This West African Okra (Okro) soup is made with okra vegetables cooked in a delicious mixture of palm oil, shrimps, goat meat, fish and African spices, and simmered to perfection!
The traditional West African Okra Soup is usually eaten with fufu but I make mine so thick and love to eat a bowl by itself. This soup is so deliciously satisfying and loaded with proteins and healthy fat, you will not be able to stop eating it. Also, one serving of this soup has only 2 net carbs which makes it very low carb friendly!
Okra soup is popular in some West African countries like Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon but my version is a spin on the Nigerian okro soup. You can make the soup as loaded as you want; you can add beef, goat meat, fish, shrimps, snails or any combination of these. I used goat meat, smoked fish and shrimps because that was what I had on hand. The more proteins you add, the more filling it is and the chunkier the soup is. I actually prefer this because I often eat it as a meal without using fufu.
Healthy benefits of okra
Okra is also known as lady fingers, gumbo, ochro, or okro. It is a nutrient powerhouse, packed full of vitamins such as folate and vitamin c, and soluble and insoluble fiber. It helps to reduce the risk of heart disease, keeps the intestinal tract healthy, and boosts the immune system, among other numerous benefits. The entire okra plant is edible; the leaves can be used for salads and the pods can be fried, stewed, pickled, boiled or used as a thickener for soups.
Okra is known for its slimy nature and this might be a turn off for some. This sliminess, known as mucilage, is actually really good for you. It helps to coat the intestines and helps ensure smooth and regular bowel movements. If the mucilage really bothers you and you want to reduce it, cooking or frying in high heat will reduce the mucilage while cooking on low heat for a prolonged period will actually increase it.
How to prepare okra
For this recipe, I use about 25 pieces of okra which came to about 4 cups chopped. It doesn’t have to be exact, you can eyeball the okra and approximate the amount. But remember, the more the okra, the thicker the soup.
You can use frozen okra if that’s all you have but I promise you, fresh okra is so much better. For the longest time I had used frozen but when I tried it with fresh okra, I realized what I had been missing. You can control just how smooth or chunky you want it to be. To make it very smooth, use a blender and blend till it’s pureed. To make it chunky, you can cut it with a knife, use a grater with a large hole shredder, or chop with a food processor. The easiest and fastest way is to chop with a food processor as this makes the okra chunks uniform in size and it is ready in about 2 minutes.
Ingredients for okra soup
You will need to prepare the meat and any other proteins you want to add to this soup. I already had some boiled goat meat which took about 30 minutes to cook, so your prep time will depend on what you want to add. I also used smoked catfish and Iru (fermented African locust bean), which is used in a lot of Nigerian soups for a unique and delicious, traditional flavor. l use palm oil for this soup but you can use olive oil if that’s only what you have. The flavor will not be exactly the same but you will still have a tasty okra soup dish.
The traditional Nigerian okra soup is not cooked with bell peppers but I added it because I think it gives more texture and flavor, especially if you’re eating it alone as a meal like I do. You can omit this if you want more of a traditional soup.
How to make okra soup
Choose what meat or protein you want to add. Meat, goat meat or fish will need to be boiled beforehand. After boiling the meat, you will need the meat stock to enhance the flavor of the soup so don’t toss it. If you’re using smoked fish and locust bean, soak them separately in hot water for 5 minutes, then break apart the smoked catfish and remove the bones. Wash and drain the locust bean.
To prepare the okra, trim the ends, wash, and pat dry. Using a food processor, use the chop feature and chop in pulses so that it doesn’t get too smooth. If that’s what you’re going for, then that’s fine. But if you want it in chunks, you will need to carefully watch when chopping.
In a large skillet on medium heat, add some palm oil. Fry some onions till it just begins to turn brown, then add the chopped okra. Stir in for about 5 minutes and the okra will begin to turn a bit slimy. Add in the meat stock from boiling the meat or just water if you have none. The meat stock is usually very flavorful so if you just add water, you might need to add a bit more spices to bring out the flavor.
Bring to a boil and add the spices, meat, shrimp, bell pepper, smoked catfish and locust bean. You can add or subtract anything on this list, just make it your own! You can also add spinach if you want but I didn’t add any in this recipe.
Let it boil for about 5 minutes and check the texture of the okra. At this point, I am usually fine with the texture but if it is too crunchy for you, let it boil for a few more minutes. Be careful not to overcook or the okra might begin to turn brown. Add more salt or spices if you desire a stronger flavor.
Serve and enjoy alone or with fufu if you like. I make mine very loaded so it is a full meal all by itself. You can try it with cauliflower fufu, eggplant fufu or coconut fufu for variety. You will probably struggle to finish it because the fiber makes it so amazingly filling and satisfying!
Okra can be made in so many different ways. For variety, try this crispy roasted okra for a snack. So delicious!
Okro Soup (West African Okra Soup)
For goat meat
- 1 lb goat meat
- 1 tbsp bouillon powder
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 onion
- 1 tsp salt
- Wash the goat meat and place in a large pot.
- Chop half an onion and add salt, black pepper, bouillon powder.
- Boil for about 30 minutes, stirring intermittently. The meat should be quite tender but not too soft when done.
- If applicable, soak the smoked catfish and locust bean, separately in hot water for about 5 minutes.
- Break apart the smoked catfish and remove the bones.
- Wash and drain the locust bean.
- Trim the ends off the okra, wash, and pat dry.
- Chop okra using a food processor and set aside.
- Pour palm oil in a large pan on medium heat.
- Add onions and stir fry for 2 minutes till it turns just a bit brown.
- Add okra to palm oil and stir for about 5 minutes.
- Add the meat stock from boiling the meat. You can add water if you don’t have any but might need to increase the spices added.
- Add the meat, shrimp, bell pepper, smoked catfish and locust bean and bring to a boil. You can add or subtract anything thing on this list, just make it your own!
- Add the spices: black pepper, ground pepper, ground crayfish, bouillon powder, salt or any spices you have.
- Let it boil for about 5 minutes if you’re ok with a coarser texture, or a few minutes longer if you want a finer texture.
- Add more salt or spices if you desire a stronger flavor.
- Serve and enjoy!
Other Helpful Resources about Okra