As an okra lover, I can say that this lovely dish is going to be a hit in my kitchen soon! As a kid I loved okra and was always in the minority because it made everyone so sqeemish.
    thanks for loving sardines too!
    BTW- your photographs are just stunning, so rich, vibrant and great food popping off the screen!

  28. Janine

    Made this last night. Have been craving okra for some time now. Added a bit of left-over sausage we had on the grill on saturday. Is very tasty and will be my lunch today.

  29. steve

    I love okra. If you have never tried it, slice one into 3/8 to 1/2 inch slices & add to a fresh green salad. Everyone always asks, “What is that nutty flavor?” …just plain old raw okra!!! Thanks to my farmer Uncle for introducing this use to me.

  30. Eve 2morrow

    I didn’t love to eat Okra few years ago but when I tried it once, loved it and now I love it alot.
    Thanks for the recipe

  31. lea

    This recipe is amazing. I have made it several times already with yuuummmy results! (it is on the menu again tonight) Something about the vinegar and the tomatoes just works so well with the nutty flavor of the okra. I would recommend this recipe 100% – try it as posted before you make any substitutions. Thanks Elise!

  32. Sara

    This was AMAZING! We stewed the tomatoes instead of putting them in near the end. Love the heat and the vinegar… loved the crunch from the celery and the texture from the okra. Served it with fresh corn on the cob from the farmer’s market. Will definitely make again!

  33. Mike G

    Slime free! This is a great dish and charring the okra adds lots of complexity.

  34. John West

    The taste is great. The texture was also fantastic. Lower sodium, and flash searing the okra really cuts the slime factor down to a tame unnoticeable normalness. We had left over chicken and chopped it up and put it on the bottom of the bowl and poured the okra on top. The cold chicken balanced out the stove heat from the okra so we could dive right in. Cayenne all over the top for me, as is for her. We both imagined how good the okra would be with rice on the bottom instead.

  35. RAZZ

    Loved this!! I did not put the whole jalapeno in, but I really wish I had. I will make sure to do so next time. Thanks

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