Bharwa Bhindi is a traditional Gujarati dish of okra stuffed with masala, nuts, and besan and cooked in a skillet, called “Bharela Bhinda nu Shaak” in Gujarati. The results are okra that has a crunch and that classic okra chewiness. This okra dish is drier and has none of the wet or slimy texture that some okra dishes can have.
About this Recipe
Most people make this recipe with a blend of peanuts and besan. Some people lean more heavily on the besan or even leave out the peanuts entirely. My mom started using almonds instead of peanuts because of their milder flavor. Using a milder nut allows the flavor of the okra to shine through.
I prefer almonds now because I always keep almond flour in the house, which saves the step of grinding the nuts.
I’ve loved and cooked this recipe since I was very young. Since okra was my favorite vegetable, I would insist on being the one to cook it. There are several okra dishes that my family makes regularly; this is one of the most common ones. I tried to stick to the most traditional version that my grandma used to make for this recipe.
This is everyday shaak, but stuffing the okra can take some work. You might save it for special occasions, such as having guests, though I make it whenever I have that craving.
Okra – my favorite vegetable. It’s considered a springtime vegetable in India. In the US it is harvested in late summer to early fall. Okra loves summer heat—more about okra for this recipe below.
Besan – chickpea or gram flour. It is a staple of the Indian pantry and is becoming more available in traditional grocery stores.
Nuts – peanuts are traditional for this dish, but I prefer the milder almonds or cashews. These are ground up and stuffed into the okra. Today I almost always use almond powder which is already ground for me.
Dhana Jeeru – a blend of toasted cumin and coriander seeds
Red chili powder
The Ingredients are Flexible
This is one of my all-time favorite dishes, so I’ve experimented a lot with it. This is a dish I’ll make out of whatever is in my pantry if I have okra. I find the stuffing extremely flexible, you can make it with whatever you have.
If you don’t have almond flour, use peanuts, cashews, any kind of nut, or even sunflower seeds. If you don’t have chickpea flour, you can skip it. In college, I would often just make it with ground cumin, peanut, chili, and cilantro.
It’s not my preference, but many families use a lot more besan or use only besan without any nut. That doesn’t sound pleasant to me. My family has always used a higher nut-to-besan ratio, here and in other stuffed shaak.
Believe it or not, this recipe will work fine with frozen okra. At times I’ve lived in places where it was hard to get fresh okra. Okra is soft enough to cut while frozen, so I work with it without defrosting.
By the time the okra is stuffed, it has mostly defrosted, so I don’t adjust the cooking time either.
Picking Fresh Okra
While picking fresh okra, look for tender okra. If it’s thick, bulgy, and feels hard, do not buy it. If the seeds feel huge, do not buy it. If the seeds have matured too much, they will be large, hard, and unpleasant.
The trick with this recipe is patience. Once you put your okra in the pan, be sure it is on medium heat. Put the lid on and walk away for 7 minutes. Set a timer, don’t try to look at it early. Don’t mess with it. Lletting out the steam too soon will ruin the recipe.
The second time when you put the lid on, again, be patient.
This recipe takes more oil than others. Do not skimp on the oil or your okra will not crisp up correctly.
Do not Crowd the Pan
It is also really important not to crowd the plan. The quantity of okra I used, 1/2 pound, is perfect for a 10” frying pan. If you want to double the recipe, use a larger pan or do it in batches, or use a baking dish and make it in the oven.
- Use any nut you have on hand, or use pepitas or sunflower seeds. If you don’t have any, leave it out and lean on the besan.
- You can make this very simply with just cumin powder and peanuts (or any nut of choice)
Bharwa Bhindi | Bharela Bhinda nu Shaak | Stuffed Okra
- 1 pound okra fresh is ideal, but whole frozen works too
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 3 Tbsp oil
- ¼ tsp salt
For the Filling
- ¾ cup raw nuts peanut, almond or cashews
- ½ cup besan chickpea flour
- 2 Tbsp dhana jeeru
- ¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
- 1 green chili finely chopped
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp red chili powder or to taste
- ¼ tsp salt or to taste
- ½ tsp freshly grated ginger
For Okra Filling
- Using a food processor, spice grinder, or mortar and pestle, grind the nuts to a course flour.
- Combine with besan, dhana jeeru, chilantro, chili, turmeric powder, chili powder, salt and ginger.
- Prepare the okra by slicing off the stem caps. Then cut a slit across the okra, about 3/4 of the way deep. Stuff the okra with the filling. Each okra should be well stuffed, but there will still be mixture remaining in the bowl.
Cook the Stuffed Okra
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan on medium heat.
- Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle.
- Add okra. Cover and cook over medium heat for 7 minutes.
- Take the lid off and turn each okra. Add remaining mixture from bowl, distributing evenly. Return the lid and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Remove lid and cook to desired crispness. A couple of minutes should do it.