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Extra-Crispy Fried Okra

Extra-Crispy Fried Okra 14.000

Scott Suchman for The Washington Post; food styling by Lisa Cherkasky for The Washington Post

Jun 9, 2021

A spiced cornmeal breading and quick fry turn pieces of okra into an incredibly crispy snack or side, perfect for popping into your mouth by the handful. In "Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking," author Toni Tipton-Martin uses the fried okra as a topping for a bright, lemony salad, but we found it was superb enough to stand on its own. Tipton-Martin in turn adapted the recipe from Virginia Mixson Geraty's 1992 book, "Bittle en' t'ing': Gullah cooking with Maum Chrish,'" a cookbook in English and Gullah.

Because of okra's high moisture content, it has a tendency to splatter (in the first minute, anyway). Using a high-sided Dutch oven and a splatter screen can help. You'll also want a long-handled metal spider or slotted spoon and an instant-read thermometer for monitoring the temperature of the oil. See the VARIATION, below, for an air fryer version.

For a slightly different experience (and less splattering), you can fry trimmed whole pods. This is best with very fresh, tender okra. Expect the pods to take about 5 minutes to cook.

Serve plain, or with mayo doctored with your favorite hot sauce. The comeback sauce in the related recipe would be great.

Total time: 1 hour 40 mins


When you scale a recipe, keep in mind that cooking times and temperatures, pan sizes and seasonings may be affected, so adjust accordingly. Also, amounts listed in the directions will not reflect the changes made to ingredient amounts.

Tested size: 14 servings; makes 7 cups

  • 1 1/2 cups (200 grams) cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (45 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Diamond Crystal kosher salt, plus more for sprinkling (may substitute 3/4 teaspoon table or fine sea salt or 1 teaspoon Morton's kosher salt)
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound fresh okra, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 2 cups buttermilk (regular or low-fat)
  • 4 cups vegetable or peanut oil

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Line a platter or baking sheet with paper towels or kitchen towels and place it near the stove.

Have two large, rimmed baking sheets ready. In a shallow dish, such as a pie plate, whisk together the cornmeal, flour, salt, garlic powder, black pepper and cayenne. In a large bowl, carefully toss the okra with the buttermilk, ensuring the pieces are all coated. Working in batches, use a slotted spoon to remove the okra from the buttermilk, allowing the excess buttermilk to drain. Drop the okra into the cornmeal mixture and spoon the dry ingredients over the okra to coat thoroughly. Rolling the pieces around in the cornmeal mixture also helps ensure an even coating. Transfer the coated okra to a baking sheet (you’ll likely need both to avoid overcrowding), shaking off any excess breading. Every so often, rub off any breading stuck to your fingers to avoid ruining the coating on the pieces as you pick them up.

Partway through coating the okra, pour the oil into a large Dutch oven or other high-sided pot and set it over medium-high heat. Continue to heat the oil to 350 degrees, monitoring with an instant-read thermometer. The oil will take a while to heat up, so you can continue to coat the okra while it warms, but monitor it closely.

Working in batches (10 to 12 okra pieces is a manageable number), gently lower the coated okra into the hot oil with a metal slotted spoon or spider. Cook until dark golden brown and crispy, about 2 minutes, stirring and flipping the okra almost constantly for even browning. You may get some splattering initially, but it should subside after a minute — use a splatter screen as needed. With the slotted spoon or spider, transfer the okra to the prepared platter or baking sheet. Season to taste with kosher salt.

You may need to adjust the heat to maintain the oil temperature, but anywhere from 325 to 360 degrees is acceptable, so don't worry too much about hitting exactly 350.

Let the okra cool for a few minutes, as it's very hot fresh out of the oil, and serve.

NOTE: To reuse the frying oil, let cool completely. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer lined with a paper coffee filter or cheesecloth to remove any solids, and transfer to a lidded container. Store in a cool, dark place. Assuming you strain well and don't burn the oil, you should be able to reuse several times.

VARIATION: To make okra in an air fryer, preheat the machine to 400 degrees. Coat the okra as directed above, then spray the pieces generously with cooking oil spray and cook in batches for about 10 minutes each, or until crisp and golden brown, shaking and coating again with the spray halfway through.

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Recipe Source

Adapted from "Jubilee: Recipes from Two Centuries of African American Cooking," by Toni Tipton-Martin (Clarkson Potter, 2019).

Tested by Becky Krystal.

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Nutritional Facts

Calories per 1/2-cup serving (using low-fat buttermilk): 140

% Daily Values*

Total Fat: 9g 14%

Saturated Fat: 1g 5%

Cholesterol: 2mg 1%

Sodium: 112mg 5%

Total Carbohydrates: 14g 5%

Dietary Fiber: 2g 8%

Sugar: 2g

Protein: 3g

*Percent Daily Value based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Total Fat: Less than 65g

Saturated Fat: Less than 20g

Cholesterol: Less than 300mg

Sodium: Less than 2,400mg

Total Carbohydrates: 300g

Dietary Fiber: 25g

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