The classic southern side dish of stewed okra and tomatoes is lightened up with an easy and refreshing spin in this recipe. Simplified to just a handful of ingredients, this comforting dish is one you’ll fall back to time and time again.
As someone who wasn’t always into okra, I fell deeply for it after making these air fryer okra fries.
They’re crunchy, crispy and perfectly seasoned and if you’re someone who is turned off by their “slime”, it’s the perfect recipe to change your mind on the vegetable.
But after eating it almost exclusively that way for months (there were a few okra cornmeal cakes too), I decided to play around with the more traditional approach to okra by stewing it with tomatoes.
It’s a classic side dish you can find almost anywhere in the south and while it usually involves bacon (or at least bacon grease), I chose to both simplify and lighten it up with this spin.
Despite what the word “stewed” might imply, this is a relatively quick recipe without any of the involvement a traditional stew might require.
Fresh okra (although you can use frozen too), canned tomatoes, onions, garlic, a few simple spices and a nice squeeze of lemon juice come together deliciously making this a side dish perfect for almost any meal.
INGREDIENTS TO MAKE STEWED OKRA AND TOMATOES
- fresh or frozen okra, chopped into rounds
- yellow onion
- olive oil
- canned diced tomatoes
- salt & pepper
- water or broth
- parsley for garnish
Okra – if it’s summer and you can find fresh okra, I like it best in this recipe. However, frozen okra is convenient and it can definitely be used as well. No need to thaw it, just add to the skillet from frozen and it will thaw quickly while it cooks. It’s a great out-of-season option because this is a dish you’re going to want to make year round!
Olive oil – traditionally, stewed okra is made with bacon grease but olive oil is a nice heart healthy swap and my go-to for this recipe since bacon grease isn’t always something I have on hand. Feel free to use either.
Tomatoes – if you’d rather opt for fresh tomatoes (especially during the summer months), go ahead!
Cooking liquid – water or broth can be used in this recipe. Obviously, broth provides a little more flavor than water. Either vegetable or chicken broth are both good options.
HOW TO COOK THIS OKRA & TOMATO RECIPE
Start the dish by heating the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Once hot, add the onions and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes until softened, stirring frequently so the garlic doesn’t burn.
Add the chopped okra, salt, pepper and paprika and cook for an additional 7-8 minutes.
Pour the water (or broth) and tomatoes into the pan, stir to combine then cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer and let the mixture cook (technically this is the “stewing” part) for about 20 minutes.
Squeeze the fresh lemon juice into the skillet then turn off the heat and stir to combine. Garnish with fresh parsley before serving.
WHAT DOES OKRA PAIR WELL WITH?
Okra and tomatoes seem to be a well established pair. I also like it in a stir-fry type of dish with things like onions, rice, beef, peppers and even eggplant.
This end of summer vegetable bean skillet would be a great recipe to throw some seasonal okra into!
The other ingredient often used with okra is vinegar. In this recipe, we use lemon juice for the acidic component instead of vinegar but if you don’t have any lemons on hand, a splash of vinegar would also do the trick.
I don’t know if it’s just a southern thing (because it’s also frequently done with collard greens) or coincidence, but vinegar works magic at balancing out the flavors in dishes with both vegetables.
IS OKRA AND TOMATOES GOOD FOR YOU?
With the handful of healthier swaps made in this recipe, this is definitely a healthy side dish you can feel good about eating.
It’s packed with vitamins, fiber and monounsaturated fat from the olive oil – all good things!
HOW TO SERVE OKRA AND TOMATO STEW
For a lighter meal, it can simply be spooned over cooked rice.
Or, pile it into a larger bowl and serve with some homemade gluten-free vegan cornbread. That’s a true southern combination right there!
If you’re a hot sauce person, this is a dish that tastes delicious with a few splashes of your favorite sauce.
You can also add to the dish by including corn or another summer vegetable like wax beans. Both are in season at the same time as okra.
Stewed okra and tomatoes is a timeless dish and there’s one simple reason why – it’s just darn good. It’s comfort food without being too involved and it’s good for you too!
MORE RECIPES LIKE THIS TO TRY:
Stewed Okra and Tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 15 ounces canned diced tomatoes
- ½ cup water, or broth
- juice of half a lemon
- Place the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
- Once hot, add the onions and garlic. Cook for about 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened and fragrant.
- Add the okra, salt, pepper, paprika to the skillet and cook for an additional 7- 8 minutes.
- Pour the water and tomatoes into the pan, stir to combine then cover with a lid and bring to a boil. Let the mixture simmer for about 20 minutes on low heat, stirring occasionally.
- Add the lemon juice right before turning off the heat, stir and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.