Gumbo: A Simple Delicious Recipe and Cooking Techniques (2024)

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Updated on March 5, 2012

Gumbo: A Simple Delicious Recipe and Cooking Techniques (1)

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Gumbo: A Simple Delicious Recipe and Cooking Techniques (2)

Ah gumbo, when made correctly gumbo is a spicy stew with layers of flavor and textures. When made improperly it can become a slimy, mushy mess. It can easily be made too thin, too thick, bland, over spiced or just plain awful. This hub aims to get you on the right track with gumbo, giving a simple base recipe and hopefully the information you need to personalize your own gumbo.

Here is a simple and flavorful recipe that should feed about 6 people:

Shrimp, Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

For the Roux:

  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 Cup + 1 tablespoon oil (I recommend blended olive oil or E.V.O.)

For The Rest:

  • 4 cups chicken stock. Use a low sodium chicken stock or Rachel Ray 'Stock in a Box' (whatever you think about Rachel is irrelevant because the stock is great)
  • 8 to 10 oz Shrimp (peeled, de-veined)
  • 8 oz Andouille Sausage 1/2 inch pieces
  • 2 cups of coarsely chopped cooked chicken - 1/2 inch pieces ( I roasted a large half chicken and just pulled the meat off, but you can use any chicken you have)
  • 3 white onions - fine dice and cooked until translucent in oil or butter
  • 1 poblano pepper - 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 green bell peppers - 1/2 inch dice
  • 6 stalks of celery - 1/2 inch dice
  • 5 cloves of garlic - minced
  • 2 tomatoes (peeled, diced)
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • kosher salt (to taste)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dried thyme


  • 1 cup okra, 1 tablespoon filé powder or 2 tablespoons cornstarch

Gumbo: A Simple Delicious Recipe and Cooking Techniques (3)

The first step is not to make the roux but to prep all your vegetables and meats. Make sure you have everything chopped, diced, cooked and set aside. I STRONGLY recommend cooking the onions in the pan used to cook your chicken.

Now, put your stock in a small pot and keep it on low heat.

Then.... we make the roux. Every chef has a nuanced way to make a roux. They will tell you how hot they make the oil before adding the flour or perhaps what oil and what flour are the best to use. For a gumbo, none of that really matters. When making a gumbo roux you are basically going to cook it until it is close to burning. Whatever nuance there is in using California olive oil over an Italian olive oil is basically lost.

Add your oil and flour to a big pot ( one that will fit all of your gumbo in it), and over medium to medium-high heat, stir constantly until it looks dark. I mean it should be real dark, like chocolate dark. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes. You can stir slowly but it must be constant. Pay attention to the center of the pot and the edges where flour might settle out and burn. Despite making a dark roux, you don't want to burn it, if you do, throw it out and start over. Seriously, if it burns throw it out otherwise your gumbo will taste like a fireplace.

When the roux is done, turn the heat to low wait for a minute or two and whisk in the stock. If the roux is too hot and the stock is too cold you will get roux separation (flour separation) likewise if the roux is too cold you will get roux separation. Add the stock and whisk to mix, don't stir. Turn the heat to medium and whisk until the two are incorporated.

Now the hard part. Dump everything else in the pot except the thyme. Set the to make the gumbo simmer and cook for an hour or so. If you want to use okra you should add it now, if you areusing file or cornstarch hold off until later.

After an hour the gumbo should be thoroughly cooked , and layers flavors should be present. Add salt to taste, you shouldn't need much with the andouille sausage. Turn the heat to low. Now here is where you have to judge the consistency of your gumbo. If it seems watery you will want to add the cornstarch or filé powder, half at first and stirring as you add either.

Let it cook for another 5 minutes, check the consistency and add filé or starch again if necessary. If you added okra the gumbo should be farily stew like, but you can always add file or cornstarch as a thickener as well. Once you have the consistency you want, add the thyme, and finish cooking at low heat for 5 minutes.

Gumbo: A Simple Delicious Recipe and Cooking Techniques (5)

Looking Further into Gumbo

When you cook gumbo all the ingredients should be fresh, although finding fresh okra can be hard if you are not in the south. If you have to use canned okra, don't skimp, get good quality and preferably organic okra. Cheap okra (the .49 cent stuff) will make a slimy mess in your gumbo.

Filé powder is a bit harder to find, if you don't have a good place to buy spices, pick some up online, its a great and unique spice to have (I prefer it to okra and cornstarch to help thicken gumbo) and will definitely be a talking point when people try your gumbo. Filé is dried and ground sassafras leaves, you can make your own, if you have the means. Adding fresh sassafras leaves just doesn't have the same effect (trust me). Remember, filé is a spice, not just a thickener, so don't add too much, you can always add some file and some cornstarch to avoid over saturation of filé flavor in your gumbo.

You can substitute jalapenos for a poblano, but make sure to be careful about how spicy you want your gumbo, and remember that jalapeno can overpower other delicious flavors with a sharp heat.

