A true Southern classic, okra rice soup was as commonplace in the 19th century as it is offbeat today. Think of this thick soup as a vegan cousin to Creole gumbo. For this recipe, use the smallest okra pods you can find, as they’re more tender and less seedy.
Despite the “throw-everything-into-the-pot” simplicity of the recipe, the result is a wonderfully complex blend of flavors and textures—thanks mainly to the unique character of okra.
A fantastic companion: Any kind of fresh cornbread pairs wonderfully with this soup. Make Vegan Jalapeño Cornbread while the soup is simmering.
From Melissa’s Great Book of Produce by Cathy Thomas, here’s an introduction to okra, which can be a most perplexing vegetable. Reprinted by permission of Melissa’s Produce:
Love it or hate it, few vegetables evoke such passionate opinions as okra. It’s not the flavor, a pleasant bland of eggplant and green beans. It’s the mucilaginous juices this vegetable exudes when sliced and cooked. Some cooks appreciate its ability to thicken gumbos.
Okra pods are fuzzy and deeply ridged, usually about 2 to 4 inches long. They can be delectable fried, grilled, or pickled.
Buying okra: Look for smaller pods of okra, about 2 to 3 inches long; they’ll be more tender and flavorful than larger pods. Avoid pods that look dry or dull. They should snap when broken in half.
Storing: Refrigerate unwashed and untrimmed pods in a paper bag in the crisper drawer for no more than five days. To freeze, trim away the stem and, then cut raw pods into 1/2-inch-thick slices crosswise and place in an airtight container. Use within a few months.
Recipe is from American Harvest by Nava Atlas. Photos by Hannah Kaminsky, BittersweetBlog.com.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 medium onions, quartered and thinly sliced
- 2 medium celery stalks, finely diced
- 6 cups water
- 6 medium or 4 large ripe, juicy tomatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds), diced
- 3 to 3 1/2 cups fresh young okra, stemmed and sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 1 medium green bell pepper, diced
- 2/3 cup raw long-grain white rice (jasmine rice works very well)
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or more, to taste
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot. Add the onions sauté until over medium-low heat until translucent, Add the celery and continue to sauté over low heat until the onions are golden.
- Add the water, followed by all the remaining ingredients except the salt, pepper, and parsley. Use your discretion on how much red pepper flakes or cayenne to use; you can always add more later if you want a spicier soup.
- Bring to a slow boil, then cover and simmer gently for about 40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice is cooked and the vegetables are tender. Season with salt and pepper.
- If time allows, let the soup stand for an hour or so, then heat through as needed. It will thicken considerably as it stands. Adjust the consistency if necessary with a bit more water and correct the seasonings, but let it remain thick.
- Just before serving, heat through and stir in the parsley.
If you like okra, you may also enjoy …
Here a lots more vegan soups & stews.