Okra Stew with Ground Beef (Bamia bil Lahme)

Okra stew is a comfort food that is popular in many countries around the world. The Middle East has their own version of okra stew, commonly known as Bamia. Cooked in a savory tomato-base with ground meat and a few warm seasonings, this hearty stew is a true soul food that is popular in large parts of the Middle East.

Today I’m going to show you how to prepare Lebanese style okra stew, bamia bil lahme.

Bamia Okra Stew

What is Bamia?

Bamia (or bamya) is the Arabic word for okra. Okra is a flowering plant in the mallow family consisting of edible green seed pods. The vegetable stands out for its shape: it has a tube-like form being thick near the stem and thinner towards its point. For this reason, okra is also commonly referred to as “ladies’ fingers”. It’s a popular vegetable in Indian cuisine (where it’s known as bhindi), in Middle Eastern cuisine (bamia) as well as in African and Creole cuisines.

Okra is relatively mild in taste. It’s a great ingredient for stews, soups and curries. Unlike other vegetables, okra is rich in protein while being low in calories. Okra is cultivated in warm and tropical regions such as Africa and large parts of South Asia.

Okra Stew Ingredients

  • Okra: You can find fresh okra in many Indian and Middle Eastern grocery stores in Europe and the US. Be sure to purchase fresh okra. Look for smooth, bright green pods without blemishes. Okra with a dull color, blemishes, brown spots or dry ends won’t yield the same results. Besides fresh okra, you can find frozen okra in many grocery stores. Frozen okra will probably be the best option if you live in a colder climate.
  • Ground beef: Because okra has a short cooking time, I recommend that you use ground meat instead of stewing meat. That’s because ground meat is much easier and faster to prepare than stewing meat. You can use ground beef, ground lamb or even ground chicken. I generally prefer to use fresh ground meat, but frozen ground meat would work well for this recipe.
  • Onions: Onions are the foundation of most stews. They will be finely chopped and sautéd in oil before adding the meat and the seasonings.
  • Canned diced tomatoes: Canned diced tomatoes are a great shortcut to make this recipe quick and easy. Most brands are relatively affordable and come without any unwanted ingredients. They make a delicious tomato base for this okra stew.
  • Tomato paste: I add a bit of tomato paste (tomato concentrate) to most of my stews to enhance the taste and the color of the tomato paste. It truly adds to the flavor, but you can omit it if you don’t have it available.
  • Garlic: Use fresh garlic cloves. They will be pressed or finely chopped. If you don’t have fresh garlic, you can substitute it with garlic paste instead.
  • Seasonings: Coriander powder, salt and pepper are must-haves for this stew. I like to add some turmeric powder for extra flavor and cayenne pepper or chili powder for some heat. The latest are not part of the authentic Middle Eastern recipe though.
  • Olive oil: Olive oil is one of the most popular types of oil in Middle Eastern cuisine. You’ll need it to sauté your onion. If you don’t have olive oil available, you can use another type of vegetable oil instead.
  • Water: Water is needed for the gravy. You can add more or less water, depending on your personal preference. Some people prefer their stew to be thick (thick tomato gravy), while others like it more runny (more water added).

Note: Quantities can be found in the recipe card at the end of this recipe and can be adjusted according to the amount of servings you’d like to make.

How to Make Okra Stew?

Ready to make Middle Eastern okra stew? Yallah, let’s get started!

Step 1: Prepare the vegetables

First, peel the onion and finely chop it. Peel the garlic cloves, crush or finely chop them.

Step 2: Sauté garlic and onions

Heat oil in a large saucepan. Once the oil is heated, add the chopped onion and garlic. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is translucent. This will take about 2-3 minutes.

Step 3: Add meat and spices

Now, add the ground meat and all powdered seasonings (coriander, salt and pepper – and, if using, turmeric and cayenne pepper) to the saucepan. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Sauté for another 3-4 minutes until the meat is well browned. During the cooking process, break down the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon.

Step 4: Add the okra

Add the (frozen) okra to the saucepan. Stir well and sauté for 1-2 minutes. This is to allow the flavors of the seasonings to blend with the okra.

