What is Gumbo?
If I had to pick one dish that represents Louisiana Cajun and Creole cooking, it would be gumbo. Just as Louisiana is a melting pot of people and cultures, this pot of gumbo combines many ingredients to make this rich and hearty stew. That’s why gumbo is the official dish of Louisiana.
Gumbo is a thick stew consisting of meat, the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables (celery, onions and bell peppers), stock and seasonings. Every family has their own version of gumbo and people feel strongly about what should (and shouldn’t) be included. And, just like my Cajun Jambalaya, this gumbo feeds a crowd.
- Roux – A mix of oil and flour (more on that later).
- Holy Trinity Vegetables – A combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery.
- Meat – You can use your choice of meat, but I used boneless skinless chicken thighs, Andouille sausage and shrimp.
- Stock – Ideally you would use a whole chicken to make the homemade stock but not everyone has the time, so store bought stock will work.
- Tomatoes – This ingredient is controversial when it comes to gumbo. I’ve made it with and without tomatoes and I prefer it with tomatoes. If you feel they don’t belong in gumbo, simply leave them out. For this recipe, I used fresh whole diced tomatoes and a bit of tomato paste.
- Seasonings – This is where you can really change up the flavor profile. Don’t be scared to experiment with seasonings. I used basil, thyme, cayenne pepper, black pepper, salt, cajun seasoning and a dash of hot sauce.
How to Make a Roux
A roux is simply a mixture of flour and fat (oil or butter). As you combine the flour and fat, it slowly becomes darker and adds more flavor. Ultimately a roux is used as a thickener. You can make a white roux to thicken sauces for pasta dishes or cook a dark roux for gumbo. A roux must be cooked low and slow so patience is a virtue. There is one main rule when it comes to a roux: DO NOT STOP STIRRING! And, for the best results, make sure to use a cast iron skillet or Dutch oven and a wooden spatula.
4 Stages of a Roux
There are four different stages of cooking a roux. Starting from a white roux, each sauce continues to thicken, darken in color and flavor.
- White Roux: The first and quickest roux. This usually takes about 5 minutes and is great for things like creamy pasta dishes, loaded potato soup, and casseroles.
- Blonde Roux: As you continue to cook the white roux, the color will begin to change to a blonde color. This roux is good for sauces and gravy.
- Peanut Butter Roux: After 15-20 minutes of cooking, you will get a peanut butter colored roux. The best way to tell is to flip over a jar of peanut butter and sit it next to the roux for comparison.
- Dark/Chocolate Roux: After about 45 minutes of cooking, you will see the roux change to a dark chocolate color. If your color has not changed much after 30-40 minutes, it may be time to turn up the heat a bit.
More Hearty Soups
If you love hearty soups, check out some of these:
- Easy Southern Chicken and Dumplings
- Creamy Loaded Potato Soup
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Slow Cooker White Beans
Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo
- 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken (700g)
- 1 pound Andouille sausage (500g)
- 1/2 pound shrimp (300g)
- 1/2 cup flour (65g)
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil (115ml)
- 1 green bell pepper
- 3-4 celery stalks
- 1 large onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 8 cups chicken stock or water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp basil
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp cayenne (EU - only use a pinch)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cajun seasoning (optional)
- A few dashes of hot sauce (optional)
- 1-2 tsp kitchen bouquet (optional)
- Chop all the vegetables (bell pepper, onion, celery, tomatoes garlic cloves) and set aside
- In a skillet, cook the chicken on medium high heat until cooked and then set aside
- In the same skillet, cook the sausage and set aside (include fat drippings)
- In a large cast iron pot or Dutch oven, add oil over low heat
- Stir in flour and continue to stir on low heat for 45 minutes. Do not stop stirring. If after 30 minutes you do not see any change in color, increase heat to medium.
- Add the bell pepper, onion and celery to the roux and cook for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are translucent.
- Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes
- Add tomatoes and tomato paste
- While stirring, slowly add the stock to the pot
- Add the seasonings, hot sauce (if desired) and cooked meat (chicken and sausage)
- Simmer on low for 2 hours
- Increase heat to medium and cook shrimp for 5-7 minutes or until pink
- Add kitchen bouquet (if desired)
- Serve over white rice