This vegan stir-fry style dish makes a quick and tasty weeknight dinner
Summertime, and the living is easy. Or it’s supposed to be, at least. Which is why we don’t want to spend a ton of time preparing weeknight dinners.
Stir-fry to the rescue! Today’s dish is Indian-themed vegan. This one-pot recipe is quick to make – and so tasty you won’t even notice it doesn’t contain meat.
Perfect for Meatless Monday. Or any other day.
We love to combine okra and tomatoes. Much of the world agrees – it’s a pairing you’ll find all around the globe. See, for example, this recipe for Mediterranean-Style Okra and Tomatoes.
This recipe adds chickpeas to the mix, then gives it an Indian-style curry twist. The spicing in this dish is fairly mild, but you can easily ramp it up if that’s your jam.
We’re using frozen okra (because the quality is great and it’s so convenient). Ditto on canned tomatoes and chickpeas (which are pantry staples for us). But you can use all fresh ingredients if you prefer – especially since summer okra and tomatoes will soon be plentiful. We provide instructions for that in the Notes.
We usually serve this dish as-is. But you could also spoon it over rice or serve it with a flatbread like roti or naan.
Prep time for this dish is 5 to 10 minutes. Cooking adds another 20 minutes or so.
This recipe yields 3 to 4 main-course servings. Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container.
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped (or more to taste)
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled or not, and roughly chopped
- 1 jalapeño pepper (seeds and white membrane removed), roughly chopped
- 2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
- a pinch of powdered asafoetida (about 1/8 teaspoon; optional, see Notes)
- ¾ cup onion, thinly sliced (or more to taste)
- salt to taste (about 1 teaspoon kosher salt; see Notes)
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander (or more to taste)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin (or more to taste)
- 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can chickpeas (drain and rinse these before using; see Notes)
- ½ to ¾ cup water (or more as needed)
- ~12 ounces frozen okra slices (see Notes if using fresh)
- ½ teaspoon garam masala (or more to taste)
- Add the garlic, ginger, and jalapeño to a mini food processor. Whirl until finely minced. Set aside. (You could also chop these ingredients with a knife, but the machine is faster and easier.)
- Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When hot, add the olive oil. When the oil is heated (about 15 seconds; it’ll shimmer), add the whole cumin seed and let it cook until you barely smell its fragrance (15 to 30 seconds). Then add the asafoetida and cook another 15 to 30 seconds. Then add the onion. Season to taste with salt. Sauté for 5 minutes.
- Push some of the onion to the sides of the frying pan, clearing a space in the center. Add the garlic mixture (from Step 1) to the pan, then sauté for 1 minute.
- Add the turmeric, cayenne, ground coriander, and ground cumin to the frying pan. Stir, then cook for 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes and chickpeas, along with enough water to create just a bit of a sauce (we don’t add much water because we prefer a fairly thick sauce, but you might want a thinner one). Cook for 5 to 10 minutes (exact timing is not critical).
- Add the frozen okra and cook until it’s just tender (about 5 minutes). If you prefer well-cooked okra, you can go longer – up to 15 minutes. (But see Notes – cooking okra too long makes it a bit slimy.)
- Taste, then add more salt if necessary. Stir in the garam masala and cook for 1 minute.
- Ready to serve!
- We sometimes finish this dish with chopped cilantro (maybe 3 to 4 tablespoons). We stir it in at the same time we add the garam masala in Step 7.
- If you want a dish with more spicy heat, add another jalapeño or two (and maybe increase the amount of cayenne).
- To use fresh tomatoes in this dish: Wash and chop the tomatoes, then add them to the recipe in Step 5. You may want to add a few minutes to the cooking time in Step 5; this will give the tomatoes a bit more time to break down.
- If you want to use fresh okra: Wash the okra, cut off the stem ends, then cut the okra into slices of about ¼ inch. Add the okra in Step 6, but cook it a minute or two less than you would if using frozen okra.
- The longer you cook okra, the more slimy and mucilaginous it becomes. Some people like that, but most of us don’t. So we always add okra to dishes near the end of cooking. We cook the okra until it’s tender, but still a bit crisp.
- We drain and rinse canned chickpeas mainly to remove some salt. But the canning liquid for chickpeas actually tastes decent, so many people just pour the contents of the can into whatever dish they’re making.
- Prefer to use dried chickpeas rather than canned? Here’s how: Sort through the dried chickpeas, then rinse them. Soak the chickpeas overnight. The next day, drain the chickpeas and simmer them with half an onion until they’re cooked through. Drain the chickpeas and measure out about 2 cups to use in this recipe (reserve any remaining chickpeas for another use).
- Asafoetida (also spelled asafetida; in Hindi, it’s called hing) is the odorous extract of ferula, a herb that’s part of the celery family. Its pungent odor largely disappears when cooked, and it lends a subtle but distinct umami under-flavor to dishes. You can buy it as a resin hunk and chip it to form powder. But don’t – it’s much easier to use if you buy it already powdered.
