Okra Pilau

Okra love. Okay, I admit it, I have a mad crush on this vegetable. From okra pickles to okra and tomato stir-fry, I’m finding every excuse to make something with okra. It just tastes so good! Sort of like the best tasting green bean, but even better. And the okra plants, new to my garden this year, are thriving, putting forth pods to pick every other day.

This okra rice pilaf recipe, known as okra pilau, is a southern staple, particularly of South Carolina, in whose swampy lands rice has been cultivated since colonial days. It’s simple; you just render bacon fat, cook chopped onions, peppers, and okra briefly in it, add rice, stock, and cook until done. Stir in chopped cooked bacon at the end. Whatever sliminess the famously slimy okra produces while cooking gets absorbed by the rice, and what you’re left with is just lovely okra, and okra and bacon infused rice.

Ever make something that you don’t want to share because you just want to keep it all for yourself? Yeah. This is one of those.

From what I understand (if there are any South Carolinians out there, please advise me if I’m off base here) shrimp, sausage, and/or black eyed peas are often added to the pilau, making for a more substantial meal than what I’m presenting here. The dish is also curiously known as “Limpin’ Susan”, but I can find no reference to the etymology of that name.

If you love bacon and rice and have been sitting on the fence about okra, this is the recipe to try. I think you will be pleased.

Okra Pilau Recipe

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 35 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

Ingredients

  • 4 slices of bacon (about 5 ounces), chopped
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cups okra, sliced into disks, 1/2 to 3/4-inch thick (fresh or frozen, thawed)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt (use less salt if using seasoned broth)
  • 1 cup long-grain rice
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken stock*

*Review the instructions on your package of rice for how much liquid is needed for your particular brand of rice. Some rice calls for a 1:1 1/2 ratio, some 1:2 ratio, rice to liquid. Use whatever ratio is indicated by your rice package.

Method

1 Spread the chopped bacon out in a pot so it covers the bottom completely and turn the heat to medium. Fry it until it's crispy, then remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Drain off all but about 2 tablespoons of bacon fat.

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2 Add the onion and green pepper and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the okra and turn the heat to high. Add the cayenne, salt and rice and stir-fry for 1 minute.

3 Stir in the chicken broth, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer and cook until the rice is done, about 20 minutes. Fluff up the rice with a fork and stir in the chopped bacon.

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28 Comments

  1. Nate @ House of Annie

    I love okra. What a delicious looking dish! The bacon is key.

    Funny thing, “pilau” in Hawaiian means “stink”. But I bet this dish smells heavenly while cooking.

  2. Judi

    Oh boy, I can’t wait to try this. I love okra any way it’s prepared. My favorite though, is boiled with butter, salt, and pepper. The slime just turns to “sauce” and I love that!
    Thanks for this creative recipe.

  3. Joe

    My father has been growing okra since 1983 in his backyard here in Queens,NY. Just yesterday I was taking pics of his garden and had a hard time taking pics of his okra being that the stalks grow up to 7-9ft tall. He even grows them in planters. Enjoy!

  4. Molly Duncan

    Though I don’t know for sure, I would imagine that the name Limpin’ Susan is a spin-off of Hoppin’ John, a rice dish with collards and field peas.

  5. Wendi

    Okra – Love it

    We love it raw sliced with some soy sauce
    We love it dry cooked Indian style with spices
    We love it pickled and fried and stewed in soups.

    Yum.
    Thanks for the new recipe

  6. bob

    i have cooked it a couple of times..the slime is gross.. so never really gopt to taste it…i will try this recipe

  7. CJ McD

    I love okra too. This recipe sounds wonderful!

  8. Tres Amie

    I have friends from SC, and they use the term perlo or purloo when they are making a rice dish with other things cooked into it like vegetables, sausages or shrimp. I think it’s a corruption of Pilau.

  9. niketa

    Hi Elise
    If you love Okra try out this side we make atleast once a week. Slit every okra length wise , now in a bowl mix salt,red chilli powder,coriander powder and atleast 2-3 tablespoons of chick pea flour.now take the slit okras cover , dredge them thru this dry powder allowing it to fill the slit as well and then fry them in a wok of hot oil. There should be enough oil to allow deep frying. take them out on a paper towel and let the excess oil get off…enjoy as a side dish..crispy and yummy with some mango chutney to go with it!!!

    Thanks for the suggestion Niketa! ~Elise

  10. Debbie

    I made this last night. I will make it again, and again, and again! Wonderful!

  11. David

    I have a similar one-dish meal that’s a family favorite for using leftover chicken. My mother and her mother made it, and they called it “chicken perloo” – rice mixed with chopped cooked chicken, peas and sliced hard boiled eggs. When my mother wrote the recipe for me, she wrote “chicken pilau” so I thought pilau was pronounced “perloo”. I like the way this version adds a few more flavorful ingredients and cooks it all together rather than just combining all the cooked ingredients. I am inspired to try a variation that merges the two. Thank you!

