Charred Okra and Shrimp

A screaming hot cast iron pan is the key to this healthy Cajun-style Charred Okra and Shrimp… The flavors of gumbo – thyme, paprika, cayenne, garlic – without the fat-laden roux. Ready in under half an hour, this one-pot dish may become a new family favorite!

Healthy Cajun-Style Charred Okra and Shrimp in a red cast iron skillet with linen napkin, thyme sprig, gumbo filé and stack of black bowls.

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Cajun Cooking and Charred Okra

Cajun or creole? Gumbo is a signature dish for both, the former being roux based, and the latter being tomato based. Cajun gumbo is a dish I crave a couple of times a year, and I usually make it at least once.

My roux is a dark chocolate brown, and made with a 1:1 ratio of  oil to flour. FATTENING. It really doesn’t meet the definition of “healthy with global flair” (my blog tagline). When I see all the fresh, gorgeous okra start appearing at our local markets, my mind automatically goes to shrimp and okra… and gumbo. We do love my Curried Okra and Eggplant, but where’s the gumbo?

This okra season, I was determined to create a dish reminiscent of Cajun gumbo without the fat and calories that cling to it like fuzz on a peach. My biggest concern was the SLIME. That SLIME that makes half the people that try it hate it.  😨 I was afraid that a simple stir-fry technique would leave that slime on the okra.

Keep in mind this Healthy Cajun-Style Charred Okra and Shrimp is GLUTEN FREE. LOW CARB. LOW FAT! What are you waiting for?

🌶 Why Char the Okra?

Enter charred okra. After years of working with blistered, charred Hatch green chile, I am fully aware of the intense, complex flavor achieved through the process.

To confirm my thought process, I googled “charred okra,” and came up with lots of hits! I decided to give this method a try combining tiny tomatoes and Gulf shrimp with Cajun seasonings. If you’re concerned about sustainability (as I am), my favorite resource is Monterrey Bay Aquarium.

The screaming hot sear cooks off the somewhat gross mucilage that is off-putting to so many people. Additionally, the blackened edges provide a smoky flavor and crispy texture that works really well with the rest of the dish!

A cast iron skillet with charred okra and a wooden spatula.
  • refined coconut or vegetable oil – This skillet dish requires oil with a high smoke point.
  • fresh okra
  • shrimp – Use the best quality shrimp available. Farm-raised shrimp can be good, but you need to know the source. Shrimp raised in polluted water and fed poor-quality food can affect the taste.
  • garlic
  • dry white wine – Dry sherry and rosé are good substitutes. If you don’t like to cook with alcohol (it all burns off), substitute broth.
  • fish or chicken broth/stock
  • lemon – You’ll need both juice and zest. Do not substitute bottled lemon juice please.
  • fresh thyme, or dried thyme leaves
  • cajun spice mix
  • smoked paprika
  • sea salt/fresh ground pepper

🔪 Instructions

As I mentioned in the intro, a cast iron pan is essential. They’re simply superior in distributing and cooking with extreme heat. I use refined coconut oil with a high smoke point. Vegetable oil is fine too. Olive oil has a much lower smoke point, and you’ll burn the oil!

Obviously the okra gets charred. (It’s in the title DUH). I love to bump up flavors, and I decided to use the same technique on the tomatoes, sweet onion, and shrimp as well. They line up and take turns getting scorched in that hot pan.

