small gumboWhen we moved to Louisiana, I decided that I was going to embrace the experience, especially when it came to the food. I set out to try everything I could and to not be scared, even if it was something I’d never eaten before.

What I discovered was this: Louisiana is famous for their food for a reason. It can be amazing. That said, just because a kitchen is located in Louisiana doesn’t mean the food that comes out of it is going to be automatically fabulous. There are some recipes and methods that people might consider retiring (like all the times I’ve experienced un-de-veined shrimp…seriously, guys, it’s poop.)

I had some bad run-ins with gumbo. The first was a fishy (and not in a good way) shrimp gumbo. And then there was a super-bland gumbo that kind of tasted like lifeless chicken soup. And then there was the epic nightmare of gumbo with okra. Funny thing–turns out I don’t like okra. It makes food taste like morning sickness–like I knew in my brain that it tasted good, but my gag reflex was in overdrive. And then I had some at a fancy-ish restaurant in New Orleans and it was just flat-out gross. And then I had gumbo that I was pretty sure could have been good, but the roux had burned and once the roux burns, it’s all over.

So I kind of gave up on gumbo. I felt like I’d given it a fair shake. I could see how it could be good, but it just seemed like too many things could go wrong. It was like the J-Lo of Cajun cuisine and I wasn’t willing to put up with her high-maintenance antics.

And then in December, I met up with my son for lunch at his plantation field trip and one of the teachers made gumbo. And it was incredible. After an unbelievably stressful fall, heck, a stressful year, and then a house full of sick kids at home, including a baby with RSV, and Christmas on its way, I felt like it fed my soul. It was seriously comfort food at its finest.

One thing I loved about it is that her recipe was simple. I didn’t get her recipe, but from what I could tell, it wasn’t more than a dark roux, celery, bell pepper, onions, garlic, chicken broth, tender chunks of chicken, and smoked sausage. A lot of recipes call for fresh herbs, additional spices, other vegetables, and then there are the meats-gumbo can be loaded up with all sorts of meat, ranging from wild game to seafood. And the best part? It was okra-free.

So I went on a quest to try all sorts of gumbo in hopes of making my own that I liked just as much as the gumbo I had on the field trip. Turns out I do not hate gumbo. In fact, I kind of love it.

The ingredients are simple–so simple, in fact, that it’s kind of magical that it ends up tasting the way it does. The base of the flavor comes from a vegetable oil with a high smoke point (like peanut or canola), flour, and chicken broth.

gumbo chicken broth, oil, and flour

Really, you should probably use a low-sodium chicken broth because so many of the other ingredients are salty that you want to be able to control the saltiness.

You’re also going to need vegetables–the “holy trinity” (chopped celery, onion, and green bell pepper) and a whole bunch of garlic.

holy trinity plus garlic

And finally, you’re going to need meat. Lots of meat. For the chicken, I just picked the white and dark meat off of a rotisserie chicken. As far as sausage goes, if you’re living in the South, it’s easy to find really good smoked sausage at pretty much any grocery store. If you can’t find a good smoked or andouille sausage at your local grocery store, try Costco or Sam’s Club–they often have really high-quality options. Another good choice is to check with your butcher; many butchers make their own smoked sausages and they can be incredible.

chicken and sausage

Now…the scariest part of this whole experience is making the roux. This roux is totally different than any other kind of roux I’ve ever made–usually, roux is used to thicken soups and sauces and custards. Here, it is solely used for flavor; this particular gumbo is not thick at all. And it’s not made with a tasty oil like butter or olive oil, it’s made with plain ol’ vegetable oil. And yet the roux is what makes the gumbo so delicious–it gives the gumbo the rich, smoky flavor. If you make it right, you’ll have a hit on your hands. If it burns or if you don’t get it dark enough, it will be ruined.

I tried, I really did, to get pictures of this whole process, but I don’t have any natural light in my kitchen. The chances of me screwing everything up by moving back and forth between my kitchen and the window were so great that I didn’t want to risk it, so we’re going to play the imagination game here.

