Food and Nutrition

10 Recipes Using Okra, the Magnesium-Rich Veggie That Secretly Supports Good Sleep

Emily Laurence

Photo: Hungry Paprikas
Oh, sweet okra. Can anyone really say they've spent quality time in the American South without tasting it? Just the word alone can conjure up memories of okra being served hot from the frying pan, the breaded coating still sizzling as it hits your tongue.

Okra isn't just a food staple in the American South. It's popular all over the world, particularly in North African, Indian, and Mediterranean cuisine. A vegetable with roots that span so much of the globe means there is a lot of variance in the ways it's served up, which is music to the ears of any gastronome.

But here's something you might not know about okra: the vegetable is a particularly good source of magnesium, a nutrient the vast majority of people in the U.S. don't get enough of. Magnesium is an extremely important nutrient that is responsible for energy production, protein synthesis, muscle contraction and nerve signaling, bone mineralization, and glucose control, nutrition expert Whitney English Tabaie, MS, RDN, CPT, told Well+Good. But another reason why magnesium matters so much is that it helps promote good sleep.

As if you even needed one more reason for working okra into your dinner rotation, right? The fact that you can use the veg to craft a dinner that supports your bedtime habits is a major win. Rounded up here are ten okra recipes to try for sweet eating and, hopefully, even sweeter dreams.

10 okra recipes ready to help you meet your magnesium fix:

okra recipes gumbo
Photo: African Bites

1. Chicken, shrimp, and okra gumbo

This recipe has everything you can want in a gumbo: lots of protein, veggies, and tons of spice. (Pro tip: don't skimp on the Creole seasoning.) In it, the okra is cooked right into the seasoned tomato sauce with chicken, shrimp, and green onions. It's a dish that takes a couple of hours to come together, but the end result will be well worth it.

Get the recipe: Chicken, shrimp, and okra gumbo 

okra soup
Photo: Precious Core

2. Cameroonian okra soup

Precious Core blogger and recipe developer Precious Meshi Nkeih grew up in Cameroon eating this earthy soup and she says it's one of her kids' favorite dishes. Besides the okra, it's made with fish and egusi (aka melon seeds). The layers of smokey seafood, nutty seeds, and vegetal okra sing in perfectly-balanced harmony when stirred together. She recommends serving the soup with corn fufu or pounded yams.

Get the recipe: Cameroonian okra soup

mediterranean stew
Photo: The Mediterranean Dish

3. Mediterranean-style okra

Bamya (also known as "bamia") is a thick okra stew with rich, robust flavor. Tomatoes, onions, garlic, and jalapeños are cooked right along with the magnesium-rich veggie, and everything gets showered up with paprika, coriander, and allspice. One tip to keep in mind when making this dish is to sauté the okra before adding the tomatoes. This will ensure the veg's texture is crisp, not slimy.

Get the recipe: Mediterranean-style okra

middle eastern stew
Photo: Hungry Paprikas

4. Middle Eastern bamya

Another delicious bamya recipe, this dish pairs okra with meat, tomato paste, garlic, and—here's the real key ingredient—pomegranate molasses. The final result is a stew that's savory with a hint of sweetness. Full of protein and fiber, it's perfect for a main course and tastes delicious over rice.

Get the recipe: Middle Eastern bamya

mexican okra
Photo: Mexican Made Meatless

5. Okra a la Mexicana

While okra isn't always seen in Mexican cooking, Mexican Made Meatless blogger and recipe developer Nancy Lopez-McHugh says it pops up in some dishes, particularly in Northern Mexico. Here, she uses it as the starring ingredient for a simple side dish. The only other ingredients you need are olive oil, onion, garlic, tomato, and jalapeño peppers. It takes just 15 minutes to make, too.

Get the recipe: Okra a la Mexicana 

oven-roasted okra
Photo: Eating Bird Food

6. Oven-roasted okra

If you're in search of a fuss-free okra recipe, this is the perfect simple dish to bookmark. Here, you'll cook the okra in the oven, which is healthier than frying and avoids the potentially slimy texture that can happen as a result of over-boiling it. Seasoned with a few key spices, this deliciously understated dish is the perfect way to enjoy the veg.

Get the recipe: Oven-roasted okra

crispy side dish
Photo: My Heart Beets

7. Crispy Indian okra

This recipe includes another genius insider tip to ensure your okra comes out crispy, not slimy: after rinsing it off, let it dry completely on a paper towel before throwing it into the skillet. Why? Because sautéing okra while it's completely dry is key. Cook with ghee, turmeric, cumin seeds, ginger, onion, and a Serrano pepper, and you have yourself the perfect crunchy side.

Get the recipe: Crispy Indian okra 

15-minute side dish
Photo: WoonHeng

8. 15-minute spicy okra

Top off your okra with a spicy chili soy sauce and tofu for a Szechuan-influenced meal. Requiring just a handful of ingredients and 15 minutes, it's super easy to make. It can be enjoyed hot or cold; it will taste great either way.

Get the recipe: 15-minute spicy okra 

okra and lime
Photo: The Endless Meal

9. Stir-fried okra with garlic, chilis, and lime

This is another flavor-packed okra dish that comes together in just 15 minutes. Coconut oil is used as the base which adds a hint of sweetness right from the get-go. Garlic, ginger, shallots, cilantro, red chilis, cloves, and toasted sesame seeds amp up the flavor even more.

Get the recipe: Stir-fried okra with garlic, chilis, and lime

greek side dish
Photo: Real Greek Recipes

10. Greek baked okra and tomatoes

If you're into Greek food, you've likely made plenty of dishes pairing tomatoes and feta together. Why not add some okra to the mix? This recipe shows exactly how to do it and yield delicious results.

Get the recipe: Greek baked okra and tomatoes

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