Although okra is commonly used as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit. It is among the Abelmoschus esculentus plants, which makes it a fruit and not the veggie that most people think.
Also known as lady finger because of its long, slender shape similar to a lady’s finger, okra is often used in salads. It can also be fried and served as a side dish. As a cooking ingredient, it is used to add flavor to dishes and to thicken stews and soups.
The veggie is common in warm climate areas like India, Africa, and the Caribbean. You can buy okra either in frozen or canned form, but it is best used when fresh to get the best flavor out of the fruit.
Did you know…
although okra is commonly used as a vegetable, it is actually a fruit?
Okra provides a grassy undertone, and this is what helps in thickening the dish. When cooked slowly, it becomes quite tender, but it acquires a crunchy texture when cooked quickly.
Okra comes with a lot of health benefits. It is known to fight cancer, support brain and heart health, helps control blood sugar levels, and provides prenatal support, among others.
It is a rich source of vitamins, fiber, antioxidants and other nutrients like magnesium, folate, niacin and thiamine. Thus, it is a kitchen staple in many households today.
However, there may be times when you need okra, but you have none available. Don’t worry as there are many suitable replacements for the ingredient, depending on the dish you are preparing and what you want okra to provide.
15 Best Substitute For Okra Or Lady Finger
Whether you need to thicken your soup or stew, or you want to provide your dish with okra’s mildly sweet, grassy flavor, you can achieve the desired flavor profile – even without okra.
Following are 15 of the best substitutes you can use in lieu of okra:
Quite a popular vegetable, asparagus can be a good replacement for okra in various dishes. When coated and fried, it may provide a bit of different taste from okra, but it offers the same nice texture with a bit of crunch.
You can use asparagus as a substitute for okra as a veggie side dish or snack. You can also fry it and serve as an appetizer.
If you need an immediate substitute for okra in your jambalaya dish, you are in luck if you have summer squash on hand. Just cube the vegetable and use it as you would use okra.
Because summer squash is considered as an authentic jambalaya ingredient, it is not a bad idea to use it. While its color and flavor are different from okra, summer squash will add a special flavor to your dish that is uniquely its own.
If you need a substitute for okra that you intend to use as a thickener, then xanthan gum will be a good fit. While it is not a popular home cooking ingredient, xanthan gum is often used by large food manufacturers for various consumer products like gluten-free cake mixes and ice cream
Yes, a packet of xanthan gam may be expensive, but you do not need a lot for your recipe. Just a small amount of the okra substitute will be enough to thicken your dish.
Xanthan gum will thicken your stew or soup dish without altering the flavor. It is also a widely available product that you can find in many health food and grocery stores.
The ability of okra to thicken dishes like stews, gumbo, and jambalaya, among others has been well-proven. When you need a thickening agent in your dish but you don’t have any okra available, don’t fret – as long as you have some corn-starch in your pantry.
Corn starch comes in powder form, just like flour. When used as an okra substitute to thicken your dish, corn starch will not change the flavor of your food. Aside from okra, corn starch can also ably replace rice flour in recipes.
Okra is often used to thicken Gumbo. If you need an okra alternative for this purpose, you can try Gumbo file.
The amazing sassafras leaves are ground to produce a fine powder that you can use as an herb. You can then put the powder into your gumbo. Note that its root beer-like flavor may be an acquired taste, and may not immediately appeal to everyone.
To substitute gumbo file for okra in your recipe, use the ½:1 substitution ratio. This means ½ tablespoon of the powder for every cup of sliced okra required.
Another okra alternative to use in your recipes, and one that is easily accessible is zucchini. Like okra, zucchini is also a fruit, although both are commonly used as veggies.
One of the advantages of zucchini is its versatility. You can cook it in various ways, and use it in many recipes.
Arrowroot is similar to corn starch in many ways. You can use it to thicken your dishes in the absence of okra, and achieve the desired texture.
