Fried Okra - one of my Best Southern Recipes!
This might just be the fried okra you’ll ever eat! Okra holds a special place in the hearts of most Southerners, and I can be counted among them. When we lived in the country and had a large garden, I always grew a long row of it to use in various okra recipes. We ate a lot of it fresh, and we froze the extra bounty. I always pickled some of the smaller pods for my mom, as she loved pickled okra. Some of my other okra recipes include gumbos, stir fries, fritters, and oven-baked okra. A lot of people who don’t even care much for this slimy vegetable agree that it gives a nice flavor to winter soups and stews. A lot of Southerners also like to boil a few pods with their peas, and a rich concoction of the sliced veggies with stewed tomatoes, onions, garlic, and basil is great served over white or yellow rice. In my personal opinion, and I’m certainly not alone here, the best way to eat it is fresh, right from the stalk to the skillet: battered and fried okra.
Fried Okra Recipes
Here in the Deep South, there are as many different fried okra recipes as there are recipes for fried chicken, biscuits, and pork barbecue! Actually, I think I’ve tried most of them, too, and some are better than others. If you don’t start with tender pods, the results will be woody. That’s not what you want. You want your dish to be crisp on the outside yet tender on the inside.
There’s a pretty wide range of batter ingredients, too. The old traditional breading is cornmeal, or a mixture of cornmeal and flour. There are other choices, however, including cracker meal, dried bread crumbs, Italian bread crumbs, and panko. I’ve even had fried okra that was dipped in ground pecans before it was dropped into the fat, and it was delicious and different.
Fresh okra is pretty slimy, as you probably already know, so some cooks don’t bother with dipping the okra in a liquid before dredging it. I’m in the other school, though – I think using a liquid really helps to ensure that the flour or meal sticks well to the okra and doesn’t fall off in the frying process. You can use milk, buttermilk, and/or beaten eggs. And speaking of frying, you’ll have to use some type of fat or oil, obviously.
Now for the skinny on fats: old fashioned southern fried okra is cooked in bacon grease or lard. To be honest, you'll get a lot more flavor with bacon grease, but most folks don't keep that on hand, so any cooking oil will do. I think peanut is the best - IF you don't have bacon drippings. Some southern cooks prefer to use solid vegetable shortening. The oil should be heated at medium or one notch above the medium setting on your stove. If you do happen to have some bacon drippings, add it to your oil for extra flavor.
We prefer fried okra recipes that include herbs, spices, or other seasonings. You can add the seasonings to your liquid or to the flour or meal. A few you might want to consider using are hot sauce, garlic salt, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, paprika, oregano, basil, curry powder, crushed red pepper flakes, cayenne, or chili powder.
By the way, if you happen to get your hands on some very small, super young and tender pods, you might want o try frying them whole. For this fried okra recipe, I don’t even remove the stems. I just rinse the pods well, dry them, and dip them in egg and milk before coating them in meal and flour. Since the whole pods don’t release any “slime,” I double dip and double coat them before frying. In other words, it’s dip, coat, dip, coat.
How To Fry Okra
Here, you’ll find some tips on how to fry okra. First of all, buy your okra. The pods should be firm, but not hard. Larger pods are often “stalky” and too hard to eat, so try to choose smaller pods that are young and tender. Yes, that might mean a little more work for you when it comes to preparing the veggie for cooking, but the extra effort will be worth it in taste and texture. Choose pods free of blemishes, too. Rinse the pods and remove the cap ends and the tips. Drain the washed pods on paper towels for just a minute or two to dry. Next, slice the okra crosswise into half-inch pieces. If you like extra-crispy fried okra with more breading, slice the pods into 1/3 or 1/4-inch pieces.
Most Southern cooks use all cornmeal in their fried okra recipes, but I find that cornmeal is a little gritty, plus it absorbs too much oil for my taste. That's why I use a half-and-half mixture of meal and flour. You can use self-rising or regular cornmeal, and you can use self-rising or all purpose flour, but it seems to me that the self-rising versions of both the meal and flour provide a slightly crispier crust. If you can find buttermilk cornmeal, use it. It gives the batter a wonderful flavor!
To get the best results, black iron cooking vessels are important. If you’re using a skillet, be careful not to fill it with too much oil. For large batches, use an iron Dutch oven. Make sure your oil is heated to the right temperature. For me, around 365 degrees works best. If the oil isn’t hot enough, your fried okra will be greasy and perhaps soggy. Of course, if the oil is too hot, the edges will burn without sufficiently cooking the insides.
Southern Fried Okra
This fried okra recipe is pretty much foolproof, as long as you follow my steps and suggestions. It’s the perfect side dish for southern entrees like fried chicken, fried pork chops, and country fried steak. Actually, I think my husband could make a meal from just a big plate of the southern fried okra by itself!
Rate my Southern Recipe here. Thanks, y'all!
- 1 pound fresh okra, rinsed, trimmed, and sliced
- 1 cup buttermilk
- 1 egg
- few drops Louisiana hot sauce
- 1 cup self-rising cornmeal
- 1 cup self-rising flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- oil for frying
- Place sliced okra in a large glass or plastic bowl.
- Combine buttermilk, egg, and hot sauce with a wire whisk. Pour over okra and refrigerate for ten minutes.
- Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder in a lidded bowl or bag.
- Heat the oil in a large, deep black iron skillet or iron Dutch oven to around 365 degrees. The oil should be at least 1 or 1 1/2 inches deep.
- Remove okra from liquid, a handful of slices at a time, and shake in dry mixture.
- Fry breaded okra in small batches until golden and crisp, about seven minutes. Carefully place the okra into the hot oil. Don't try to fry too many at the time, or the pieces won't be crisp. Stir the okra around a couple of times while cooking to ensure that it's consistently browned.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on several layers of paper towels. If you want to add more salt, sprinkle the fried okra while it’s still hot.