Now a few thoughts of my own on gumbo. There is a lot of discussion in both professional and 'foodie' circles regarding what technically constitutes certain dishes. I am referring to which ingredients are acceptable to use and still maintain the title of a dish. Gumbo is one of the dishes that is often scrutinzed for not being authentic, because it does not use, okra, or andoullie or filé powder.

I have never, and likely will never pay much attention to naysayers who want a chef to stick to a strict guideline for any dish in the hopes that it remains 'authentic'. Cook what you want in your gumbo, I hope you take the recipe I provided and modify it to something unique, if the end result is delicious, then it is a success.


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Gumbo: A Simple Delicious Recipe and Cooking Techniques (2024)


What is the secret to good gumbo? ›

Great gumbo starts with roux, a flavorful thickening agent made from equal parts fat and flour. Once the roux is a deep golden color, add diced veggies and sausage to the mix. Then, incorporate beef bouillon, hot sauce, tomatoes, and seasonings to intensify the flavor.

What are the 2 rules of gumbo? ›

Thou Shalt Always Use a Bowl. If you use a plate, it is not gumbo it is rice and gravy! Thou Shalt Only Use a Wooden Spoon. There is only one kind of spoon that can enter a gumbo pot and that is a wooden one.

How do you make gumbo taste better? ›

For the most flavor, use stock or broth in your gumbo instead of water. Whether you use chicken or vegetable stock, homemade or boxed, the stock will give your gumbo more depth and complexity.

What is traditional gumbo made of? ›

Gumbo is a Cajun and creole specialty throughout the state of Louisiana. It's a thick, stew-like dish with several ingredients, such as the trinity (onions, celery, and bell peppers), okra, and meat. The most common proteins are chicken and sausage, but you can make a seafood-specific combo.

Should gumbo be thick or soupy? ›

Gumbo is much denser than a simple soup; the broth has a thick, almost viscous consistency. And that characteristic is most commonly created by making a roux, cooking flour and oil together until they thicken and darken. Otherwise, gumbo can be thickened with file, which is just powdered dried sassafras leaves.

Does gumbo taste better the longer you cook it? ›

The longer you let the gumbo simmer the better it will be.

What not to put in a gumbo? ›

I - Thou Shalt Never Use Tomatoes If we've learned anything from the Disney folks, it's this. Any cooyon with half a brain knows "Making Gumbo 101" contains this golden rule -- it's roux-based and not tomato-based! Tomatoes are for things like spaghetti sauce.

Do tomatoes not go in gumbo? ›

Turns out, your preference for tomatoes in gumbo comes down to whether you learned your skills from a Cajun cook or a Creole cook. (Learn about the difference here.) Cajun gumbo does not include tomatoes in the base, but Creole gumbo (typically shellfish or seafood gumbo) does call for tomatoes.

Why does my gumbo taste bitter? ›

"The reason is, once butter gets to a certain temp the fat and solids separate, this will occur before you get the roux to the color you want it, then the solids will begin to burn," says Harden. This will leave your gumbo with a burnt bitter flavor, so instead opt for vegetable oil or even lard as the roux's fat.

Do you simmer gumbo with the lid on or off? ›

Turn down the heat, cover and simmer for an hour and a half. 7. Add the okra and sausage, stir, replace the lid and simmer for a further 45 minutes.

What are the three types of gumbo? ›

In my opinion, gumbos fall into three categories, Seafood Gumbo, Gumbo Z'herbs and Meat Gumbos. Gumbo Z'herbs is a gumbo that is mostly made of green leafy vegetables.

What is the difference between Creole gumbo and Cajun gumbo? ›

Creole gumbos most often include tomatoes, shellfish and dark roux and often okra and filé powder, an herb made from ground leaves of sassafras trees. Cajun gumbo doesn't have tomatoes and usually also contains chicken. It's not uncommon for both Creole and Cajun gumbo to include meats such as ham or sausage as well.

What kind of rice is best for gumbo? ›

For purposes of this discussion, we will limit our focus to plain old polished white rice. Even then, it comes in different sizes — short, long and medium grain. I prefer medium grain rice in a gumbo, because the grains puff up, the perfect medium for a gumbo. The thick gumbo juice sticks to the grains just right.

What is the liquid in gumbo? ›

Carefully add the liquid, starting with Worcestershire sauce, fish sauce, and tamari. Stir until combined, then add the chicken stock. Stir the gumbo mindfully to scrape up all the flavorful bits at the bottom of the pot.

What is the thickening agent in gumbo? ›

Filé can provide thickening when okra is not in season, in types of gumbo that use okra or a roux as a thickener for gumbo instead of filé. Sprinkled sparingly over gumbo as a seasoning and a thickening agent, filé powder adds a distinctive, earthy flavor and texture.

Is gumbo better with or without tomatoes? ›

Turns out, your preference for tomatoes in gumbo comes down to whether you learned your skills from a Cajun cook or a Creole cook. (Learn about the difference here.) Cajun gumbo does not include tomatoes in the base, but Creole gumbo (typically shellfish or seafood gumbo) does call for tomatoes.


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