Learn how to cook okra to transform this underappreciated green vegetable into a delicious side dish or entree for any busy night.
How do you cook okra? You quickly rinse it, dry it, slice it into halves, sauté it with olive oil and garlic for 10 minutes in a large skillet, plate it, and season it with salt.
If you follow this simple recipe for sautéed okra, you will have no issues with slimy okra. Instead, you’ll enjoy a crispy and tender vegetable dish with few ingredients and little time!
How to cook okra so it is not slimy?
If this is your first time cooking okra, there’s no need to worry about your vegetables coming out slimy, despite what you may have heard or tried in the past.
While okra can be a slimy vegetable, it’s not something to worry about. In fact, slime is a healthy and natural part of this vegetable. However, if you’re not a fan of slime on your plate, there are a few ways to cook okra that reduce or eliminate the slime altogether.
Here’s what to keep in mind for slime-less okra every time:
- Don’t cut it too small: Okra is naturally fairly large. In many cases, too large to serve whole. Therefore, many cooks solve the size issue by slicing it into smaller pieces. The problem is that the more you slice it, the more slime the vegetable release. For this reason, one fo the easiest ways to reduce slime in your okra dish is to cut it as little as possible. One option is to buy smaller okra. However, when this isn’t possible, try just cutting the vegetables in half, and no smaller. In the case that you’re following a recipe that requires you to cut the okra quite a bit, an easy trick is to freeze the vegetables before cooking. Frozen okra releases less slime.
- Rinse, don’t soak: The longer okra is exposed to water, the more slime it will release. While, like all produce, you must wash okra right before cooking it, instead of soaking the vegetables, give them a quick rinse and use your hands to gently scrub them to remove any dirt or other debris on the outside. Then immediately dry the okra with a clean dish towel.
- Clean with vinegar, not water: If you prefer to give your produce a very thorough washing, vinegar is better than water. You can soak the okra in a bath of white distilled vinegar for 20 minutes. This does double duty by cleaning the outside of the vegetables and reducing the amount of slime the okra will produce when cooked. Don’t use other varieties of vinegar, however, because these will impact the flavor of your dish.
- High heat is key: Forget about slowly cooking okra, which only softens it up to release more slime. Instead, keep the heat high and constant under your skillet. That way, you’ll reduce the amount of slime.
How to cook okra
With these tips in mind to remove any slime, let’s get into the recipe for easy sauteed okra. It takes only 15 minutes from start to finish and always delivers a healthy, crisp, and satisfying side dish for nearly any meal.
Here are the simple ingredients you need to make fast and flavorful sauteed okra tonight:
- 1 pound of okra
- 2 teaspoons of olive oil
- 1 clove of garlic, minced
- Salt to taste
Prepping the okra
Step 1: Wash the okra
As mentioned above, the best way to wash okra to reduce the amount of slime in your dish is quickly. Place the vegetables in a colander or fine-mesh strainer and rinse them under cold running water. Use your hands to move the okra around and remove any dirt or other debris on the surface of the greens.
Then immediately transfer the wet vegetables to a dry, clean dish towel and gently pat them dry.
Step 2: Cut the okra into halves
Next, cut the okra down to size. Place the washed and dried vegetables on a clean cutting board. With a sharp chef’s knife, slice off the stems and discard the stems. Next, cut each piece of okra piece in half.
You can cut the vegetable the long way or the short way, depending on your preference. Just be sure to cut all of the pieces into equal-sized segments. This will allow them to cook evenly.
Cooking the okra
Step 1: Heat up a skillet
Warm a large non-stick or cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat. Once the pan is hot, add a drizzle of olive oil. Pick up the skillet and swirl it to coat the bottom of the pan in a thin but even layer of oil.
Step 2: Add garlic
When the oil is warm, add the minced garlic. Immediately stir the garlic and cook until it is just starting to turn golden and is fragrant. This won’t take more than a minute.
Step 3: Cook the okra
When the oil is sizzling and the garlic is looking gold, it’s time to add the okra pieces.
Add the chopped okra to the skillet, and give them a good stir. Distribute the vegetables evenly in the skillet.
Now cover the skillet and let the okra cook for 7 to 10 minutes. Stir the vegetables or shake the pan every once in a while to move things around. This ensures even cooking.
Step 4: Plate and season
The okra is cooked when it is golden brown around the edges and fork-tender. If you overcook the okra, it may turn limp or mushy, so keep a close eye on it during cooking. Sprinkle the cooked okra with salt and pepper to taste.
Finally, remove the sauteed okra from the pan and divide it between serving plates.
Can I eat raw okra?
Yes, you can eat raw okra. Many people find that the flavor and texture is improved by cooking, however. Raw okra has a sharp flavor and a tough, fibrous texture. However, if that doesn’t bother you, you can serve uncooked okra as a crunchy fresh crudite for dipping.
Do you have to soak okra before cooking?
You should avoid any sort of water soaking when it comes to okra. The more time okra spends in contact with water, the more slime it will release. When it comes to cleaning okra, rinse it under running water and dry it right away just before you are about to cook it.
The one kind of soaking that can be beneficial for okra is to soak it in plain white vinegar. You can soak the greens for 20 minutes in vinegar. This will clean it and reduce the amount of slime the vegetable releases during cooking.
What to serve with cooked okra?
This recipe makes a simple side dish that pairs well with a wide variety of meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetarian entrees. Try it with pan-seared pork chops or tender brined chicken breast for a healthy lean dinner option. To round out the plate with some carbohydrates, try fluffy white or brown rice, quinoa or mashed potatoes.
Seasonings for okra
Okra grows well in hot climates. For this reason, you can season it with other spices and flavorings that come from hot climates. Spices like hot peppers, paprika, and curry seasonings are all classic flavor pairings for okra.
In addition, other crops that grow in warm climates like tomatoes, bell peppers, and corn are popular pairings with this unique green vegetable.
Is okra spicy?
Okra on its own is not a spicy vegetable. While it has a similar shape and color to some hot peppers, okra has a mild flavor that tastes fresh and grassy, rather than spicy. And don’t be afraid of the seeds. Unlike jalapeños or hot peppers, the seeds do not pack any spice or extra flavor than the flesh of the vegetable. They’re totally safe to eat.
- Cutting board
- Chef's knife
- Large skillet
- 1 pound okra
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 clove garlic minced
- Salt to taste
- Wash the okra and slice each piece into halves.
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the okra and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring constantly. When the okra is softened but not limp, serve!