- Some supermarkets stock asafoetida, but you’ll probably have to visit a specialty market to find it. Or you can buy it online.
- Buy as small a container of asafoetida as possible and keep it tightly closed. Otherwise, you risk having its funky odor permeate your spice cabinet. And it can take a long time for the smell to dissipate. We’ve heard of people keeping their asafoetida jar in a second container, just to make sure. Overkill, we think, but you’ve been warned.
- Asafoetida is a common ingredient in many Indian and Pakistani dishes. Because it has a flavor reminiscent of onions or leeks, it’s particularly popular in some Indian cuisines that eschew onions and garlic for religious reasons.
- We usually add asafoetida to hot oil at the beginning of the cooking process so it can infuse the oil with its flavor (and so its aroma has enough time to be tamed). Used this way, you need only a pinch or two. BTW, we usually temper another spice (or combo of spices) in the hot oil before we add the asafoetida; we get better results that way.
- If you don’t have asafoetida on hand and don’t want to purchase it, don’t worry. This dish will still taste great without it. But do be aware that asafoetida is what gives many Indian dishes (particularly vegan or vegetarian ones) their memorable character. It’s a flavor you’ll recognize when you taste it.
- Garam masala is a mix of ground spices. You can make your own, but we find the ready-made versions to be of good quality. Buy small containers, though. Once opened, the mix will begin to lose its pungency.
- We add garam masala at the end of cooking, just before serving. Garam masala is as much about aroma as flavor – and if you cook it too long, that aroma will dissipate.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
Yes We Cayenne
“Asafeddible!” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “This dish is aromatic acrobatics.”
“Yup, and chickpeas make this ideal for Meatless Monday,” I said. “Definitely not a meaty-okra recipe.”
“That pun was terrible,” said Mrs K R. “I charge you with hummus-cide.”
Okra dokey. Guess we’re done here.
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I love this beautiful vegetable..but we can only find them in Indian stores. Your curry looks delicious and I would enjoy mine with lots of cilantro! Thanks for sharing this beautiful recipe, John.
Hi Angie, okra grows well in several parts of the US, so we see a lot of it. Great hot weather veggie! We love it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I've never heard of asafoetida before. I just looked it up and evidently it's also known as 'devil's dung' because of the bad smell. There must be something good about it though or you wouldn't be using it! This salad looks like it would also be good for winter, too! Nice and spicy!
Hi Fran, the smell isn't really that bad! Although we do like the nickname for it. :-) It's one of those ingredients that we like, but because we buy it in small quantities will run out of. And sometimes take longer than we should to replenish our supply. It's good stuff -- definitely worth a try. Thanks for the comment.
I have an entire fence row planted with okra. It is not blooming yet, but is healthy and should be producing soon. I am definitely going to do this when it starts producing!
Hi Anne, I figured you'd be growing okra! Such a great veggie, isn't it? Thanks for the comment.
I love this combination of flavors. This is a great summer dish
Hi Pat and Dahn, isn't this nice? Such good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Beautiful, healthy and delicious! This is definitely my kind of meal!
Fascinating! I never heard of asafoetida. Now I must go hunt it down!
Hi Martha, isn't this nice? Nice flavor. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Laura, we don't often use asafoetida, but when we do, wonder why we don't use it all the time! Definitely worth experimenting with. Thanks for the comment.
That's a very interesting combination of vegetables with very different history. Tomatoes, of course, are of New World origins, now in virtually every world cuisine. Chick peas appear in cuisines from Europe through Turkey, the Middle East, and South Asia, with very ancient origins: residues of chick peas in cooking sites from 7500 years ago have been found in archaeology digs in Turkey and Jericho. And okra -- gumbo -- is of African origin, and seems to have been introduced to North America and the Caribbean by enslaved Africans.
best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com
What a colourful and beautiful dish you've got here - I love all the flavours and textures going on! I haven't really cooked with okra, but I think it's a great addition here.
Hi Mae, lotta fusion flavors going on in this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Ben, okra is really good stuff! And a very popular Indian veggies. Thanks for the comment.
Easy and light summer dinners are the best! Love how colorful and packed with flavor this one is! :-) ~Valentina
Hi Valentina, colorful food usually has a lot of flavor! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Attractive offering . . . if one can find lady fingers in Australia ! Some okra is grown fresh in our Northern Territory but does not always appear in the supermarkets - just found some at one of the best chains at just on $A8 for 175 gm prepacked ! The frozen stuff all comes from India . . . with all due respect am perchance a little wary !!! Interesting spice profile I shall try when I can get hold of the little green beasties - asafoetida tho' I have always used multiple times a week on vegetable cookery . . .
Hi Eha, this is probably the wrong time of the year for you to find much fresh okra in your markets. But okra is SO wonderful with Indian-style spices -- really worth trying. :-) Thanks for the comment.
you're going to hate me for saying this but i don't like tomatoes or okra! but i like all the other flavours and i adore chickpeas!!
