When I joined the features staff at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in 1983, Thelma’s Kitchen on Techwood Avenue was a favored lunchtime destination for cops, AJC reporters, and staff from nearby Grady Memorial Hospital. Thelma’s was a soul-food flavored meat-and-three-vegetable luncheonette, and her okra cakes were legendary—especially for me, since I’d never particularly liked the slimy texture of cooked okra before. Thelma’s recipe was a closely guarded secret, but I think this version comes pretty close to hitting the key nutty-salty component. Choose small-to-medium tender okra pods and chop them finely by hand, discarding the tough tops and tips. And do use the bacon grease added to the frying oil. About six slices of bacon yields the amount needed for this recipe. I can’t prove that using a cast-iron skillet makes a better-tasting okra cake. But it does. ―Mary Kay Andrews, author of The Beach House Cookbook

September 14, 2017

Ingredients

Fried Okra Cakes
  • 1 lb. okra, finely chopped
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plain cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • ¼ cup bacon drippings

Instructions

1. Place the okra, onion, ½ cup water, egg, garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and mix well.
2. Stir the flour, cornmeal, and baking powder together in a separate bowl. Add the flour mixture to the okra mixture and stir until well combined. 
3. Heat about 2 inches of oil plus the bacon drippings in a cast-iron or heavy skillet with high sides until the temperature reaches 350°F.
4. Drop the okra batter into the hot oil by heaping tablespoonfuls and cook, in batches, until golden brown, turning once. Drain on paper towels and serve warm.

Photo by Mary Britton Senseney. From The Beach House Cookbook by Mary Kay Andrews (St. Martin's Press, 2017).

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Ingredients

Fried Okra Cakes
  • 1 lb. okra, finely chopped
  • ½ cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup plain cornmeal
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • Canola or peanut oil for frying
  • ¼ cup bacon drippings
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