Okra stew (vegan)

In Texas, okra is practically a state vegetable,  offered fried at every BBQ joint and road stand. Well, okra aka bamieh is also beloved in the Eastern mediterranean shores, especially in Egypt, Lebanon and Syria.

Now that Easter is fast approaching and people will be fasting, this dish will  appear with regularity. Okra, stir-fried in olive oil and cooked till meltingly tender in a stew of onions, tomatoes and garlic  is  served  at room temperature with a side of pita bread.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Bag of frozen okra (14 ounces) or the fresh okras
  • 1 red onion, chopped or a small bag of pearl onions (6 ounces)
  • Tomato sauce (14 ounces) or fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut in dice
  • 1 teaspoon of allspice or seven-spice mix
  • 1 Tablespoon of mashed garlic (mash with a teaspoon of salt till pasty)
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 1/3 cup of olive oil

METHOD:

  1. Chop the onion and heat a deep skillet (with cover). Pour 1/4 cup of olive oil and fry the onion till golden. Meanwhile, peel and mash the garlic with a teaspoon of salt till the mixture is pasty.
  2. Add the okra (still frozen) to the onions and stir-fry for 5 minutes or so. Add the garlic paste to the okra, then the tomatoes (or tomato sauce) and lemon juice and allspice. Cover the skillet and let the mixture simmer for 45 minutes, making sure it does not burn at the bottom. Uncover the last five minutes of cooking to let more liquid evaporate and turn off the heat. Serve at room temperature with some pita bread.

NOTE: To save time I use the frozen okra that is available at the Middle-Eastern store imported from Egypt; it is already prepped and requires no additional chopping.

If you are using fresh okra, cut off the tip of the pod, dry with paper towels and stir-fry in olive oil; then proceed with the recipe.

Traditionally, okra is served with fresh coriander incorporated in the stew; I omitted here because I use a thick tomato sauce; I probably would have added the coriander (cilantro) had I used fresh tomatoes.

Okra prepared this way was not slimy at all!

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48 Comments

  1. Alice
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    SO delicious!

  2. Posted February 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    I love love love okra and love love love them cooked this way – in a stew, with tomatoes.
    So yummy!

  3. Posted February 23, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    A fabulous stew! I really have to try cooking with those once…

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. Posted February 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never eaten okra…never seen it in a shop either, but this stew is something I’d certainly love! I’ll see if I can find it in an Asian food store.

  5. Kristi
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 7:25 pm | Permalink

    My husband’s family brings us dried okra in small quantities from overseas. These dried okra are tiny, 3 cm long or less. Have you ever seen this type of okra available in the US or online?

  6. Joumana
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

    Kristi: I have seen it off and on at the Middle-Eastern store where I shop.

    Samir: I fried the frozen okra to try and keep the sliminess at a minimum and it seems to work. I did not use coriander because I used a heavy tomato sauce and to me it was too powerful of a taste without the added coriander; if I had used fresh tomatoes, I might have though.

  7. Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

    Wow, my mother (and me too!) made a similar dish, only without the exotic spices. It had celery, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes and a little brown sugar sauteed with the fresh okra. It was one of her better dishes! (not saying much though ; ) I was planning on making it during the summer and never did. People don’t know what they’re missing when they proclaim they hate that slimy okra!

  8. Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:25 pm | Permalink

    I do like okra, and not just because I’m from Texas! ;) Okra and tomatoes are a great match. The stew looks delicious.

  9. Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

    I love okra roasted, or in fish curries that I used to eat in Singapore…god I miss that dish. I used to be creeped out by the sliminess of it, but now I think it’s just part of the charm…unique texture!

  10. Posted February 23, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

    Love your okra stew! Wonderful idea to mash garlic with salt. I do it too with garlic and ginger to make a paste. Somehow it makes the dish tastier. Sounds delicious to eat it with pita bread. Just love to use with my hands with this kind of dish! Cheers!

  11. Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:11 pm | Permalink

    I approach okra with caution, but because I trust you I’ll give your stew a try. Your photo is great. I hope you have a good evening. Blessings…Mary

  12. Posted February 23, 2011 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    Joumana, I have to make this stew! I saw these tiny okras in my middle eastern grocers in the frozen section! Delicious recipe!

  13. Posted February 23, 2011 at 10:19 pm | Permalink

    I love okra (not fried!). And usually avoid cooking it because it can be a lot of trouble and now you reminded me one can buy it frozen… so I can go back to my okra cooking ways. Love that it’s the center of a stew.

  14. Posted February 23, 2011 at 10:25 pm | Permalink

    A wonderful stew dear, look delicious!! I love it! gloria

  15. samir
    Posted February 23, 2011 at 11:47 pm | Permalink

    are these frozen ones from Egypt pre fried to remove the sliminess? suprised you didnt use coriander powder or cilantro as tradionally we dont use allspice with this just coriander powder and/or fresh coriander..

  16. Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:13 am | Permalink

    Bonjour Joumana, un légume très, très peu usité ici même en surgelé, les seuls que l’ on trouvent facilement sont en boites…et ce n’est pas bon du tout. Une recette bien appétissante au demeurant et qu’ il me faudra essayé, bisous et passe une belle journée

  17. Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:32 am | Permalink

    This is exactly how we make mpamies, except for the spices and 99% of the time I make them vegan. I always prefer the frozen ones, even during the summer.

  18. SYLVIA
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 3:00 am | Permalink

    Okra stew is delicious and it’s rich in fiber. I like one pot meals it’s big on flavor and light on clean up.

  19. Posted February 24, 2011 at 3:36 am | Permalink

    I simply adore okra and i remember this so well. all i ever wanted with this was some fresh lebanese bread and a tub of labneh!

  20. Posted February 24, 2011 at 4:04 am | Permalink

    I love okra stew, when I make it, I add lots of garlic and coriander.
    Yummy!!

  21. Posted February 24, 2011 at 5:16 am | Permalink

    Watever with okra is my fav, stew makes me drool..

  22. Posted February 24, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

    Je pense que les gombos sont réputés dans tout le bassin méditerranéen : ils sont très connus aussi au Maghreb et en Algérie, font partie des plats de fête ou de circonstance, préparés aussi avec agneau et sauce tomates.
    A très bientôt.

  23. Posted February 24, 2011 at 5:54 am | Permalink

    yumm that looks delicious, i love okra but my husband cant stand them, :(

  24. Posted February 24, 2011 at 8:15 am | Permalink

    Love okra and yes, they are filling as a vegetarian dish. I love my family’s dish which also contains allspice in it!

  25. Posted February 24, 2011 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    I love okra and that look delicious..great recipe..thanx for sharing!

  26. Posted February 24, 2011 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Flat out amazing. I LOVE the lamb dish and the yogurt sauce; brilliant way to get a thick creamy sauce without the heaviness of the cream! And a tip of the hat, only you could make okra look appetizing!
    Thanks again!
    Doc

  27. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    Ah, ça j’aime beaucoup! Si je peux mettre la main sur des okras, toutefois….
    Au fait, tu l’as essayé le pesto à l’artichaut?

  28. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Wonderful recipe, Joumana! The combination of okra and tomatoes is divine. Yum.

  29. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Magnificent and fun for the whole family! Your simple and inviting blog is to be adored. Thank you for introducing us to this delicious cuisine.

  30. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    If I can find the okra (frozen or fresh) I’d love to make this recipe!

  31. Joumana
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    @Citron: non, mais c’est sur ma liste! Je te le ferais savoir!

  32. Posted February 24, 2011 at 11:41 am | Permalink

    We have a similar okra dish in India, no garlic, a lot less tomato with the addition of tamarind and jaggery and the famous Indian tempered oil.
    Sndhya.

  33. Posted February 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

    Yum! I loooooove okra, and cant wait till the fresh ones come to the market. I will definitely be making this then!