Step 5: Add tomatoes and tomato paste

Add the tomato paste (if using) and the canned chopped tomatoes to the saucepan. Stir well. Sauté briefly (for 30-60 seconds) before you add the water.

Step 6: Add water

Add water to the saucepan. Be sure to add hot water to the saucepan (not cold water) to speed up the process. Bring to a boil (on high heat).

Step 7: Simmer

Once the water is boiling, reduce the stove to low-medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the okra is tender. Serve warm with rice and side dishes of your choice.

Okra Stew recipe

What to Serve with Okra Stew?

Okra stew is traditionally served with rice. Arabic butter rice (rice with vermicelli) makes the perfect side for most Middle Eastern stews. It’s the most popular rice in countries like Lebanon, Syria or Jordan. If you’re in the mood for flavored rice, you could try yellow rice (turmeric rice) or rice with raisins and nuts (slightly sweet).

Serve a simple salad as a side dish. Depending on the occasion and the amount of people, you could serve bamia alongside further Middle Eastern main dishes and mezze dishes.

Make Ahead & Storage

Okra stew can be perfectly made ahead of time. If you have a large saucepan, you can easily prepare 8-10 servings in one go.

Have leftovers? Let cool completely after cooking (lid closed). Transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. Warm up in the microwave or on the stovetop.

Any Questions or Feedback?

If you liked this recipe, I’d appreciate it if you could leave a star rating ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ below. In case you’ve any questions or feedback, please leave me a comment (down the page). I’m happy to help you make delicious Middle Eastern food at home.

Bamia Okra Stew

Okra Stew (Middle Eastern Bamia)

Kitty Ramasamy
Okra stew with ground beef (bamia bil lahme) is a delicious Middle Eastern stew that is popular across households from Lebanon to Egypt.
Rate this recipe
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Middle Eastern, Lebanese
Servings 6 people
Calories 255 kcal

Ingredients
 

  • 700 g (7 cups) okra frozen or fresh
  • 350 g (3/4 lb) ground beef ground beef, lamb or chicken
  • 1 onion yellow, medium
  • 400 g (1.5 cups) canned chopped tomatoes 1 small can
  • 250 ml (1 cup) water see notes
  • 1 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper or chili powder. Optional.
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil

Instructions
 

  • Prepare the vegetables: finely chop the onion. Peel the garlic cloves and crush.
  • Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the oil is heated, add the garlic and onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes until the onion is translucent.
  • Add the ground meat and powdered seasonings (coriander, turmeric, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper) to the saucepan. Stir well and sauté for another 3-4 minutes until the meat is well browned. During the cooking process, break down the meat into small pieces with a wooden spoon.
  • Add the (frozen) okra to the saucepan. Stir well and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  • Add the tomato paste and the canned chopped tomatoes to the saucepan. Stir well. Sauté briefly.
  • Add hot water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil (on high heat).
  • Once the water is boiling, reduce the heat to low-medium and simmer for 10-12 minutes until the okra is tender. Meanwhile, prepare any side dishes.
  • Serve warm with rice and side dishes of your choice.

Notes

  • The amount of water is up to you, depending how thick or runny you’d like your stew to be. I add about 1 cup (250 ml) of water to my stew (for the default size of this recipe which is 6 servings).
  • To make it vegetarian: Simply leave out the meat and add 50% more okra.
  • Depending on where you live, good quality fresh okra might be hard to find. Frozen okra is a wonderful alternative to fresh okra. You can simply add the frozen okra to your saucepan (no need to thaw in advance) and cook as you’d do with fresh okra.
  • Using fresh okra? Be sure to select high-quality fresh produce. Look for smooth bright green pods without blemishes (no brown spots). The brighter, the fresher. Avoid dark green pods with too many blemishes or brownish spots.

Nutrition

Calories: 255kcalCarbohydrates: 15gProtein: 13gFat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 41mgSodium: 359mgPotassium: 710mgFiber: 5gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 1025IUVitamin C: 36mgCalcium: 141mgIron: 3mg

Nutrition information is only a rough estimate and may vary depending on factors such as the cooking method, exact weight, type, and brand of ingredients used.

Keyword Okra Stew, Bamia, Bamya
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