Okra

When It Comes to Okra, 'Crispy-Soft' Is the Best Texture

How to cook okra so it’s not slimy.

September  6, 2019
Photo by Julia Gartland. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

A few years ago, on a whim, I bought some okra from a local farmers market. It was too pristine to pass up, unblemished and deeply green. I ended up tossing the whole okra pods in oil and salt and grilling them quickly over high heat. They tasted like a cross between blistered shishito peppers and grilled zucchini. A perfect lazy summertime snack.

Some folks avoid okra because it releases a slimy texture when it’s cut into pieces and cooked slowly. However, if you buy okra pods that are small and crisp, and you cook them whole using high heat, the texture isn’t slimy at all. In fact, grilled okra is so enjoyable that it can easily become a mainstay ingredient in your repertoire.

I’ve been searching for a reason to eat grilled okra not just as a snack but as part of something larger. I recently stumbled upon an ideal pairing when I added it to my pasta salad. Because the okra cooks so quickly on the grill, it maintains some bite and texture. It ends up tasting “crispy-soft,” which is the trendy way of describing a vegetable that has found that perfect balance between raw and overcooked.

Tossed amidst springy coils of fusilli pasta, the grilled okra is aided by a supporting cast of smoked mozzarella, fresh cherry tomatoes, and torn basil leaves. A dressing of garlic oil and lemon juice envelopes everything. This creates a finished dish that tastes bright, acidic, yet also deeply savory. There’s no mayo in this pasta salad, and that’s just fine because it isn’t missed.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“I do the same thing, buy it at the farmers market, toss it with salt and olive oil and roast it on a cookie sheet at 450 until it starts to brown. I was never a fan until I tried cooking it that way, but my only other experiences with okra were with the canned variety and I can still remember the gag inducing smell. Sometimes when it's very young and tender i just eat it raw. ”
— witloof
Comment

The earthiness of the grilled okra pairs perfectly with smoked mozzarella. It’s an ideal flavor combination for any outdoor barbecue. However, this recipe also works well using a stovetop grill pan to cook the okra in case it’s raining or you don’t have access to an outdoor grill.

As a New Yorker, my window of opportunity for enjoying this recipe is relatively small. Okra usually shows up at my local farmers markets sometime in midsummer and disappears around the time when kids return to school in September. However, if you’re lucky enough to live in a part of the country that has access to okra for a majority of the year, consider serving this recipe in the spring or fall, too. The simple preparation is easy on the wallet and delivers layers of exciting flavor.

No slime, either.

How do you cook your okra? Let us know in the comments below.
Order Now

Any Night Grilling is your guide to becoming a charcoal champion (or getting in your grill-pan groove), any night of the week. With over 60 ways to fire up dinner—no long marinades or low-and-slow cook times in sight—this book is your go-to for freshly grilled meals in a flash.

Order Now

Join the Conversation

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Lynda Whitney
    Lynda Whitney
  • Susanna
    Susanna
  • Eric Kim
    Eric Kim
  • witloof
    witloof
Comment
Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I'm perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer's market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta.

4 Comments

Lynda W. September 14, 2019
I am a lover of okra in almost any form - except for the egregious canned stuff. We grow some in the garden every year and so have tried many, many variations. Plain, just-picked, boiled until barely tender with butter and salt is slimy but glorious to me. Stewed with tomatoes and onions, yum. In gumbo and soups of every kind, Egyptian beef with okra, oven-roasted, sliced and pan-fried... you name it, I love it. My husband is no fan of the slime but most of these are slime-free.
One of the ways I love to serve it, especially to the uncertain, is "dry-fried". Not sure where I ran across this but we have been doing it this way for several years. Cut top off along its natural line. Slice lengthwise in half, then into very thin strips. Toss with cornstarch and a little salt. Fry in a very tiny amount of oil in a single layer, working quickly and tossing to keep from over-browning. When light brown they should be done and crisp on the outside but fully cooked inside. Add a sprinkle of salt. Devour quickly. So far everyone has liked this.
 
Susanna September 13, 2019
I’ve read that it’s delicious when deep-fried, but not sure I want to indulge that suggestion, so thanks for this idea.
 
Eric K. September 9, 2019
I actually love slimy okra. But this sounds better :)
 
witloof September 7, 2019
I do the same thing, buy it at the farmers market, toss it with salt and olive oil and roast it on a cookie sheet at 450 until it starts to brown. I was never a fan until I tried cooking it that way, but my only other experiences with okra were with the canned variety and I can still remember the gag inducing smell. Sometimes when it's very young and tender i just eat it raw.