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Southern Fried Okra

Southern Fried Okra is a Southern summer dinner favorite! Tender fresh okra is dredged in a light coating of finely ground white cornmeal and fried to a crispy, golden brown in hot peanut oil.

Today I’m sharing with you a Southern heritage recipe for an old favorite, Southern Fried Okra. Now, I know that okra is one of those vegetables that people either love or despise. There’s not much middle ground with okra, it seems.

A plate heaped with golden brown fried okra.

I fall firmly into the okra-loving group. Pretty much any way you prepare okra, I like it. In the past, I’ve shared my recipes for a quick side dish of Okra and Tomatoes and my Pickled Okra. But this post features my most favorite way to cook okra and that is fried!

Now don’t run away just because you saw the word “fried.” I know fried foods have a bad reputation. I know all about what fats can do to your heart, etc. However, I firmly believe that an occasional indulgence in foods that give you great pleasure is good for the soul.

I don’t eat fried foods every day or even every week. For one thing, frying makes the whole house stink for days. I don’t like that. But it’s worth it for a plate piled high with this crispy fried okra.

If you’re looking for a recipe for fried okra without egg and without buttermilk, you’ve come to the right place! Traditional southern fried okra recipes don’t coat the okra with a wet batter. I personally think that it’s too heavy for this delicate vegetable and all you taste in the end is fried batter.

Traditionally, we southern cooks use a simple light coating of finely ground white cornmeal with salt and pepper. Very simple. The lighter coating gives the okra itself an opportunity to crisp up during the frying process. Much better than all that gooey batter.

A plate heaped with golden brown fried okra.

🛒 Ingredient Notes

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  • Fresh okra – Fresh is greatly preferable to frozen for frying; it’s typically available from June through August in markets throughout the south.
  • Cornmeal – Any time I use cornmeal in a recipe, it’s typically finely ground white cornmeal because that’s what was used when I was growing up and learning to cook; plus I just think it’s superior in texture and taste to yellow cornmeal.
  • Peanut oil – recommended both for taste and because of its stability at higher temperatures; but you can use any oil that has a high smoke point.

You’ll find detailed measurements for all ingredients in the printable version of the recipe at the bottom of this post.

✍🏻 What is Okra Anyway and Where Did it Come From?

Flowering blossom on an okra plant.

Okra is an interesting plant that is native to West Africa and is believed to have come to America about 300 years ago. It’s in the same family as cotton and hibiscus and has beautiful blossoms. If you want to know more about okra, there’s a good article on WikiPedia.

🤔 How to Choose Okra

When choosing okra, be sure to select pods that are bright green and about 3 inches or less in length. Those will be the most tender. Avoid the larger, more mature pods. Those will give you a “woody” end product that you won’t like.

🔪 How to Make Fried Okra

Wash and Dry the Okra

Whole okra pods washed and draining on paper towels.
  1. Rinse the whole pods under running water and lay them on a paper towel or kitchen towel to dry for a few minutes.

Prepare the Okra for Frying

Prepped okra: On the left, a bowl holding cut okra; on the right, a bowl holding the okra pods after tossing with cornmeal.
  1. Using a sharp paring knife, slice off the top and tail from each pod and then slice crosswise into approximately 1/2 inch pieces. It’s not strictly necessary to remove the tops and tails, I just like mine to have a more uniform appearance.
  2. Place the slices in a large bowl and lightly sprinkle them with salt and pepper. Toss lightly to distribute the salt and pepper.
  3. Sprinkle the cornmeal into the bowl over the sliced okra. Using your hands, toss until each piece is well coated.

How to Fry the Okra

I’ve included the photos above to give you an idea of what the okra looks like during the various stages of frying.

  1. Pour oil to a depth of about 3/4” in a heavy cast iron frying pan. Heat the oil and test for readiness by dropping a piece of the prepared okra into the pan. If it immediately begins to bubble the oil is ready for cooking.

👉 PRO TIP: I recommend peanut oil for most fried foods. Peanut oil has a high smoke point and won’t break down at the higher temperatures needed for frying. It also imparts a lovely flavor to the crispy fried okra.

  1. Carefully transfer some of the okra to the hot oil. Add enough to make one layer in the oil and be sure not to crowd the pan.

