Substitute for Okra: What Can You Use?

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If eating okra brings back memories of Simba from The Lion King saying, “slimy yet satisfying,” then you aren’t the only one. Okra can be very tasty, but sometimes the sliminess can be off-putting.

So is there a substitute for okra, and what can you use?

Okra has several tasty and easy-to-source substitutes, such as green beans, broccoli florets, zucchini, eggplant, and summer squash, all with similar taste profiles. Substitutes such as filé powder, corn starch, and xanthan gum are excellent substitutes to thicken soups and stews.

If you love Gumbo but you’re struggling to source okra, then this guide will provide you with all the best substitutes that you’ll need (including some slime-free options).

What Is Okra?

Okra or Okro is the edible seed pod from the flowering plant Abelmoschus esculentus. When you break open the green pod, you’ll see small white seeds with a tubelike shape. 

The seeds are fondly known as lady’s fingers due to their long and slender shape.

The okra plant is a hairy plant from the mallow family that thrives in humid climates. Although okra is served and eaten as a vegetable, it’s a fruit.

Okra has a grassy, mild flavor, often compared to green beans or aubergine (eggplant). When the seeds are pan-seared quickly, it has a pleasant crunchy texture. 

It has a slimy (but tender) texture once cooked for a while (which doesn’t appeal to everyone). This is due to the mucilage (thickening substance in the seed pod) that thickens when heated.

There is a lot of mystery and theories about where okra originated from. While okra is very popular in Asia and Africa, this seed pod was believed to be popular in ancient times, and okra appeared in several Egyptian tomb paintings.

Let’s take a look at some of the most popular ways that okra is served:

  1. Brush the okra with some olive oil and add your spices. Grill on high until the pods turn brown. Serve immediately with some fresh lime.
  2. Roll the okra in bread crumbs and deep-fry them. You can serve this with a tasty dipping sauce. This is one of the best ways to minimize sliminess.
  3. You can pickle okra, which also reduces the sliminess.
  4. Add okra to a traditional Gumbo (hearty stew that includes about 3 meats) recipe, and it will absorb all the tasty flavors as it cooks.
  5. Add raw, sliced okra to a fresh green bean and asparagus salad with couscous for a healthy crunch.

5 Best Okra Substitutes

Here’s a look at 5 of the best okra substitutes you can use:

1. Green Beans

One of the best substitutes for okra is fresh green beans. Even better, you can find fresh or frozen green beans at almost any grocery store.

Green beans have a similar taste and texture profile to okra. Using raw green beans in a salad provides the same crunchy texture, and if you cook them, they can become just as tender.

Green beans can be stir-fried, boiled, added to a stew, and fried. You can also pickle green beans, and they’ll provide the same satisfying crispiness as pickled okra.

2. Filé Powder

Filé powder is made from ground sassafras leaves and is an excellent substitute for okra if you make okra Gumbo. 

The powder can be used to thicken your Gumbo stew, and it adds a unique sweet flavor that’s similar to root beer.

The powder thickens the stew and helps give the Gumbo its slimy texture without being slimy itself.

Top Tip: The flavor of filé powder is not a favorite for everyone due to its taste. If you don’t enjoy the taste, you can add cajun spices and salt and pepper to help mask the flavor of the sassafras leaves.

3. Broccoli Florets

If you want a substitute that tastes similar to okra, you should use broccoli florets. This healthy vegetable is available in most grocery shops and has several health benefits. 

Raw broccoli florets can be added to a salad, and you’ll get that crispy crunch that okra provides.

The broccoli florets bring a lovely splash of bright green to any dish, are versatile, and can be steamed, stir-fried, boiled, and pickled.

4. Summer Squash

Summer squash is a versatile vegetable that can be used as a substitute for okra. It has a nutty and slightly sweet taste that complements recipes that ask for okra.

The texture of cooked summer squash is also perfect for dishes such as Jambalaya (traditional American Creole stew).

Top Tip: Add cornstarch to your stew to thicken it, as summer squash doesn’t thicken stews or soups like okra.

5. Xanthan Gum

Xanthan gum is a great option to add thickness to your recipes. Although it doesn’t taste anything like okra (actually, it has no taste), it does a great job of thickening stews and soups.

Xanthan gum can be pricey, but a little goes a long way. Plus, it’s gluten-free and readily available.

What Vegetable Is Most Similar to Okra?

Out of all the vegetables, aubergine (eggplant) is the most similar to okra. When cooked, eggplant has a slimy texture that’s reminiscent of okra and can be used in the same recipes that call for okra.

However, eggplant can’t thicken stews like okra, so add some cornstarch or xanthan gum as a thickening agent.

What Is Okra Similar to in Taste?

When it comes to taste, okra is similar to zucchini, green beans, and eggplant. All of these vegetables have a mild and grassy taste to them.

Is Okra Similar to Zucchini?

Okra is similar to zucchini and is an excellent substitute for any okra recipes. 

Zucchini has the same green coloring and a very similar taste profile. The texture is also very similar when eaten raw or cooked.

My Last FoodieThoughts

While okra isn’t for everyone in terms of taste and texture, it will undoubtedly take your tastebuds on a journey through time. 

Okra also has many health benefits, especially when eaten raw or made into juice. You can add it to fresh, crispy salads or fry them up and dunk them in a tangy dipping sauce.

If the sometimes slimy texture of okra gets to you, why not swap okra out for one of the tasty substitutes mentioned in this guide?

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