Here are the stages of reaction for someone just introduced to fresh okra: What the heck is that thing anyway; ew, it's slimy; and finally, praise for the gospel of hot oil and cornmeal. A quintessential Southern dish, okra fried in a cast iron skillet and served with summer's bounty straight from the garden is a delight. If you've so far relied on your mama to cook it for you and you want to fry okra for the first time on your own, here's a fried okra recipe that takes all the guesswork out of the process.
The key to the best fried okra is using fresh okra. After two or three days in the fridge, okra pods get tough, so cook your okra before that happens. And save the frozen okra for other dishes; for Southern fried okra, fresh works and tastes best.
There's no trick to the prep time work, either. Just slice the okra pods into little rounds, dip them in the buttermilk, dredge them in the cornmeal mixture, and then fry in hot vegetable oil. You can use a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven, and you'll need about two inches of oil in the pan.
Pickled Hot Okra
While you can add other seasonings to the cornmeal and flour mixture, simple is better. Cornmeal, all-purpose flour, salt, black pepper, and a bit of cayenne pepper is the traditional breading for a reason (that reason being it's darn good). The dredging process has the okra go first for a dip in 1/2 cup buttermilk then tossed in the dry ingredients before frying.
Make sure your oil is hot enough before you add the okra pieces to the pan. The total time for frying okra will vary, but when the okra is golden brown and crispy, it's time to dip the pieces out with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Serve this crunchy side dish with any of your other favorite summer veggies straight out of the garden.
- 2 lbs fresh okra, cut into 1/4 or 1/2 inch slices
- 1 cup cornmeal
- 1/2 cup flour
- 1/4 tsp cayenne
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1 egg
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- Frying oil
- Heat about 2 inches of oil in a heavy bottomed skillet or Dutch oven to 350 F.
- In a wide bowl or pie dish, whisk together cornmeal, flour, cayenne, black pepper, and salt.
- In another bowl, beat the egg into the buttermilk.
- Working in batches as needed, dip the okra slices in the buttermilk, then the cornmeal mix, tossing to coat. Add the okra to the hot oil and cook until golden brown.
- Remove to a paper towel lined plate, add extra seasoning as desired, and serve warm.