Making the Case for Okra: The Multitasking Southern Staple

nadiasphoto/ iStock / Getty Images Plus
nadiasphoto/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

If there’s anything that cements my southern food roots it’s my love for okra. I’m hoping that if you’re on the other side of the fence, I can convince you to consider a change of heart. I love okra any kind of way: in soup, stew, steamed whole or cut up, sautéed, fried and especially roasted! Though fried okra is delicious and the most common way you’ll find it in the south, roasting allows the okra flavor to shine. This way you also get the health benefits without added fat and calories.

As polarizing as it may be, this fuzzy green vegetable has a lot to offer. Okra is an excellent source of vitamin C and a good source of magnesium, folate and soluble fiber — the type that helps reduce blood cholesterol and the risk for heart disease.

If you’re still not feeling okra, there’s more. Okra does double duty in the kitchen. It provides a unique flavor and effortlessly thickens soups and stews. “The slime” that so many people hate is what gives okra its thickening power. If that part bothers you, there is a way to get around it. Don’t overcook it.

Okra is in season when it’s hot in the south, from May to October. When all of the peaches, blueberries and sweet corn are done for the year, okra is still going strong. Okra and tomatoes are a match made in heaven. If that’s not your thing, try it with corn, peppers, onions or a bit of lemon or vinegar for extra flavor.

So give okra one more chance with my recipe for easy roasted okra. Using fresh, good-quality okra is the key to the success of this recipe. I’ve had the best results getting the okra from my farmers market and cooking it within one day. Select smaller pods with bright green color. These are the most tender and flavorful. Avoid the larger pods, which tend to be tough and woody.

Easy Roasted Okra

Recipe developed by Marisa Moore, RDN

Serves 4

1 pound fresh whole okra
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
Coarse salt
Fresh cracked black pepper

Date Paste Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F.
  2. Wash and dry the okra. Place it on a baking sheet, leaving plenty of space between each piece. Drizzle the olive oil over the okra and roll it around for even distribution. Sprinkle on the salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Roast the okra for 15 minutes, turning once.
  4. Remove from the oven and enjoy as a warm snack or side dish.
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Marisa Moore
Marisa Moore, MBA, RDN, LD, is based in Atlanta and specializes in culinary nutrition, communications and consulting. She blogs at Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.