The Biggest Mistake You're Making With Okra Is Fighting The Slime

Whether you love it or hate it, okra typically generates some strong feelings. Much of the conversation surrounding this southern staple centers on its slime. As the food's key — yet controversial — texture, okra's slime becomes all the more pronounced once the food gets cooked. That slime, however, isn't necessarily for the worse. Rather, okra's trademark has its benefits, particularly for dishes that require thickening. 

Specifically, okra's slime enhances the texture of foods like gumbo, as well as soup and stew, that require more congealed consistencies. "When added to curries, gravies, and stews, this substance is a boon because it helps thicken the liquid," Nik Sharma, cookbook author of Veg-Table, said per Bon Appetit. 

That's not to say okra is only beneficial in these soup-style recipes, however. Sharma likewise pinpoints slime as a harbinger of the vegetable's crispiness. "The mucilage is basically a carbohydrate — it dehydrates and forms a nice crust on top," Sharma added. What better reason to make crispy roasted okra

Of course, if the benefits of slime aren't enough to sell you on okra, maybe a recipe will. If you make an okra gumbo or soup, you can easily harness the power of the love-it-or-hate-it mucilage.

If you can't beat okra's slime, why not join it?

We get it. Slime doesn't exactly sound appetizing — but gumbo certainly is. For home cooks who aren't yet sold on okra's texture, start there, and you'll understand what the slime adds. 

Normally, New Orleans-style gumbos rely on thickeners. These range from filé — a sassafras leaf-made gumbo powder that both seasons and thickens — to a simple roux. With okra, however, slime contributes to that thickening process; it essentially kills two birds with one stone, adding both the flavor of okra and utilizing the potential of its texture. This is because okra's mucilage seeps into the gumbo, thickening the dish. To incorporate okra into gumbo for yourself,  you can either add it raw or cook it ahead of time. There's no need to worry about your gumbo tasting slimy, as okra loses its mucilage during the cooking process.

Granted, if the combination of okra and slime still scares you, there are other techniques to minimize slime. To make the food as slime-free as possible, you can try covering it in cornmeal before frying it in the pan. Likewise, soaking your okra in vinegar for about half an hour may help do the trick. But, if all else fails, throw together a stew — and trust okra's slime to do its job.