And you wonder why you’ve never been a fan of okra (a.k.a. ladies’ fingers in English)? Soggy leaves, slimy skin, and weird, bitter flavors are just some of the things you’re likely to encounter once you dive into the okra pool. But don’t let that scare you! With a little bit of knowledge and a lot of effort, you can master the art of eating okra. In this article, we’ll discuss everything you need to know about okra to get you started. From its taste and aroma profile to culinary uses and nutrition, we’ll cover it all.
What Is Okra?
Okra is a vegetable that belongs to the same family as hibiscus, cotton, and sorrel (Mallow family). It has been part of human diets for more than 5000 years, with evidence of okra seeds found in Egyptian tombs dating back to 2000 B.C. Today, it’s a common ingredient in many cuisines around the world, including Indian, West African, and Caribbean.
Okra is a popular ingredient in Indian curries and Southern fried chicken. It’s also used in soups, stews, and salads due to its ability to thicken liquids without any fat or starch additives. This vegetable can be eaten raw as well as cooked, although cooking tends to bring out its natural flavor more than raw consumption does.
Okra pods have a distinct appearance—they have ridged and spiny surfaces reminiscent of pine cones (hence the name “ladies’ fingers”). They come in different sizes, with some varieties reaching up to 3 feet long! They also vary greatly in color, from yellowish-green to pale green to white.
Okra Flavor Profile – What Does Okra Taste Like?
So, okra, what does it taste like? Okra vegetable taste is somewhere between bitter and sweet with grassy, earthy, and nutty notes and a slightly unpleasant flavor that most people find off-putting. Okra flavor depends on how it’s cooked: if you cook it for too long, it can become slimy and have a rubbery texture. Okra pods have a pleasant, crunchy texture.
What does raw okra taste like? The taste of raw okra is somewhat bitter, slightly tangy, and a little bit sweet. Okra has a slimy texture that takes some getting used to. On the other hand, cooked okra has a much softer texture than raw okra, which makes it more palatable and easier to eat. It also tastes sweeter due to the caramelization effect when cooked over high heat.
What does fried okra taste like? Fried okra is often described as having a green bean-like taste and a nice crunchy texture. Many people also describe it as having an earthy, nutty flavor similar to artichokes. Fried okra can also have a slightly bitter taste that is not necessarily unpleasant.
What does pickled okra taste like? Pickled okra has a nice crunchy and juicy texture and a mild, slightly sweet flavor with nutty and earthy undertones. Pickled okra is a popular addition to many Asian dishes, and it goes great with fried chicken.
Does Okra Taste Bitter?
Okra does have slight bitter undertones that are balanced by sweet and nutty hints. Ripe okra should not have a pronounced bitter or sour taste. However, it can have slight earthy and grassy notes.
Okra pods are edible green or yellow fruits with slimy seeds inside them. The texture of okra pods ranges from firm and crisp to soft and sticky depending on their stage of ripeness when harvested. They have a mild aroma and subtle taste that’s somewhere between bitter and sweet.
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Why Is Okra Slimy?
Okra’s slimy texture is a result of its mucilaginous (thick, gluey, sticky) gel-like nature. This characteristic is one of the main reasons why okra is known as “the goop.” It’s this same property that allows it to absorb some of the water that you add to your dish. The gelatinous nature of okra is also responsible for binding other ingredients together, such as spices and other vegetables.
If you want to reduce sliminess, put okra in a pot with cold water (2-3 l and 1-2 tbsp. of lemon juice) and let it sit for an hour or overnight if possible.
Okra Substitutes – What Does Okra Taste Similar To?
Okra has a flavor similar to lettuce and celery but with a slightly sweeter taste. The flavor is milder than, say, tomatoes or cucumbers. When it comes to textures, okra is softer than both lettuce and celery. If you’re wondering what to substitute for okra in recipes, the following are some of the common substitutes you can use:
Carrots are a good substitute for okra in salads because they have a similar shape and texture. They’re also very high in vitamins A and C, which means they’re great for your health!
Zucchini is another vegetable that tastes similar to okra. It has a milder flavor compared to its cousin, but it can still be used in cooking.
Green beans can be used as an alternative if you want your dish to have a stronger flavor profile. They give dishes like soups or stews more of that umami taste.
Spinach is a great substitute for okra in dishes like salads and casseroles. It has a similar texture to okra, which makes it easier to cook with.
There are many other vegetables that can be used as alternatives to okra in recipes. Other options include tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and squash. However, zucchini and green beans are by far the best okra substitutes in recipes.
Cooking Okra – How Is Okra Used?
Okra can be eaten raw or cooked. It’s often prepared in stews, soups, and curries to replace meat as a thickening agent and flavor enhancer. Okra can also be stir fried with other vegetables and spices to make a dish called bharta, which is typically prepared with the okra pods sliced into rounds, which produces a texture similar to eggplants.
Okra can also be pickled or preserved by drying. In West Africa, dried okra pods are used to make dawadawa, a spicy condiment that’s used as a flavoring or topping for soups, meat dishes, and bread. In the Caribbean, okra is often added to fish soup. In Haiti, okra is often served with rice and corn, and in Japan, okra is fried in tempura and served with soy sauce. In the USA, it is common to deep-fry breaded okra as well as to pickle okra. In Brazil, okra is traditionally stewed with chicken and tomatoes.