👉 PRO TIP: I use a large, metal slotted cooking spoon to transfer the okra both to and from the oil. The slotted spoon allows excess cornmeal to drop back into the bowl and when removing the okra, it allows excess oil to drain back into the frying pan.

  1. Cook in two to three batches until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Each batch takes about 4 or 5 minutes to cook depending on how hot your oil is. As each batch finishes cooking, remove it to a plate lined with paper towels or a wire rack to drain. Sprinkle very lightly with additional salt if desired.

➕ Scaling the Recipe

This recipe as written serves two. However, it very easily doubles, triples…whatever.

A plate heaped with golden brown fried okra.

💡 Tips

  • Make sure the oil is good and hot before adding the okra.
  • Use a large slotted metal cooking spoon to stir the okra a few times while cooking. But be careful as too much stirring can dislodge the coating.
  • Lightly salt the okra while it’s still hot.
  • For spicy fried okra, add a quarter to a half teaspoon of cayenne to the cornmeal.
  • A bit of smoked paprika in the cornmeal makes for a nice change.

❓ Questions About Fried Okra

Can it be made in advance?

Fried okra is one of those recipes that’s just so much better to make and serve immediately. Like most fried foods, it’s not at its best when made ahead or leftover.

What do I serve with this?

Almost anything! However, if you want to serve a very typical and traditional southern dinner, add your fried okra as a side dish with fried chicken, fresh butter beans, creamed corn, and cornbread. Yum!!

What does it taste like?

People often ask me what fried okra tastes like. Well, it tastes like okra. Okra that has been fried. Honestly, if I had to compare it to something more familiar, it might be popcorn. And, no it is not at all slimy. Not in the least.

Is it healthy? At all?

Okay, while I can in no way try to pass a fried vegetable off as healthy, I can say that okra itself is very rich in both soluble and insoluble fiber. And, as you know, fiber promotes healthy cholesterol levels and digestive tract. So there’s that. :-)

Lana Stuart.

Questions? I’m happy to help!

If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!

Thanks so much for stopping by!

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A plate heaped with golden brown fried okra.

Southern Fried Okra

Southern Fried Okra is a summer dinner favorite! Tender fresh okra is dredged in a light coating of finely ground white cornmeal and fried to a crispy, golden brown in hot peanut oil.
4.91 from 20 votes
Print It Rate It Text It
Course: Side Dishes
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 35 minutes
Servings: 2 servings
Calories: 180kcal
Author: Lana Stuart


  • 1 pound fresh okra pods
  • cup finely ground white cornmeal
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Peanut oil


  • Wash and dry the okra pods. Remove the top and tail from each pod and slice crosswise into approximately 1/2 inch pieces.
  • Place in a large bowl and lightly sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add cornmeal to bowl with the sliced okra. Using your hands, toss the okra in the cornmeal until each piece is well coated.
  • Pour oil to a depth of about 3/4” in a heavy cast iron frying pan. Heat the oil and test for readiness by dropping a piece of the prepared okra into the pan. If the okra immediately begins to bubble the oil is ready for cooking.
  • Cook the okra in two to three batches until golden brown and crisp on the outside. Do not crowd the pan.
  • Remove to a paper towel lined plate or a wire rack to drain. Sprinkle very lightly with additional salt if desired.


Note: nutritional values for the peanut oil are not included in the caloric calculation.
  • When choosing okra, select pods that are bright green and about 3 inches or less in length. Avoid the larger, more mature pods.
  • I recommend peanut oil for most frying. Peanut oil has a high smoke point and won’t break down at the higher temperatures needed for frying.
  • Cook the okra in two to three batches to avoid crowding the pan.
  • Fried okra should be cooked and served immediately. Like most fried foods, it’s not at its best when made ahead or leftover.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1 | Calories 180kcal | Carbohydrates 37g | Protein 7g | Fat 2g | Saturated Fat 1g | Sodium 17mg | Potassium 796mg | Fiber 10g | Sugar 4g | Vitamin A 1624IU | Vitamin C 52mg | Calcium 186mg | Iron 2mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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— This post was originally published on June 1, 2010. It has been updated with additional information.

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Recipe Rating


  1. Kathy Culp says:

    If you’ve fried your okra too far, how can you make it moist again? Or can you?

