Okra Cornmeal Cakes

The inspiration for these delicious okra cakes came from Gloria Smiley, a friend and professional food stylist in Atlanta. Her okra cakes have a rice base, maybe because she’s got rice in her blood since she’s from the Low Country. I felt compelled to use cornmeal, maybe because I’m from farther inland. In fact, in the middle of summer, I like to add fresh corn cut off the cob. Serve these in bite-size bits for a cocktail nibble or as larger cakes for a side dish. They’re also brilliant Napoleon style, layered with a soft, creamy cheese, such as fresh goat cheese or ricotta, and thickly sliced tomato.–Virginia Willis

LC Napoleon Complex Note

It’s not every day that cookbook authors make us chuckle, but we guffawed out loud when we read the following note from author Virginia Willis, which not only explains an alternate plating option for this dish but conveys some of her personality as well: “A Napoleon is traditionally a stacked dessert of puff pastry, pastry cream and fruit, but the term has come to mean pretty much anything stacked. Sometimes the concept is taken a bit too far and the stack becomes towering and difficult to eat, more akin to a Napoleon complex, but it’s a very restaurant way of presenting a thin little cake or vegetable.” We’re still hooting and hollering over that one.

Okra Cornmeal Cakes Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 30 M
  • Makes twelve 3-inch cakes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups finely ground yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 1/2 cups cold water, plus more if needed
  • 8 ounces fresh okra, stems trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 1 jalapeño, cored, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, mashed into a paste
  • 1/4 cup mild vegetable oil, for frying

Directions

  • 1. Line a plate with paper towels.
  • 2. In a large bowl, whisk together the cornmeal, baking powder, and fine salt. In a second bowl or large liquid measuring cup, combine the egg and water. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and whisk until smooth. Add the okra, jalapeño, and garlic and stir to combine. (The batter should be thick and wet, not dry. Add a little more water at a time if needed. The amount will depend on the exact grind of the cornmeal.)
  • 3. Heat some or all of the oil in a cast-iron skillet over medium heat, depending on how “fried” you like your cakes. Scoop 1/4 cup batter onto the heated surface and, if needed, flatten the griddle cake so it has an even surface. Repeat with additional batter, being careful not to crowd the skillet. Cook the griddle cakes until the bottoms are brown and bubbles form on the tops and edges, 2 to 3 minutes. Turn and cook until the other side is golden brown, an additional 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to the paper towel–lined plate. Season the cooked griddle cakes with salt and pepper. Repeat with the remaining batter. Serve immediately.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Anna Scott

Aug 07, 2013

What a clever twist on fried okra! This seemed sort of a hybrid between a fried green tomato and traditional fried okra—a Southern delight indeed. The batter was easy to assemble and thick. (I added a little more water to make it “not dry” as described in the recipe.) This made the cakes very easy to flip when it was time to do so. I appreciated the “visuals” in the directions. Sprinkling the finished product with salt and pepper after they came out of the pan is an important step (I also recommend a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce here!) I actually made the Napoleon option with goat cheese and fresh slices of heirloom tomato. It was an impressive addition to our dinner last night of bourbon pork chops and turnip greens. I really liked the flavor and overall presentation of this dish. I could see this being a nice addition to a brunch menu as well.

Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Aug 07, 2013

I love pancakes, especially savory ones. The okra in these cakes retained its firm, earthy appeal while the jalapeño was a delicate surprise. I found the recipe weeknight easy and most of the ingredients are pantry staples. Depending on the circumstances, you will need more or less water than outlined in the recipe (hey, humidity happens.) Also, rather than use all of the oil at once, I oiled the pan as needed throughout the course of the batches. A well-greased pan yielded a crisper, more golden brown pancake. I served the cakes with pulled pork and they were delicious. I have images of all types of meats piled aloft.

Testers Choice
Lori Widmeyer

Aug 07, 2013

The cookbook title says it all—basic to brilliant, y’all. This simple Southern dish is delicious and becomes even better when made into the “Napoleon” variation. I had lots of cherry tomatoes, so I made tiny cakes that would make a perfect appetizer. I also cut my okra a little extra small, just to avoid having my kids pick the pieces out, and it worked. I also did not use much oil, less than a tablespoon at the beginning, and then a little more as needed for subsequent batches. I loved the corncakes and would make them again as a simple side dish. Paired with the cheese and tomato, though, this becomes one of those dishes you can’t wait to make for more people.