Okra is usually cooked in stews and soups because the vegetable’s mild flavor blends well with other ingredients. It also cooks quickly, so if you are making a dish that involves cooking okra, don’t cook it for too long because the vegetable will become mushy or too soft if cooked for too long.
Do not cook okra in copper and cast iron cookware as they will discolor the vegetable and make it taste metallic.
How Do You Eat Okra?
What do you use okra for? Okra can be stir-fried, stewed, roasted, or baked. It can also be eaten raw or pickled. In India and Pakistan, it’s used as an ingredient in curry powders. Okra is sold fresh, frozen, and canned. In the United States, most okra is grown in the South, particularly around Louisiana and Texas.
Okra has a mild flavor, so you don’t need to add much seasoning to it. If you want to add some flavor, okra goes best with coriander, oregano, and curry powder. It’s often cooked with rice or other grain dishes, such as curry or stew. It can also be eaten raw as a snack or used in salads and dips. You can also use okra in baked goods such as muffins and pies.
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Because of its high water content, okra requires longer cooking times than most vegetables. Many recipes call for soaking the vegetable before cooking it (it’s best to soak in cold water overnight), which allows the okra to cook evenly and become tender.
What goes well with okra? Okra goes well with meat (beef, lamb, pork, veal), poultry (chicken, duck, turkey), seafood (shrimp, cod), and other vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, lettuce, onion), parsley, rice, pasta, couscous. Okra also goes well with spices, including coriander, turmeric, and curry powder.
If you do not have much time to cook, check out this simple and delicious okra and tomato salad recipe:
Okra and Tomato Salad
- 1 pound fresh okra (1/2-inch pieces), washed
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium tomatoes (about 1 pound), washed and diced
- 1 small red onion (about 4 ounces), thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic (2 teaspoons), minced
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup parsley flakes
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon salt
- black pepper (optional)
- Cut the stems off the okra so they don’t get too tough when cooked. Then cut each piece into thirds or quarters lengthwise.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the okra and cook, occasionally stirring, until the okra is browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and onion and continue to cook until the tomatoes start to soften about 5 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook for a minute.
- Stir in the vinegar, parsley flakes, lemon juice, salt, and pepper (if desired).
- Cook for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Serve immediately.
Okra Nutrition Value and Health Benefits
Okra has tons of health benefits! Okra is good for weight loss as it is low in calories (only 31 calories per 100 grams) and contains vitamins A, B, and K as well as ascorbic and folic acid. Okra fights asthma, facilitates digestion, and prevents bloating. Okra is also good for your bones and joints. Okra seeds contain 40% of oil, which slows down aging and fights wrinkles.
Okra has a high protein content, which makes it an ideal food for vegans and vegetarians. It’s also rich in vitamins C, A, B1, B2, B3 (thiamine), and niacin, as well as folate, potassium, magnesium, iron, calcium, phosphorus, and zinc.
Okra promotes the secondary absorption of fluid, removes toxins and excess cholesterol from the body, and cleanses it of excess bile. Okra is also effective at preventing diabetes and cataracts. Regular consumption of okra also improves blood plasma and prevents cancer.
Okra is also used in the beauty industry. It is often added to shampoos and hair conditioners to make hair soft and give them a healthy shine. You can make a homemade hair mask with okra – just boil okra until it releases the slime, take the okra out and add a few drops of lemon juice and rinse your hair with it. No wonder why Cleopatra loved eating and using okra on her hair so much!
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Okra has a taste that’s very much like that of cucumber and green beans. The mild, cucumber-like taste makes okra an ideal ingredient for vegetable pickles and marinades. Okra is commonly served raw in salads and cooked in stews or curries. You can also use it in baked goods such as muffins and cakes.
Okra has always been considered a healthy food because it’s high in fiber and low in calories. It also contains plenty of antioxidants (vitamin E and beta-carotene). But what most people don’t know is that okra can be used to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If you want to try new veggies and get some of those vitamins, okra is your best go-to!
Okra Taste FAQ
What does okra soup taste like?
Okra soup has a pronounced sweet and grassy flavor with slight undertones of bitterness and earthiness. Okra soup has a delicate texture and is usually served in the Southern United States, the Caribbean, and Latin America. It’s not uncommon to find okra soup with a hint of curry or chili powder.
What does okra smell like?
Okra has a sweet smell and flavor, which is often described as grassy, musky, and earthy. Okra’s smell is similar to that of other vegetables like zucchini, asparagus, and eggplant. If okra smells pungent, sour, or “rotten,” it has gone bad and needs to be thrown away.
Can you eat okra raw?
You can eat okra raw – you can eat okra as is as a snack or add it to salads. Raw okra is amazing – it is juicy and crunchy with pronounced grassy and nutty hints. If you want the okra to be soft and mild, it needs to be cooked (boiled, fried, steamed, or added to soups).
What the main dish goes with okra?
Okra goes especially well with rice and couscous, but it can also be prepared with pasta, bulgur, and mashed potatoes. Okra goes well with meat, poultry, and seafood, so the choice is huge, whether you want to enjoy okra with pork chop, beef bbq, or fried shrimp.
What is okra similar to?
Okra’s unique sliminess and mild, grassy, and bitter-sweet flavor are similar to that of zucchini, green beans, and eggplants.
Does okra taste like zucchini (courgette)?
Okra has a milder flavor with a hint of sweetness, while zucchini has a more bitter taste. This bitter taste is attributed to glucosinolates in zucchini which help it ward off pests and diseases.