Wow- does that ever look good. I have a bag of okra in the freezer that I've been wondering what to do with it. We will all love this.. thanks
Hi Sherry, LOL! Sounds like this dish isn't for you. They can't all be winners! :-) Thanks for the comment.
Hi Judee, enjoy. :-) Thanks for the comment.
There is always a light chuckle or a smile as I read your banter at the end. Unfortunately, I am not a fan of Okra, mainly because of the mucilage, sludge, slime, you name it, I just can't do it! Although I do love the spices you use in this dish so I may just leave out the okra and keep everything else. The Asafoetida is also an aid in digestion, if you get my drift ;-).
Hi Eva, zucchini would probably work quite well in place of the okra -- it combines beautifully with tomato and chickpeas. In fact now that I think about it, I need to make a zucchini version of this dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I just made stir fry and your version looks WAY better!
Such a terrific combination of flavors and textures. YUM!
Hi Ashley, we like color. In addition to flavor, of course! Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pam, isn't this nice? A favorite dish for us at this time of the year. Thanks for the comment.
Not a big okra fan here, but my BIL grows it and seems to be getting a bumper crop this year. I'm forwarding him this recipe. I think he'll love it!
Hi MJ, your BIL will thank you. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I honestly never tried okra but I should! Your recipe looks nice, I should maybe do it for my first okra experience ^^
Hi FT, it's good stuff. Just don't overcook it. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This is an easy and great little pantry main. Even when the weather is hot, we enjoy a good cozy curry to warm the soul. It has been so odd but the fresh okra near us for weeks has not looked optimal. We like our okra quite crunchy but will have to look into your great frozen okra option. Take care
I am definitely going to try this dish, our kind of Meatless Monday dish. I might find fresh okra at the markets on the Indian stall but I never thought of buying it frozen. Something to check out, also I'll look for Asafoetida at our amazing Asian/Italian deli which seems to stock everything, or the Indian supermarket, that might be a challenge for them? anyway great recipe with enticing flavours, and definitley broadening my horizons. I tried to grow okra once, should give it another go. thanks so much.
Hi Bobbi, the fresh okra in our market hasn't looked very good either. Probably not local. Frozen okra is great in a dish like this -- and so convenient. Thanks for the comment.
Hi Pauline, I'll bet your deli carries asafoetida if they have a lot of Indian ingredients. It's unusual in US supermarkets, but any Indian-style market will carry it. Thanks for the comment.
Hi R, it's really good stuff. :-) Thanks for the comment.
I love this summer dish, so beautiful and fiber rich. I bet it tastes amazingly delicious.
Hi Balvinder, the flavor is lovely. :-) And we do like bright colors in food! Thanks for the comment.
I love the way you combine ingredients to make different kinds of curry. I have frozen okra (surprise – it’s leftover from last summer when I had fresh okra and froze it) and, of course, canned chickpeas and tomatoes are staples for us, too. I love all the spices you used, especially the asafoetida. It’s amazing how much of a difference a pinch can make.
Hi David, asafoetida really is good stuff, isn't it? It's one of those things we often run out of and don't replace as soon as we should. And when we do, we realize how much we've missed it. Thanks for the comment.
I bet this would be great piled atop some grilled flatbread, too. Yum!
Hi Carolyn, ooh, good idea! Thanks for the comment.
Ahh, this looks amazing John! Love how bright and sunny this dish looks and the combination of flavours is super appealing. I am pretty sure I have never eaten anything with okra before though - I am keen to try it. Enjoy summer - hope you and the Mrs have both been well!
Hi Katerina, okra is good stuff! Worth seeking out. :-) Thanks for the comment.
This just sings "summer garden"!!!!! I love chickpeas in any dish!
Hi Debra, this certainly captures summer flavors, doesn't it? :-) Thanks for the comment.
I hate to admit this, but I’ve never cooked fresh okra. My sister did once ages ago and it was so phlegmy that I couldn’t eat it. I do roast frozen okra, which is amazing, so I know I could like it… thanks for this recipe. It’s beautiful and looks really tasty!
Hi Mimi, if you add okra towards the end of a dish like this and cook it minimally, you avoid that texture. I've fried okra with a cornmeal coating, but haven't roasted it -- need to try that! Thanks for the comment.
During our earthquake in 1989 a jar of Asafetida broke on the kitchen floor and the smell was pretty bad. I have not used this spice then. Your recipe looks good, maybe it’s time to try it again.
Hi Gerlinde, it probably is time to try it again. Just keep that jar secured! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This thing looks tasty! Will definitely keep this recipe
Hi Raymund, really tasty! :-) Thanks for the comment.
This looks so flavorful and the colors are amazing!
Hi Inger, we really do like a colorful dish. :-) Thanks for the comment.
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