    1. Fried okra isn’t really moist. It’s crispy and crunchy. If you’ve overcooked it to the point of burning, you’ll need to start over with a fresh batch.

  2. David Gregory says:

    Amen! This is okra as I grew up in East Tennessee. Not the awful breaded balls that completely hide the beautiful flavor of the okra. Mom would sometimes cut a small green tomato into pieces and coat and fry with the okra. The bright, tart surprise cut the deeper flavor of the okra.

  3. Okra was a staple in our house. My momma prepared it fried. We also had tomato, corn, and okra over rice. She would add it to black eye peas which was not my favorite because the okra were slimy. Favorite for the recipe.

  4. 4 stars
    I grew up eating fried okra. Most times though my mom added sliced onion and thin sliced potatoes and rolled it all in the corn meal. This mixture and pinto beans with vine ripened tomatoes can make you gums beat your brains.

  5. Kim Sperling says:

    5 stars
    Easy to cook using Lana’s clear, concise directions. Very tasty! I followed her directions to cook it in more than one batch and that was perfect. The skillet wasn’t crowded and it was easy to see when the okra needed to be flipped and was ready. A good recipe to keep!

  6. Renee Cochran says:

    Oops, sorry folks, I just realized that I made an error in my post, It should have read “I use half cornmeal & flour” for my dusting of the okra slices. I apologize for the misprint.

  7. Renee Cochran says:

    I cut my okra into thinner slices, because I love it extra crunchy. I use about half cornmeal & cornmeal and salt & pepper to taste……..it seems to stick to the okra better. My husband plants a vegetable garden every spring & plants a large portion in okra, since we both love okra.I go out & pick some okra everyday because it grows so quickly. I bring it in, wash & dry it, then slice it up & bread it and spread it out on cookie sheets & freeze it, so the slices freeze individually. After about an hour in the freezer, I remove the okra, place it in pint or quart size Ziplock Bags & label the date. Then when we plan to have fried okra I can just take out the amount for two (or more people). I find the frozen okra keeps well in the freezer for up to a year without losing any flavor. I usually have enough to last all winter & into spring. If we go through our frozen supply of okra, we will break down & buy some frozen from the grocery store……..but it pales in comparison to the homemade version. The one plus of the frozen breaded okra from the store is that it the larger coated breaded slices cook better in an Air Fryer, if you don’t like to use grease.

  8. I have several packages of frozen Okra and bot a clue on how to cook them. My sister said make a batter and fry them but was not able to communicate her process. Fresh okra in the northwest maybe hard to come by. Any good tips on how to cook cut frozen okra? Thank you.

    1. You could thaw the okra and try frying it using this recipe, or stew it with tomatoes and onions for a delicious side dish.

  9. We grill and oven roast okra(toss with oil and seasonings) and it’s almost as good as fried, less calories. Works well with frozen okra too.

  10. 5 stars
    I have been eating fried okra cooked this way for over 60 years. It absolutely is the best way to fry okra. My mother was the child of a tenant farmer in Alabama and cooked what her heritage gave her. My brother and sister and I were so very lucky! If she had given instructions on how to fry okra, not a word would have changed. Thank you.

  11. We don’t get okra too much up here in New England, but the few times I’ve had it, I really enjoyed it. And how could I not love it fried?? This looks so delicious!

    1. Lana Stuart says:

      It’s, of course, a staple and readily available everywhere here in the south. Fried is my favorite, but I like it just about any way!

  12. This is exactly the way I fry okra! In recent years, we have found that its just as good served with a sandwich as it is served with a meal. In fact, we eat several summer veggies with a sandwich and call it a meal!

  13. Yep. Just the way my husband cooks it. So good!! Interesting that my mother swears she doesn’t eat fried food & doesn’t like peanut oil. Yet when we cook this for her we have to make a double batch if we want to eat any ourselves.

  14. John Kline says:

    Was ready to criticize (sorry) until I read completely. As a deep South farm boy, I love my fried okra. Agree that only corn meal (we used yellow) should be used. Too often (in my opinion) people use batter or a combination of flour and cornmeal when they fry cooks. My Mama had one rule when she fried okra–you have to eat something else too and not just okra.

    1. John Kline says:

      The sized okra pictured is the best size. I do hate harvesting tho. As for the fried okra, some needs to be overcooked (burnt). Yum! Yum!

