Our chairs might not be a rockin' but our air fried okra is! These are the perfect side dish to a good southern meal, or just to eat by themselves. The air fryer helps keep them crispy and delicious without a bunch of added grease. What really takes these to the next level is the Dan-O’s Chipotle dipping sauce, it gives a little kick of heat with a smokey taste that is out of this world.
We get it, Dan-O’s chipotle dipping sauce might not be to your tastes. You could whip up some honey mustard dressing or try whipping up one of the triple threat aioli. Yum Yum Get Ya Sum is great dipping for crispy fried okra, or maybe you like it more simple with a Dan-O’s specialty ranch. No matter what you end up dipping your air fried okra in, you’re in for Dan-good flavor.
Okra is a plant with edible seed pods, it's considered to be in the hibiscus and mallow family of plants. Some members of this family are sorrel, cotton, hibiscus, cacao plants, and many others. Scientists believe that the plant was first cultivated as early as the 12th century BC in Ethiopia but we also know that the ancient Egyptians farmed it. In Egypt it was called Kemet, which translates to “black land” which is believed to refer to the generative soil in the region. Like many crops from Africa, Okra was brought to the United States via the transatlantic slave route between the 16th and 19th centuries.
According to Leah Penniman, okra in some cases came from African women’s hair. The women would braid the seeds into their hair before being forced to board the slave ships due to their belief in a future of sovereignty on land. Through the revolting process of the transatlantic slave route, okra found itself in the united states. It quickly became a staple in southern cooking due to the enslaved workers drawing on their cuisines and recipes from their homelands to make many okra dishes. Michael Twitty, a culinary historian, wrote “In midland North America, okra was one of the ultimate symbols of the establishment of the enslaved community as a culinary outpost of West Africa.”
The popularity, and subsequent spread of okra had a lot to do with how viable it was agriculturally. Okra works best in tropical/subtropical climates, so it thrives in the US south when summer begins early but winter comes late. It’s also helpful that Okra is a very fast growing plant. A well farmed plant can grow to be over 6 feet tall and produce up to 20 pods per week! Okra had some uses outside of traditional food, it was used historically as beads or roasted as a coffee substitute by the enslaved. A former slave once said “sometimes corn and okra seeds was parched right brown and ground up to be used for coffee, but it warn’t nigh as good as sho’nough coffee,.” Coffee substitutes were made of many prolific plants outside of okra like corn, and the knock off coffee became part of an enslaved people’s daily rituals.
Nowadays, okra is a staple of many tables and has a place in family cookbooks across America. Maybe you’ll be adding these air fried okra to your family’s cookbook this year.