Okra has been a lifelong love-hate relationship…and, until recently, hate always won. I’ve finally learned to sort of love it with Fried Okra Salad
I was a very picky eater as a kid, especially when it came to vegetables. I either loved them or hated them. Okra was quite possibly #1 on the hate list. My parents are from Trinidad, and the 2 ways they ate it turned me off from the start. At home, they usually steamed it, which resulted in a very slimy texture. In Trinidad, one of the most popular dishes is callaloo, basically an okra stew. Nope, no thanks. One night my dad told me I couldn’t leave the dinner table until I ate one piece of okra. I decided the seeds caused the bad taste, and that I couldn’t try a bite until I removed every single seed. Not sure how long it took, but when I got up from the table the result was Karyl=1, Dad=0.
I honestly never gave okra another thought until I moved to Oklahoma, and learned about fried okra. Since there’s no such thing as bad fried food, I decided to be adventurous and give it a chance. Fried okra was okay, depending on the restaurant.
Pinterest is my go-to for recipes, and they literally have recipes for every single thing you can imagine. I came across a recipe for Fried Okra Salad, and it sounded like a great combination of flavors. And it has bacon. No recipe can be wrong when there’s bacon involved.
Okay, I admit it…I really like Fried Okra Salad! I love the mix of bell peppers, and I added red onion because I add onion to everything. The tomatoes add a wonderful burst of sweetness, and the bacon adds a great salty bite and contrast in texture.
The first time I made Fried Okra Salad I used frozen okra because I couldn’t find any fresh in the produce section. Then a few months later I was at the Dallas Farmer’s Market, and found some gorgeous okra. Honestly, I cannot tell a big difference in taste between frozen and fresh okra once it’s fried. But fresh okra just looks so pretty
This Fried Okra Salad recipe uses buttermilk, rather than egg, for the okra. The okra soaks in the buttermilk for 10-15 minutes prior to breading. I had never cooked with buttermilk before I discovered this recipe, so it opened up a whole new world to me. The buttermilk tenderizes the okra slightly, and adds a nice tang flavor.
The original Fried Okra Salad recipe calls for equal portions of flour and cornmeal for the breading, but I have found that I prefer more cornmeal for a better texture. The original recipe also only calls for salt and garlic powder, but that doesn’t add enough of a flavor punch for me so I also add onion powder, paprika, and cayenne.
Learning to fry okra properly in a skillet has definitely been a learning curve. I don’t put enough oil at the start, and when I add extra oil halfway through it makes the okra greasy. Or, I turn up the heat too high, so the oil smokes and the okra burns. Then I think I have the heat just right, but then I leave it too long and the okra burns. Finally, on this most recent attempt, I got it just about perfect. You will lose some of the breading in the skillet, but that’s okay. Besides, those crispy bits are fabulous all by themselves.
About 2 years ago my friend Dianne introduced me to Lucero Balsamic Vinegar. It is this rich, divine balsamic that is so much better than anything I’ve found at the grocery store. It is pricey, but a little goes a very long way. I drizzle the Fried Okra Salad with the balsamic vinegar just before I eat it. It is fabulous.
I really need to do a better job of keeping Fried Okra Salad in my meal rotations. It is such a simple dish, you can easily use frozen okra when fresh isn’t available, and it is delicious.
Adapted from SusieQTpies Cafe
Fried Okra Salad
- 1 lb Okra, cut into 1/2" pieces
- 1/2 cup buttermilk
- 4 slices bacon
- 1 Tablespoon flour
- 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon Freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup red onion, diced
- 1/2 cup each green, red and yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 12 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 teaspoon high quality balsamic vinegar
- canola or vegetable oil, for frying
- 2 spring onions, cut into small pieces
Combine okra and buttermilk in bowl. Let soak for 15 minutes. Drain buttermilk
Combine flour, cornstarch, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, salt and pepper
Dredge okra in flour mixture. Make sure all sides of okra are evenly coated
In large skillet over medium heat, cook bacon. When you have reached your desired level of done, remove and drain on paper towels. Reserve bacon fat in skillet
Add enough canola or vegetable oil to have enough oil to fry okra. The amount of oil is up to you. To pan-fry the okra, you will need about 1/4" depth. For more of a deep fry, you will need about 1/2" to 3/4" depth
When oil is hot, add okra. Don't disturb the okra for 2-3 minutes. You want to make sure each side gets a golden crust, but that it does not burn. Turn okra pieces to other sides and follow the same procedure
When okra is fully cooked, remove from oil and drain
Add okra, peppers, onions, and tomatoes in a large bowl, and stir well to combine. Portion into serving bowls. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and top with spring onions
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