Okra usually lingers in the background of the dinner table, lost amid the whipped potatoes, green beans and corn-on-the-cob at Southern style meals. Many folks pass on okra because of the mouthfeel of the viscous mucilage that oozes from its pores, particularly when it’s been heated in water. But there are ways to turn an okra-phobic eater into a follower. Minimize the mucilage while giving the okra a nice, golden-brown sear by roasting the pods whole in the oven at a high temperature.
Things You'll Need
Select okra pods about 4 inches long for baking. Smaller pods have less mucilage than large pods. Rinse the okra and allow it to reach room temperature if you kept it in the refrigerator.
Bring about 2 gallons of water, 2 tablespoons of salt and the juice of 1 lemon to a boil if you want to blanch the okra before baking it. Blanching the okra in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds brightens out the color, something the oven alone doesn’t do. Remove the okra from the boiling water after 30 seconds with a slotted spoon and place it in a container of ice water. Remove the okra from the ice water and place it on a plate lined with paper towels.
Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and place the oven rack in the middle position. Rinse the okra with cool water if you didn’t blanch it and dry it with paper towels.
Trim the tip ends of the okra pods with a paring knife and place the pods in a mixing bowl or shallow dish. Drizzle the okra liberally with refined oil. Don’t use unrefined oils or butter, which have low smoking points. You can always toss the okra in some butter after it finishes cooking if you want.
Season the okra to taste. Use any seasoning you want, but crisp, farm-fresh okra on its own needs only a bit of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Spread the oil and seasoning over the okra pods by hand, covering them on all sides. Spread the pods out on a cookie sheet in an even layer.
Place the okra in the oven and cook for about 15 to 20 minutes. Reach in the oven — while wearing oven mitts — and slide the pan back and forth every 5 or 6 minutes so the okra cooks evenly.
Bite into a piece of okra before you pull the pan out of the oven to check doneness. Fully baked okra has some browning on the outside and an al-dente firmness, almost like a crisp green bean.
Remove the pan and place it on a cooling pad when cooked to your liking and serve as-is. You can also toss the okra in a mixing bowl with whole butter or bacon fat, or slice it up before serving.
The 30-second blanching time for okra starts when the water returns to a boil, not when you place the okra in the pot.
If you want to slice okra, slice it after cooking. Small slices of okra don’t hold up well to oven temperatures.
References and ResourcesBBC Good Food Glossary: Okra
The Kitchn: How To Blanch Vegetables
University of Wisconsin-Madison: All About Okra