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Favorite Gumbo Recipe? (No file or okra)

Some of the people I'm cooking for don't like okra and I don't have any file on hand. I'm planning on making a chicken, andouille, shrimp gumbo with a roux. Last time I made gumbo, I combined a bunch of recipes that I found on-line and made a butter-based dark roux. After searching here, it seems like an oil-based roux is the way to go. If I'm using a recipe that calls for okra/file and roux and want to omit the okra/file, do I need to make more roux and/or add less broth? Thanks for any recipes or advice, C-

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  1. Google Gumbo Ya Ya, and leave out the undesirable stuff.

    1. Here's a good one:

      1 hen, about 6 pounds
      8 cups water
      2 medium yellow onions, quartered
      2 ribs celery, each cut into 6 pieces
      2 bay leaves
      1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
      1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
      1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
      1 1/2 cups bleached all-purpose flour
      2 cups chopped yellow onions
      1 cup chopped green bell peppers
      1 cup chopped celery
      1/2 pound andouille or other smoked sausage, finely chopped, plus 1 pound smoked sausage, cut crosswise into 1/4-inch thick slices
      2 tablespoons chopped green onions or scallions
      2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves
      Cooked white rice, for serving

      In a large, heavy pot place the hen, water, quartered onions, celery pieces, bay leaves, 1 tablespoon of the salt, and 1 teaspoon of the cayenne pepper and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, partially covered, until the hen is tender, about 2 hours. Remove the hen and set aside. Strain and reserve the broth.
      In a large, heavy pot or a Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the oil and flour. Cook, stirring constantly, until the roux is a dark, chocolate brown color, about 20 to 25 minutes. Add the chopped onions, bell peppers, celery and chopped sausage. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are very soft, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add the reserved chicken broth and stir until the roux mixture and broth are well combined. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and cook, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 1 1/2 hours.

      Meanwhile, remove the skin from the hen and pick the meat off the bones, discarding the skin and bones. Coarsely chop or tear the meat into bite size pieces. Add the chicken and the sliced sausage to the gumbo. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes before skimming any fat that has risen to the surface.

      Stir in the green onions and parsley and serve the gumbo in individual soup or gumbo bowls over hot, steamed white rice.

      1. This is my favorite:


        It's an oil-based roux, no file, no okra. Heresy though it may seem, I often (okay, usually) subsitute surimi for the crab and no one's ever gotten wise to it.

        1. File is only added after a gumbo (or whatever you are putting it on) is removed from the heat. It's a table condiment usually in Louisiana. If you heat file, it gets ropey. You should have no trouble omitting it. Lots of people leave it out in LA.

          BTW, most people in Louisiana would use oil or lard for roux, not butter.

          (How can someone not like okra?)

          4 Replies
          1. re: MakingSense

            Thanks for the advice. I know, I think that if I secretly put the okra in and didn't mention it, it might go unnoticed. Some people think they don't like okra but they've never given it a fair chance, like in a yummy Indian dish. All they can think about is slime.

            As for the origin of the name gumbo, etc. Most gumbo I tasted in N.O. didn't have okra in it, not that I would have minded. I just want it to be spicy and to please the people I'm cooking for, people can call it what they like.

            1. re: Candice

              A sneaky okra-lover would puree some cooked okra and surreptitiously add it at the right time. The okra-phobes would be unaware and pleased at the texture.

              But you did not hear it from me.

              1. re: FoodFuser

                Many of us who loathe okra don't like it because of the texture.

                I am against tricking people into eating things they have specifically said they don't like.

                1. re: Fleur

                  I think that is a good rule in general BUT as a momma, I tend to be devious. Sometimes a "thank you portion" of a new food prepared properly is enough to convert someone.
                  Christmas time in Frankfurt I did something very subversive to my then 6 year old. Rabbit stew is a Christmas tradition in Germany. We conspired at the table and told him it was Chicken. He tasted it and liked it. If he had known it was a bunny, he would have never tried it.

          2. Question, if okra is not added, then wouldn't not really be gumbo, since it Gumbo means okra in Bantu, which is the roots of the dish?

            To address the thickening dilemna, which is what okra lends to the dish (besides texture and flavor), I would make 2 batches of roux: ONe being the dark, peanut butter color- this will impart the nice nutty flavor. Then make a blonde which will have the thickening power to compensate for the lack of okra.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Veggietales

              Well, the word is most often employed to refer to a roux-thickened soup, of which there are countless variations. I would say that a preponderance of gumbos DO NOT include okra.

