HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >


Making a good roux?

I came across some good lump crabmeat over the weekend and already had shrimp in the freezer so I decided to make a gumbo. Everything turned out great but it never really thickened like it should. Can anyone give me advice on how much roux to make to properly thicken 2 quarts of stock.

I used 1/2cup flour (sorry for the spelling) and 1/2 cup oil and 2 quarts shrimp stock.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. don't know how much other liquid you put in there, (tomato product...) but that is twice the amount of roux you need for 2 qts of stock. is it possible you didn't cook the roux long enough for it to come together? if you did, and had that much roux, the thing would have been like plaster of paris.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      I'm hoping he didn't put ANY tomatoes in the gumbo. To me, a gumbo should never have tomatoes. But to each his own...

    2. Hey Grilly...how dark did you cook that roux? The darker the roux, the lower the thickening power. So if you like your roux as dark as coffee, you need more of it than if it is the color of peanut butter. In addition, if your gumbo is too thin, keep simmering without a lid. You can thicken it a little more through reduction.

      1. I use unsalted butter, not oil when making a roux.


          sorry everyone-- i have wanted to do that for SO long!

          a blonde roux will have greater thickening power than a longer cooked (imo more authentic tasting) dark peanut-butter-colored, or even better, a red-brown roux, cooked 45 mins or more. how long did your roux cook-- also you did not mention how many okra you used in your gumbo recipe, or if you used any file (with an accent mark over the e **feeLAY**) powder (dried sassafrass), both of these ingredients are traditional thickeners of gumbo.

          1 Reply
          1. Exactly how thin was the gumbo? i am from cajun land and we like thinner gumbos. did it taste okay? How dark of a roux was it? What type of oil did you use?

            1. I've done a little more reading and I don't think I got my roux dark enough but obviously that is not the reason it did not thicken. I did use file(accent somewhere) but I was very conservative with it because I normally add it to individual servings. In my experience, adding file to the whole pot makes it not keep as well to the next day. I forgot to pick up okra when I went to the store and deemed that I would leave it out since my wife does not like it that much anyway. I know this is an unpardonable sin to some but I made an executive decision.
              The final thickness not much more than broth. It was pretty much a seafood soup. It tasted great but I know it could have been better.

              5 Replies
              1. re: GrillMaster

                I like my gumbo thin, that's the way everyone in my (large, extended, cajun) family likes it. To me, really thick gumbos are "restaurant" gumbos rather than "homestyle" gumbos. But if you want it thicker, by all means make more roux next time, and increase the "greens" (onions, celery, bell pepper), as the vegetable matter will add some body to the broth.

                My sister makes a killer crab stew: not much more than a whole lotta peanut-butter colored roux, with a bunch of onions/celery/bell pepper/garlic smothered into it, then finished off with fresh crabmeat, chopped green onions, thyme, and salt/pepper. It's one of those dishes where the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts. It's at its peak when you use bacon grease to make the roux, too.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  Bacon grease for a roux....dear lord, I'd never thought of that. But I started salivating just considering the additional flavor that it would bring.
                  Your description of crab stew may just make me drive into town tomorrow.
                  These are the times I miss Louisiana

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    Mmmm.. my mom makes crab stew as well, but she uses whole crabs cut up in it. I once thought I was taking gumbo out of her freezer, but got a suprise when I found out it was crab stew.

                    1. re: malenky

                      Crab stew is a pretty damn good surprise, IMHO. I wish I had some in my freezer!

                  2. re: GrillMaster

                    yes, you should only use file when serving. I actually prefer my gumbo that thin. I do a dark roux (mainly for the flavor) and it adds just enough thickening for my taste (this is what I grew up on). Gumbo is actually supposed to be a soup and not a stew, especially seafood gumbo. did you add your broth all at once or did you do it in steps? I've learned that it is better to add a little then stir and it gets really thick and the just keep adding your broth until you reach desired thinkness...but be careful that it doesn't taste too rouxy this way.

                  3. Maybe you didn't use enough roux. Many recipes for a white sauce call for 2 T of flour (and 2T of fat) per cup of liquid. With those proportions your 1/2 c = 8T should be enough to thicken 4 cups, not counting for the reduced thickening power of a dark roux.

                    Also, did it get hot enough? Flour thickening needs to get to boiling, or nearly so. There are other thickeners that work at lower temperatures.

                    In a situation like this, I would use something like corn starch to fine tune the thickening.


                    3 Replies
                    1. re: paulj

                      No, for the love of God, no cornstarch in gumbo! It produces an unpleasant, slimy, gelatinous texture completely inappropriate in a gumbo (especially with crabmeat).