In a large, heavy pot (like a Dutch oven), heat the oil over medium heat until very hot (about 3-4 minutes). Add the flour and whisk until smooth, then use a wooden spoon or spatula to stir the mixture until it becomes the color of caramel (about 15-20 minutes). You may need to reduce to heat to medium low if you start feeling like you can’t stir fast enough to keep it from sticking on the bottom or burning. If it burns (and you start seeing black flecks–not 1 or 2 black flecks, but several), you’ll need to toss it and start over. If you don’t start over, you will be sad 3 hours from now when your gumbo is horrible.

When the roux is brown (approximately the color of melted caramel or turkey gravy, or darker–you can go as dark as chocolate if you like it and you know you can pull it off), add the onions, celery, and bell pepper. Cook for 4-6 minutes or until fragrant and the vegetables are tender. Add the minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the chicken broth and bay leaf and whisk until the roux and broth are combined. Bring to a boil, then add the sausage and chicken. Cover and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 1 hour. Skim the oil off the top, then simmer for another hour. Skim for oil again. Season to taste with Cajun seasoning (look for Tony Chachere’s and skip the tiny expensive jars) and Tabasco sauce (the Cajun seasoning is salty and spicy, and the Tabasco is just spicy, so if you have enough salt, but need a little more heat, add some Tabasco).

To serve, place about 1/2 cup of hot white rice in the bottom of a bowl. Ladle the gumbo on top of the rice, making sure to get sausage, chicken, and broth in each bowl. Serves 10-12 (or 8-10 very large servings).

final gumbo

Now…the very best things you can possibly make your gumbo in is a large cast iron Dutch oven or in an enamel-coated cast iron pan (often called a French oven) like a Le Creuset pot. They retain heat well and distribute it evenly, so you’re less likely to run into burning.

It’s February. If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, pretty much no matter where you live, it is dreary and dark and blah-ish. Perfect gumbo weather. “But alas,” you say, “I don’t have anything to cook my gumbo in.”

That’s why you need one of these:

Our Best Bites Le Creuset Giveaway!

Click on the picture for details on how to enter–comments on this post are for the gumbo only and any giveaway entries on this post will be deleted.

So happy Mardi Gras to you! For other Mardi Gras-friendly recipes, click here. And since Valentine’s Day is also this week, click here for all sorts of awesome Valentine’s Day ideas. Apparently it’s also the Chinese New Year (maybe THIS year will finally be the end of the world since all this magic is happening at once). We don’t have tons of Chinese-specific recipes, but if you’re looking for a little Asian flair, here are some ideas!

 

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71comments

  1. 1
    Amy says:

    Your pic is way way better than mine! I must have okra in my gumbo, but being a Louisiana gal, I love okra. Especially when my Uncle Stan grows it for me in his garden. Have you considered bacon drippings for your roux oil? It’s pretty fantastic in any cajun stuff requiring a roux. Also, ya forgot to call it Cajun Napalm ;-) sticky and burns like crazy!

  2. 2
    Qwendykay says:

    Hooray! I love gumbo, but have only made my husbands recipe. He lived in Louisana for a few years and taught me to cook Cajun. I’m ready to try a new recipe! And for the record okra is a no. Just plain no.

  3. 3
    Nicole Peck says:

    Oh yum!! I was going to make your not-so-dirty dirty rice again this year for Mardi Gras dinner, but I may have to see if I can find some andouille here in Utah (apparently, I’d have to drive out to Colossimo’s, which is not close to me, LOL) and try it because I love gumbo!!

  4. 4
    Crystal says:

    This looks delicious! I am wondering if the roux would still work if I substituted almond or coconut meal for the flour in an attempt to make it gluten-free…

    • 4.1

      I would google gluten-free gumbo and see what recipes use the substitutions you’re most comfortable with–there are lots of subs out there, so it’s definitely possible. :)

    • 4.2
      Stacy says:

      I use pamela’s bread mix as an all purpose flour in just about everything. I’ve made a roux with it before and it works great.

      And Kate- I’m Louisiana born so I need okra in mine but I totally get that’s kinda gross :)

  5. 5
    Theresa says:

    As someone who grew up eating her Pop’s gumbo that was “famous” with all of our friends and neighbors- let me let you in on a little roux secret- BAKE it in the oven at 350. Start it on the stove just like you mention above but after it’s all combined- just pop your dutch oven into your actual oven and then just whisk it and check it every fifteen minutes. Voila! A dark- rich foux “the color of fudge” my pop said without burning or scorching to ruin the taste. The indirect heat allows you to cook it as long as it needs to darken without burning and without constant non-stop stirring. Another tip is that you can make up a big batch of roux at once and then store it in a mason jar in the fridge for about 3-4 months.

