Bhindi Subzi (Indian Style Okra)

If you are not familiar with Indian food, okra may be something you only associate with American Southern food. In fact, okra is a very common ingredient in Indian cooking. Okra, known as “Bhindi” pronounced “Bhin-dee” in north India, where I am from, can be used in many applications. We use it as is, in subzi’s (which are spiced vegetable dishes) and also in kadhi’s which are chickpea flour based soups. Okra is a very, very healthy for you. Super high in tons of vitamins and minerals, and also low in calories. The seeds are also known to be very high in protein. Depending on the variety you buy, the seeds will take on different sizes. Indian Okra tends to be thinner and have smaller seeds, while American okra is a bit wider, and the seeds are a quite a bit bigger. Where you live will determine which variety of Okra you will have access too. You can also frequently find it in the freezer section of your grocery store, but you should know that even though it’s not bad, at least in Indian applications, the frozen okra has a different texture than the fresh ones. My mom has always been able to know immediately whether a restaurant has used frozen or fresh bhindi. If you have access to the fresh vegetable its better, but frozen is a good alternative. 

I was never partial or impartial to bhindi growing up. I ate it when it was made, but I never went out of my way to ever request it. When I met my husband, I realized that there were people out there that LOVED it. According to him, when he was a child he rarely ate any vegetables, his diet consisted mostly of just bananas and roti’s (indian flat bread). One day, his mom had made this dish (in her style), and he suddenly had an epiphany about how delicious vegetables could be. It was bhindi that opened the door for him to the world of vegetables. Even though he eats meat (unlike me) his love of vegetables goes much deeper than mine. He would be perfectly happy eating just a large plate of vegetables cooked literally any way. I am more demanding, I need some bread, or rice and other things to make it a meal. 

The way that I cook this subzi is not really anything particularly special. I pretty much make all of my vegetable dishes in a similar manner. It’s the style of how my grandmothers and mom cooks. That is the beauty of Indian vegetable dishes. You can cook them all in a similar way, with all the same spices, but depending on the vegetable they will all come out completely different! It’s pretty cool how that works. 

Let me walk you through how I make my version of Bhindi Subzi!

First things first, there are only 2 vegetables in this dish, Bhindi(Okra) and Onions. I bought my Okra from a local farmers market, so they are not Indian style, the seeds are quite large but the flavor is still good. The onion is just a large yellow onion.

Like many or most vegetables, Okra reduces in size quite a bit when it’s cooked, so you need to start out with a lot in order to get a good amount. Here I started out with 900g of okra. (It was 4 of those little green paper based boxes they put vegetables in at the farmers market). 

To me one of the most important steps in any recipe is proper washing. It’s no different for this. Unless you are using the frozen okra, you want to make sure you wash it properly.

For cooking though they need to be dry, so after washing I like to lay my okra out on a paper towel to dry.

After everything has been laid out I take another paper towel and dab the remaining water off of the okra. 

Once the okra are dry, you will need to chop them up. First thing is to chop off the tops and discard them. After that you will want to cut them into 1in pieces. There are a lot to cut, and I like to make the process go faster by grabbing a bunch that are the same size and cutting them together.

After that you will want to prepare you onion. Chop it up into a large dice. 1in pieces would be good. 

Now your vegetables are ready to use. It’s always important to make sure all your vegetables are cut before you turn on the stove. 

First thing you need to do is heat up a large skillet with oil on medium heat. Make sure that whatever skillet you choose, it is one that you have a lid for. Once the oil gets hot, add your Mustard Seeds. If the oil is hot, they will start to pop quickly. Put the lid on quickly, to make sure the seeds don’t pop all over your kitchen.

After about a minute of popping, take the lid off and turn the pan so that the oil is pooled to one side. This will prevent the mustard seeds from popping out of the pan. Add your Jeera (cumin seeds) and Indian Dried Chili Pepper. Let that roast for a minute, until it becomes fragrant. Then add Haldi (turmeric powder), Indian Chili Powder and Dhaniya Powder (Coriander Powder).  Mix it into the oil so that it dissolves inside.

After that, add your chopped onions and mix them all in so that they are coated in your spices. Lower it to medium/low heat and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Once the onions are starting to soften after 2-3 minutes, then add your okra and mix it in. Also add some additional oil, and salt. Once you add your okra, make a slurry on the side in a small bowl with 1/8 cup of water, haldi (turmeric), indian chili powder, and dhaniya (coriander) powder. We will need it in a few minutes, so it’s good to have it handy. Be sure to mix the okra around occasionally. 

After some time, you will notice that the okra will start to get gooey or stringy when you mix it around. This is good, it means its cooking. The goal by the end of the cooking process is for that to stop being there.

