You’ll linger on familiar memories with the first bite of Sweet Daddy D’s Smothered Okra and Tomatoes. Stewed or Smothered Okra, a traditional favorite of Creole and Cajun cooks, clearly fits in the South Louisiana comfort food category. This simple recipe smothers tender okra, yellow onions, and tomatoes in their own juices. Smoked ham and South Louisiana seasonings round out a comforting flavor. This recipe is perfect with fresh or frozen okra and can be served as a main course or as a side dish.
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Okra in Louisiana
Okra’s popularity in South Louisiana dates back to the West African slaves and was likely introduced during the French colonial days in the early 1700s. It was a common vegetable in slave gardens and most likely added to French bouillabaisse as a thickener. The African word for okra is a derivative of the West African term “gombo” which was adulterated into gumbo and eventually became embedded in Creole culinary nomenclature.
Okra is one of those fringe vegetables (it is technically a fruit, but we will leave that for now) that many people view with a wary eye. It can be slimy, which is off-putting to many people, and it can be tough and woody if left on the plant too long. Young, fresh okra can be tender and delicious and the sliminess can be cooked away. Okra also freezes well, eliminating all of its perceived challenges. This Smothered Okra and Tomatoes recipe’s long slow cooking method and the acid provided by the tomatoes eliminate any slime and render the okra tender and flavorful.
Here's What You Need
Here are some of the key ingredients for this recipe:
Note on Okra: Use fresh or frozen okra for this recipe. Frozen okra does not need to be defrosted before cooking, but make sure there is no ice attached to the okra.
Note on Tomatoes: I used canned whole tomatoes in developing this recipe. You can use canned dice tomatoes or fresh tomatoes that are very ripe, peeled, and seeded. Check out my Lagniappe article on how to peel tomatoes. Prefer No Tomatoes? Add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to add some of the acid missing from the tomatoes.
Note on the Bacon: Use smoked bacon for this recipe. It contributes to the smokey background and the fat provided will be used to fry the onions. Substitute vegetable oil. butter or lard.
Note on the Ham: Use smoked ham for that smokey flavor. Substitutes are Tasso, Smoked Turkey Necks or Wings, or Smoked Ham Hocks or Shanks.
Note on the Creole Seasoning: I developed this recipe using Le Bon Papa Creole Seasoning, a No Salt, No MSG all-purpose Creole and Cajun seasoning. If you use a different product, be sure to check the salt content before adding any additional salt
There is a complete list of ingredients with quantities in the recipe card below.
Here is some of the equipment I used in making this recipe:
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Here's What You Do
First...you have a beer. Prepare your equipment, prepare your ingredients, and prepare yourself. The secret to inner peace? Maybe, maybe not, but it’s a way to minimize angst and enjoy the cooking process more! Drink a beer (or however you get in the right frame of mind) while you read the recipe from top to bottom. Make sure you have the ingredients you need and you know what to do with each one. Then, perform your mise en place and you are ready to go.
Mise en place
- Rinse fresh okra in cold water and pat dry.
- Chop off the stem end (and the tail if you desire).
- Slice the okra into ½” to ¾” medallions.
- Discard the ends and set the okra aside.
- If you are using frozen okra, set them aside in a bowl and don’t worry about defrosting them.
- Roughly chop the onions and garlic and place them in separate bowls.
- Slice the bacon into 1” pieces.
- Dice the ham into bite-size pieces.
- Measure the Creole seasoning, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Canned tomatoes: Drain the tomatoes and reserve the liquid.
- Fresh Tomatoes: Peel and de-seed the tomatoes and place them in a colander to drain.
Let’s get started cooking...how’s your beer?
Build the flavor base
What happens in this step? All good recipes start by building layers of flavor. Bacon and ham will lend a smokey flavor and we'll use the fat to start extracting the flavors from the onions and aromatics.
Place the bacon in a cold Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium. When bacon begins to crisp and the fat is rendered, remove the bacon from the Dutch oven (optionally, leave the bacon in if you prefer).
Add the cubed ham or tasso to the bacon grease and fry it for about 3 minutes. Let the ham sear a little, but stir occasionally to catch all sides.
Add the chopped onions to the bacon grease and ham in the Dutch oven and fry until clear, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the chopped garlic, Creole seasoning, kosher salt, and ground pepper to the onions and cook for about 2 minutes until the garlic is aromatic.
Smother the Okra and Tomatoes
What happens in this step? Okra and tomatoes are added to the flavor foundation, then smothered slowly to draw out and combine the flavors and tenderize the okra.
Increase the heat to medium-high and add the chopped okra to the Dutch oven.
Simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes or until the gooey stuff has cooked out. Stir this regularly and adjust the heat to make sure it does not stick. Add a little chicken stock if needed to keep the okra from sticking and burning.
Pro Tip: Once all the okra is added and starts to simmer, lower the heat. Use a little chicken stock if it looks like the okra is sticking to the bottom.
Add the tomatoes by crushing each one by hand as you add them. The tomatoes will also add liquid to the Dutch oven. Stir to combine all the ingredients. Reduce the heat to maintain a low simmer, cover the Dutch oven and continue to simmer on low for about 10 minutes.