  15. Patsy Gerber says:

    I love okra. I prepare mine essentially like that with mostly cornmeal
    (yellow coarse ground) and about a tablespoon of plain flour and
    shake in a paper or plastic bag. I just pour into a hot skillet or
    fry pan that has 2 or 3 large pats of butter and vegetable shortening
    (very little). Then when I see that I need more oil to saute’ this okra
    I drizzle a little bit at a time of olive oil. Stirring frequently. Cover with
    lid. Brown until done and pour into bowl with no extra liquid showing. I do my yellow squash and zucchini the same way. Cuts down on calories.

  16. The Duo Dishes says:

    Above all, fried okra is the best! But if you have it steamed, stir fried, stewed or roasted, it’ll be eaten with no problem.

  17. I love fried okra and I am a Yankee. I have spent quite a bit of time down south and have enjoyed okra several times. I have cooked with it before but never fried it. This looks so good.

  18. That looks divine! Don’t own a cast iron skillet, but after reading this I’m even more convinced that I simply MUST! First thing I’ll do is make some fabulous fried okra!! :)

  19. Daniel@CocinaSavant says:

    This dish is music to my ears. Fried okra is a favorite dish of mine and one I can never get enough of. I am glad I ran across your page. Keep up the good work.

  20. Kathy Gori says:

    okra’s always a big battle around our house. i love it, my husband not so much but this might be a recipe to change his mind.

  21. Memories — Remember how Daddy used to love a meal of fresh peas or butterbeans, fresh home grown tomatoes, cornbread and fried okra? I can see him now.

    My tomato lady has the first of her tomatoes coming in – went, weighed, put my money in the box under her carport, and was on my way home with a whole bunch of “you can’t beat it with a stick” goodness. I love living in modern day Mayberry.

    Miss P

    1. Yes, of course, I remember. I’d love to have a plate like that right now. Add some of Mama’s baked corn and I’d be all over that.

    2. John Kline says:

      I only eat okra if it is fried, boiled alone, boiled with peas/beans, in okra and tomatoes, in succotash, in soups, in gumbos, pickled . . . . .

      1. Debbie Culbreth says:

        Me TOO! Love okra, except with tomatoes!

  22. I’ve never had okra but it looks delicious fried!

    1. Megan – To me, my fried okra tastes somewhat similar to popcorn. But with a fresher, greener taste. It’s very hard to explain. I just know that I love it!

  23. s. stockwell says:

    No one knows just how delicious this is!! Thanks!

  24. Wow…please make me some! I am a sucker for okra, and fried ranks WAY up there! Yum!

  25. Count me on the “loves okra” team. I don’t make my fried okra just like you do, but I sure would be happy to sit down at your table to eat a big helping of it.

  26. the word fried didn’t scare me off as you know but the use of okra sure got my attention – love it anyway I can get it … I agree with the simple use of cornmeal, as in frying so many things, from green tomatoes to fish, the simplest the better…..makes me want to fry up a batch tonight

    1. Hi Drick – This is the same way that I fry both green tomatoes and fish. Just cornmeal with some salt and pepper. Lets the fish/tomatoes/okra shine through rather than weighing it down with a heavy coat of goopy stuff :-)

      1. John Kline says:

        The best way. The way I was raised. Especially the fish fry people use. Not nearly as good.

  27. Barbara @ moderncomfortfood says:

    I’m totally with you on this wonderful recipe — okra! yah! — and am particularly taken with your use of simple corn meal for the breading. I always found batter to be too heavy also, both for okra and for bay scallops, for the reasons you mention. Many thanks for sharing your technique.

    1. Barbara – This is the way I learned to make it from my mother and grandmothers. It’s the only way I knew until I was grown and had some battered okra at a restaurant. All I could taste was fried batter. I much prefer the lighter cornmeal crust.

      1. John Kline says:

        I always thought that with the batter, the okra “steams” inside the batter and doesn’t get crisp. Very poor substitution for the real thing.

  28. I may try this recipe this weekend. My husband loves fried okra.

  29. One of my all-time favorites! I agree it’s one of the few things that make the trouble of frying worth it.

    1. Every once in a while you just have to have something fried, you know? I try to pick a day that’s not so hot, open the windows and turn on the attic fan. That usually takes care of it.