              1. re: Veggietales

                If you want a nice, nutty flavor, you need to take your roux well beyond the peanut butter color. A roux taken to its extremes, so chocolatey you're almost afraid it's burnt, will add an unbelievable depth of flavor to your gumbo. It's proven to be the difference between my Louisiana uncle's smoky and spicy gumbo and my somewhat blah peanut butter-roux gumbo.

              2. cook's ilustrated has a great shrimp and chicken gumbo that does not use okra or file.

                1. For gumbo I prefer roux made with bacon grease. Furthermore, I agree that without okra it ain't gumbo. The more okra, the better.


                  1. Small trick to intensify the flavor of a seafood gumbo is to saute up a package of dried shrimp like you find in an oriental or hispanic grocery and slow cook it down. Don't worry, the shrimps disintegrate by the end of cooking, just adding more flavor.

                    1. All you non-Louisiana folks are making much ado about very little.
                      Gumbo is a pretty generic term for certain traditional soup/stew-like dishes that have either roux or okra bases. Even if the word did come from an Afrcian word for okra, not all gumbos contain okra.
                      Roux was made with lard until vegetable oils became commonly available. Many of us still prefer bacon drippings. Butter is not used.
                      File is added as a condiment - never cooked - and not used with okra.

                      Gumbo is pretty much ad hoc food - most of us don't have "the recipe" as such. Just the techniques, the few basic rules and the ideas of what combinations work together.
                      The City gumbo on the maternal side of my family was wonderful and very different from the delicious Country gumbo on the paternal side. Mine is different still. No two cooks make them alike.

                      Gumbo is simple cooking and not worth getting wrapped around your axle about. Learn the basics and you'll end up with a very good soup even if it's not a very authentic gumbo. It will still taste good.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: MakingSense

                        Best post by far on this okra dichotomy. My folks, who hail from New Orleans, always made the distinction between making Okra or File' gumbo...they had very distinctive tastes, different set of ingredients, etc. This was all just tradition going back 100 years. Gumbo is the ultimate experimental vehicle and you shouldn't feel hidebound by what this or that source demands; experiment, have fun and you too may add to a wonderful culinary wave that is a great part of southern culture.

                        1. re: broncosaurus

                          Oh, and I HATE Okra, but that's just me ;)

                      2. Gumbo is okra...(gumbo is another name for okra in West African languages). Take out the okra and you have (IMHO) a very nice soup but not gumbo.

                        The okra problem is that folks over cook it and it gets too slimey. Short cook the okra and you won't have a gloppy mess. Also you need young small okra to cook with not the big tough kind. Frozen okra can suffice but I don't think you get the right texture.

                        Treading on shaky ground to not put file in Okra. I'm half Gullah and even I know better:). If you cook with the file you will have a gloppy mess. Better to add it later as a condiment if you have gooey issues.

                        The real deal is tomatoes vs no tomatoes. Put tomatoes in and you definitely have Gumbo from the Low Country area. Tomato free Gumbo and you have Gumbo of more Louisiana-Texas-Mississippi origin. The tomato issue gets folks all hot and bothered.

                        Drmimi aka Dr. Gumbo's circus and traveling road show (what I called my ad hoc catering business in undergrad and grad school)

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: drmimi

                          At my house, gumbo without okra damn sure IS gumbo. All over south LA in restaurants & home kitchens, gumbos made without okra outnumber those made with okra in a ratio of at least 5:1.

                          And you do see tomatoes in gumbos in New Orleans...an italian influence, perhaps.

                          1. re: Hungry Celeste

                            I often add a small amount of tomatoes - not nearly a Low Country quantity - to my okra-based chicken gumbo. Also for some waterfowl like seaducks that are really gamey, where I usually make a roux-gumbo.
                            The acid in tomatoes will cut the sliminess in okra. The bigger problem may be that a lot of "recipes" just call for far too much okra.

                            I think Hungry Celeste is correct about the Italian influence - you see tomatoes in jambalaya in the City but not in the country. Same with a lot of other dishes as well.

                        2. You can make an excellent gumbo without okra or file. File is just a condiment added to the bowl (or to the entire pot, if you plan to serve it all & not reheat) at serving time.

