Smothered Chicken with Okra and Steamed Rice

A plate of smothered chicken over rice on a hot pink picnic table.

A Taste of Wild - Gulf Coast

Jon and Aubrey head south to the Gulf Coast to discover the hot, humid bayou country, explore the deep and diverse flavors of Cajun and Creole cooking and share their favorite eats along the way.

Smothered Chicken with Okra and Steamed Rice

We met Susan on the coast of Alabama, some miles west of the Florida Panhandle. She and her husband had parked their RV a few lots over from ours and waved every time we walked by. They were from South Carolina, where they grew okra in their garden.

“Here you go!” she said with a grin as she handed us a bag nearly bursting with fresh okra.  “Let’s see what you can whip up with that!”

Okra is a funny little plant. Found in West Africa, Ethiopia and South Asia, no one can quite pin down exactly where okra originated. In French-American, okra was called gombo, hinting at how gumbo got its name. Because okra has a handy property of giving off a natural thickener when it’s cooked, making okra perfect in watery sauces and stews you want to come together a bit more. 

In this recipe, we’ve combined okra with the holy trinity of Cajun cooking––onion, pepper and celery––to create a flavorful base to the sauce that will cover and cook the chicken. Some people don’t like dealing with bone-in meat, but it adds so much extra flavor when you’re cooking. If you choose to use boneless meat, supplement a bit of extra chicken stock instead. 

Cooking the chicken in a flavorful sauce helps it stay tender and juicy, so that it nearly falls off the bone by the time you eat it. The bacon adds a note of smokiness and a bit of texture, rounding out the acidity of the canned tomatoes. 

As everything cooks, feel free to add a bit of cornstarch to help control the thickness of the sauce, depending on how your okra behaves. We love the chicken and sauce served over a bed of warm rice, but it would be equally as good over noodles, biscuits or corn bread, depending on what you’re craving. 

The recipe here serves around four people as a main course, but this is also the kind of dish that improves with a day or two in the fridge, letting the flavors mix and depend even more. So if you find you like it, go ahead and prep cook a big batch. Portions freeze well, too, making a quick and easy reheatable meal for long days when planning slips away from you.

Smothered Chicken with Okra and Steamed Rice

Smothered Chicken with Okra and Steamed Rice

Yield: 4 servings
Prep: 15 minutes Cooking: 1 hour

Ingredients

  • 1 pound okra, fresh or frozen, chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small green pepper, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ¼ teaspoons black pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 14 oz. can roasted crushed tomatoes,
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Vegetable oil (or another fat)
  • 4 bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 2 strips bacon, cut into small strips
  • ½ teaspoon thyme
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

Cooking Tools

Method

  1. Start off by seasoning the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. 
  2. In a medium pan, cook the bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon but keep the grease in the pan, then toss in the onion, celery, and green pepper. Saute for 2-3 minutes. 
  3. Set aside the vegetables with the cooked bacon.
  4. Sear the chicken on both sides until it turns a light golden brown. 
  5. Add the garlic, black pepper, paprika and cayenne and saute for 1 minute. 
  6. Add cooked bacon and cooked vegetables back to the pan, along with the okra, canned tomatoes, bay leaf, chicken broth and thyme. Give it a good stir, set to medium high and let it simmer uncovered for about 30 minutes. If your chicken is not fully submerged, flip it to the other side at the 10 minute mark. 
  7. In a small bowl, mix cornstarch and water until smooth. Then pour mixture into the pot. Continue cooking until the smothered okra has thickened slightly. 
  8. Serve hot over steamed rice or biscuits.

Jon and Aubrey used the knife, cutting board and camp stove from Camp Chef, a brand THOR recommends for easy campground cooking.