  6. 6
    Lauren says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for making my Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s exciting. I look forward to seeing what fun new recipe you’ve posted and what ramblings you’ve got for me to read! Always entertaining AND amazing to see all the stuff that you ladies do. You inspire me (and exhaust me just thinking about it!!! ;) )

  7. 7
    Rachel says:

    Looks yummy! I’m adding to my long list of recipes to try. Thank you!

  8. 8
    becky says:

    I’m just wondering how the chicken turns out in this?? It calls for pre-cooked chicken and then cook it for 2 hours? In recipes like this, the directions usually call for waiting and stirring it in the last 15 minutes…

  9. 9
    Amy says:

    Thank you – can’t wait to try it!

  10. 10

    It’s tender and flavorful and not mushy at all, I promise. :) A lot of flavor in the gumbo comes from simmering the meat for that long.

  11. 11
    Dena says:

    I grew up in Texas and my Dad and his family are all from the Opelousas/Ville Platte area and my gumbo recipe has been passed down for at least 4 generations. You actually need a dark roux like Theresa mentions to be authentic gumbo, not caramel color. It should be like chocolate and the taste is magnified greatly. I guess for most people that haven’t had gumbo before your caramel way is fine. I don’t really care how other people make it.

    Becky, when I make gumbo, I put in raw or frozen chicken with my water and sausage and let it boil while I cook my roux. After the roux has been added and cooks for an hour or two I take the chicken out and shred it. That way you get all the flavors from the chicken already in your water.

    • 11.1

      Yep, everyone makes it differently. I like a darker roux, but I also like it lighter like this particular go-around, which is why, in the instructions, I said you could make the roux as dark as chocolate.

  12. 12
    Jess says:

    This looks amazing! :)

  13. 13
    Thesha says:

    This looks delicious! It warms me up just thinking about it.

  14. 14
    Krista Low says:

    This looks wonderful. I love soups in the winter and this looks easy to throw together and perfect for a dreary day.

  15. 15
    Lisa says:

    So pretty! The dishes and your recipe! Love it!

  16. 16
    Trista says:

    Yay!! I JUST got back from the grocery store and bought everything in the recipe. I’m making gumbo tomorrow for my inlaws and really needed a fail proof recipe. Thank you!

  17. 17
    Darla says:

    Gumbo without okra? I’ll have to give it a try but I think I’ll miss the okra. Your recipes are usually very good.

  18. 18
    Melissa says:

    I am Glad you love gumbo! This is basically the way I make it so simple and yummy. My kids adore it too, I just have to tell my 5 year old it’s rice and gravy. Another easy way to do it rather than the rotisserie chicken is to just throw what ever pieces of chicken you want raw into the pot and let it cook in there. Then you get the bones flavor too. I always make my roux caramel colored mostly because once it starts browning, I get scared I’m going to burn it, lol!

    • 18.1

      That’s TOTALLY how I am–once I spend 20 minutes chopping and meat-picking, and another 20 minutes in a complete panic that I’m going to burn the roux, plus knowing it has 2 hours of cooking to go, I’d rather have a lighter roux than start over. :)

  19. 19
    Carol in E TN says:

    The gumbo looks great. Would like to try the recipe! Thanks for the giveaway.

  20. 20
    Jen says:

    Looks good! Lovin’ a little comfort food.

  21. 21
    Jaqi says:

    Glad that you found a gumbo you like ! I’ve been making gumbo for more years than I’d like to admit. My Mama grew up in the Jennings , La. area, and I still have family in the area. I’m in Southeast TX. If you keep “practicing” , you’ll find that the flavor of your gumbo will evolve and develop a richness and different flavor over the years. Mine has. My roux is a little different every time I make it. Sometimes it’s really dark, and sometimes it’s a little lighter. I found a wonderful sausage , made in Buna, TX, Beasley’s sausage, that has green onions and jalapenos in it and it is wonderful in chicken gumbo. It adds just enough of a kick without being too hot. I make my gumbo several gallons at a time and freeze it in 2 quart containers. When we’re in the mood for it, we just take out a container and make some rice !