                          Anyway, specific tips for good flavor in a chicken-andouille-shrimp gumbo:
                          --make a roux with oil if you're a novice-roux maker, 'cause it is harder to burn. If you're a more careful type, use bacon grease...provides a great smoky base flavor.
                          --Skin the andouille, quarter it lengthwise, then slice into small chunks. Brown the andouille in a big skillet to caramelize the outsides for extra flavor. If the andouille is fatty, save a spoonful of the fat to add to your roux.
                          --Next, brown the skin-on chicken in the same skillet that you browned the andouille. Set it aside until you've made the roux & cooked the veggies in the roux. Add the browned chicken & andouille when you add the stock or water. I fish out the chicken once it is cooked, debone it, and return the chunked chicken to the pot for another simmering.
                          --Be sure to add a whole bunch of finely chopped parsley near the end of cooking--the bitter note can elevate a good gumbo into a great one. After it is completely cooked, add a couple of bunches of chopped green onions (white & green parts).
                          --A good seasoning for gumbo is Zatarain's crab boil...a very concentrated liquid pepper seasoning that also contains good stuff like oil of bay, oil of clove, and other aromatics. A tiny bit goes a long way...don't put more than a teaspoon in a 3-quart pot of gumbo, unless your tongue & tonsils are made of asbestos.
                          --Gumbos benefit from a little acid added near the end to brighten the flavor...lemon juice is good with any containing seafood.

                          Making Sense has it right--a gumbo is not complicated, recipe-based cooking. Improvisation rules the day, but it should be based on specific chord changes.

                          1. I always hope to have "Plenty of Pete's" as one of the ingredients. Pete's is a spicy sausage available AFAIK only in Los Angeles, in a corner brick building on Jefferson a block or two west of Crenshaw. Excellent stuff.

                            1. If you're going to omit the okra from a tried-and-true recipe, you'll need to either include the roux or make the roux lighter (lighter roux thickens better).

                              As far as the okraless-soup-not-being-gumbo thing, it's like the people who pitch and moan about chili. It's not a recipe, it's a continuum. There's no "one true recipe" for either item, and if you don't like it, don't eat it, or eat it and snigger behind your hands.

                              1. thank you so much for thi. My pregnant self hass been craving gumbo but I hate okra so I've been looking for recipe sans okra

                                1. Here is my tired and true gumbo recipe:

                                  1 chicken
                                  1 hamsteak, cut up into pieces
                                  1 kielbasa, sliced or 2 andouille sausage sliced(use the kielbasa if you cannot get andouille)
                                  1 or two pounds of shrimp, peeled and tail cut off
                                  2 celery sticks, diced
                                  2 green peppers, diced
                                  2 onions, diced
                                  4 green onion, sliced really thin
                                  2 tablespoons of tomato paste
                                  old bay seasoning
                                  liquid smoke (just a couple of dashes)
                                  Bay Leaf
                                  White pepper
                                  Black pepper
                                  Cayenne pepper
                                  Pete's Texas hot sauce
                                  Tony Chachiere's seasoning


                                  The flour and oil are for the roux

                                  Cast Iron Skillet
                                  Big stock pot

                                  First get the stock pot and fill it with water, about 3/4 full--make sure it is a big stock pot.
                                  Get the water boiling and add the whole chicken--add a liberal amount of Old Bay Seasoning, and 1 tsp of salt.
                                  Then get your cast iron skillet and add equal parts of flour and oil--vegetable oil or canola oil. I usually do 3/4 of a cup of each.
                                  Start with a low heat and keep stirring the flour and oil--I use a wisk and slow stir. You HAVE to BABYSIT the roux. If the phone rings, do not answer it. If your doorbell rings, do not answer it. Listen to music. You will be watching the roux for about 1/2 hour. After the roux is blended, you can turn the heat up to medium or medium low. DO NOT LET THE ROUX BURN! After the roux looks like chocolate, take from the heat immediately.

                                  In the meantime, make sure the ham is cut into nice chunks, the shrimp peeled (you won't need the shrimp till the last ten minutes), the sausage sliced on the diagonal, and all your veggies are nicely diced (I use my food processor).

                                  Ok--by now the chicken should be cooked. Take the chicken out of the pot. SAVE THE STOCK. Empty the stock into another smaller pot. Let the chicken drain in a collander. Skin and bone the chicken and tear into nice chunks.

                                  Now--the stock pot has been emptied. Take the roux and put the roux in the stockpot. Turn the heat on very low. Throw the veggies into the roux and mix with your CLEAN hands. A spoon just won't do--you really need to get in there. Then, add the meat, but NOT the shrimp. Mix the meat so that the roux is covering it nicely. Now add your stock--and add all the seasonings. I did not give exact measurements because I season very liberally, you may want to start little, and keep adding to taste. Give everything a big stir and bring to a boil, keep stirring every so often so as not to burn the bottom of the pot. When it boils, turn to a simmer and cover for about an hour and a half. Ten minutes before serving, add the hot sauce and the shrimp.

                                  Serve over rice.

                                  This has been a tremendous hit in my home for over 15 years, when I first made this.

                                  Good luck!