Seasonal Southern Cooking

Grilled Okra with Sriracha Lime Salt

By • July 8, 2013 • 29 Comments

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Beth Kirby of Local Milk carries her Southern heritage -- and the ingredients, dishes, and recipes that come with it -- with her wherever she goes. Every other Monday, that place is here. 

Today: Reinvent the way you make okra, with this spicy, salty, game-changing condiment.

I’m no culinary tabula rasa. I’m Southern. And that means I have baggage; that means I carry a metaphysical grain sack of Southern dishes and ingredients with me wherever I go. It means I think I’m a genius if I can figure out how to get bacon grease or buttermilk into preparations hitherto unknown to them, and that I’m forever scheming ways to insert sorghum into unsuspecting baked goods, vinaigrettes, and glazes.

Any time I’m creating a new dish, I heave my giant bag of Southernisms onto the table and start rifling through it for inspiration. Out spills pecan meal and chicory. I toss butter beans and black-eyed peas over my shoulder, digging deeper, looking for just the thing. My thumb sinks into a deli container of pimento cheese. I lick it off, keep digging. Past the grits and the pork rinds and the bundles of collards I find what I’m looking for, that quintessential southern ingredient: okra.

Grilled Okra with Sriracha Lime Salt

Okra’s something of a curiosity to the non-southern populous. For starters, its name is a sort of visual onomatopoeia, oblong and fuzzy-sounding. There’s nothing you can really liken it to, and it tends to fall squarely into the love or hate category. It’s pleated and viscous with seeds like bursting pearls of caviar. You mostly encounter it fried, but I don’t believe in deep-frying the stuff. My grandmother didn’t do it that way, and that’s as good a reason as any for not believing in something. She pan-fried it in cornmeal, and it’s much, much better than deep fried okra -- it's crispy and light.  

I’d only ever had okra that way growing up, tossed with cornmeal and fried in my grandmother’s cast iron skillet. It’d certainly never crossed my mind to grill okra until I was in my early 20s and my boyfriend at the time sprinkled some with lemon pepper and threw it over a charcoal fire. Perhaps his only great achievement.

Grilled Okra with Sriracha Lime Salt

But I need something more than the McCormick’s he fished out of the cabinet, though he had the right idea: acid and spice and a smoky charcoal fire. It was an okra revelation. And that’s where Sriracha Lime Salt comes in.

First, you dehydrate some Sriracha and grind it into a powder -- this alone is, well, a life-changer. At least it is if you’re a Srirachaphile like me. But mix it with some good salt and lots of fresh lime zest and juice and everything is new, from Bloody Marys to popcorn to okra (and frankly any other grilled vehicle under the sun).

Grilled Okra With Sriracha Lime Salt

Grilled Okra with Sriracha Lime Salt

Serves 4

2 tablespoons Sriracha
3 tablespoons sea salt or kosher salt
Zest of two limes
Juice of one lime
Olive oil for brushing
Okra (however many you like, there’ll be enough salt to go around)
Lime wedges for serving

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

Photos by Beth Kirby

Tags: seasonal southern cooking, southern, seasonal, cooking, okra, grilled, sriracha, lime, salt

Comments (29)

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9 months ago Lena

If you can't be bothered to dehydrate your own Sriracha, I use this blend from a little spice shop in Seattle... It's already pretty tangy on its own, but the lime zest would be a great addition! http://www.worldspice.com...

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9 months ago Señora Hughes

Got the newsletter with this recipe on my way to my local veg seller- he had some beautiful heirloom okras- I recently made habanero salt (very much the same, but replace sirracha with roasting dried habaneros until they puff, discarding seeds and whizzing in the food processor with lime, rind and salt. I used this instead, and the results were amazing. Had a few friends over for dinner and these FLEW! Everyone raved

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

So very pleased to hear it! I'm having a dinner party this next weekend & this is sure to feature...'tis the season.

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9 months ago Kae

I love okra, any way. My husband has a new smoker box and can't wait to grill some with smoke. Whole okra floated on top of a pot of field peas during the last half hour or so of cooking is really good.

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9 months ago Glen Powers

Yes, small is always better with okra. However, if you miss cutting okra for a day or so and it gets really big you can harvest the large tough pods and dry them in the sun. Crack them open, save some seeds for next year and cook the remaining seeds just as you would dried beans. Delicious. Slimey boiled okra with lots of butter and salt/pepper is one of my favorites. Just cross your legs real tight and dig in.

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9 months ago nratt

Stew sliced okra with tomatoes, and the slime goes away. I know, I know. I didn't believe it either until my wife forced it on me. She was/is right. But think of gumbo: no slime there either. I suppose the acid in the tomatoes does sum'in 'nother to the slime.