Pro Tip: I like to use whole tomatoes, crushing them by hand as I add them to the Dutch oven. Chopped or diced tomatoes work well, also.
Pro Tip: If you'd prefer to leave out the tomatoes, add a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar or lemon juice to replace some of the acid provided by the tomatoes.
Remove the cover and simmer for another 20 minutes, or until the okra is very tender and soft, stirring often so it does not stick. If the liquid is evaporating, add a little of the reserved tomato liquid or more stock. Taste for seasoning and continue to simmer, uncovered until the okra is tender.
That’s it, all there is to it. Serve immediately as a side dish or over rice as a main course.
Hints and Tips (FAQ)
Absolutely! Frozen, cut okra is great in this recipe and will not need to be defrosted before adding to the Dutch oven. Good producers will use young okra and excellent freezing methods. Using frozen okra can be a great time saver and makes this recipe an option year-round. Frozen Okra is always in season!
Leftover Smothered Okra can be kept in the fridge for 3 to 5 days or frozen for up to 10 months. For best results, whether preparing for the fridge or the freezer, make sure to let the smothered okra cool to room temperature before placing it in an airtight container. If freezing, store the smothered okra in shallow dishes or vacuum-sealed bags. Defrost overnight in the fridge and then reheat in a saucepan over medium heat or in the microwave.
Okra has gained some of its infamous reputation from its sometimes gooey or slimy “mouthfeel” and its potential for being tough or fibrous. Okra pods are termed “mucilaginous” meaning they contain “mucilage, " which produces that sliminess. On the plus side, the mucilage also contains digestible soluble fiber. In this recipe, the slimness is eliminated by the long cooking method and the acid provided by the tomatoes. Older pods, not harvested when they are young can be very fibrous and tough. That long cooking method will also help that. Full disclosure...I have encountered some okra that is so fibrous and woody that I never did cook them tender. That's when frozen okra may be the better option.
It can be either. It’s a side dish perfect with just about anything, or it can be served as the main course. If serving as a main dish, consider adding shrimp and serving it over rice. If adding shrimp, peel and clean the raw shrimp and sprinkle them with Creole seasoning during the preparation stage. Add the shrimp during the last 10 minutes of cooking. You could also add more ham to the recipe if serving as a main.
That depends on a few factors, mainly the okra itself. In this recipe, the okra cooks for about an hour (that's just the time the okra is in the Dutch oven, not the total cooking time). The best result is when the okra somewhat breaks down and is extremely tender. If the okra is young and fresh, this is usually enough time, but it may take a little longer if the okra is a little bigger. Test a sample and continue cooking until it's as tender as you like it.
Sure, just leave out the bacon and ham (obviously) and use vegetable oil, olive oil, or margarine in place of the bacon grease. There will be a slight variation in the flavor profile from the original recipe, but it will still be delicious.
Absolutely. Okra is low in calories and contains no saturated fats or cholesterol. It’s a great source of dietary fiber, many essential minerals, and important vitamins. In the silver-lining department, the mucilage substance actually provides some important digestive help. To read more about the nutrition and health benefits of okra, check out this article on 7 Impressive Nutritional Facts about Okra.
What should you serve Smothered Okra with?
Other great SIDE DISHES from Sweet Daddy D:
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Yeah You Right!
Smothered Okra and Tomatoes
Here's What You Need
- 3 slices bacon chopped into 1" pieces
- ½ pound smoked ham cubed. See Notes
- 2 cups yellow onions rough chop-about 2 medium
- 1 tablespoon garlic chopped about 3 cloves
- 4 cups okra sliced. See Notes
- 28 ounce whole peeled tomatoes drained, retain liquid. See Notes
- 1 cup chicken stock optional
Herb and Spice Blend
- 1 tablespoon Creole seasoning
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon Ground black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
Here's What You Do
- Rinse the okra in cold water, then chop in ½” to ¾" medallions.
- Roughly chop the onions and garlic. Slice the bacon into 1” pieces; dice the ham into bite-size pieces.
- Drain the tomatoes if using canned. If using fresh, peel and de-seed the tomatoes. Place tomatoes in a colander to drain.
For the Smothered Okra
- Place the bacon in a cold Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium. Fry the bacon until the fat has rendered, then remove it from the pan but leave the grease. About 5 minutes.
- Add the smoked ham to the bacon grease and fry for about 3 minutes.
- Add the onions to the Dutch oven and fry until clear, about 5 to 8 minutes.
- Add the chopped garlic, Creole seasoning, kosher salt, ground pepper, and cayenne (if using). Stir well and cook for about 2 minutes, until the garlic is aromatic.
- Add the sliced okra to the onions and cook, uncovered, until the gooey stuff is gone. This will take about 30 minutes. Stir often, adjust the heat, and add a little stock if needed to keep the okra from sticking.
- Mix in the tomatoes, cover the Dutch oven, and continue to cook for about 10, minutes. See Notes
- Remove the cover and simmer for another 20 minutes, stirring often. Add some of the reserved tomato liquid or stock if needed.
- Taste for seasoning and continue to simmer, uncovered until the okra is tender.
This recipe was originally published in July 2020. It is republished here with improved images, navigation, and instructions.