Turkish bamya yemeği is an okra and tomato stew that is usually served on the side as a mezze or with rice pilaf as a meal. Baby okras are cooked in a sour and sweet lemony tomato-based stew until really tender and absolutely delicious.
Turkish bamya is addictive and really simple to make. It really is worth a try as it’s a staple of Turkish cuisine (and for good reasons). Do look for baby okras if possible, as they can make all the difference!
OUT WITH THE SALAD, IN WITH THE STEW
I grew up on a tiny island in the Caribbean where okra is a vegetable mainly used for, dare I say, boring salads. For the longest time, okra was, to me, a bitter viscous vegetable that I was careful to avoid. But after moving to Turkey and tasting Turkish bamya I fell in love with it, hard and fast! Okras lend themselves so much better to stews and soup than grated or with a vinaigrette. I love their seeds, I love the slimy texture (yes) and with the right ingredients to liven things up the okra’s natural earthiness can actually taste pretty good.
CANNED WHOLE OKRAS FOR THE WIN
At the first chance I got, I asked my mother-in-law to teach me her Turkish bamya recipe. She took me to the market, showed me which okra to pick (the smallest and greenest pods) and then how to prepare them. Afterward, I moved back to France and realized that finding fresh okras was pretty difficult. The next time I was visiting her, she taught me how to make the recipe with canned okras, which are widely available in the Turkish stores I go to. To my relief, I loved it just the same with canned okras. It was even better since it’s quicker to make Turkish bamya since you don’t have to prepare the fresh okras. You simply drain a couple of cans, rinse the okras and they are ready for cooking.
I think that to make traditional Turkish bamya, there is nothing better than Turkish canned whole okras. If you have the possibility to go to a Turkish store, you’ll find okras in glass jars in the canned aisle. There will be several types on display but be on the lookout for whole baby okras. They are smaller than regular-size okras and will result in a less slimy stew with softer okras. It will be written either baby okra, çiçek bamya, or mini gombo on the jar.
If you can’t go to a Turkish store (or can’t order from it), you can still make Turkish bamya with another type of okras that is more readily available to you:
- canned cut okras: if you see canned cut okras at your supermarket, you can use them, just be careful that they are not pickled okras. Drain and rinse them as written in the first step of the recipe. Cut okras will result in a more viscous Turkish bamya.
- frozen cut okras: Add them directly to the stew according to the recipe’s instructions. There is no need to defrost them first.
- fresh okras: Before adding them to the stew you will have to wash them thoroughly to remove their hairs. Then, trim the tough tips without cutting into the seed pods. If the okras are very long, slice them in half crosswise. They are now ready to be added to the stew according to the recipe’s instructions.
Note that coating the okras with 120ml (½ cup) of vinegar for half an hour and then rinsing them before adding them to the stew will help reduce the slime. In my experience, this step was never enough to successfully turn an okra hater into an okra lover, but you can give it a go.
→ PREPARE THE INGREDIENTS
Drain the okras and rinse them. Peel and dice the onions. Juice half of a lemon. Slice the tomatoes in halves and grate the cut sides on the largest holes of a box grater into a deep plate.
→ MAKE THE STEW
Cook the chopped onions until softened. Add the paste and cook for 2 min. Stir in the grated tomatoes and the salt. Cook for a few minutes. Add the okras, lemon juice and water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat and cook the stew for 25 min covered. Let the Turkish bamya rest a bit before serving.
OLIVE OIL DISHES
Turkish bamya yemeği is part of the family of dishes called zeytinyağlı yemekler (meals cooked with olive oil). A lot of vegetables, such as zucchini, green beans, or cabbage, are cooked following this exact method, except no lemon juice is added. These dishes taste better when cooked in advance so that the flavors have time to blend. They are also best eaten warm or cold, but never hot! Turkish bamya is by far my favorite zeytinyağlı yemek! I could eat this okra and tomato stew every week and never get tired of it.
It’s common to make Turkish bamya with ground beef or stewed lamb. I much prefer the vegetarian version because I find that the meat tends to overpower the flavors of the sauce and of the okra. I would rather taste the okras!
In the mood for another Turkish side dish? Here are some of my favorite recipes:Print
Turkish bamya are baby okras cooked in a sweet and sour lemony tomato-based stew. It’s a staple of Turkish cuisine, and for good reasons, the okras are super tender and flavorful.
- 640g canned okras (22.5 oz), drained weight or use frozen cut okra
- 2 small yellow onions
- ½ lemon
- 2 tomatoes
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 heaped tsp Turkish mild red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası), or use tomato paste
- 1 tsp fine sea salt
- 235ml water (1 cup)
- Prepare the ingredients. Drain the cans over your sink using a colander or a sturdy sieve. Turkish canned okras always come with sliced halved tomatoes in them. I usually discard them but my mother-in-law adds them to the stew alongside the okras. You do you. Rinse the okras under cold running water for 30 seconds. The okras are now ready to be used for the recipe but set them aside for now. Peel the onions. Thinly chop them and set them aside. Juice half a lemon and set the juice aside. Slice the tomatoes in halves and grate the cut sides on the largest holes of a box grater into a deep plate. Discard the skins.
- Make the stew. Heat the olive oil in a deep non-stick pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent, about 10 min, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the paste and spread it all over the chopped onion using the back of the wooden spoon. Cook for 2 min. Stir in the grated tomatoes and the salt. Cook for 3 min, mixing from time to time. Stir in the okras, lemon juice and water. Increase the heat to quickly bring the stew to a boil. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer gently for 25 min. Turkish bamya is not a thick stew, the base is pretty liquid so if you think it’s watery that everything is normal! Remove the pan from the heat and let the stew rest for at least 10 min before serving.
You can keep Turkish bamya in the fridge in an airtight container for up to 5 days. The taste will improve over time.
Reheat the okra and tomato stew, covered with a lid, gently over medium-low heat stirring from time to time. It should take about 5 min to get just warm. Or use the microwave!
- Serving Size: 1 serving
- Calories: 250
Keywords: okra and tomato stew, turkish vegetable side dishes, okra vegan recipes