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.
You may also enjoy reading about: