Okra is a versatile vegetable you can easily incorporate into many recipes across various cuisines. The most common way to eat okra in Africa is in soup or stew. However, there are still plenty of other ways to enjoy this tasty treat.
1. African Okro Soup
Okra (sometimes referred to as okro) soups are one of the best ways to work okra into your diet. This tasty African soup is quick, easy, healthy, and packed full of protein. The main ingredients in this dish are okra, spinach, crayfish or shrimp, oxtail, and egusi, which are a type of seed.
Since the specific egusi seeds can be tough to find, this recipe suggests using pumpkin seeds instead.
The pumpkin seeds do a great job of adding texture to the soup. However, if you want to cut calories, you can omit them. Likewise, if oxtail isn’t your favorite, you can swap it out and use beef in its place.
The seasoning for this soup is what makes it stand out. It’s a simple mix of crushed red pepper, smoked paprika, and salt and pepper, but it packs a considerable punch. As far as simplicity goes, this soup has it all.
2. African-Spiced Black Barley with Okra and Tomatoes
When it comes to grains, barley is one that often doesn’t get much attention. It’s delicious and can add a lot to any dish, so if you’re looking for a good substitute for rice, barley’s it. The Ethiopian black barley in this African okra dish is a hearty, filling grain that really pulls the ingredients together.
This dish has a great mix of spices, with cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and cayenne providing a flavorful kick to the okra, barley, and tomatoes. There’s no added protein on the ingredient list, as this is intended to be a vegetarian meal. It’s tasty on its own, but you could certainly include shredded chicken or lamb if you want to bulk it up a bit.
3. Okro Soup With Spinach
Chef Lola deviates a bit from the traditional okra soup in her Okro Soup recipe. Instead of the standard beef, she’s opted for turkey legs combined with shrimp and dried fish. Combined, you’ll get a protein-packed soup that’ll make for great leftovers.
This soup has a bit of a kick, so if you want something a bit spicy, this is a great choice. The habanero turns the heat up a few levels. However, if you don’t like your soup too spicy, you can choose a cooler pepper, such as jalapeno, or omit the spicy ingredient entirely.
The other nice thing about this soup is that it gives you a good dose of veggies. Onion, bell pepper, and spinach join the okra to provide all your vitamin and nutrient needs.
4. Vegan Ghanaian Okra Stew
You don’t have to be a vegan to love this meatless okra stew. Although this recipe follows the common thread of lengthy ingredient lists for vegan dishes, they’re absolutely worth it to get the delicious flavor.
This soup is full of a mix of veggies, spices, and other surprising flavors that meld together perfectly. You’ll find ginger, scotch bonnet, fresh tomatoes, mushrooms, a stellar mix of seasonings, and tofu for a nice protein-packed boost.
What’s nice about this recipe is that you can adapt it to your whims. For example, if you love all the flavors but aren’t crazy about tofu, you can add shrimp or beef as your protein of choice. To lower the heat, simply leave out the scotch bonnet. And if you’re not a fan of eggplant, just double up on your mushrooms, spinach, and onions.
5. Bamya Bil Lahme (Egyptian Okra Meat Stew)
This North African delicacy is a hearty stew with a history stretching back thousands of years. When a recipe makes it through that many generations, you know it has to be great.
The most common meat for this recipe is lamb, but if you’re not a fan, you can use beef instead. The mix of cumin, coriander, and the surprising taste of lemon juice make this stew stand out as one of the best African okra recipes on this list.
Bamya Bil Lahme is a thicker stew, so you won’t use much liquid for this one. It makes for great leftovers and tastes ideal served over some fluffy rice or a loaf of crusty bread.
6. Skillet-Roasted Okra and Shrimp
This dish is an adaptation from Virginia Willis’ cookbook, Okra. It combines many of the ingredients you’ll find in typical African okra soup recipes but in skillet form. The ingredients get sauteed up on their own or in small groups, which allows each individual flavor to shine through in the dish.
The main protein here is shrimp, which gives it a lighter flavor. The seasoning is pretty limited, with just crushed red pepper, salt, and pepper that works really well to enhance the shrimp’s flavor without overpowering it. However, what’s nice is that you can adjust the heat however you’d like by adding more or less crushed red pepper.
The other nice thing about this dish is that it’s easy to adapt to your own tastes. So, if you don’t like shrimp, you can substitute a different protein without sacrificing anything. You can serve it up over a bed of rice or leafy greens.
