The City Magazine Since 1975

Charleston Okra Soup

July 2020
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1½ lbs. beef shank, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, marrowbone reserved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 Tbs. canola oil, plus more if needed
2 cups chopped yellow onion (about 2 medium)
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
1 qt. water
1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 lb. okra, trimmed, cut on the bias into
1/2-inch-thick ovals
Fresh parsley for garnish (optional)


Season the beef and marrowbone with three-quarters teaspoon salt and half a teaspoon black pepper. Put in a shallow dish, covered, and bring to room temperature, about one hour. Pat the pieces dry with a paper towel.

Pour the oil into a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat, and when the oil shimmers, brown the beef and marrowbone in batches, if necessary, taking care not to crowd the pan and adding oil by teaspoonfuls if the pan becomes too dry. With a slotted spoon, transfer the browned beef and bone to a bowl and turn the heat to medium. Add the onion, bay leaves, red pepper flakes, paprika, and one and one-quarter teaspoons salt. Cook, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan and adding a teaspoon of water or oil if the pan becomes dry, until the onion softens, about six minutes; you don’t want the onion to char.

Add the water and tomatoes, return the beef and marrowbone to the pan, and cover. When the soup simmers gently, uncover and reduce the heat to low. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until the meat is just tender, about one hour. Add the okra and continue cooking until the okra is just tender, about 25 minutes.

Discard the bay leaves, and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Divide among bowls, garnish with parsley, if desired, and serve.