A relative newcomer to the green okra game, red okra is completely edible and absolutely positively stunning and completely edible!
Learn about these ravishing red beauties!
What is Red Okra & Where does it come from?
Red okra refers to all the okra varieties whose pods are… RED!
Okra, the seed pod of a flowering plant in the mallow family (which includes cotton, hibiscus and hollyhock), is native to Ethiopia.
These edible pods, filled with tiny white seeds, have generally been green.
Until the 80’s that is!
When ‘red burgundy’ was bred by Leon Robbins at Clemson University in South Carolina, in 1983. It remains the most prevalent red variety.
Their color comes from anthocyanins – a natural plant pigment.
Red okra is sometimes called magenta or purple okra.Other names for okra include ladies’ fingers or ochro.
Red Okra Varieties
Red okra varieties include:
- Red Velvet
- Royal Burgundy
- Little Lucy
- Aunt Hettie’s Red
- Hill Country Red
Cooking with Red Okra
The one downside to ravishing red okra:
it loses its color when cooked! The lovely reds and magentas fade to a brownish-green. Just as delicious but not quite as colorful.
Fun Fact: Okra is actually a fruit though it’s eaten as a vegetable!
The green pods are popular in Africa, the Middle East, Greece, Turkey, India, the Caribbean, South America and the Southern U.S. Green okra, first introduced to US kitchen in the 18th century, have become a cornerstone in southern cuisine such as gumbo.
Red okra can be cooked in all the same ways as their green counterparts and easily interchanged in any recipe as well.
If the dish can be made with green okra, red will work too! And vice versa.
Prepping the pods: rinse and pat dry; leave whole or cut or slice into rounds, lengthwise or diagonally.
Cooking options: blanching, boiling, frying, deep-frying, grilling, sautéing, pickling and pan-roasting.
So many options… note that okra gets softer and more tender the longer it’s cooked. For that perfect crisp-soft, crunchy texture, cook it quickly!
Or take advantage of its sliminess to thicken thickener for stews, soup and gumbo.
What’s Up with Okra Sliminess?
When the pods are cut, they exude a thick and slimy substance called mucilage. This mucilaginous juice acts as a thickener for stews, soup and gumbo.
If you’re not into slimy sticky substances, avoid cutting an okra pods as it’s a part of the okra package. The right cooking methods can reduce it, but none can entirely get rid of it
When preparing, remember that the more the okra is cut, the slimier it will become.
Does Red kind of Okra Really Taste Different from the Green?
Nope… not really. The flavor is generally mild and the greatest variation between varieties is pod length.
There’s not much different between red and green okra other than color!
That said, every single okra variety will have a *slightly* different albeit very nuanced, flavor. If you can actually taste the difference depends on have developed your okra palette is.
Buying & Storing Red Okra
Season: late spring – Summer
Okra thrives in warm, humid weather. The leading okra-growing states in the US are Texas, Georgia, California and Florida.
Choosing Fresh Okra: it should feel firm but not hard
Buying: Head to your local farmers market to look for red okra! Grocery stores will carry green okra throughout the summer months (and may import it in the winter ones).
Storing: Okra can be stored in the fridge’s crisper, in paper bags or loosely wrapped in plastic, up to 4 days. Or blanched okra can freeze for up to a year.
Tip: to avoid any additional okra sliminess, don’t wash until ready to use it.
Though quite similar to their green okra counterparts, hope this post inspired ya to get your ravishing red okra game on!
Just try to not be too disappointed when the lovely reds and magentas fade to a brownish-green when cooked! Still delicious… just no longer red.
Stoked on the colors of produce?!
If you're also red okra stoked I’d love to hear about it and see them too! Please leave a comment below and take a pic and tag it on Instagram with #danielagerson. You can also follow me on Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest to see more colorfully delicious food and all sorts of awesome adventures!
Let's make waves in the kitchen!