7. Okro Soup
This Nigerian version of the classic okra soup is high in protein, nutrients, and flavor. The star of this dish, aside from the okra, is the smoked catfish, which provides a warm, smoky flavor that’s simply out of this world.
In addition, you’ll get the rich flavors of goat meat, a dark meat that’s high in healthy fats and protein. What’s best about this soup is that it focuses heavily on protein. Although the bell peppers and okra are essential for the soup’s flavor, the catfish and goat meat really make this soup meal-sized.
The key to maximizing flavor in this soup is cooking the meat in bouillon then using that liquid as the base for your soup. However, if you simply cook the meat in a pan, you can increase your seasonings when you put your ingredients together.
8. Spicy West African Okra
This simple Spicy West African Okra is a great side dish for meat or as an addition to a plate of rice, leafy greens, or barley. It’s easily the most straightforward recipe on this list, taking only about 20 minutes to prepare and using only a handful of ingredients.
The only seasoning that spices up this okra is cayenne, salt, and pepper. However, you can definitely play with the flavors a bit and increase the heat, add a little cumin, or throw in a scotch bonnet or habanero to kick up the heat a bit more.
9. West African-Style Peanut and Okra Stew
This okra stew recipe is a bit of a Western twist on the traditional African staple. It has a lot of things you’ll find in other variations of okra stew, including tomatoes, red pepper flakes, onion, and garlic. However, the chef took those and shook things up by adding peanut butter, sweet potatoes, ginger, and white cabbage.
You’ll notice there’s a distinct lack of protein in this dish. That’s alright. The peanut butter and sweet potatoes offer a lot of protein on their own. This chunky stew is delicious all year round. Still, the distinct sweet potato flavor makes it perfect for warming up in the winter.
To give this dish an extra dash of flavor and more texture, you can garnish it with scallions and chopped peanuts.
10. West African Beans and Okra
There’s nothing quite like a good bean side dish for a meal. This okra, green beans, and black-eyed pea combination is no exception. It’s the perfect accompaniment to any meal or mixed with some seasoned rice.
Onion, cayenne, and thyme provide the bulk of the flavor for this dish, as well as fresh tomatoes. The instructions call for you to mash up the black-eyed peas a bit, which is a good idea if you want the dish to hold together. However, if you’re going to combine it with rice or prefer your legumes whole, you can skip the mashing.
This is another dish that gives you a lot of wiggle room to adjust flavors. It really doesn’t need any adjustments, but you can certainly add in some crushed red pepper if you want an added kick of heat.
11. Okra Sauce/Soup African Style
The Okra Sauce on Recipe From a Pantry falls between a soup, stew, and sauce. It’s a thick, tasty concoction that’s delicious on its own or over a bed of rice or with some nice, crusty bread. In other words, it’s the perfect substitute for your standard beef stew.
This is a standard recipe that doesn’t have a terribly extensive ingredient list. The main protein is beef, but you could substitute another option if you’d prefer not to do red meat. It also calls for eggplant and a dash of dried fish flakes to add a nice, hearty flavor. Finally, if you like heat, the scotch bonnet peppers will leave your mouth tingling.
12. Traditional Zimbabwean Okra
This vibrant green dish is chock full of flavor and perfect for dipping. What makes it stand out is that the okra is only cooked for a few minutes. In total, the okra will be in boiling water for a maximum of eight minutes. This quick cook time will help minimize the common sliminess you often encounter with cooked okra while also giving it a bright green color.
If you don’t like spicy foods, you can simply leave the chilies out of the dish. However, consider tossing in some garlic to make up for that loss of flavor. For best results, serve this with some sadza, another traditional Zimbabwean dish.
13. West African Beef, Plantain, and Okra Stew
This tasty West African Okra stew has a fun twist that you don’t find in the others–the surprising taste of plantains. Combined with the sweet potatoes included in the recipe, you’ll get a unique, semi-sweet flavor that’s nothing like other okra stews. The plantain also adds a nice hint of starchiness that balances out the gel-like texture of the okra.
This stew gets a lot of flavor from the sweet potato and plantain, but you’ll also enjoy the hints of mustard and coriander seeds, along with cilantro and cumin. Overall, this is a delicious stew that has no substitute.
Easy African Okra Recipes, Final Thoughts
Okra is a delicious, versatile vegetable that you can work into many everyday dishes. However, the best way to prepare it is in a traditional African recipe like those listed here. Once you’ve tried your hand at existing recipes, you can start coming up with your own exciting ways of incorporating okra into your regular menu.