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9 months ago nratt

Now this right here is sheer genius!!! Beth Kirby has it going on, what I mean!!!

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9 months ago kittyfood

I was raised in Arkansas and I also pan-fry okra in cornmeal with a touch of salt and pepper. I was beginning to think I'd imagined that it was cooked like that because everybody else seems to deep fry it so I was glad to see that your family made it the same way. I do use olive oil now rather than bacon grease or Crisco, however. Okra is one vegetable that grows and produces well in the Arizona heat, and we harvest it from our garden each day. I look forward to trying your grilling method.

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9 months ago simplysandi

I have not grilled okra before- but I just got a new grill so I cannot wait to try this recipe. I love roasted okra

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9 months ago kathy

The Southern way of frying with cornmeal coating is delicious and not slimy. Also not slimy: you slice them lengthwise into quarters and good at high heat with Indian spices; just google Indian recipes for okra. I once read of someone refusing to eat okra because he didn't want to eat anything that needed a shave and a kleenex.

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9 months ago fiveandspice

Emily is a trusted source on Scandinavian Cuisine.

If there's something that's the opposite of southern it is probably me! :) I'm basically Arctic. However foreign it always seems to me, I'm endlessly intrigued by southern cooking, I think because, as you point out, it feels so pregnant with stories. Congratulations on your column Beth! I'll look forward to learning more, and maybe, just maybe, I'll give okra another shot someday here. The last time I tried it was kind of traumatizing. I guess I'm too much of a sissy for the slime.

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9 months ago Amelia Ames

Wait! Did your grandma fry them or did she not fry them...or am I lost? My grandma fried them and she boiled them in water with butter and salt which is almost my favorite way to eat them, but you have to get over the slime. Okra is one of the tastiest veggies ever.

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

She pan fried, not deep fried. Tossed slices in cornmeal & cooked them in a skillet in a bit of bacon grease. Boiled? Never tried that & now I must!

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9 months ago Amelia Ames

Got it! I knew I was missing something. So how much oil did she use? I use an inch or so for my fried okra, and I just throw it in some cornmeal with salt. Light and crispy just like you said. I don't really care for the battered kind. To make boiled okra, and it works fine with frozen if that is all you can find, I throw the whole ones in a pot, because slices will break down, cover it with water throw in a good amount of butter, and salt and pepper to taste. It is the most awesome pure okra flavor you can get, but again with the slime. I grew up eating it that way and I can't get enough of it!

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9 months ago acookswords

I generally enjoy Local Milk, though it can be a bit precious. On the other hand, I love okra in any way, shape, form. Slimy? Sissies. Bring it on.

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

Precious! lol If only I wrote like I spoke then I'd surely dispell that complaint! But if I did that it would render my site NSFW

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9 months ago acookswords

Honestly, nothing wrong with NSFW.

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9 months ago amber wilson | for the love of the south

Congrats on your column! LOVE the grilled okra, from one Southerner to another! What others refer to as "slimy" I call lovely and luxiourious.

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9 months ago Harold MaGoo

Great recipe. My only problem is that leaving the pods intact ensures they'll be slimey on the inside. If you half them before grilling, you'll get a much more palatable result.

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

If you aren't an okra lover, that's a great idea and would definitely help convert a doubter! But if you (like me) happily eat it raw & pickled...grilling them whole is grand.

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9 months ago Marian Bull

Marian is an editor at Food52.

This makes me so happy. I went to school in North Carolina and I have a very soft, very hungry place in my heart for okra and all those other beautiful things that appear on southern plates. Thanks, Beth!

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9 months ago EmilyC

Love this! I'm wholly intrigued by the sriracha salt. Looking forward to your new column.

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

sriracha salt is a miracle drug.

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9 months ago Stephanie Archer-Hartmann

Grilled Okra is already an amazing thing...this sounds fantastic!
Quick tip for those unfamiliar with okra...if you're grilling them, used the smallest ones you can find - it'll cut down on the slime.

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

Absolutely correct. Use small okra. They'll also be more tender.

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9 months ago Kristen Miglore

Kristen is the Senior Editor of Food52

I love this so much. Can't wait to see you unload that metaphysical grain sack here!

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

I can't wait to share my bag of tricks! Somehow southern ingredients make dishes feel like stories to me.

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9 months ago Kenzi Wilbur

Kenzi is the Associate Editor of Food52.

You've convinced me to give cooking okra another shot!

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9 months ago Beth Kirby | {local milk}

Do eet! Okra might be an acquired taste but it's one worth acquiring!