Recipe: Gumbo

Creative Commons photo by Thomas Hawk on Flickr.

Gumbo is a true American dish.  A combination of a French roux, Choctaw file and local seafood, African okra, and Spanish bell peppers, tomatoes and onions.  The dish goes back at least as far as the 1800s in the American South.

My first knowledge of the dish came from watching the old G.I. Joe cartoon in which the character Gung-Ho would make Gumbo for his Cobra fighting pals.  I was always curious about what this dish really was.  Then I lived in Alabama for two summers, where I discovered cajun food.  At first, I had this image of cajun food being burned (blackened) and too spicy.  It was not something I was eager to try.  But I had some friends who knew better and brought me to one of the best restaurants I’ve had the pleasure to enter (Cajun or otherwise).  There I discovered what good cajun food is all about and later decided to try my hand at making my own.

When I first started experimenting with cajun food, I was annoyed because a decent amount of the recipes would not list amounts, just ingredients (especially when it came to spices).  This is because the amounts are up to the personal tastes of the chef.  So while I have listed spice amounts in the recipe below, feel free to change these and experiment with other spices.  Feel free to play with any of the ingredients to create a dish you really enjoy.

Gumbo usually has three different types of meat: seafood, poultry and pork.  I typically use shrimp, chicken and hamburger because they are easy to get.  Traditional gumbo uses sausage, not hamburger.  The preferred types are Andouille and chaurice.  Tasso is also used (cured pork shoulder).  I make the personal choice to use hamburger because I’m not a big sausage fan.  However, I do spice up the hamburger to my own tastes when browning it.  Also, while most Gumbo is more of a soup consistency, the husband and I prefer a dish that is more of a hearty stew.

This video is a little cheesy, but it explains what a roux is, along with the difference in colors and flavors.

The recipe I use is a variation of this Louisiana Shrimp and Eggs Gumbo recipe.


  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 cups hot water
  • 2 cups chopped celery
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 large tomato, chopped or can of diced tomatoes w/green chiles
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined (options: crawfish or crab)
  • 1 lb hamburger or sausage
  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 1 cup okra
  • salt to taste
  • ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • Consider other seasonings to meet your tastes (hot sauce, red pepper, Cajun spice, mustard, paprika, sage, cumin, parsley, etc.)
  • 3 cups cooked rice (I prefer brown/white mix)


  1. Prep all the veggies & meat.  Chop all the veggies and add to one big bowl. Brown the hamburger and grill or saute the chicken (add spices to both to meet your tastes).  I typically leave the shrimp in the fridge until it’s time to add it.
  2. Heat oil in a heavy pan/stock pot. Stir in flour to make a roux. Cook, stirring constantly, until roux is dark brown; be careful not to burn.
  3. Add onion and garlic, and cook until slightly wilted.
  4. Whisk in water.
  5. Add all the spices (bay leaf, thyme, salt, pepper, cayenne, cajun spice and more to your taste).
  6. Stir in veggies (celery, green onions, tomato, green and red peppers, & okra).  Simmer for 1 hour.  Be sure to stir on occasion.
  7. Add shrimp, hamburger/sausage, & chicken; simmer 15 to 20 minutes longer. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  8. Serve gumbo over rice.

Optional Additions to offer at the table: Shredded cheese, hot sauce, Cajun spice such as Tony Chachere’s, dipping style chips

I couldn’t resist adding this clip……

What’s your favorite Gumbo recipe?  What ingredients do you prefer to use?


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