  34. Posted February 24, 2011 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

    Hi Joumana,
    what a beautiful recipe. I adore okra!
    I have 4 okra plantings growing at home, they are about an inch tall by now. I got the seeds from seeds savers exchange. They are supposed to have a burgundy color I am super curious about them because I’ve never seen them in this color. Can’t wait for the weather to warm up so they can be transplanted to my community garden plot. I am saving this recipe for the Summer when I believe I will have my very own okras ready to be eaten.
    Cheers,
    Heg

  35. Posted February 24, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    I remember moving to the south (Texas/Oklahoma) and having okra for the first time. I thought it was slimy and nasty! :-) But I soon came to love it. It looks so good in this stew. :-)

  36. zeina
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    Such a great recipe! I used to do it without onions, just with garlic, but your recipe is better. I also used coriander as well as cilantro, and it was great. This is the “bamieh bzeit”. I also love the non-vegetarian version, made with beef served hot with rice.

  37. Posted February 24, 2011 at 7:01 pm | Permalink

    This looks amazing! I love okra.

    E.A.T.

  38. Posted February 24, 2011 at 9:29 pm | Permalink

    I have long wondered what to do with okra – besides fry it! Well, now I know. This looks wonderful. Okra is not very popular up here in Boston, but I saw some at the outdoor market last weekend, maybe there will be some this weekend too!

  39. Posted February 25, 2011 at 12:52 am | Permalink

    In Vanja’s country, they sell it dried tied to strings. I have never been successful cooking it fresh or dried. It is slimy. I have to be shown by someone. Then I will know how.
    I have a friend who loves it, but doesn’t know how to cook it and would love to treat him sometime.
    :)
    valerie

  40. Posted February 25, 2011 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    I love Okra but seldom cook it, not sure why! Will give this recipe a try. Thanks. Diane

  41. shamira
    Posted May 24, 2012 at 12:33 am | Permalink

    This is the most delicious okra recipe I’ve ever tried! Made it last night, it was yummyyyy! I love Lebanese food and your blog has got me craving only and only Lebanese food, be it in my kitchen or outside it! :) Great work!

  42. Joanne Aoun Sablich
    Posted May 3, 2013 at 9:18 pm | Permalink

    I loooooooooooooovvvvvvvvvvvvvve bemyeh b zeit! My favorite dish after mloukhieh
    My mom’s was the best ever and I miss it sooooooooo much coz as you did, she used to cook it so well and add lemon so her okra was never ever slimy! I’m definitely cookin it this week
    Thank you for your amazing work

  43. Marla
    Posted September 1, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    This was the most flavorful tomato sauce I’ve ever had (at least at home, for sure–this was restaurant quality taste). It had a cheesy taste to me (but I eat vegan and use lemon to add tangy flavor to “cheeze” sauces). I used tomato paste diluted with maybe equal parts or more water and a splash of red wine vinegar. I also added maybe a quarter tsp coriander as you mentioned and it was excellent, definitely made this taste like authentic food from another country, i.e. not the American flavors I’m used to. The only thing is I’ve read that vegans shouldn’t eat a lot of nightshades, so I probably won’t make this again until next okra season–and I’m not an okra fan. Greens are probably the veggie I feel most comfortable with.

  44. Marla
    Posted September 1, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I probably used about 1/8 tsp or less coriander–don’t want someone to try it and it taste overpowering.Appreciate explaining the process you went through!

  45. Danae
    Posted September 1, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

    I just made this as a vegan dinner with warm pita bread and a side of grilled eggplant & roasted carrots.

    It was excellent!! Great recipe :)

  46. Joumana
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    @Danae, so glad to hear you were inspired!

  47. Joumana
    Posted September 2, 2013 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    @Maria: there are no set rules with leb cuisine, so you are fine! ;0

  48. Posted April 22, 2014 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    wow! this is great, although i am not much of a vegetarian, i think this taste good.

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