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Southern Recipes: Spicy Pickled Okra

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How to Cook Okra and Okra Recipes

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Of all the Southern recipes and ingredients I might love okra the most. I love this vegetable so much I wrote a book about it. Yup, a few years ago, I wrote an entire book about okra!

However, folks are confused. Excited, they gasp, “You wrote a book about Oprah?! OMG! Did you get to meet her?”

“No”, I reply, “I wrote a book about Okra.” The humble, oft-maligned vegetable, not the  celebrated media mogul…..

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The book is part of the Savor the South® series by UNC Press. Each cookbook in the collection is a celebration of a beloved food or tradition of the American South. I have to tell you, I had lots of choices regarding Southern ingredients – sweet potatoes, pecans, catfish, and bourbon. I wanted to write about it, because, as I say in the very first sentence of the book, okra is a contentious vegetable. Folks love it or hate it. There are very few people in the middle.

My little book has 50 recipes, yes, 50!! The first half come from the Southern kitchen and range from old-fashioned to chef-chic. The second half of the recipes spans the globe. Okra grows best where it is hot. We begin our journey in Africa. Then, I follow the slender pod around the globe starting in the Mediterranean, including Egypt. Greece, Turkey, Morocco, and Iran. We then travel to India, a large country with many regions and styles of cuisine. We make a brief stop in Malaysian for a quick stir-fry. Lastly, we travel to the Caribbean and to South America. Whether you are an avid fan or a recent convert I am certain you will find recipes you and your family will savor. It got a lot of attention including these pieces in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Timesand  the Chicago Tribune!

For information on buying my book, please click HERE.

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10 Slime Busting Tips

The proverbial elephant in the room is the slime. When I was writing the book, my editor didn’t want me to use the word “slime” and suggested the word mucilaginous. Well, I’m not too sure that sounds any better. The mucilage is a type of soluble digestible fiber. In the plant it aids in water storage, prevents the seed from drying out, and assists with seed germination. Here are my ten tips on busting slime, or um, mucilage.

  1. Choose small pods.
  2. Wash and dry okra “very, very thoroughly.”
  3. Cook whole pods instead of chopped okra. Adjust cooking time, if necessary.
  4. Wipe the knife clean after each slice when cutting up okra.
  5. Add tomato, lemon juice, vinegar, wine or some other acid when cooking.
  6. Don’t overcook.
  7. Don’t crowd the pan when cooking.
  8. Cook it quickly over high heat.
  9. Don’t cover when cooking.
  10. Cook the vegetable separately, and add it to the finished dish.

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Worldwide Appeal

I am sharing with you a recipe for Spicy Pickled Okra. Pickling the contentious vegetable minimizes the slime, the elephant in the room. Folks that love it don’t mind the slime. My mother cooks it until it’s more akin to a vegetal oyster and will very nearly slide down your throat on its own volition. I like it that way, too. The deal is, folks that love okra love it any which way – pickled, boiled, grilled, fried, steamed – you name it, we like it. The other bonus of pickled okra is that it’s great as a garnish for a martini — and bobbing in a glass of vodka can usually coerce people to at least try it.

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Okra Recipes

Here’s are a handful of okra recipes for your enjoyment! Please share your favorite recipe ideas in the comments. Thanks so much for reading.

Bon Appétit Y’all!
Virginia Willis

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Spicy Pickled Okra


  • 2 pounds medium okra pods
  • 4  small dried chiles
  • 2  teaspoons yellow mustard seed
  • 1  teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 8 cloves garlic peeled
  • 4 cups distilled white vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons pickling salt


  • Wash the okra and trim the stems to 1/2 inch. Place 1 chile, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seed, 1/4 teaspoon peppercorns, and 2 cloves of garlic in the bottom of each of 4 sterilized pint-sized canning jars. Divide the okra evenly among the jars, placing the pods vertically, alternating stems up and down.
  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, bring the vinegar, water, and salt to a boil. Carefully pour the boiling mixture over the okra in the jars, leaving 1/4 inch of headroom between the top of the liquid and the lid. Seal the lids.
  • Process the jars in a boiling-water canner for 15 minutes. Store the unopened jars at room temperature for up to 1 year. Once the jars are opened, store in the refrigerator for up to 1 month.
  • Variation: For refrigerator pickles, skip the boiling-water canner and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Please be nice. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without permission is prohibited. Feel free to excerpt and link, just give credit where credit is due and send folks to my website, Thanks so much.

Want to keep up with my culinary wanderings and wonderings? Lets connect on  Facebook , Twitter, Instagram, and Pinterest.

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Cornmeal Cakes photo by Helene Dujardin

All other photos by Virginia Willis

Please note that this post may contain affiliate links.

Virginia Willis

Georgia-born French-trained Chef Virginia Willis’ biography includes making chocolate chip cookies with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, foraging for berries in the Alaskan wilderness, harvesting capers in the shadow of a smoldering volcano in Sicily, and hunting for truffles in France. She is talent and chef-instructor for the digital streaming platform Food Network Kitchen. Her segments feature authentic and innovative Southern cooking. She was the celebrity chef at the Mansion at Churchill Downs for the 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby. Virginia has spoken at SXSW, cooked for the James Beard Foundation, and beguiled celebrities such as Bill Clinton, Morgan Freeman, and Jane Fonda with her cooking — but it all started in her grandmother’s country kitchen. Recently, her work has been inspired by her weight loss success story, Virginia has lost 65# and kept it off for over 2 1/2 years! “If a French-trained, Southern chef can do it, you can, too.” She is the author of Fresh Start; Secrets of the Southern Table; Lighten Up, Y’all; Bon Appétit, Y’all; Basic to Brilliant, Y’all; Okra; and Grits. Lighten Up, Y’all won a James Beard Foundation Award of Excellence in the Focus on Health Category. Lighten Up, Y’all as well as her first cookbook, Bon Appétit, Y’all, were finalists in the Best American Cookbook for the International Association of Cookbook Awards and were also named by the Georgia Center of the Book as “Books Georgians Should Read.” She is the former TV kitchen director for Martha Stewart Living, Bobby Flay, and Nathalie Dupree; has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants; and traveled the world producing food stories – from making cheese in California to escargot farming in France. She has appeared on Food Network’s Chopped, CBS This Morning, Fox Family and Friends, Martha Stewart Living, and as a judge on Throwdown with Bobby Flay. She’s been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post, People Magazine, Eater, and Food52 and has contributed to Eating Well, GRLSQUASH, Culture, Garden & Gun, and Bon Appétit, and more. The Chicago Tribune praised her as one of “Seven Food Writers You Need to Know.” Her legion of fans loves her down-to-earth attitude, approachable spirit, and traveling exploits. Her culinary consulting company, Virginia Willis Culinary Enterprises, Inc specializes in content creation, recipe development, culinary editorial and production services, cookbook writing, media training, spokesperson and brand representation, and public speaking. Virginia is on the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Blue Ribbon Task Force, the Atlanta Community Food Bank Advisory Board, as well as the Community Farmers Market Advisory Board. She is a food and hunger advocate for No Kid Hungry and a premier member of the No Kid Hungry Atlanta Society. She a member of The James Beard Foundation, Chef’s Collaborative, Georgia Organics, and Southern Foodways Alliance.

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