Okra is a staple in Southern cooking, and if you’re an okra fan, you’ll find it’s delicious in so many ways. The summer vegetable thrives when the weather is warm between July and September, and if you grow okra in your garden when Fall comes, you may find yourself with more okra than you know what to do with.
If you’re asking yourself what to do with all that okra, you may wonder if you can freeze your okra without cooking it and enjoy it all winter long.
Generally speaking, you can freeze okra without cooking it. To preserve your okra’s quality, taste, and texture, make sure it is as dry as possible before freezing. After drying, spread the okra out on a baking sheet and place it in the freezer for four hours.
Then transfer to an airtight container or plastic bag for long-term storage. Many cooks may prefer to blanch their okra before freezing to preserve the quality and color of the vegetable.
Okra is one of those vegetables that isn’t for everyone. The reason is that many can’t get used to the somewhat slimy and mushy texture that okra takes on the longer it cooks.
But if you’re an okra lover, you can appreciate all the versatility that the veggie offers. Not to mention this nutritious veggie is packed with vitamin C, minerals, and soluble fiber, making it a no-brainer addition to your diet.
Okra grows in long, crisp, slender pods with white seeds in the middle. Read on to learn how to freeze your okra and use it all year long.
- Why Freeze Raw Okra?
- The Best Way To Freeze Uncooked Okra
- The 4 Best Ways to Cook Frozen Okra
- Can You Freeze Fried Okra?
- Final Thoughts
Why Freeze Raw Okra?
Freezing raw okra makes it so convenient to throw into any Southern-inspired dish you can imagine, and it’s simple to do. Not to mention that freezing fresh okra locks in vitamins and nutrients, so you know you’re getting all the benefits of eating your veggies when it’s ready to use.
If you use raw okra in your dishes, you also rest easy, knowing that you’re using it in its most natural form and there won’t be any extra additives like sodium or sugar, which can be detrimental to your health.
The Best Way To Freeze Uncooked Okra
If you have uncooked okra, either freshly picked from your garden or the grocery store, and you would like to freeze it, below is a step-by-step guide to making sure you’re preserving your okra by freezing it the right way.
Tip: You should make sure that the okra you’re planning to freeze is as fresh and crisp as possible. Smooth podded types of okra are the best for freezing as the ridged variety is less durable and can split easily. Also, avoid freezing okra that is already showing signs of decay, such as brown marks or soft spots.
Step 1. Wash
Before freezing, you’ll want to make sure to remove the dirt from your okra. To do this, you’ll want to fill up your sink basin with cold water, drop it in, and swish it around to remove any dirt or grit from the pods.
If you have store-bought okra, you may want to take it a step further and add a few drops of veggie wash or white vinegar to the water to remove any residue or pesticides from the okra. Rinse well.
Step 2: Dry
Once your okra is clean and rinsed, you’ll want to lay the pods out on a dish towel or paper towels to dry thoroughly. If needed, lay paper towels over the top to absorb any excess moisture.
Step 3: Cut
If you prefer to prep your okra even more before freezing, you may opt to slice it up first. To do this, first, remove the stems and discard them, then cut them into 1/2 inch rounds.
Some home chefs prefer to keep the pods intact when freezing. If you choose to do it this way, you can skip this step.
Step 4: Freeze
Place the chopped (or unchopped) okra on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Make sure that the pieces aren’t touching and space them out in a single layer. If the okra pieces are stuck together when frozen, it could be challenging to pull them apart when you’re ready to use them for cooking.
Once you’ve laid the okra on the sheet, place the baking sheet in the freezer for four hours.
Step 5: Transfer For Long Term Freezing
When the okra is frozen, it’s time to transfer the pieces to a container for long-term storage. Use a shallow, airtight container or a Ziploc freezer bag with the air removed. Make sure to seal tightly and mark the date on the container. The okra will stay good in the freezer for up to one year so that you can get your okra fix through the winter and beyond.
Many experienced chefs prefer to blanch their okra before freezing.
Blanching is a food preparation technique in which the food item is immersed in boiling water or hot oil for a short time, usually only for three to four minutes. Blanching is different from cooking because the food items are not exposed to heat long enough to cook through.
Therefore the food is still regarded as raw even after blanching.
