This okra recipe takes on a delicious, bright Mediterranean/Middle Eastern twist. It is the perfect balance of savory, tangy, and just a little bit spicy! We call it Bamya, a quick okra and tomatoes stew with onions, garlic, jalapenos, warm spices, and spiked with lime juice.
Be sure to check out the tips for how to cook okra while reducing the slime factor!
Here in the states, comforting, fiber-rich okra is very much thought of as soulful Southern cooking. And living in Atlanta, Georgia, I have sampled a good bit of tasty gumbo, fried okra, and even pickled okra.
But did you know that okra is used in Mediterranean cooking as well?
Okra and tomatoes is something you'll find in many parts of the Mediterranean and the Middle East, including the Mediterranean coast of Egypt, where I grew up. And I'm excited to share my riff on the stewed okra and tomatoes I grew up eating!
This simple okra recipe is the perfect balance of flavor--savory, tangy, and slightly spicy. It takes little prep and only 25 minutes to cook!
Okra and Tomatoes (Bamya)
This okra recipe we call Bamya, is a comforting quick "stew" with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and hot peppers (jalapenos).
A few simple and warm spices--allspice, coriander, and a dash of paprika-- give this okra and tomatoes a distinctly warm Eastern Mediterranean or Middle Eastern flare.
The last-minute addition of fresh lime juice brightens this okra recipe and rounding out the flavor. And even though I list juice of ½ lime in the ingredients below, I often add more after tasting. A little citrus can do wonders for your okra, helping both the flavor and texture!
Many bamya (or bamia) recipes call for meat, typically small chunks of beef or lamb, I much prefer this vegan okra option spiked with lime juice.
Tips to reduce slime when cooking okra
Although comforting to some, “mucilage” or that slimy, slippery mouthfeel of cooked okra is not everyone's favorite. Here is what you can do:
- Use smaller okra pods. If you're buying fresh okra at the farmers' market, select the smaller pods which will be more slimy.
- Keep the okra pods intact. In this recipe, I use cut okra sliced into rounds (fresh or frozen will work). But you can work with the pods intact; just give them a trim but do not slice them up.
- Saute the okra before adding the tomatoes. This recipe calls for sauteeing the okra for 5 to 7 minutes over medium-high heat. The brief high heat cooking will give a bit of a crisp good and control the slime a bit (I do it still even though I use cut okra).
- Cook quickly. Another benefit of keeping the meat out of this recipe is that I can cook my okra and tomatoes quickly (25 minutes) rather than a long-cooked, gooey stew.
- Add Citrus. I mentioned that I love adding lime juice to my okra stew for flavor, but another benefit is that acid will help the texture by counteracting the slimness a bit. (I have heard of chefs pre-treating okra with lime juice or vinegar before cooking, but I have not tried that myself).
What you'll need to make it
Here is what you need to make my bamya okra and tomatoes:
- Extra virgin olive oil. A great start to anything but especially for sauteing the sofrito and the okra. I used Private Reserve Greek EVOO.
- Sofrito of onion, garlic, jalapeno pepper. Chop one onion, and mince 4 garlic cloves and 1 or 2 jalapeno peppers (this depends on how spicy you like your food).
- 1 lb okra. I used cut frozen okra (no need to thaw), but you can use cut fresh okra or whole okra pods in this recipe.
- Kosher salt and black pepper, to your liking
- Spices. 1 teaspoon ground allspice, ½ teaspoon to ¾ teaspoon coriander, and ½ teaspoon paprika (you can add more of any of these as you taste).
- Tomatoes. I use 1 ½ cup crushed tomatoes from a cup and 1 fresh tomato sliced that's added on top.
- Lime juice. Start with juice of ½ lime and add more to your taste
- Parsley for garnish, to your liking.
How to cook okra on the stove top?
For those of you who are more visual, here's how I make this okra recipe step-by-step (print-friendly version below):
- Cook the sofrito (onions, garlic, and hot peppers like jalapeno) in a bit of extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet or braising pan with a lid (I used this one<-affiliate link)
- Add the okra and cook another 5 to 7 minutes over medium-high heat. (If you're using frozen okra, you do not need to thaw it in advance)
- Season with kosher salt, black pepper, allspice, coriander and paprika. Toss to coat
- Add tomatoes and water. Stir in crushed canned tomatoes (1 ½ cup) and a ½ cup of water. Top with sliced tomatoes.
- Cook. Bring the okra stew to a boil, then lower the heat and cover almost all the way but allow a little opening at the top. Let simmer for 25 minutes or until the okra is cooked to your liking (some folks like it super tender, so you can keep going a few minutes if you need to).
- Add lime juice. Don't forget to add your citurs! Start with juice of lime (lemon juice will work also). Test and adjust seasoning and add more citrus to your liking.
- Garnish with fresh parsley, if you like.
How I serve it
Like to serve bamya (or okra and tomatoes) over a bed of Lebanese rice or with warm pita bread for a complete vegan meal.
And if you enjoy more heat, fry up some whole jalapeno peppers and add them to the side.
