Healthy Recipes for Dinner

You Haven’t Lived Until You’ve Tried 2-Ingredient Air-Fried Okra (And It’s Great for Your Gut)

Photo: Gina Matsoukas/Running to the Kitchen
It comes as little surprise that all plant foods contain important vitamins and minerals that help keep us healthy and strong, but some veggies offer more health benefits than others. Okra is one of those powerful little plants that can work wonders for our bodies because it’s loaded with nutrients—in fact, okra contains high amounts of fiber, magnesium, calcium, and iron, just to name a few. One serving of okra packs almost all the vitamin A you need for an entire day, too. (It has 716 microunits per cup, and you want to aim for a total of 900 microunits.) "This is good for both eye health and the immune system," Nour Zibdeh, RD, author of The Complete Acid Reflux Diet Plan, previously told Well+Good. Okra can also help support our immune system throughout cold and flu season since it’s chock full of vitamin C and antioxidants.

One of the greatest benefits of okra, however, comes in its unique ability to support your gut microbiome. "Okra is especially good for the gut," Zibdeh says. "Okra can take on a slippery texture; this substance actually helps coat the lining of the gut when you eat it." It's super important that the lining of your gut stays intact, because according to Zibdeh,  a leaky gut may allow harmful pathogens can make their way into the bloodstream. (And don’t worry, when okra is properly cooked, the slippery texture evaporates. It also goes away when cooked with any acid like tomatoes, lemon juice, or vinegar.)

Why is air fryer okra so delicious?

Speaking of proper cooking techniques. There are many ways to prepare okra—you can boil, bake, grill, sauté, roast, and fry it. You can even pickle okra, or dehydrate or ferment it if you want to enjoy it over time. Depending on the dish, okra can be cut into coin-shaped pieces or cooked whole with the tops trimmed off. But if you’re looking for that irresistibly crispy, salty, and free-from-slimy textural perfection, air fryer okra is the way to go.

Air frying has gained popularity over the years because it’s a healthier alternative to deep frying and it’s extremely easy to prepare almost anything, from kale chips and sweet potato fries to hard-boiled eggs and avocado fries. Okra is, of course, no exception. Perfect for an appetizer, snack, or even a side dish, air fryer okra is bursting with flavor and is especially delicious when paired with a dipping sauce like creamy garlic, hummus, spicy chili sauce, or this tangy cilantro lime dressing.

Air fryer okra recipes

There are countless ways to air fry okra—it all depends on your flavor and textural preferences, as well as what ingredients you have on hand.

air fryer okra
Photo: Mary Ellen Phipps/Milk & Honey Nutrition

1. 2-ingredient air fryer okra

The easiest way to make delicious, without question, is by simply tossing okra rounds with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper like Mary Ellen Phipps, RDN, founder of Milk and Honey Nutrition, does in this fuss-free recipe. Simply air fry the okra at 400°F for roughly 15 minutes, tossing halfway between.

air fryer okra
Photo: Gina Matsoukas/Running to the Kitchen

2. Vegan, gluten-free okra fries

Gina Matsoukas, the food blogger and recipe developer behind Running to the Kitchen, has a great recipe for vegan and gluten free okra “fries”—and chances are, you already have most of the ingredients in your pantry. Matsoukas starts by slicing them lengthwise so they take on a traditional French fry shape, then uses a spice blend of garlic powder, cumin, coriander, turmeric, and chili powder to make them flavorful with a subtle kick. Gina also uses arrowroot starch, but she mentions that tapioca starch or cornstarch could be used as an alternative, too.

air fryer okra
Photo: Julia Foerster/Plated Cravings

3. Crispy cornmeal-breaded okra

For more of a Southern take on air fried okra, Julia Foerster of Plated Cravings makes her air fryer okra with egg, milk, flour, and cornmeal to achieve the ultimate crispiness. You can still make this recipe without cornmeal, but according to Foerster, “adding it gives the okra more texture and flavor." Swapping buttermilk in place of the egg and milk will work well for this recipe, too. And to make sure the okra doesn’t burn, Julia recommends using a high smoke point spray oil like avocado oil, olive oil, or coconut oil. "And don't forget: Fried okra tastes best when served immediately with a sprinkle of flaky sea salt,” adds Foerster, so you’ll want to enjoy these as soon as they’re ready.

Keep in mind that because every air fryer is different, it’s a good idea to check on the okra after seven to eight minutes, but it should take about 10 minutes in the fryer basket to reach peak crispiness. Also, it may seem like you’re cooking a lot of okra—don't panic. Because of their high water content, they tend to shrink as they cook, so don’t be surprised if your batch is a bit smaller than anticipated. (As if you could ever have too much of a good thing anyway.)

Depending on where you’re located, it may be difficult to find fresh okra in the supermarket. The good news is that you can air fry frozen okra just as well as fresh (it also eliminates all the slicing and chopping work—just saying). Frozen okra usually comes breaded or plain, and can be cooked the same way. Just grab your favorite cooking oil, air fry for about 10 minutes at around 400°F, and season with a little salt, pepper, and any other spices that strike your fancy when they’re done.

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