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13 Substitutes for Okra in Gumbo, Jambalaya and More Recipes

Although okra is a popular vegetable in the Southern United States, it can be difficult to find in other parts of the country. This article provides a list of substitutes for okra that can be used in recipes instead.

Whether you are looking for a different flavor or trying to find a vegetable that is more readily available, these substitutes can help.

What Can You Substitute for Okra?

Here are the top 13 substitutions, to help you choose your best one, we made this table for you:




Gumbo filé

Corn Starch






Green Beans




Green Beans

1. Gumbo filé

gumbo file

As a thickener used in Gumbo, may we recommend Gumbo filé. Gumbo filé is an excellent substitute for okra in gumbo. 

These wonderful sassafras leaves are ground into a fine powder and used as an herb. It is then mixed in with your gumbo. The flavor is not one that will appeal to all however, it does resemble a root beer flavor.

How much gumbo filé to substitute for okra?

Use ½ tablespoon of gumbo filé powder to substitute for 1 cup of sliced okra.

2. Asparagus


Asparagus is a quite popular vegetable that can be used as a substitute for okra. When fried with a coating, it has a slightly different taste, but still adds a wonderful texture with a slight crunch.

Asparagus will work well as a vegetable side dish, fried appetizer, and bar snack.

Bonus: for the substitutes of asparagus, click here.

3. Summer Squash

summer squash

When you need a last-minute substitution in jambalaya and you are out of okra, try using some cubed summer squash.

Summer squash is actually considered authentic to jambalaya, so it makes a perfect replacement for okra. It is different in both flavor and color, however, it adds its own special flavor.

4. Corn Starch

corn starch

The tried and true always come through. Okra is most often used as a thickener in gumbo, stews, jambalaya and others. When you discover that your okra is out of supply, grab the corn starch.

Corn starch is a powder, similar to flour. This means that the flavor in your foods will not change with this substitute.

Except okra, cornstarch can also be a good substitute for rice flour.

5. Zucchini

fry zucchini
Fried Zucchini

Zucchini is likely the readily found ingredient in the world that can be used as an alternative to okra.

Although, in all reality, zucchini is a fruit, not a vegetable. It does make a great substitute as a side dish when it comes to okra.

Zucchini is a very versatile ingredient and can be cooked in a wide variety of ways.

6. Arrowroot

arrowroot powder

Arrowroot, which is quite similar to corn starch, can also be used in foods as an okra replacement and the thickening ability of okra.

Arrowroot is the powdered root of a tropical plant and only a small amount is needed to thicken up any foods. There is no flavor to Arrowroot, which makes it a nice substitute, as it will not alter the flavor of any food.

Arrowroot has a long history of cooking and even medicinal benefits. It can also be derived from tapioca, which is a natural thickener also.

7. Green Beans

fried green beans
Fried Green Beans

Green beans can work well as okra, giving you a flavor all its own. This vegetable is highly versatile, it can be boiled, broiled, grilled, fried or even sauteed.

When you are looking for a substitute for okra in any of the hundreds of recipes, go ahead and try green beans. Green beans can be cooked just a little to leave a nice crunch in the vegetable.

8. Roux


Roux is one of those tips and tricks used in French, Creole and Cajun cooking, as well as many others. Roux is simply a browned butter thickening agent. It can be made easily at home when you realize you are out of okra and need a substitute quickly.

Roux is made of equal parts of flour and butter. The butter is melted first and then the flour whisked in to make a paste-type substance. Milk or broth can be added to thin it down. The manner in which you make your roux will help determine the coloring, from an off-white to a dark brown.

9. Nopales


Coming from the Prickly Pear Cactus, Nopales, are the edible pad portions of this cactus. They are quite common in Mexican cuisine.

When you need to find a worthy okra substitute, and you want it as a vegetable, Nopales can be a good option. It has a fresh flavor, albeit a little tart. Even with that said, it brings a unique flavor that is far from out of place in any food it is added to.

10. Broccoli

steamed broccoli

Broccoli cut into chunks or the broccoli florets themselves make an ideal okra substitute. Broccoli florets will work pretty well in Jambalaya or in a big pot of gumbo.

Broccoli is packed with fiber and nutrition. It does not have the ability to thicken, but it tastes fabulous!

11. Eggplant


Eggplant is another vegetable that is not commonly considered as an okra substitute, in gumbo or jambalaya.

Eggplants are versatile, can be used as a vegetable side dish, cooked in multiple ways and eaten raw or cooked, although eating raw is not as tasty as one would like.

They are best incorporated into other dishes and added to pasta after cooking to bring out the delicious mellow flavor.

12. Lentils


Lentils are gaining widely in popularity. They are similar to beans, they taste great, and can help thicken some foods.

Lentils will come in reds, greens and browns. This helps to replace certain colors in dishes, such as okra. Okra being green is easily replaced by using green lentils.

One of the great things about lentils, if you do not need much of a thickener, these lentils can be cooked separately and then added to dishes. However, if you need just a touch of thickening, cook the lentils in with the other ingredients and they blend well together.

13. Substitute Fresh Okra for Frozen in Slow Cooker

Using a slow cooker is a popular method of cooking for busy families and those on the go all the time.

Many times however, adding frozen okra to the slow cooker can cause the dish to have too much liquid in it. It is perfectly acceptable to substitute fresh okra rather than frozen when you are cooking with a slow cooker or crock pot.

The earthy flavor of the okra will remain versus becoming more watered down with the frozen version.

Recipes with Okra (Substitute)

You can make all the following recipes without Okra by using the above substitutes.



FAQs About Okra

When frying okra what can i use as a substitute for buttermilk?

If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, use 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or white vinegar + 1 cup of milk to instead of buttermilk. Please let the mixture stand 5 to 10 mins.

Is it okay to substitute celery for okra in gumbo?

I’d say that, in general, celery would be a substitution that could work. It will depend on the other ingredients in the gumbo, though.

For example, if you’re making your gumbo with tomatoes and vegetable oils, then adding celery might make your dish less flavorful because these two other ingredients are usually matched to okra rather than celery.

What is a good substitute for okra in stir fry shrimp?

Some good substitutes for okra in stir fry shrimp include green beans, bell peppers, and carrots. If you’re looking for a more traditional option, you can also use bamboo shoots.

Each of these options will add a different flavor and texture to the dish, so be sure to experiment until you find one you enjoy.

Facts About Okra

  • Okra is a flowering plant that is believed to have originated in Africa. It is now grown in many parts of the world, including India and China.
  • The scientific name for okra is Hibiscus esculentus.
  • When cooked, the exterior of okra is slimy.
  • Okra has been used for centuries in traditional African and Indian medicines to treat a variety of conditions such as skin infections and toothaches.

Final Thoughts

Okra is a flavor favorite for many people, but it does have some drawbacks. It can be difficult to find and store, and also has a slimy texture that may not appeal to all tastes.

However, there are plenty of substitutes you can use instead of okra if needed! Try any of the okra substitutes above, you’ll like them!

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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