How to cook slime-free okra
I've eaten okra once before. And I did not like it.
We were at a restaurant and okra was in the platter of seasonal tempura. Jake assured me that fried okra is hardly ever slimy and this was a really tasty batch. One bite and I knew we had different ideas about how much slime was tolerable.
Last weekend when I saw these beautiful okra baskets at the farmers market I couldn't resist bringing them home. I figured that Jake likes okra so at the very least they'll be a healthy snack for him, and I can try preparing them a few different ways while I'm at it.
I'm a big believer in trying things multiple times and in different ways before giving up on a whole kind of food. Small changes can make a big difference, especially in cooking. I scoured the internet for advice on how to cook slime-free okra and found a lot of great ideas to test out.
Here are some of the most interesting suggestions I found:
Keeping the okra whole will prevent the inner membranes of coming in contact with heat and/or water, thus preventing them from turning slimy.
Cooking the pods as little as possible will minimize the sliminess. Flash frying, steaming, and blanching are suggested.
Cook them thoroughly will dry out or cook off the sliminess, leaving you with a crispy, slime free result.
Adding vinegar, lemon juice, or other acid will counteract the sliminess.
Drying the okra before cooking will prevent sliminess.
Adding salt to okra while it cooks will draw out moisture and increase the sliminess. Wait to salt the dish until the last minute.
I've compiled all of the suggestions into 8 unique ways to prepare slime free okra.
After reading many, many articles I predict methods 1 and 5 will have the greatest affect on reducing slime. Many articles suggested that sliminess is caused by the mucous-y inside of the pod coming into contact with water. I think a thorough drying beforehand and then a quick fry in oil will result in the least slimy preparation. Let's see!
Slice the okra into rounds, lay them on a towel and air dry in the sun for an hour or inside for a couple hours. Add to recipe as usual. source
Voted 1st place - easiest prep, zero slime.
This was my favorite preparation because it was so much easier. No blow drying, no frying. I'd suggest slicing the okra and leaving them to dry on the counter before you head off to work. When you get home, they'll be thoroughly dry and ready to quickly fry up with some tomatoes and beans for a super quick weeknight dinner.
Slime was totally absent from this prep. The fried okra reminded me of fried jalapenos in terms of texture.
Long cook in oil.
Cut the pods just above the ridge, saute whole for 10-12 minutes with oil and some acid. Serve immediately. source
Voted 2nd place - best flavor.
Cooking the okra with the other ingredients really increased it's flavor. I didn't love having such large pieces in my dinner, but the flavor was great. The outside of the okra was crisp and flavored with tomato and lemon. The inside was juicy, but not gooey and had a great okra flavor.
Quick cook in water.
Slice the okra, blanch it in boiling water and dry it thoroughly with a hair dryer. Set aside and add to dish at the end. source
Voted 3rd place - Freshest flavor, light and crisp.
This was more involved to cook than the other methods, but it resulted in light, delicately flavored okra. The heavy flavors in the tomato dish didn't quite go with it. This method would go well with crisp, fresh summer flavors. It was juicy and didn't feel slimy or gummy.
Quick cook in oil.
Wash the pods whole, dry them thoroughly, slice into rounds, flash fry. Set aside and add to dish at the end. source
Voted 4th place - best preparation to mix with other ingredients.
This was easy to make and it mixed well the other ingredients. The smaller size of the okra made it a favorite when mixed with the tomatoes, bell peppers, and bacon for dinner. The inside had a gummier texture when eaten right after being fried, and the texture improved after air drying for at least 10 minutes. When mixed into a meal the outside of the okra was crispy and the inside was juicy with zero slime.
Lightly coat whole okra pods in olive oil and roast in the oven at 425 for 15 minutes. Serve immediately. source
Voted 5th place - medium slime, good flavor.
This was a perfectly lovely preparation, but it didn't stand out in terms of flavor or lack of gooeyness. Slime was very mild, though it did increase the longer the pods sat. This is a good preparation to serve immediately.
Long cook in water.
Slice pods into rounds, boil for 10 minutes, drain and rinse under running water. Dry well. Add to recipe as usual. source
Voted - slimiest.
I didn't get any pictures of this one. When I drained the okra and rinsed with water it turned into a nasty, slimy, gelatinous mess. This was the last experiment I tried last night and, having tasted all of the other attempts, including the salt and vinegar soaked okra, I knew these were not going to magically de-slime themselves. This was a total fail for non-slimy okra.
Slice the okra into rounds. Soak in milk for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Add to recipe as usual. source
Voted - Weirdest
I don't think there's much value in this one. It was less slimy than the vinegar soak but it was still slimy. The little green stars floating in milk was very pretty though.
Salt & vinegar soak
Soak whole okra pods in salt, vinegar, and water bath for 1 hour. Drain, rinse, and dry thoroughly. Add to recipe as usual. source
Voted - least likely to be worthwhile.
I don't think this did anything to remove the sliminess. The original suggestion was to soak whole pods, which I forgot about. Perhaps it would have turned out differently, but after seeing success with roasting and sauteing whole pods, I don't know how much benefit would be gained from the extra step of soaking it.
I really enjoyed playing around with these funny little veggies. Their flavor came through best in the sun dried, and quick water methods.
In my research I saw some people attribute okra's sliminess to contact with water and others attributed it to contact with heat. After trying many different methods I can tell you that contact with water is the most likely to give you slimy, gooey okra.
Unless you're looking for maximum slime for a soup, I definitely suggest air drying the okra, then flash frying it to cauterize the membranes before adding it to your meal. The flavor will shine through and you'll get a lovely slime-free okra dish.
I teach people how to cook and eat real food with confidence so that you can have less stress, better health, and WAY more fun in the kitchen and in life.
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