If you thought deep frying was the only way to address okra’s slime factor, you’ve got to try this.
Forget everything that you know about slimy, gooey okra. I am here to tell you that roasting is the key to transforming these heavily seeded pods into something delightful. As the weather cools down, I find every excuse to turn on my oven and roast veggies. (Obviously, this is the complete opposite mindset from what I have during hot summer days, given that all I want to do is avoid the oven and eat veggies raw.) Roasting brings out the subtle sweetness and adds a light char to veggies that is so warmly satisfying, especially on the days when I’m having to jack up the heat the house.
The last compilation of veggie roasting I made included corn, zucchini, and okra—because that’s what I happened to have in my refrigerator at the time. I cut the kernels off the corn cob, cut the zucchini into quarters and left the okra whole. For a split second, I considered bringing a pot of water to boil so that I could simmer the okra, but I reasoned with my future self knowing that washing an extra dish was not something I was interested in. Thus, I tossed the okra onto my baking sheet with the other vegetables. While the zucchini was mushy, and less than desirable, I found the okra to be very pleasant. For the most part, the okra held its shape, with only a few bursting open during the roasting process. It was far less “wet” on the the inside with, none of the sticky slime factor, while the outside was darkened deliciously with toasty brown edges. All of a sudden, I realized… roasting might just be the perfect healthy alternative to fried okra, which is the universally accepted method of cooking to prevent serious slime factor. #MindBlown
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So, how might another roasted okra novice go about giving this method a try? Easy—you roast whole okra pods the same way you would roast any vegetable. In general, I find that mixing fats when roasting adds an extra kick of flavor, so on this maiden voyage of okra roasting, I tossed my vegetables in a mix of coconut oil and sesame oil, along with a heaping teaspoon of salt, black pepper, and a few cloves of smashed garlic. I normally stick in the temperature range of about 375°F to 400°F for roasting vegetables, but you can go as high as 425F°. For this vegetable medley, I kept the temperature at 400°F, and placed the veggies on a rimmed baking pan to roast for 25 minutes. When roasting, you want to make sure the okra pods (or whatever vegetables you’re cooking) are evenly distributed on the pan and not toppling over each other. The goal to is to get great color and each veggie should have contact with the surface of the pan. About halfway through the cooking time, give your vegetables a quick toss to ensure even cooking.
Typically when you fry foods, the rule of thumb is to salt them immediately as they come out of the hot oil. I used the same thought process (sort of) to add additional flavor to my roasted vegetables. Instead of re-salting the food, as soon as they come out of the oven, I hit the veggies with freshly chopped herbs (which would have burned during the roasting). For this batch, I had dill and parsley on hand, so I gently mixed the herbs in a bowl with the okra and other vegetables for a hit of bright, fresh flavor. It was my “vegetarian night,” so I paired the roasted veggies simply with yellow rice and called it a day. The okra was the first thing to clear off my plate (not gonna lie, I definitely had leftover zucchini). After realizing the glory of roasted okra, I am sold that this will be my go-to method from here on out.