Blanching is a step that is sometimes taken before further cooking the okra, but not always. Blanching is often a step you can take before shocking. Shocking is when you submerge the food item in cold water to stop the heating process.
Can You Freeze Okra Without Blanching?
While it’s not necessary to blanch your okra before cooking, many Southern chefs would recommend adding this step before freezing the vegetable.
The reason is that blanching halts the enzymatic process that causes a decline in the quality, color, taste, and texture of the okra. Therefore, even though blanching isn’t necessary before freezing, it might be a good idea.
Blanching can help loosen the skin, making the pods easier to peel. Blanching also helps preserve the flavor of the okra and brightens the okra’s color making it more appealing when you’re ready to enjoy it.
How To Blanch Okra Before Freezing?
Blanching your okra is a simple step that won’t take too much time but can be beneficial. To do this, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil and drop the okra pods in. Boil no more than three minutes for small pods and four minutes for larger pods.
When you’ve finished blanching the pods, use tongs to pull them from the boiling hot water and drop them in a bowl filled with ice water to stop the heating process.
If you prefer to blanch your okra, you can add this step in between steps 2 and 3 above after drying the okra.
If you prefer to bake your okra before freezing, preheat your oven to 300 degrees, place your cut slices of okra on a baking sheet, and put them in the oven for 20 minutes. You can also bread your okra before baking if you prefer.
How To Thaw Frozen Okra?
When you’re ready to cook up your frozen okra, remove what you need for your recipe and allow it to thaw on the counter in a bowl of cold water. Keep refreshing the cold water until you’ve defrosted the okra.
If you plan to use the okra in a stew or soup, you don’t need to let it thaw completely before throwing it in. However, you should plan to cook it for a few extra minutes if it’s frozen.
The 4 Best Ways to Cook Frozen Okra
Southern cooks love to use okra in various recipes, and frozen okra is a great way to have it on hand year-round for all that winter comfort food. Okra pairs well with other vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, onions, or eggplant. Below are some delicious ways to use up your frozen okra.
1. Put It In Gumbo
Gumbo is a classic Cajun comfort food containing seafood and plenty of spices. Traditional gumbo includes vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, celery, and of course, okra. Some chefs also like to add meat such as andouille sausage or chicken to their gumbo as well.
Although some people may not think they are okra fans, it is a must in any gumbo recipe. It adds a distinct flavor and helps to thicken up the gumbo to just the right consistency.
2. Fry It Up
Another popular way to enjoy okra is by frying it. Fried okra is the preferred way to enjoy okra for many because frying the veggie masks the slimy texture that some find offputting. The best way to eliminate the slimy texture is to fry the okra quickly and at a high heat point.
3. Throw It In Stew
Okra is a fantastic accompaniment to any stew recipe with a tomato base and lots of your favorite vegetables. Add your favorite spices and meat such as lamb or beef, and you have a delicious cold-weather meal. Ensure that you add the okra during the last few minutes of cooking to prevent it from becoming mushy.
4. Try It Pan Roasted
Pan roasting okra is a delicious and healthy way to enjoy the vegetable. Toss it with spices, salt, pepper, and olive oil and roast at 425 degrees for 10-15 minutes. Roasted okra makes for a delightful side dish.
Can You Freeze Fried Okra?
You can freeze fried okra if you want to have some readily available to enjoy later. After frying, allow to cool and proceed with steps 4 and 5. If you prefer not to fry it before freezing, you can also bread your okra before freezing and pull it from the freezer later to fry it up.
While it’s entirely possible to freeze your fresh okra without cooking it first, the preferred method of many experienced Southern chefs is to blanch the okra before freezing. Blanching helps preserve the color and quality of your okra and is such a quick and easy step.
Now you have all the knowledge and tools at your fingertips to enjoy okra year-round without sacrificing great flavor and nutrition. Happy cooking!
My name is Keren Tayler. I am a stay-at-home mama to three lovely girls, Sarah + Rachel + Hannah. Prior to becoming a mom, I had a successful career in the accounting field, steps away from becoming a CPA. I decided to give up on my career in order to raise my own kids (as opposed to letting a nancy do it, no judgment here) I learned a lot and I love sharing it with other moms. Along the way, I also became a Certified Food Handler.