Is Okra a Fruit or a Vegetable? (And Does it Matter…)

Okra, a green finger-shaped pod filled with edible seeds, is taking the world by storm. But the question remains: is okra a fruit or a vegetable? Let’s dig deeper to find out!

What is Okra?

Okra, scientifically known as Abelmoschus esculentus, is a warm weather, flowering plant primarily found in the United States, South America, and parts of Africa. It has become a popular ingredient in dishes like gumbo and soups and is even enjoyed as a fried side dish in the southern region.

The okra pod, which has a slimy texture when cooked, is the fruit of the plant. Yes, you read that right—it’s a fruit! The okra pod is part of the Mallow family and is great for thickening sauces and soups.

is okra a fruit or a vegetable?

Is Okra a Fruit or a Vegetable?

The answer to this question is not as straightforward as you might think. It actually depends on who you ask and their criteria for classifying fruits and vegetables. So let’s explore the technical definitions:

  • Fruit: The usually edible reproductive body of a seed plant or the ripened ovary of a seed plant and its contents.
  • Vegetable: A usually herbaceous plant grown for an edible part that is usually eaten as part of a meal.

By these definitions, things don’t become much clearer. Fruits can also be called vegetables! But let’s focus specifically on okra.

okra plant in companion planted garden

According to Science: Okra is a Fruit

Scientifically speaking, a fruit is the part of a plant that develops from the flower and contains the seeds. Okra falls into this category. The okra pod develops from the flower of the okra plant and contains the seeds needed for future generations of okra plants to grow. Interestingly, this means that many other “vegetables” are technically fruits too, such as green beans, bell peppers, pumpkins, cucumbers, and of course, tomatoes. All other plant parts, like roots and leaves, would be classified as vegetables.

okra plant with pods

According to Cooks: Okra is a Vegetable

In the culinary world, okra is referred to as a vegetable. The classification here is based on less scientific criteria: sweetness and sugar content. Fruits generally have a sweeter or tart flavor and are used in desserts, jams, and smoothies. In contrast, vegetables have a more bitter taste and are used in savory dishes and soups. Okra falls into the vegetable category due to its lower sugar content and its common use in savory dishes like the beloved southern favorite—fried okra!

dehydrated okra seed pods

Does It Really Matter?

The bottom line is that whether okra is a fruit or a vegetable doesn’t really matter. What matters is that okra is delicious, nutritious, and offers numerous health benefits. It is rich in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, folate, and thiamine. Additionally, it is low in calories, virtually fat-free, and packed with antioxidants.

So, regardless of what label you choose to give it, continue enjoying and growing okra. Its unique flavor and nutritional value make it a valuable addition to any meal.

Learn More About Okra:

  • How to Grow Okra
  • How to Save Okra Seeds
  • The Best Okra Companion Plants
  • How to Store Okra
  • Benefits and Uses of Okra
  • How to Preserve Okra by Dehydrating
  • Okra Recipes