  22. 22
    heather says:

    This looks yummy! I noticed you didn’t list the Cajun seasoning an tobasco in the list of ingredients but its in the recipe description.

  23. 23
    Molly says:

    Simmering away…the roux took longer even at gas mark 6. I added one box low sodium chicken broth and four cups water so I can control the sodium. Lots of flavors going on. I know it is going to be awesome. Thanks for making it tangible.

  24. 24
    Sue D.s\ says:

    Thanks for the recipe. I will give it a try. My tried & true one comes from a Louisiana cookbook I purchased from a group of church women. Nothing like recipes from a southern woman’s kitchen.

  25. 25
    Mary says:

    Let’s see, the best thing about February is Valentine Day. Then you are closer to Spring coming, my favorite season! Knowing that things will soon start to warm up and green up! Your gumbo sounds good, I don’t think that I’ve ever had any, so I must try this soon.

  26. 26
    Jeri Hastings says:

    What’s really good about gumbo is that people with diabetes can eat it, if you cook brown rice and limit the amount of rice in your bowl. And heck, gumbo is good all by itself. Johnsonville has a wonderful new andouille sausage too that goes really good in gumbo.

    I’m glad it’s February because we’re beginning to be able to play golf again, since it’s not raining every day here in the Northwest. And it’s not so frigidly cold. Along with that, we’ll start seeing fresh fruits and veggies again real soon. Although we have a lot better luck here, because we have the fresh apples and pears and things like that still going for us.

    Another thing, if people would like a spicy cajun seasoning, have them look for Benoit’s Best. It’s made in Baton Rouge and we quite literally use it on everything and in everything,

  27. 27
    Jessica says:

    I made gumbo once, and it was just kinda of meh. I wanted it to be incredible, so I was disappointed. But your recipe makes me want to give it another go.

  28. 28
    Jeri Hastings says:

    As an add-on, don’t feel bad about the gumbo. I grew up in New Orleans, but the first time I ever made dirty rice, after helping my mom make it for years and years, I ended up with a pot of it big enough to feed an army. I knew what it was supposed to taste like, but didn’t exactly know the right proportions!!!!

  29. 29
    Monique Wilson says:

    So funny! I am from Thibodaux, LA (now live in TX) and that is the exact way I make gumbo! Don’t worry I hate okra too. It is all slimy and gross. So glad you are bringing this dish to everyone. It is my winter time staple. The best thing is to put a little file (fee-lay) on it when you put it in the bowl. PERFECT!!!

  30. 30
    Molly says:

    “Coming back”…it was awesome. Never made gumbo before. Will totally make again. Mine looks nothing like your picture; much more muddy. T’was delish! Will not hesitate to make again. I used three links of sausage, a package of chicken tenderloins and simmered them prior to adding to the boil. At the very end I added 1/2 pound shrimp for the heck of it. We had four people eating and there is enough for two people for a light lunch tomorrow. Excellent and easy. Thank you!!!

  31. 31
    Daisha says:

    Excited to try to your version of gumbo. We love gumbo and so far our favorite is Bobby Flay’s seafood gumbo recipe . . . soooo good! Have your tried fried okra? It’s really good!

  32. 32
    Kaysie McManus says:

    What makes me Happy in Febuary is planning my garden layout for spring and knowing sunshine is on its way!

  33. 33
    Emily says:

    Chocolate makes me happy!

  34. 34
    Ellie says:

    Happy Mardi Gras! I haven’t had gumbo that I like before but it’s because of the okra. I’m excited to try this recipe, although I’ll have to wait until next week because I promised my kids the next time I make soup it would be potato soup.

  35. 35
    Yaritza says:

    Being at home with the family!!!

  36. 36
    Mary says:

    Opening up a bottle of homemade raspberry freezer jam perks up February for me. That rich red color matches Valentines Day.

  37. 37
    Jana says:

    A trip to Cancun!

  38. 38
    kristina says:

    THANK YOU for creating this recipe. I love cajun food, but gumbo has always scared me because of the roux. I make Jambalaya and Red Beans and Rice, but Gumbo, no way. I can’t wait to try this!

  39. 39
    Amie says:

    Thanks for reminding me about gumbo! It’s one of those foods that I forget about, but love. Every time I make it I wonder why it has been so long and I just happen to have all the ingredients in my kitchen right now. YAY!