charred tomatoes in a red cast iron skillet
  • Gather and prep your ingredients – Mis en place is imperative in a quick-moving recipe like this charred okra and shrimp. Assemble all of your ingredients, prep the shrimp (if necessary), slice the okra, tomatoes, and sweet onion. If you need to mix up a spice mix, have that ready as well. I slice the lemon, and portion the wine and broth for the pan sauce. Prepare your garnishes as well. Once you start cooking, this dish is done in 10 minutes!
  • Cook the okra – Add the oil to a heavy skillet (ie. cast iron) over high heat. When it is scorching hot, add the okra. Do not stir until you see edges charring. You want some nice color. Stir only enough to turn the okra. When you have a good amount of charring, and the okra has lost its “slime,” remove them from the hot pan (about 3 minutes if the skillet is screaming hot).
  • Cook the tomatoes – Add the tomatoes to the hot skillet, adding more oil if necessary. Cook the tomatoes until they begin to char and burst. Remove from the pan.
  • Cook the sweet onion – Add the sliced sweet onion, cooking on high heat until the onions soften, and get some color on the edges. Remove from the pan.
  • Cook the shrimp – Add the shrimp to the pan, stirring occasionally until the shrimp are opaque but not dry. This only takes 2-3 minutes. Dried out shrimp isn’t good! Remove from the pan.
  • De-glaze the pan – De-glaze the pan with white wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Add the broth/stock, lemon juice and zest, thyme sprigs, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 5 minutes to reduce slightly.
  • Finish the dish – Add the shrimp and veggies back into the pan. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat. Remove the thyme sprigs. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and gumbo file. Enjoy!
Healthy Cajun-Style Charred Okra and Shrimp served in a black stoneware bowl, glass of white wine, thyme sprig.

🍚 What to Serve With It

You can serve this over brown or white rice, quinoa, etc., but we’re watching calories and carbs, and skip it entirely. You might also choose to serve it with a chunk of grilled bread.

As to a wine pairing? We love a bone dry sauvignon blanc or a bone dry French-style rosé. Both complement the lemony shrimp! If you prefer a craft beer, I find that a citrus IPA (not too heavy on the hops) or a light farmhouse saison pairs well…

💭 Tips and FAQ

Options for shrimp – I prefer the flavor of wild-caught shrimp. Since moving to the Rio Grande Valley, I’ve developed something of a love affair with Gulf shrimp. Unfortunately, we only get them in the shell with that nasty vein. I often put my hubby to work peeling and de-veining them, but that’s a 15 minute task (even for the 2 of us).

Just this summer, I tried Argentine wild-caught shrimp that were peeled and de-veined. I can literally get this meal ready in 15 minutes using peeled and de-veined shrimp. Sadly, though, those Argentine shrimp won’t go in my cart again as they’re on the “avoid” list in the sustainable fisheries lists (due to bycatch).

If sustainability is important to you (if not, it should be  😉 ), look for peeled and de-veined from a “best choice” or “good alternative” source. The time savings makes a meal like this a great option for busy weeknight cooking!

Where can I find Cajun/Creole spice mix? You can find many commercially prepared Cajun spice mixes. I have used Zatarain’s and Tony Chachere’s, but their “regular” seasoning is higher in sodium than I like. Tony Chachere’s now has “Lite,” “Salt-Free,” and “Bold” versions as well.

I often make my own. I like this recipe for Cajun Seasoning Mix (leave out the salt); I prefer a salt-free recipe and the flexibility to add salt to taste. If my jar is empty, though, I don’t hesitate to use the Lite or Salt-Free Tony Chachere’s.

Is the Spanish paprika “Cajun?” I love the hint of smokiness from the addition of smoked paprika, though you won’t find it in traditional Cajun recipes. Omit it if you’d like.

Remember: Fresh is best! Keep lemons on hand, and avoid that bottle of lemon juice please.  😆

What is gumbo filé? I keep gumbo filé in my well-stocked pantry. Gumbo filé is made with the dried and ground leaves of the North American sassafras tree. There is no substitution IMHO. If we’re out of it, I’ll still make the dish, but I’ll be sad…

🧂 Useful Stuff

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

The Cajun gumbo flavor is there, but it is an exceptionally light and flavorful dish. Best of all, it’s ready in less than 30 minutes… even with a glass of wine and good conversation!

Do you like the concept of charred okra, or does it to closely resemble burned food that ought to be scraped into the trash can? Honestly, I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on this one… Please leave (thoughtful and kind) comments at the bottom of the post. 

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes. Healthyish Latin cuisine.