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Mediterranean-Style Okra Recipe
- Extra virgin olive oil
- 1 small onion chopped (1 cup chopped onion)
- 4 garlic cloves minced
- 2 small green chiles such as jalapeno chopped
- 1 lb frozen or fresh cut okra sliced into rounds (or small whole okra, trimmed)
- Salt and pepper
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- 1 ½ cup crushed tomatoes
- ½ cup water
- 1 tomato sliced into rounds
- Juice of ½ lime more to your liking
- Heat the olive oil in a large skillet (or pan with a lid) over medium-high until shimmering but not smoking. Lower the heat to medium and add the onions, garlic and chopped jalapeno peppers. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes stirring regularly (do not let the garlic burn, if needed adjust heat).
- Add the okra and sautee for 5 to 7 minutes over medium-high heat.
- Season with kosher salt, black pepper and spices. Toss to coat.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and water. Stir to combine. Add the tomato slices on top. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low and cover most of the way (leave a little opening at the top). Let the okra simmer on low heat for 20 to 25 minutes or until the okra has softened. Uncover and add juice of ½ lime (more to your liking).
- Remove from heat and serve over rice or with warm pita bread.
- To serve: This is great as a vegan meal served on top of Lebanese rice or with a little bit of warm pita bread.
- Option: Fry some hot peppers in extra virgin olive oil to serve on the side.
- Storage: allow leftovers to cool before storing in tight-lid glass container in the fridge. It should keep well for 3 to 4 days. Warm over medium heat, adding a little water if needed.
This post originally appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit. Enjoy!
I used frozen okra and it was delicious and so easy. Thanks for the great recipe.
This recipe is an absolute keeper!! So delicious, and healthy! It was our introduction to okra, and now we're fast friends!
To those who like it spicy, I recommend you add some berbere! Very delicious. Made it the other day and it was similar to the spicy okra vegetables with tomato sauce from epcur.com/112794 that I also love. If you haven't tried okra before, I really recommend you give it a try!
This is a great middle eastern dish! I added 1t cinnamon and substituted the 1 1/2 cup of crushed tomatoes for 15oz can of fire roasted tomatoes. Just was delicious!
Sooooooooo good! It is my first time eating okra, and this recipe was just perfect! I
Awesome! Thanks, Liliana!
Thank you for this delicious, easy recipe! I left out the fresh, sliced tomato, because I didn't have any fresh tomatoes, but the recipe was still fantastic!
Glad you enjoyed it, Diana!
I grew okra this year for the first time and had never cooked with it before. What an awesome recipe to start with.
I made it yesterday and shared it with my neighbors who immigrated from Africa. They loved it!!
I used the jalapenos from my garden also.
prep time was the most time consuming as i cut my fresh okra in little rounds but it turned out so wonderful and easy to prepare. I will be making this again and again.
I will be checking out your other recipes also.
Thank you so much for adding this to my life.
Wonderful, Sharon! Glad the recipe was a hit :).
So easy. Incredible.
This was my first time making okra. It's something I've always liked, just didn't grow up with. Recipe is super approachable. Once cooked down, the okra wasn't slimy at all and the flavor was great! I used 2 jalapenos, but skipped the allspice after realizing mid prep that I was out. I just wish it were a little thicker; next time I might add some tomato paste as well
I’m a daughter of Iraqi immigrants and I grew up with bamya as my favorite thing my mom would make. Thanks for sharing this recipe, I’ve never made it myself I always depend on my mom or mother in law to make it
I hope you enjoy it, Rita!
If I wanted to add meat how do you suggest I incorporate it?
Hi, Cam! I would recommend browning the meat in the beginning, then removing it and setting aside. Add it back in with the tomato sauce and water to simmer together with all of the other ingredients.
I made this recipe, and loved everything about it. Today, I am going to make it for the second time. I love okra, and I hope you have other recipes you could send my way. Thanks so much.
Hi, Charles! So glad you've enjoyed this recipe! So far, it's the only one I have with Okra, but stay tuned!!
We thought the allspice was too overwhelming
Also came out rather mushy.
Hi, this was great! I really enjoyed trying a new recipe and exploring new flavors. I was wondering if I could freeze leftovers. Have you tried it? I’m worried about the vegetables becoming mushy. Otherwise how long does this last in the fridge? I’m cooking for one but love to prep for future meals.
Hello! I have not tried to freeze this one, so I can't really advise about that. You can store it in a tight-lid glass container in the fridge for 3-4 days. Just be sure to cool before storing.
I left it for longer than it says but it turned out amazing. Thanks so much ♥️
So glad you enjoyed it, Luma!
This was fabulous. My husband was very skeptical and said we should fry it, like in Texas where he grew up. Despite the okra being fried, he said he never liked it. I told him to give it a chance and he said it was one of his top 10!
Yay! That's awesome! Thanks, Kim!
My family, including my young granddaughters, loves bamya! I buy frozen okra from a Mediterranean market. They are very small and delicious. Don’t need trimming...ready to cook once thawed. I add stew meat also.
I love your emails and recipes!
I like and cook okra, its usually without tomatoes. I tried your version last night and it was absolutely delicious. Thanks for sharing
So glad, Rahul! Thanks for sharing
What a great recipe to use up my summer tomatoes! This looks so robust and flavor; looking forward to making this for dinner this week!