Okra with Coconut

The perfect mid to late summer recipe to keep you balanced in the heat and prepare your body for the cooler months ahead.

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Photo ℅ Rachel Vanni in Joy of Balance

No matter what you’ve thought about okra before, you’ve got to try this recipe from my new cookbook Joy of Balance. It is so delicious, it will surprise even those hesitant to experiment. Plus, okra is far too beneficial for our health to miss. Vaidya R.K. Mishra highly recommended regularly eating okra as its toxin-binding properties support the cleansing of the blood, muscle tissues and liver.

Tridoshic and somagenic, okra can increase Kapha when not properly cooked. The spices and cooking method I use in this recipe reduce the Kapha-aggravating quality of okra. 

When shopping for this mid- to late summer vegetable, select young crisp pods (about 3 inches long). Whenever I visit Indian grocery stores, I always notice a couple of ladies around the okra basket, grabbing and snapping off the pods’ pointed ends as if they’ve entered the “snatch the best okra” competition. As annoying as this ritual can be, snapping the ends is how you test the freshness of okra! The ends of old pods will only bend, not snap.

In her book, The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia, Rebecca Wood recommends not to cook okra in aluminum or cast iron pans, “as the vegetable readily absorbs metallic ions from reactive cookware, which compromises okra’s color and flavor.”

For a simple meal, serve this flavorful vegetable dish with a grain or flatbread and a chutney.

Prep: 10 minutes | Cook: 15 minutes
Serves 2-3 | Gluten-free, Dairy-free


2 tablespoons Cultured ghee or coconut oil

¼ teaspoon ground turmeric

½ teaspoon kalonji seeds (aka black cumin)

1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (omit if you feel too Fiery)

5 fresh curry leaves (use a few more if the leaves are small)

1 ½ pounds okra, halved lengthwise and cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (3 cups)

3 tablespoons finely grated coconut, dried or fresh

¾ teaspoon Pitta Masala

½ teaspoon Soma Salt

Lime slices for garnish


(For Earthy Digestion: Add 1 seeded and minced green Thai chile with the ginger in Step 1)

1. Heat the ghee in a skillet over low heat. Add the turmeric and toast for 10 seconds, then add the kalonji seeds and toast for another 10 seconds, until the spices release their aroma. Add the ginger and curry leaves and continue to toast and crisp them for another 10 seconds; add the okra. Toss well, increase the heat to medium-low and sauté, shaking or stirring frequently but gently with a metal spoon—10 to 15 minutes, or until the okra is tender yet still vibrant green. (Be careful not to mash the vegetables while stirring.) You may cover the skillet to speed up the cooking, but do so only briefly or the condensation will make your okra slippery, giving it the dreaded “slimy” feel. If the okra begins to brown and stick to the pan, lower the heat.

2. Fold in the coconut, masala and salt and continue to toss and cook for 5 more minutes, until the okra is tender and the coconut has browned slightly and absorbed the excess moisture.

3. Turn off the heat, plate, and garnish with lime slices. Serve immediately.

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