One of the reasons that Southern vegetables are so good is the fact that they are often fried in things like bacon fat or lard. Since many of us are constantly watching our weight and cholesterol, fried vegetables are not an option except on rare occasions. If you’re planning a great soul food menu for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, you’ll want to make an exception and serve a few delectable Southern-style fried vegetables.
Okra is not a vegetable that fits in the “favorites” category. In fact, okra usually gets a bad rap due to the fact that it contains mucilage (the term used by botanists), also know as slime. This so-called slime, is used to advantage in tomato-based gumbos, since it acts as a thickener. A classic southern vegetable dish is okra and tomatoes, but okra that has been soaked in buttermilk, coated in cornmeal, and fried in bacon drippings is more popular, and is often one of the listed side dishes on soul food restaurant menus. Okra (or gumbo, as it is sometimes called by its West African name) is one of the original “soul foods,” since it was transported to the US on slave ships.
I once served fried okra on Thanksgiving as one of the vegetable dishes. Some of my dinner guests had never even heard of okra, let alone eaten it; they were pleasantly surprised, and regrettably, there was not one morsel of that fried okra left to snack on after dinner.
This simple recipe for fried okra is very quick and easy to prepare. It can be soaked in buttermilk, coated with the cornmeal mixture ahead of time, and refrigerated until just before dinner when it will be fried quickly in bacon drippings. Cooking okra by this method eliminates the slime, and preserves the Vitamin C, Calcium, Magnesium, and Folates that are contained in this vegetable. As a bonus, okra is high in fiber.
Southern Fried Okra
1 pound fresh okra, cut into 1/2" pieces or 1 16 ounce package frozen cut okra
1/2 cup buttermilk
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup bacon drippings, or shortening
If using fresh okra, wash the okra, but do not dry; if using frozen, no need to wash. Place the okra in a large Ziploc bag and cover with the buttermilk. Mix it around in the bag so that it coats all of the okra pieces. Mix the flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper; add to the okra in the bag, seal it up, and shake until each piece of okra is well coated.
Heat the bacon drippings in a skillet; add the okra and fry on medium heat until crisp and well-browned on all sides. Serve immediately.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 259 Calories from Fat 109
Percent Total Calories From:
Fat 42% Protein 8% Carb. 50%
Nutrient Amount per
Total Fat 12 g
Saturated Fat 5 g
Cholesterol 12 mg
Sodium 222 mg
Total Carbohydrate 32 g
Dietary Fiber 1 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 5 g
Vitamin A 12% Vitamin C 27% Calcium 0% Iron 6%