The ingredient comes from the powdered root of Maranta arundinacea, a tropical plant. To thicken any dish, all you need is to use a small amount of the powder.
Arrowroot doesn’t alter the flavor, and only thickens the dish. This makes it an ideal substitute for okra whenever you need a thickener.
The cooking ingredient has long been a popular thickening choice because of its medicinal benefits. You can also get arrowroot from tapioca, another natural food thickener.
Like okra, green beans are highly versatile – you can boil, grill, broil, fry, or even sauté them. You can even use them to substitute for okra in various recipes, but expect a different taste as green beans offer a distinct flavor.
Green beans, even when not substituting for other ingredients, can be used in myriads of recipes. Just make sure to cook the beans just a bit so they will retain their nice crunch.
Potato flour is produced from dehydrated potatoes. And like okra, you can use it to thicken your stew or soup recipes.
The substitute ingredient comes with a natural flavor, and offers the same okra consistency when mixed together with a liquid like water. Depending on the dish you are preparing, you can combine potato flour with other types of flour such as all-purpose flour or rice flour.
One of the well-kept secrets used in many cooking styles – Creole, Cajun, and French, among others – is roux. The ingredient is simply a thickening agent made from browned butter.
You can quickly make roux at home whenever you suddenly find you don’t have any okra available, and you need an immediate replacement.
To make roux, mix flour and butter in equal parts. Melt the butter first, then mix the flour in. This will produce a paste-like substance. You can add broth or milk to thin down the mixture a bit.
The color of your roux ranges from off-white to dark brown. This will depend on how you make the roux.
Nopales come from a type of cactus called Prickly Pear. They are the plant’s edible pad portions. The ingredient is a common fixture in Mexican cooking.
When you are in need of a suitable veggie substitute for okra, among the best options are Nopales. Nopal offers a fresh flavor, although some people may find it a bit tart.
When added to any dish, expect nopales to bring a distinct fresh flavor. Try this substitute ingredient if you want to experience something extraordinary in your ordinary dish.
You can use broccoli florets or cut broccoli into chunks if you need an able okra replacement. The florets are ideal when you are preparing a large pot of gumbo or for your Jambalaya recipe.
Broccoli is a generous source of fiber and lots of other nutrients. Although the vegetable has the ability to thicken dishes, it is best known for its awesome taste.
One common substitute to okra that is often not considered when looking for alternatives to use in jambalaya or gumbo is the eggplant.
Instead, as an okra replacement ingredient, the eggplant is often added into dishes like pasta. Just make sure to cook it to make the delectable mellow flavor come out.
Eggplants are also known for their versatility. You can use them as a veggie side dish, or cooked in different ways. You can eat them cooked or raw, although the veggie may not be as tasty as you might prefer if you eat it raw.
Lentils are currently getting widely popular. They share many similarities with beans. They also taste great and can be used to help thicken certain dishes.
The vegetable comes in different colors – red, green, and brown. Thus, you have color options when you want your dish to be of a certain color.
Green lentils have the same color as okra. This is why green lentils are often used as substitute to okra in many dishes.
One of the best things about using lentils is, if you do not badly need a thickener for your dish, you can separately cook the lentils. You can just add them to the dish later.
However, if your dish needs a little bit of thickening, you can cook the lentils together with the rest of the ingredients. This will give the lentils enough time to blend in well with the other ingredients.
Fresh Okra (to substitute for Frozen Okra in Slow Cooker)
Many on-the-go people and busy families today depend heavily on slow cookers for their regular fare. Because they don’t have time to shop for fresh ingredients often, they use frozen ingredients most of the time.
However, putting frozen okra into the slow cooker may result in excessive liquid in the dish. This is one instance when using fresh okra instead of frozen is ideal.
When cooked in a crock pot or slow cooker, okra’s earthy flavor will remain. On the other hand, using frozen okra may result in a much more watered down version of your dish, which is obviously less pleasant and not satisfying to eat.