All of the flavor and crunch of cornmeal-crusted, fried okra without all the oil from deep frying it. Keep reading to find out how I get that crunch coating to stick to the okra with a fraction of the oil.
I’m all about tradition! Fiddler on the Roof is one of my favorite plays which is all about tradition…ya ha deedle deedle bubba bubba deedle dum! (If you’re a fan of the play, you will be singing that ditti all day long, now.
Not all Southern food has to be deep fried to have that sought-after crispy, crunchy cornmeal coating traditionally achieved in a Fry Daddy… do they still make those?
Since I’m always trying to find ways to eat traditionally Southern food that’s not fried, I coat the okra in beaten egg white and bake it. Voila! Yummy, crunchy “fried” okra.
Beat the egg white with a fork to loosen it up. Toss the slice (or whole baby) okra in the egg white so all the okra is coated. Then, sprinkle the cornmeal over the okra and gently toss to coat the okra.
The cornmeal will cling to the egg white on the okra. Pour the okra in a hot cast iron skillet and bake! Don’t be tempted to stir more than once. The coating may fall off and the okra might break into pieces as well as fail to get a nice browned edge.
Fried okra is traditionally cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces but I bought a container of baby-size okra at the farmers market so I decided to try frying them whole! They turned out perfect so I’ll be on the lookout for tiny okra from now on. If you have regular size okra in your fridge or garden, just cut them in slices for the recipe this time and try baby okra next time.
I love my cast iron skillet and prefer it but you can easily use a rimmed baking sheet especially if you are making a double batch for Sunday supper.
These okra “fingers” would be yummy as an appetizer dipped in Sweet Baby Ray’s Secret Dipping Sauce. I love the horseradish flavor in it!
Don’t stop at oven-frying okra. Slice up your yellow and zucchini squash and use the same method to have a healthier version of another Southern favorite fried side.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil
- 1 large egg whites
- 1 16-oz container of about 3 cups small whole okra
- 1/3 cup cornmeal not cornmeal mix
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
Place a 10-inch cast iron skillet or rimmed baking sheet in a cold oven. Preheat oven to 425°.
Meanwhile, remove ends of okra and cut into ½-inch-thick slices. If using whole baby okra, you can leave on the ends.
Whisk egg white in a medium size bowl; add okra and stir until okra is coated. Combine cornmeal and salt and stir into okra mixture. Not all of the cornmeal will stick to okra and that’s ok.
Remove skillet from oven and add the oil. Spoon the coated okra into the skillet with a slotted spoon, tapping spoon on the bowl gently to let excess cornmeal fall back into the bowl. If you dump the entire bowl in the skillet the excess cornmeal will soak up the oil immediately. Bake at 425° for 12 to 15 minutes. Stir gently or flip with a spatula at 8 minutes or when the okra is lightly browned the bottom. Do not stir more than once.