  40. 40
    carrian says:

    I love getting to know the food and culture of a new place. It’s like a fun little adventure. Looks delicious!

  41. 41
    Darsee Vanderloo says:

    My first ever roux attempt and the gumbo is simmering on the stove right now! I missed the “Simmer for another hour” direction the fist go through, so dinner will be a little late tonight :)

  42. 42
    Katie says:

    My husband travels to Louisiana a lot from work and loves the food. I’m learning to also. He raves about King’s Cake and just brought me home a sample to try. It was good, but the piece he brought had an obvious bakery-flavor (preservatives). Do you have any good recipes for that?

  43. 43
    Sue Mackey says:

    We used to live in Slidell…love the people AND the food. Can’t wait to try it! What do I love in Feb? Fireplaces, family and (great) food…all at the same time! Thanks!

  44. 44
    Heather says:

    How much should you actually be able to skim off the top? I always wonder that when using the leftovers from a rotisserie chicken to make chicken soup, and it seems like I keep skimming and skimming with this gumbo.

  45. 45

    It depends on your chicken and your sausage, but don’t stress too much about it. Just get what you can of the visible oil. :)

  46. 46
    Claire Davis says:

    I made this tonight, and it was delicious. Totally worth the three hours I put off studying kinesiology….. :) It also made my husband want to accept going to the medical school in South Carolina so we can move down South and gumbo our little hearts out.

  47. 47
    Susie Chase says:

    Thinking of fun in the summer for spring get’s me thru these “blah” winters…and doing fun crafts with the kids every holiday until then!

  48. 48
    Lori Brower says:

    What makes me happy mid-February? Once past Valentine’s Day, I can now decorate for spring without feeling too silly. Football is over but March Madness is only a few weeks away. My daughter plays comp/travel softball so February kicks off the beginning of a 10-month long season and I can’t wait! I’m done experimenting with new soups and have now settled into family favorites to carry us through the big snow melt! So thank you, many of your recipes have transitioned from “something new to try” to a “tried and true favorite”!

  49. 49
    M. Weber says:

    I have always loved Le Creuset cookware, but I’ve never been able to buy any – would love to try your gumbo recipe in my new cookware! Love to get your recipes in my email box – it’s always a recipe or idea I’ve never seen! Thanks so much for all of the ideas.

  50. 50
    Sarah Schmalle says:

    Kate, I just made this tonight and it is the bomb…it will be on the menu on a regular basis! Thank you for sharing!

  51. 51
    Christina says:

    Ok so this will be my first time to even try gumbo. It sounds wonderful. It is simmering now but I am so nervous. I used grapeseed oil for the roux and I am not sure it cooked long enough. Wish me luck! I will let you know how it turns out. If I can make this anyone can:) thank you for the recipe.

  52. 52
    Brandy says:

    I’m thinking of trying this in a crockpot. Cooking on the stove up to the simmer point and then transferring to a crockpot to simmer. Any thoughts or tips on this?

  53. 53
    Yoni says:

    I am excited to make this recipe tomorrow for dinner. After a coworker of my husbands made Gumbo for him, I have tried to find a good recipe, but ran out of “roux” mix that she bought for us and cannot find any in the store. This sounds so much better than the way that I have made it. THANK YOU!

  54. 54
    katie says:

    do you know how this holds up if you make ahead and freeze or if you leave in fridge for 1 or 2 days and reheat?

  55. 55
    Stacy says:

    First off, I love you ladies, because of you two, my family eats so well most every night. Everything on your website or in your book turns out amazingly delicious! Everything. I get compliments ALL the time on your recipes. Ok, on to my question, can I make this with canola oil?

  56. 56
    donna says:

    make life easy on yourself buy 1 bag of oak grove gumbo base without the rice added add your sausage onions garlic an celery your boneless thighs and stock your gumbo will taste home made with out having to watch the roux cook i’ve made scratch gumbo for 23 years this one is so easy an taste wonderful an everyone will think you made it from scratch

  57. 57
    Jules says:

    I’ve never made gumbo before because it was too intimidating but I loved it! Even my picky husband and kids thought it was yummy. I burned my hand about 9 times, but it was worth it.

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