Okra is a signature Southern ingredient. It’s also known as ladies’ fingers because of its slender, tube-like shape. Even though okra is a summertime treat, if you love its taste, you can always choose to freeze some fresh pods to satisfy your okra cravings later during the year.
Whether you want to simply fry them or add them to your soups and casseroles, you can get ready for winter with your handy frozen okra.
This step-by-step guide explains how to freeze okra.
How to Freeze Okra
To get started, all you need are some fresh okra pods and a few simple tools that you probably already have around in your kitchen. Here’s a list of the things you need.
- Fresh okra
- A large colander
- A large cooking pot
- A large pot with ice and water
- White vinegar (optional)
- A sharp knife
- Reusable freezer bags (or ‘ziploc’ bags)
- Cookie sheet
- Baking tray with a sheet
Step 1: Get Fresh Okra
Pick the freshest okra if you want the best results. Choose smooth, unblemished pods that are brightly colored and don’t appear mushy.
Step 2: Wash the Okra
Transfer the okra into a colander and wash it under running water. Rinse thoroughly and make sure to remove all traces of dirt and debris. Be gentle though, as okra pods are quite fragile and can bruise easily if mishandled.
Another way to wash the okra is by using a mixture of white vinegar and water in equal parts. Soak the okra in the mixture for about 2 minutes. The acid in the vinegar helps to dissolve wax or pesticide residues and kills any bacteria or bugs as well. After you’re done soaking the okra, rinse thoroughly with plain water.
Step 3: Remove the Stems
Next step, drain off any water residues from the okra properly. Now take a sharp knife and start cutting off the stems or caps of the okra. Be careful not to cut into the seed cells. Exposing the seed cells will cause the okra to break down in the step discussed next.
If you can see the tiny white seeds, you’re cutting too much of the stem. You just have to trim the stems.
Step 4: Blanch the Okra and Plunge Them into an Ice Bath
You can now separate the larger okra pods from the smaller ones. Fill a cooking pot with water and put it on high heat to bring it to boil. At the same time, keep another pot ready with ice water. Make sure to add a good amount of ice.
When the water starts to boil, add the larger okra pods into it and boil them for about 4 minutes. After that, you can take them out with a slotted spoon and put them in the ice water. This will help prevent the okra from overcooking and preserve their fresh, green color.
Now, blanch the smaller pods of okra in boiling water for about 3 minutes. Transfer them into the ice water bath in the same way.
Blanching larger and smaller pods separately will help in retaining the texture of each.
After allowing the okra to cool off for a few minutes in ice water, you can transfer them into a colander and drain off excess water. Now, lay the okra on a cookie sheet or a tray to let them dry completely.
The next steps involved in freezing fresh okra depend on how you plan to use the frozen okra later.
Freezing Okra for Casseroles and Stews
- Once the okra is fully dried, take a knife and chop them horizontally to create small chunks of okra. If you like them served in stripes, you can cut them vertically, instead. Keep the seeds intact, no matter which cut you prefer.
- Place the okra pieces on a tray covered with a baking sheet, creating a single layer of okra over the sheet. Keep a little distance in between each piece.
- Now flash freeze the okra by putting the tray in the freezer for about an hour. The pieces should become firm and slightly icy but not completely covered with frost.
- Take out the tray after an hour and transfer the frozen okra into reusable freezer bags. Make sure you squeeze out all the air and seal the bags properly.
- Put the bags in the freezer. You can also label them with the date.
Freezing Okra for Frying
- Since fried okra is typically breaded using cornmeal or a mixture of flour and cornmeal, you can do it before freezing it. Use plain cornmeal or equal parts of cornmeal and flour to prepare the mixture. You may add a pinch of salt and pepper to the mix.
- Cut the okra into small pieces and coat them with this dry batter.
- Arrange individual pieces on a tray covered with a baking sheet. Repeat the same process of flash freezing as discussed above.
- After an hour, transfer the pieces into reusable freezer bags, sucking out all the air and sealing them properly.
- Put the bag in the freezer. You can also label them with the date.
How to Use Frozen Okra
When it’s time to use your frozen okra, you just need to scoop it out from the bag and add it to your recipe. It’s best to use it immediately for cooking instead of thawing it. The more it is handled, the more it will get slimy and mushy. So, if you want to retain its shape, use it as soon as you take it out.
Even if you have to deep-fry them, just pour them out of the bag and into the oil.
Tips and Tricks
- You must ensure that the okra you’re using is fresh. To check the freshness, bend the tip of okra gently. If the tip breaks off with a snap, it’s fresh. Stale or under-ripe okra will tear and bend. Avoid choosing okra with spots, pits, bruises, or other signs of decay.
- If you have to get fresh okra from your local vegetable store, your best chances of finding fresh okra are from May through September.
- Never use a wet batter to coat okra that is meant to be frozen.
- Use frozen okra within a year to maintain quality and taste.
Last Few Words
Freezing okra is a quick and easy way to keep this delicious vegetable on hand in the kitchen well past the hot season. Freeze some while it's in season, so you can enjoy it whenever you like.