This Maharashtrian Stuffed Okra dish is one of the easiest and tastiest Indian meals I’ve ever made. It’s a dry dish created by stuffing a delectable mixture of ground peanuts, sesame seeds, coconut and spices into freshly cut Bhindi. The okra is then gently fried over low heat to give it a wonderful crisp texture and full bodied flavour. Dipped in dal and scooped up with a Chapati, it’s ravishing. Spicy, nutty, tangy, moreish.
The dish name comes from the Marathi words ‘Bharli’ which means stuffed, and ‘Bhindi/Bhendi’, which refers to Okra (sometimes called Ladies fingers in English). The combination of peanuts, sesame seeds and coconut is a cornerstone of Marathi cuisine. Dry-roasting these ingredients brings out their robust nutty sweetness, which is then punctuated by the twang of lemon and heat of chilli.
Bharli Bhindi is all about the stuffing – and this stuffing is something truly flavoursome.
Is Bharli Bhindi Vegan and Gluten Free?
Yes! Maharashtrian Bharli Bhindi is naturally Vegetarian, Vegan. Diary Free, Gluten Free and Soy Free. It’s an amazing choice to appeal to a wide range of dietary needs.
The only thing to note is that this recipe is not Nut Free. Peanuts and sesame seeds play an integral role in the flavours and textures of this recipe, so unfortunately aren’t replaceable.
How to cook Okra – the misunderstood Vegetable
Unfortunately, Okra has a bad reputation and many people are hesitant to even try the vegetable. It’s extremely common to have been served badly cooked Okra that is slimy, gooey, and overcooked which results in a lifelong distaste. Additionally, if you attempt to make Okra yourself without the know-how, the result can be disastrous. However, properly cooked Okra is mild, fresh, nutty and tender.
I highly suggest not making a final judgement on Okra until you read the tips below and try out the recipe. The taste and texture of okra varies widely depending on whether it’s raw, fried, stuffed, or cooked in a stew/soup. Try them all out!
- Choose the best Okra. The first stage of making your dish a success is to select the best pods. Look for bright green pods without any brown marks, bruising, scratches or blemishes. Smaller pods will generally be more tender. Do be aware that okra have fine hairs which can irritate the skin and be quite ‘prickly’, so handle minimally!
- Keep everything dry during prep. Wash your Okra and then leave it to air-dry next to a sunny windowsill. Before cutting the okra, make sure your knife and cutting surface is completely bone-dry. Okra releases slime when being cut and water exasperates the problem.
- Don’t overcrowd the pan, don’t over stir and don’t cover. Make sure you select a pan which is big enough to hold all the okra without overcrowding. Further, avoid excessively stirring the okra and just let it be. In this recipe, the okra only needs to be turned twice. Finally, try not to cover the pan as this creates steam and in turn, moisture. It can be done if necessary to cook the okra further, but in general try to avoid this.
- Salt at the end. Salting food releases moisture, which can make the okra more slimy. That’s why I always prefer to season my okra with salt right at the end of cooking.
This Bharli Bhindi recipe is …
- Vegetarian, Vegan, Gluten Free and Soy Free!
- An authentic Maharashtrian Recipe
- Easy, quick and budget friendly
- Suitable to make with either fresh or frozen Okra
- Full of unique flavours
If you’re interested in more Vegan Indian Recipes, why not check out: Kanda Batata Poha (Maharashtrian 15 min Breakfast Recipe), Vegetable Sambar (Lentil Stew with Mixed Vegetables), Aloo Palak (15 min Spinach & Potato Curry), Bharli Vangi (Baby Eggplant in a spicy, nutty Curry), or Chana Masala (Amazing Chickpea Curry)!
- 130g Bhindi (Okra/Ladies Fingers)
- 4 tbsp Peanuts
- 1.5 tbsp Sesame Seeds
- 2 tsp Desiccated Coconut
- 2 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
- 2 Stems Fresh Coriander, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Powder
- 1 tsp Red Chilli Powder
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder
- 1/4 tsp Goda Masala (replace with Garam Masala if you don't have access to Goda Masala)
- 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
- 2 tbsp Neutral Oil
- Salt to taste
- Dry roast the ingredients for the stuffing. Heat a medium sized non-stick frying pan over low-medium heat and add the peanuts. Roast for a minute or so, stirring occasionally, or until the skins of the peanuts are slightly blackened. Remove the peanuts and set aside to cool.
Next, in the same pan add the sesame seeds and roast until aromatic (but not browned). Remove and set aside.
Finally, add the coconut and roast for around 30 seconds, stirring constantly, until golden brown. Turn off the heat and add the coconut to the same bowl as the sesame seeds.
- Grind the peanuts into powder. Once the peanuts are cool, add them to a small blender and pulse into a coarse powder. You can peel the peanuts or leave them unpeeled too.
- Mix the stuffing. Combine the peanut powder, sesame seeds, coconut, ginger garlic paste, freshly chopped coriander, cumin powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder, goda masala, and lemon juice in a small bowl. Set aside.
- Prepare the Okra. Wash the Okra and leave it to dry. Next, take a clean, dry knife and chopping board and remove the tops of the okra. Create a slit all the way down the length of the okra, being careful to not cut it completely in half. Repeat with all the okra.
- Stuff the Okra. Take a small portion of the spice stuffing and carefully push it into the slit made in the okra. Repeat for all okra until there is no stuffing left over.
- Cook the Okra*. Heat oil in the same non-stick frying pan over low heat. Once slightly hot, add the stuffed okra (skin side down, not stuffing side down). Cook for around 5 minutes, then carefully turn each okra and cook them for another 5 minutes. The stuffing will get lovely and browned - slightly blackened is fine. Finally turn the okra one last time and cook for a closing 5 minutes. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander and salt, and serve hot.
Serving suggestions below.
*You can also cook the Okra in an air-fryer or even roast them in the oven if you prefer.
How to serve Maharashtrian Bharli Bhindi?
Bharli Bhindi is best enjoyed with Poli (Chapati/Roti) or Bhakri (Gluten Free flatbread made with Sorghum flour). However, Parathas, Naan or even Puri will taste fantastic too! Be sure to serve either Dal Tadka, Sambar, or Maharashtrian Varan on the side.
I love to scoop up my Bharli Bhindi along with a little Limbache Lonche (Maharashtrian Lemon Pickle) and then dip it in dal and crunch on some red onion afterwards.