Testers Choice
Rebecca Marx

Aug 07, 2013

A recipe guaranteed to make converts of even the most hardcore okra haters. Very hearty and satisfying, and also easy to make—the most strenuous thing you have to do is smash garlic. It’s also a forgiving recipe. I didn’t have fine cornmeal so instead I used medium-ground cornmeal. I figured it would be way too gritty, but with some added water and time in the skillet, it was fine. The proportions of okra to cornmeal to jalapeno to garlic were perfect. As an added bonus, the cakes aren’t at all greasy. I used about ½ cup more water than the recipe called for because the batter was pretty dry, and added the oil 1 tablespoon at a time, making 3 cakes per batch. I ended up with 14 cakes and ate 2 with a very cheesy omelet, which was an excellent accompaniment. If you still don’t find the cakes spicy enough, I recommend eating these with Sriracha sauce, as I did.

Comments
Comments
  1. Very, very cool! So glad folks liked it. I agree re the water — it all depends on the cornmeal. Bon Appetit, Y’all! Best VA

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      So lovely of you to drop by, Virginia! Many thanks, we greatly appreciate it. Wish we could invite you to stay for a while and chat….

  2. christinemcn says:

    Oh! I’m going to make these tonight! I’ve got both okra and cornmeal! This sounds fab!

  3. bkhuna says:

    I’ve got to get some fresh okra today! These will make great “buns” for some pulled pork I’m doing tomorrow.

  4. ruthie says:

    As a kid growing up, I loved Campbell’s Vegetarian Vegetable soup, particularly the little green bits. Until some well meaning adult told me that was okra and it was slimy. Although I’d never noticed the slime factor, it grossed me out and I stopped eating it. Yet I have always had a sneaking hankering for those green bits.

    Living in the SF Bay Area, fresh okra isn’t something I find readily available. But, for this recipe, I’m going to go looking. The whole combination sounds fantastic, to me. And no slime. ;) Why do adults do that? Spoil something for a kid, especially when it’s good for them???

    • Beth Price says:

      I don’t know Ruthie. It’s a bit like sneaking peas in a spaghetti sauce (trust me, I’ve done that and my child has never let me forget it). I can say though, I love Virginia and her recipes, so I don’t think you will be disappointed. Or have a slimy experience.

      • ruthie says:

        Just looking at that photo again…I bet these would be fantastic with a crab cake on top and a nice zesty version of Hollandaise. What a breakfast/brunch dish that would be! I’m so glad you guys featured this recipe. Thanks!

  5. Ann says:

    I think I must have been Southern in a past life, because nothing in my present life would make me love okra as much as I do! Slimy, yes, in a charming, culinarily fascinating way! The only problem is geography okra is like hens teeth here. Fab recipe!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Hah! So lovely to hear from you, Ann. Appreciate you letting us know how much you like the recipe—and okra! We’ve ample other Southern recipes on the site, so why not stay for a spell…?

  6. Kelley Butler says:

    I am anxious to try this recipe. I made a galette-style corn cake this weekend before seeing this. Yum! The trade-outs being the roasted squash and Hatch chiles for the okra and jalapeños and would be up for trying the aforementioned ingredients in other combinations.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Kelley, I’m anxious to hear what you think of this recipe! Like the sounds of what you did this weekend. And it’s sorta hard to decide sometimes with what seems like so many options, yes? Especially this time of year. Anyways, do let us know what you think….

  7. leduesorelle says:

    Brought home a bag of fresh okra from the farmers’ market, just enough to make these fritters with. Unbelievably delicious and perfect balance of flavors and textures—made with local flint cornmeal and served with thick slices of juicy, ripe tomatoes.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      leduesorelle, lovely! So glad to hear you feel the same as we do about these cornmeal cakes.

  8. I want to share my “Ode to Okra” with y’all with 5 slime-busting tips! http://www.southernfoodways.org/ode-to-okra/

  9. Lin says:

    I made these cornmeal cakes and my husband liked them well enough. We are from the South and of course were raised on fried okra and also cornbread. To me, the okra was too raw tasting. I hate that I am the only person that has not liked them, but I had to be honest and know everyone does not like all foods. For those of you that have never had fried okra, I think you are missing out on a wonderful dish, so you need to give it a try at least once in your life! Thank you for the recipe….I love trying new recipes.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Lin, thanks so much for taking the time to let us know. We fully realize and appreciate that different folks have different tastes and not all recipes will appeal to all readers. I think the recipe errs ever so slightly on the raw side so as not to slip into that slimy, overcooked okra place. Anyways, I’m thrilled to hear of your taste for adventure and look forward to hearing which recipe you try—and, I hope, adore—next.

  10. Gary says:

    Fine ground flour is the key. Add more dried herbs to the flour mix, such as dried thyme and onion flakes. Do serve with garlic/herb goat cheese and tomato slices. Drizzle with a bit of Tabasco…. Great with a side of grilled shrimp….

    • Beth Price says:

      Gary, it sounds like you know your way around okra cakes. Love the suggestion of grilled shrimp.

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