Healthy Cajun-Style Charred Okra and Shrimp Feature

Healthy Cajun-Style Charred Okra and Shrimp

The flavors of gumbo – thyme, paprika, cayenne, garlic – without the fat-laden roux. Ready in under half an hour, this one-pot dish is likely to become a new family favorite!
5 from 3 votes

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Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Cajun
Servings 4 servings
Calories 364 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tbsp refined coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 lb fresh okra - halved lengthwise
  • 10 oz tub tiny tomatoes
  • 1 medium sweet onion - vertically sliced
  • 24 oz shrimp - peeled and de-veined
  • 1 tsp garlic - minced
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • ¾ cup fish or chicken broth/stock
  • 1 lemon - juice and zest
  • 3-4 sprigs fresh thyme - or 1 tsp dried thyme leaves
  • 2 tsp cajun spice mix - (see post)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • sea salt/fresh ground pepper

Instructions

  • Add the oil to a heavy skillet (ie. cast iron) over high heat. When it is scorching hot, add the okra. Do not stir until you see edges charring. You want some nice color. Stir only enough to turn the okra. When you have a good amount of charring, and the okra has lost its “slime,” remove them from the hot pan. This process takes about 3 minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes to the hot skillet, adding more oil if necessary. Cook the tomatoes until they begin to char and burst. Remove from the pan
  • Add the sliced sweet onion, cooking on high heat until the onions soften, and get some color on the edges. Remove from the pan.
  • Add the shrimp to the pan, stirring occasionally until the shrimp are opaque but not dry. This only takes 2-3 minutes. Dried out shrimp isn’t good! Remove from the pan.
  • De-glaze the pan with white wine, stirring to loosen any browned bits. Add the broth/stock, lemon juice and zest, thyme sprigs, and spices. Bring to a boil, then simmer about 5 minutes to reduce slightly.
  • Add the shrimp and veggies back into the pan. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat. 
  • Remove the thyme sprigs. Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and gumbo file. Enjoy!

Notes

I add each component to a large prep bowl as it comes out of the pan. Add a little more oil if needed.
As I mentioned in the post, you can serve Healthy Cajun-Style Charred Okra and Shrimp over rice, quinoa, grain, grits, polenta, or with grilled bread. Or not. We just enjoy it as a one-dish meal that’s healthy, low-carb, and delicious!
Please read the post. Cajun spice mixes may be very salty, low salt, and no salt depending on what you use. It also contains cayenne. If you’re not familiar with it, reduce the amount, and add after tasting. 
 

Nutrition

Calories: 364kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 42g | Fat: 7g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

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15 Comments

  1. This was the best recipe. We just found out we love fresh okra. It truly has that Cajun taste. It will be a company pleaser.

  2. As everyone says, GREAT RECIPE! Cooking time was a little longer than posted, but still a quick meal. I make it with shrimp, or cod, or a mix of both. All turn out great! I’ve shared the recipe with several friends and all agree this is a go-to dish.

  3. I made this recipe , I’ll like the way way of okra and everything in it. Thank you for the recipe.

  4. Just made this for dinner – SO good! Added some sliced peppers with the onions to bulk up the veggies. The tip for charring the okra to remove the gooey slime was spot on too, worked like a charm. Thanks for a great recipe, my husband and I really enjoyed this!

  5. I had about 2 lbs of okra that I wanted to use so I made this for dinner last evening and it was DELICIOUS. I did not cut the okra, and used a red onion instead of a sweet onion. Otherwise I followed the recipe as written. Served with brown rice. Very impressive presentation as well. Company worthy !!

    1. Yay!!! I always appreciate feedback, and especially when the recipe was a hit! I am so glad you liked it; it is a favorite at Andersen casa. 🙂

  6. This recipe looks amazing, Tamara. If you live on or near the gulf, a shrimp deveiner is an essential tool. This peels and deveins the shrimp in one quick pass. You can pick one up for a couple of dollars at your local fish monger. That way you can enjoy your local, never frozen shrimp and support the local fishing economy.

    1. Thanks Dan! I rarely buy shrimp that are not local unless I’m in a hurry. I will look for a shrimp deveiner next time I’m at the Gulf. It’s about 47 miles “as the crow flies,” and 70 miles by vehicle.

  7. Hi Tami,
    You have shown me the very first recipe for okra ‘anything’ that I will try. Sounds so yum and easy too. Thanks.