Okra soup (African okro soup) is made with okra vegetables cooked in a delicious mixture of palm oil, shrimps, goat meat, fish, and African spices and simmered to perfection!

featured okro soup image
Loaded African Okra soup with shrimps and smoked fish

This loaded okro soup is a staple in West Africa, including Nigeria, Ghana, and Cameroon. Okra soup is deliciously satisfying, nutritious, and is loaded with proteins and healthy fat.

It is also excellent for busy weeknights because it can be prepped ahead and even frozen!

What Is The Difference Between Okro And Okra?

Okra is referred to as okro in some West African countries, but they are basically the same. It is sometimes known as ochro or lady fingers due to its long, curved shape.

What Does Okra Taste Like?

Okra has a mild flavor and basically absorbs the taste of the spices used to cook it. It has a somewhat slimy texture, similar to that of Ewedu soup.

This sliminess, known as mucilage, is actually really good for you. It helps to coat the intestines and helps ensure smooth and regular bowel movements.

Ingredients Used

labeled ingredients used in preparing okra soup
  • Okra: For this recipe, I use about 25 pieces of okra pods which came to about 4 cups chopped. It doesn’t have to be exact; you can eyeball the okra and approximate the amount. But remember, the more the okra, the thicker the soup.
  • Proteins: You can use any combination of meat or fish to cook this, but the cooking time will vary. I used goat meat, smoked catfish, Iru (fermented African locust bean), and fresh shrimp. The more proteins you add, the more filling it is, and the chunkier the soup. I actually prefer it this way, but it’s up to you.
  • Red Palm Oil: This is the best for African traditional soups, but you can use olive oil if that’s only what you have. The flavor will not be exactly the same but you will still have a tasty okro soup dish.
  • Other vegetables: The traditional Nigerian okro soup is not cooked with bell peppers, but I added it because I think it gives more texture and flavor, especially if you’re eating it alone as a meal like I do.
  • Spices: I used bouillon, ground crayfish, cayenne pepper, and salt.
Bowl of Nigerian okra soup

How To Make Okra Soup

For this okra soup recipe, you have to prepare the okra first if you’re using fresh okra.

Prepare the okra

  1. You can use frozen okra if that’s all you have, but I promise you, fresh okra is so much better. For the longest time, I used frozen, but when I tried it with fresh okra, I realized what I had been missing.
  2. You can control just how smooth or chunky you want it to be. To make it very smooth, use a blender and blend till it’s pureed. You can also cut it with a knife into smaller pieces to make it chunky, use a grater with a large hole shredder, or chop with a food processor.
  3. The easiest and fastest way is to chop with a food processor as this makes the okra chunks uniform in size, and it is ready in about 2 minutes.

Make the okra stew

  1. Cut the assortment of meat or protein you choose into small pieces. Then add some salt, black pepper, seasoning cubes, and enough water and cook until tender. You will need the meat stock to enhance the soup’s flavor, so don’t toss it.
  2. If you’re using smoked fish and locust bean, soak them separately in hot water for 5 minutes, break apart the smoked catfish and remove the bones. Then, wash and drain the locust bean.
  3. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, add some palm oil. Fry some onions till it just begins to turn brown, then add the chopped okra. Stir in for about 5 minutes, and the okra will start to turn a bit slimy.
  4. Add in the meat stock from boiling the meat or just water if you have none. Since the meat stock is usually very flavorful, you might need to add more spices to bring out the flavor if you just use water.
  5. Bring to a boil and add the spices, meat, shrimp, bell pepper, smoked catfish, and locust bean. You can add or subtract anything on this list; just make it your own!
  6. Add some spinach to make it even more filling.
  7. When cooking the okra, let it boil for 5 minutes, then check the texture of the soup with a slotted spoon. At this point, I am usually okay with the texture but if it is too crunchy for you, let it boil for a few more minutes.
collage showing steps in preparing okro soup

Tips & Variations

  • For a vegan option, you can substitute with mushrooms.
  • If the mucilage in the okro stew bothers you, there are ways to reduce it slightly. Cooking or frying the okra in high heat will cut down the mucilage, while cooking on low heat for a prolonged period will increase it.
  • Be careful not to overcook it, or the okra might begin to turn brown.
  • You can add some habanero pepper for more heat.
  • If the okra soup is too thick, you can add a little water to dilute it.

Enjoy these other low carb African soups and stews!