Savory Southern Fried Okra has a perfectly seasoned crisp cornmeal coating on the outside of each poppable bite of one of nature's most unusual vegetables. Fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy, this Southern staple makes a great snack, appetizer, or side dish!

A small plate with a pile of fried okra on it.
Table of Contents
  1. What is okra?
  2. What You'll Need
  3. How to Make Fried Okra
  4. Recipe FAQ's
  5. Tips for Success
  6. What to Serve With Fried Okra
  7. Storage & Reheating Instructions
  8. Freezing Instructions
  9. More Southern Recipes
  10. Fried Okra Recipe

I love the taste of fried okra! The vegetable itself is mild, fresh, and slightly earthy tasting - sort of like a green bean - and the crunchy cornmeal coating on the outside is such a great compliment to the taste and texture of the okra. Sure, fried foods aren't the healthiest, but even kids will be more open to exploring new tastes and eating vegetables if you fry them first!

If you find vegetables more palatable if they are breaded and fried first, you're sure to also enjoy our Fried Yellow Squash, Fried Pickles, or Vegetable Tempura!

Served all over the American South, crispy fried okra is especially popular in Mississippi, which is why I'm including it in my collection of foods Mississippi is famous for as part of my American Eats series.

What is okra?

Okra is a vegetable seed pod that is part of the mallow family and is most closely related to hibiscus, cotton, and cocoa. It has a bad reputation for being "slimy" but that's not the case when it's coated in cornmeal and fried. Okra is in season is from May to September but its peak is in June and July. However, I found fresh okra pods in my local grocery store in December!

I can find it in my local grocery store in the produce section or local farmer's market when it's in season, but you can also look in the freezer aisle since frozen okra works just as well for this recipe and the work of cutting the okra into ½-inch pieces is already done for you.

Okra is a popular ingredient in many gumbo recipes, including my favorite gumbo recipe, and is often stewed. But this fried okra recipe is my favorite use of this unusual vegetable!

Fried okra on a baking sheet draining onto paper towels.

What You'll Need

Scroll down to the recipe card below this post for ingredient quantities and full instructions.

  • Okra pods - You can get them fresh if they are available or just use frozen okra. Both work great.
  • Cornmeal - You can use yellow cornmeal or white cornmeal.
  • All-purpose flour
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Pepper
  • Salt
  • Spices - A little cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, and garlic powder ensure that the coating is flavorful and never bland.
Ingredients for making fried okra.

How to Make Fried Okra

  1. Prep the okra. If you are using frozen okra, let it thaw on the counter for 30 minutes or so first. If using fresh okra, wash the pods, then slice off the ends and cut the okra into ½-inch pieces.
  2. Make an egg wash. Whisk the eggs and milk together in a bowl to create an egg wash soak for the okra. This will help the cornmeal breading stick to the veggie pieces as they fry.
  3. Make cornmeal coating. Add the cornmeal, flour, salt, spoked paprika, garlic powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to a large bowl or resealable ziplock bag. Whisk or shake to combine and evenly disperse the spices.

Some folks prefer to soak their okra in buttermilk instead of using eggs and milk for extra tang. If you want, you can replace the eggs and milk with 1 cup of buttermilk in this recipe for a slightly difference taste. 

  1. Dredge. Lift the okra pieces out of the egg wash, letting excess liquid drip off, then add it to the cornmeal coating. Toss well to coat each piece. Transfer to a plate while repeating with the remaining okra.
  2. Fry. Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large cast iron skillet, dutch oven, or other heavy duty pan to between 350 and 375 degrees F. Working in batches, fry the breaded okra in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and crispy.
  1. Keep warm. Transfer the fried okra to a baking sheet lined with paper towels to soak up any excess grease. Keep them warm in a 250 degree F oven while you fry the remaining okra pieces.
A close image of fried okra draining on paper towels.

Recipe FAQ's

Can you make fried okra with frozen okra?

If fresh okra isn't available but you can get your hands on frozen okra, it works great for this recipe. Just let it thaw first before soaking in the buttermilk and dredging in the flour and cornmeal mixture. You won't even be able to tell a difference.

Can you make fried okra in the air fryer?

Absolutely! Just preheat your air fryer to 380 degrees F. Bread the okra like you normally would, then transfer them to the basket of your air fryer so they are in a single layer (you will definitely need to work in batches). Spray with cooking spray, then cook for 7 to 8 minutes.

Tips for Success

  • Don't cut the okra until you are ready to soak it in order to avoid any sliminess.
  • You can eat okra raw - it doesn't actually need to be cooked.
  • Save time breading by tossing the okra with the cornmeal and flour mixture in a large resealable bag.

What to Serve With Fried Okra

You can serve fried okra with ranch dressing, remoulade sauce, Outback Blooming Onion Sauce, homemade aioli, or even plain ketchup for dipping, if you are offering these as an appetizer or snack, although I'm happy just popping them plain into my mouth. I can honestly make a lunch of fried okra all by itself, but it's excellent served with lots of other dishes. These are some of our favorites!

Fried okra on a small plate next to fresh okra.

Storage & Reheating Instructions

Store any leftover okra in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can reheat leftover fried okra in an air fryer at 350 degrees F for 3 to 4 minutes or in a 350 degree F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. The air fryer is my preferred method because it crisps up the exterior a bit better than the oven, but both work well.

I don't recommend using the microwave to reheat this dish.

Freezing Instructions

You can actually freeze the fried okra either before or after frying! Just space out the breaded pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for at least 1 hour before transferring to an airtight container. This helps prevent the breaded okra from freezing together in a big lump.

To cook, either fry in the hot oil like normal or you can use an air fryer and cook them for 12-14 minutes at 400 degrees F, shaking the basket partway through so they air fry evenly.

A bowl of fried okra with some fresh okra surrounding it.

More Southern Recipes

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Fried Okra

5 from 5 votes
Amy Nash
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 3 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Course Appetizer
Cuisine Southern
Servings 6 servings
Savory Southern Fried Okra has a perfectly seasoned crisp cornmeal coating on the outside of each poppable bite of one of nature's most unusual vegetables. Fried in hot oil until golden brown and crispy, this Southern staple makes a great snack, appetizer, or side dish!

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound fresh okra pods or frozen okra, thawed
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
  • ¾ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Vegetable oil, for frying

Instructions
 

  • Heat about 1 inch of oil in a large skillet to between 350 and 375°F.
  • Cut off the stem end and tip of each okra pod. Slice each pod into½-inch pieces. Beat the eggs and milk together in a bowl.
  • Soak the okra in the egg mixture while gathering remaining ingredients.
  • Combine cornmeal, flour, salt, black pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper in a large resealable bag or shallow dish. Shake or stir well to combine.
  • Drain the okra from the egg mixture and add to the flour and cornmeal mixture. Shake well to coat or toss to dredge the okra pieces in the mixture. Transfer to a baking sheet or plate.
  • Fry the okra in the hot oil for 2-3 minutes until golden.

Notes

  • Buttermilk: Some people prefer to soak their okra in buttermilk instead of using eggs and milk for extra tang. If you want, you can replace the eggs and milk with 1 cup of buttermilk instead in this recipe. 
  • Storage: Store any leftover okra in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can reheat leftover fried okra in an air fryer at 350 degrees F for 3 to 4 minutes or in a 350 degree F oven for 8 to 10 minutes. The air fryer is my preferred method because it crisps up the exterior a bit better than the oven, but both work well.
  • Freezing: You can freeze the fried okra before or after frying. Just space out the breaded pieces on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and freeze for at least 1 hour before transferring to an airtight container. This helps prevent the breaded okra from freezing together in a big lump. To cook, either fry in the hot oil like normal or you can use an air fryer and cook them for 12-14 minutes at 400 degrees F, shaking the basket partway through so they air fry evenly.
  • Air Fryer Fried Okra Instructions: Preheat your air fryer to 380 degrees F. Bread the okra like you normally would, then transfer them to the basket of your air fryer so they are in a single layer (you will definitely need to work in batches). Spray with cooking spray, then cook for 7 to 8 minutes.
  • Nutrition: The nutrition info is calculated without an oil amount using an online nutritional calculator. For the most accurate information, you might want to consult a nutitritionist.

Nutrition

Calories: 260kcal | Carbohydrates: 47g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 55mg | Sodium: 1193mg | Potassium: 405mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 688IU | Vitamin C: 17mg | Calcium: 83mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe? Show me on Instagram!Mention @HouseOfNashEats or tag #houseofnasheats!

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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Reader questions and reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Ok ok, I have to admit, I am not a giant okra fan, but this made me a believer! Loved all the texture happening!! Will definitely be making again.

  2. 5 stars
    Okay, I was dubious, but we were doing a Southern themed dinner and a neighbor asked if I would do okra -- never been a fan, but I loved the trick of soaking them! Totally taken by surprise!