Okra Soup: Taste the African delight

Food Zainab Sulaimon
Okra Soup
Traditional North African Okra soup with bread. Photo : Dreamstime

Okra soup is a popular dish in Africa. The okra (also known as Okro) is a green seed pod of the okra flowering plant. The lush and green okra plant belongs to the same group of plants as the hibiscus and the cotton plants. It can be cooked as a soup on its own or it can be cooked ordinarily, to be simply drunk or eaten with another soup or stew (both prepared with fresh blended peppers and tomatoes). Now let’s explore this fast and very easy to cook delicious and nutritious plant.

About Okra soup

The okra has a slippery feel to it when cut and slimy sight when cooked. This quality can make an individual disinterested. But anyone familiar with this beautiful vegetable knows just how well to handle it. It contains a gel (this is where the slippery feel originates from) which is a thickening agent. It is believed to contain anti-cancer properties. It is rich in nutrients such as magnesium, vitaminA, C, K&K 1, B6, folate, carbs, proteins, fiber and some calories. It contains helpful antioxidants and may be of benefit to pregnant women, diabetes patients, and patients with heart diseases. The basic ingredients to prepare the Okra soup include:

  • Okra
  • Palm oil
  • Any type of fish, red meat or white meat
  • Seasoning Cubes or powder
  • Any type of pepper
  • Salt
  • Baking soda or potash powder (locally known as “Koun”). Note that this is to make it a little bit more slippery. This is because one can be unfortunate to get Okra which has lost its sliminess especially when it is not in season.

The optional ingredients include:

  • Other parts of a cow/goat/ram or lamb
  • Crayfish
  • Locust beans
  • Seafood like Crabs and Prawns
  • Onions
  • Irvingia (local name is Ogbono/Apon)
  • Vegetables like bitter leaf, fluted pumpkin leaves, Kale, Spinach, Parsley leaves or seeds
  • Basically any other thing you can think of.

How to Prepare Okra Soup

The beauty of this dish is that it is very versatile and there are so many ways to prepare it. Every individual has the freedom to put whatever they desire into the pot of soup. It is known as “Ila Alasepo” in the Yoruba Language. No matter how you cook it, it just always comes out right and sweet. There are only a few dishes with this kind of flexibility.

Ingredients for our Okra Soup

Note that the ingredients mentioned without measurements are as desired by individual preferences.

  1. 300g of Okra (equivalent to about 5 cups) chopped with either a food processor or sliced manually;
  2. Clean processed palm oil ½ or ¼ cup;
  3. Salt;
  4. 1teaspoon potash powder;
  5. Seasoning cubes;
  6. 5pieces of red beef (cleaned, boiled, and chopped into tiny bits);
  7. 5pieces of already boiled crabs;
  8. A big piece of mackerel fish (cleaned and boiled) cut into sizeable chunks;
  9. Smoked hake fish (cleaned);
  10. Dried stock hake fish (pre-soaked for softness and cleaned);
  11. Smoked catfish (pre-soaked for softness and cleaned);
  12. Bonga fillets (pre-soaked for softness);
  13. Cow skin and Cow Tripe (cleaned and boiled). Chop into tiny bits just like the beef;
  14. Roughly blended Pepper (red bell, chilies and scotch bonnet);
  15. Sliced fluted pumpkin leaves (locally known as ugu) – a handful or more;
  16. 1tbsp Locust beans;
  17. Broth from boiled beef (using this minimizes the quantity of salt and seasoning cube to be used because the broth already contains this);
  18. ½ cup of blended crayfish powder.


  1. Pour broth into a pot and place on low-medium heat;
  2. Add in the dried stock hake fish. Adding this at the beginning is to make it more chewable and it would have absorbed some of the seasoning by the time the soup is ready. Also the flavor it adds to the pot of soup is simply divine. Allow to cook for 10-15 mins;
  3. Pour in chopped beef, crabs, cow skin and tripe. Stir well;
  4. Add in a bit of your crayfish and add the blended pepper. Stir and leave to cook for about 2mins;
  5. Add the potash powder and the locust beans;
  6. Put in the smoked hake fish, the catfish and fillets. Stir and leave to boil for about a minute;
  7. Add in the mackerel and stir gently. At this point, add a little bit of water and check if it needs more salt or seasoning. Leave to boil for a minute;
  8. Add the palm oil and stir;
  9. Pour in the Okra, pumpkin leaves and the rest of the crayfish. Stir and allow to cook between 3-5minutes only, in order not to lose the nutrients and to retain some crunchiness. Take off heat and simmer for about 30seconds;
  10. Serve alone or serve with another dish. It can be taken with rice, semolina, yam flour, plantain flour, wheat flour, cassava grains or pounded yam.

Extra Tips: How to Prepare Okra Ordinarily

Okra can be prepared to be taken with another peppered soup or as a hot drink.


  • A handful of Okra (may be more, dependent on the quantity of people going to consume)
  • Salt
  • Powdered/Ground pepper (½ teaspoon depending on how hot the pepper is). Note that the purpose of the pepper is to avoid irritation to the guts because of the slipperiness.


  • Wash the okra seed pods thoroughly;
  • Chop/Dice or slice okra into tiny bits;
  • Pour into a pot. Add salt to taste. Add the ground pepper. Add little quantity of water(just enough to make the ingredients boil) and boil for 5 mins;
  • Serve in a plate with desired soup or simply drink with a spoon.

Other exciting facts about Okra

  • It is known as a “food for the health conscious”.
  • Okra water, peels, and powdered seeds can be used for medicinal purposes.
  • It is also a delicacy in Japan, Indonesia, China and the United States of America. It has even been published as a recipe in 1824, in the cookbook “The Virginia Housewife” and also in “The New York Times”.
  • The slippery nature and viscosity is part of what makes the soup enjoyable. But if this is not desired by you, you can kill the slippery agent by cooking in a tomato sauce, cook at high heat, wash in vinegar after chopping or slicing. Alternatively, simply roast or grill the okra.
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