Gumbo is a melting pot of rich and flavorful stock, the Holy Trinity of vegetables, and a variety of meat. It is hard to classify what makes a truly authentic Louisiana gumbo recipe because there are about as many variations of gumbo as there are Louisianans. And many have several recipes they rotate! Each one is delicious in its own way.
Our Louisiana gumbo is a hearty stew that is thickened with a dark roux. We add the classic vegetables, then finish it off with a trio of meat: crab, shrimp, and andouille sausage.
Ingredient Prep for Louisiana Gumbo
The most time-consuming part of gumbo is making the roux. Once the roux has finished, the rest of this recipe comes together rather quickly. So you will prepare the rest of your ingredients first and then begin the roux. That way you can add them at the right point and not worry about the roux burning.
This includes chopping your vegetables, browning your sausage, peeling and deveining your shrimp, and measuring out your remaining ingredients.
Making a Roux
Roux is equal parts fat and flour. It is a thickening agent in several types of sauces. With lighter sauces the roux is cooked for just a few minutes. But gumbo calls for a dark roux. In addition to thickening the soup, the dark roux creates a foundation of rich and robust flavor.
Below, the photo on the left shows the roux when it has just begun cooking. Stir constantly for 20-30 minutes and it will darken as it cooks. When making gumbo, we cook the roux until it is the color of milk chocolate. Keep an eye on it! If your roux burns, you will need to start over.
Once it has reached the milk chocolate point there is good news: The hardest part of gumbo is complete! It's smooth sailing from here!
The Holy Trinity
Celery, bell pepper, and onions are a part of many Cajun and Creole dishes, often called "The Holy Trinity." These three ingredients amplify the flavor of our gumbo. The classic "Holy Trinity" consists of equal parts of celery, bell pepper, and onion. In our recipe, we are shooting for about a cup of each. But it does not need to be exact and it is okay if one ingredient is a little bit more than the others.
To Filé or Not to Filé
Filé is dried and powdered sassafras. This is the same ingredient used to make root beer! Some chefs use filé as a thickening agent in their gumbo. We thickened our gumbo through the dark roux, so our recipe does not call for filé. Another ingredient that you may notice is missing from our recipe is okra. That is a matter of personal preference. If you like okra in your gumbo, add 2 cups after your roux has darkened. Cook it for 10 minutes before adding in the Holy Trinity.
For those who are looking for the sassafras flavor that filé powder provides, it can be offered as a topping when serving. This is how Emeril does it, and if it is good enough for Emeril, it is good enough for me.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both gumbo and jambalaya are classic Louisiana dishes with very similar ingredients. With gumbo, rice is cooked separately and served along with the stew. For jambalaya, rice is the key ingredient and is cooked right along with the rest of the ingredients. The other big difference is that jambalaya isn't usually thickened with a roux.
Etouffée is thicker than gumbo because it uses a lighter roux. Typically, etoufée also focuses on just one type of meat, where gumbo usually includes several.
If your gumbo has seafood in it then it will spoil rather quickly, so you want to use it within 2 days. Chicken sausage gumbo can keep for 5 days.
Proper storage of gumbo is important. Once it is removed from the stove it needs to be refrigerated within 2 hours. Cover it well with plastic wrap or an air-tight lid.
One of the beautiful things about gumbo is its versatility. Chicken can be used in place of any of the meats. Chicken and sausage gumbo is very popular! Or skip the sausage, add a little crawfish, and go for gumbo that is all seafood. Get creative!
Gumbo is the official state dish of Louisiana! Take a look at other iconic Louisiana foods and the history behind them, in our post on Famous Food From Louisiana!
Louisiana Gumbo Recipe
- 1 cup canola oil
- 1 cup flour
- 1 small white onion
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 medium green bell pepper
- 1 lb andoille sausage
- 14 oz fire roasted tomatoes
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 ½ tsp kosher salt
- ¾ tsp black pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- ½ tsp cayenne pepper (plus additional to taste, before serving)
- ½ tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp paprika
- ¼ tsp onion powder
- ¼ tsp dried basil
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp Worceshershire
- 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 lb crab meat
- file power, to serve
- Louisiana hot sauce, if desired
- Cooked rice, to serve
- Prepare all ingredients:-Chop onions, celery, and bell pepper.-Measure seasonings into a small bowl.-Slice andouille sausage into 1" slices and brown in a skillet over medium heat, 1-2 minutes each side.-Peel and devein shrimp.
- Heat oil in a large stock pan or Dutch oven, over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour and stir continuously until it turns milk chocolate in color, 20-30 minutes. Watch carefully as it darkens. It if burns you will need to start over.
- Increase heat to medium and stir in peppers, celery, and onions. Stir frequently for 5 minutes.
- Stir in sausage, tomatoes, garlic, and seasonings. Cook an additional 3-4 minutes. Mixture will be very thick.
- Add in chicken stock, Worcestershire, crab, shrimp, and bay leaves. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue simmering an additional 5-10 minutes.
- Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve over rice, with filé powder and Louisiana hot sauce, if desired.