Okra Pilau

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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

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  • 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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Smothered Okra with Chicken and Rice - from $5 Dinners

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Showing 4 of 27 Comments

  • 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!!!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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

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