Once your onions and okra begin to get brown and soft, add your slurry and cover it with the lid for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes remove the lid, stir everything around, let the remaining moisture cook off and then add another 1/8-1/4 cup of water, mix it around, recover it, and then cook it again for 3-4 minutes. Remove the lid after 3-4 minutes and then fry it until all the water is gone again. At this point the okra should be nice and soft. The green hue should have darkened, and it should begin to be falling apart. Taste it for done-ness and for flavor. If it feels almost done then that’s where you want it, but if it still feels raw then repeat the process with the water and covering one more time. At this point, mine tasted almost cooked completely and it needed salt, so I added the salt. The last step is to cover it, and leave it off of the stove for 20 minutes to finish cooking. After 20 minutes it will be ready to serve. If you are making Basmati Rice or roti (indian flatbread) this is a good opportunity to make those while it finished steaming. 

Then its done! And ready to enjoy! My husbands favorite way to eat it is with yogurt and roti (indian flatbread). =)

I hope you give this recipe a try for yourself! Please be sure to let me know in the comments if you do! I would love to hear what you thought of it! Be sure to subscribe so that you can be notified when I post new recipes! (link in the sidebar). Follow me on Instagram @saltyoversweet and find me on Facebook (the link is in the sidebar).

Bhindi Subzi (Indian Style Okra)
Serves 4
A simple Okra dish cooked in the North Indian style.
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
30 min
Total Time
1 hr
Ingredients
  1. 900g - Raw/Fresh Bhindi (Okra)
  2. 1 - Large Yellow Onion
  3. 2 Tablespoons - Neutral cooking Oil (first)
  4. 1 Tablespoon - Neutral cooking Oil (later)
  5. 1/2 Tablespoon - Black Mustard Seeds
  6. 1/2 Tablespoon - Jeera (Cumin Seeds)
  7. 1 - Dried red Indian chili pepper
  8. 1 teaspoon - Haldi (turmeric powder)
  9. 1/2 teaspoon - Mirchi (indian chili powder)
  10. 2 Tablespoons - Dhaniya (coriander) powder
  11. 1 teaspoon - Salt
  12. 1/4 cup - water
For the Slurry
  1. 1/8 cup water
  2. 1 tsp - Haldi (turmeric powder)
  3. 2 tablespoons - Dhaniya (coriander) powder
  4. 1/8 teaspoon - Mirchi (indian chili powder)
Instructions
  1. Wash and lightly dry bhindi (okra).
  2. Cut off the tops and then chop into 1in pieces.
  3. Make sure you wash the knife properly after this, it will be gooey and sticky.
  4. Chop your onion into a large 1in dice.
  5. Heat the first 2 tablespoons of oil in a large sautee pan (with a lid) on medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds. Cover with the lid.
  6. The mustard seeds will start popping, after about a minute, take the lid off and tilt the pan to the side so that the oil collects in one area. (this keeps the mustard seeds from popping out of the pan), add the Jeera (cumin seeds) and dried chili pepper. Cook this until fragrant, then add the dhaniya (coriander) powder, mirchi (indian chili powder), and haldi (turmeric powder), mix it into the oil.
  7. Add the chopped onions, lower the heat to medium/low and mix around into the spices. Cook for 2-3 min until beginning to soften.
  8. Then add the chopped okra and the additional 1 tablespoon of oil and the salt.
  9. Mix everything around and fry. (prepare the slurry by mixing all the ingredients together into a small bowl)
  10. Eventually the okra will begin to get sticky, or stringy. Continue cooking it. Once the okra and onions begin to soften, add the slurry mix it in, and cover the pan with the lid. Cook this for 5 minutes.
  11. Remove the lid after 5 minutes, stir, fry for a minute to let the moisture evaporate.
  12. Then add an addition 1/8-1/4 cup of water, mix it in, cover and cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
  13. After 3-4 minutes, remove the lid, stir and mix again over the heat until most of the moisture is gone.
  14. At this point you will need to taste it. If it needs salt add more. Mine did, so I added more salt. It needs to be just almost finished cooking. If it tastes more raw still repeat the steaming process one more time by adding some more water and covering it for an additional 5 minutes.
  15. If it seems almost done, then remove the pan from the heat and let it remain covered on the side for 20 more minutes before serving. At this point it is done.
  16. Enjoy! Serve with rice or roti (indian flatbread).
Notes
  1. *This recipe is inherently vegan.
  2. *This recipe is inherently gluten-free.
  3. *Different varieties of okra take different amounts of time to cook, so you will need to judge for yourself when it is finished.
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