  12. georgie

    I have made this many times. I like to do half rice and half orzo and cook the same way. Thanks for the reminder of this dish.

  13. Susain

    Limpin’ Susan is supposedly Hoppin’ John’s wife.

  14. OpenDog

    Perhaps the lazy Susan got too agitated one day when she smelled it …

    I will try to add some chicken liver, Italian sausage and prawns. Let’s see what shakes out. I’ll keep you posted!

  15. Val from PA

    Being from the South, I love okra… My MawMaw makes a big pot of stewed okra and tomatoes for me every time I go down to visit, and I always make a point to get some yummy fried okra as well:) I’ve never seen a recipe like this one before, but I would definitely be willing to try it! Okra is such an underrated vegetable so thanks for highlighting it!

  16. Michelle

    I love okra. My mum used to grow it, and we had it in a simple oil-onion seasoning with congee and pickles. Its still my comfort dish. I love okra stuffed with spices as well, and a simple Indian okra in tomato sauce.

    I am going to have to try out this recipe, but I guess I am going to have to leave out the bacon, cause my family is vegetarian. Maybe I’ll just stir some into my own portion.

  17. pinar

    if you want to get rid of slime you have to boil it with vinegar or lemon juice first for a few minutes; it is delicious if then you slowly cook it with olive oil, diced onions, diced tomatoes and extra lemon juice.

  18. Christian Gehman

    Okra is great — and it’s only slimy when it’s overcooked or canned.

  19. Nancy Long

    will be trying this the next time I can find some fresh okra – have fried it and mostly use it in gumbo – hubby says he doesn’t like it, but gobbles up my fried and loves my gumbo

  20. B

    I almost always roast okra because of the sliminess. I bought some today at the farmer’s market. I’ll have to try this. It looks delicious.

  21. P hertz

    Perloo. I’ve never had an okra perloo in my life and I’ve spent all of it in the rural lowcountry of SC. Okra in gumbo and soups, fried, pickled, eve n cooked and served as a vegetable.

  22. Tori

    Hurray for okra! One of my husband’s favorites. We simmer it with a spicy Middle Eastern tomato sauce. Never thought to add it to a pilaf!

  23. sje

    Are you sure you don’t mean Purloo? My husband’s family made several different versions of purloo and they all started with the,onion, celery, bacon and pepper base. They are low country favorites.

  24. Chef Art

    A different whole grain would work wonderfully. Such as quinoa, bulgur or farro.

  25. Kanta

    A great recipe!In India, Okra is popular but restricted mostly to vegetarian dishes. This the simplest way we cook it: http://kantasfoodexperience.blogspot.in/2010/06/ladies-finger-curry.html where the nigella sativa seeds gives it a typical Bengali flavour! We also cook it with mustard or just stir fry. Preparing a polau (pilau) with okra is really innovative! Thanks for sharing!

  26. Amber

    Love all of your recipes! This sounds good with Cajun boiled shrimp. We are from CA and moved to MS and had to put a California spin on our southern food. We like to barbeque okra. You coat the okra in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, put them on skewers and barbeque. So good and definitely not slimy.

  27. Kerry

    Hi y’all! ;) Had to do it. I’m from upstate SC. Here it’s called a gumbo if you have a rice and okra mixture. I’m sure there are still some old folk who do call it the older names, but I personally have never heard it in 48 years. This recipe is very good and authentic to a gumbo lover! I keep a jar of bacon grease for cookin’ on my stove. Those who call fried okra ‘slimy’ have never had okra fried proper! My hubby is from OH and liked okra, but wanted it crispier than the frozen breaded kind. I told him I was gonna’ fry some for him and he was shocked when he saw whole okra pods! He said he never tasted fried okra like this. Keys… Small pods! VERY important. You want them to be mature, but not old or they are tough, too much woody fibers in the flesh. Next, slightly freeze ( NOT frozen solid!) the clean DRY okra so you can slice it about a 1/4 inch thick at best. Easier to slice when done this way. Premix 1C flour and 1C corn meal (yellow) with about 2 palms of salt and 1-3 pepper depending on how much heat you want. Nothing else needed I promise) in a Zip Lock or paper bag. Wet the tip of your finger and taste the mixture. It should be salty and peppery. If to much salt or pepper add a little more flour. Add sliced okra to the flour and shake it GOOD! Roll the plastic bag for about 10 minutes. This keeps the pieces from sticking together as much. Fry single layer in shallow hot oil until dark brown and crispy. Be sure not to over crowd. The okra will shrink to almost half it’s original size. This takes time but it’s worth it. My hubby started eating it and called it southern popcorn! LOL! I hope TONS of folks try the recipe on this website for gumbo!!!

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