                      1. re: Hungry Celeste

                        I'm glad that I didn't do it...I was tempted.
                        I went with a peanut butter-dark roux but next time I'll go a shade darker. I like the idea of adding the stock a little at a time.
                        It was really pretty darn good but I'm always convinced I can do better. It drives my wife (not a foodie) absolutely insane. She can't understand doing 50% more work to get a 5% improvement.

                        1. re: GrillMaster

                          Oh, and one more thing: gumbo often thickens after being refrig'd overnight. So if you thought it was really thin, it might be thicker tomorrow. And don't be afraid to simmer longer to reduce things. Note: when using delicate seafoods like peeled crabmeat & oysters, do the greatest part of your reducing before you add the crab/oysters. The crabmeat will cook into shreds and the oysters will shrivel into tiny bits after really long cooking (more than an hour).

                          And, if you can get your hands on "gumbo crabs", they provide better flavor than shrimp stock. Around here, you can buy frozen, raw, cleaned crab body sections for making gumbo. You drop those crab bodies into the pot once your greens have wilted in the roux, and then add plenty of water. Saves you the trouble of making a separate stock, and you can take the crabs out before serving if you want.

                    2. I would double the amount of roux, cooking until it is a nice, nutty brown. Use file OR okra, never both together. Some cooks use more roux than this, but I find the resulting gumbo unpleasantly gluey.

                      1. Here is a great roux instructional. http://www.chefpaul.com/recipes/makin... To make a great roux is a wonderful experience. I usually jump for joy when I get my roux just right. I also sometimes make my roux and the veggies, then get the broth nice a hot in the gumbo pot and and my roux to it a little at a time. This produces a nice smooth flavor.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: malenky

                          Exactly, this is exactly how you make a roux. In a single post, you have crystallized years of my roux thinking.

                        2. okay, i've served gumbo and callaloo to a lot of avowed okra haters and they wind up licking the bowl and asking for the recipe. then they call me day after mardi gras because they tried to make the recipe but left out the okra-- they hate it!-- and the recipe didn't work & they wonder what went wrong. i''d suggest next time make your roux, keep your wife out of the kitchen, puree the okra along with z'herbes in your stock before adding the seafood and other finishes, and everybody will be happy.

                          5 Replies
                          1. re: soupkitten

                            And, in contrast, a cardinal "rule" of gumbo making along bayous Lafourche & Terrebonne is NEVER to mix crabmeat & okra. The sliminess & texture of okra is thought to reinforce the stringiness of crabmeat. Just goes to show you how diverse & robust our gumbo making traditions really are.

                            1. re: Hungry Celeste

                              i know! it's so amazing to me that there are "gumbo" recipes that do not contain any GUMBO!!! it's kind of like a dish called "beans" that doesn't contain any beans-- to me it makes no sense, but there it is.

                              the evolution of gumbo as a dish is fascinating indeed, and it became so refined in some parts of louisiana that there are many gumbo recipes that are thickened only with non-okra vegetable matter and file powder. in the rest of the world, however, and throughout the caribbean and africa, gumbo, or quingonbo is understood to mean okra, or a dish containing okra as a featured ingredient.

                              1. re: soupkitten

                                To me, it's still gumbo without okra, but it ain't gumbo without a roux. We use file as a thickening condiment, sprinkled at the table into the bowl by the individual diner. So where I'm from, even file gumbo has a roux.

                                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                  My mom makes her shrimp and okra gumbo with out a roux and it is wonderful. Though my mom has about 5-6 different gumbos that she makes and they are all wonderful. It amazes me how much flavor she can get in her gumbos without using stock (she uses plain water). I'm not that good. She even makes a baloney gumbo every now in then for my dad (it reminds him of his mom).

                                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                                    yeah, i could see that, gumbo is flexible and it is amazing how the variants of callaloo differ from island to island depending on local ingredients. i have to say that this thread has got me in the mood to cook some old gumbo recipes and try some new ones as well-- looked thru a few tattered old vols last night and did see some interesting ones i haven't made.

                            2. Can't help you with the thickening problem.

                              I make roux for one thing, Crawfish Etouffee. I use Paul Prudhomme's recipe from Louisiana Kitchen because it comes closest to "Aunt Tee's Crawfish Etouffee" that we used to get in cajun country (South Louisiana), back in the 1960s. It came frozen in a tall mason jar. Have you ever heard the old saying "To Die For"? This stuff was so good that it was "To Kill For". Hahahahaaa. Aunt Tee died, and took her recipe with her (dammit). But, it was the tastiest concoction I've ever put into my mouth. In fact, nothing even comes close.

                              In a large heavy skillet (I use cast iron), heat oil, 7 tbs.(I use peanut oil, as I have always heard and have believed that a good roux has a "nutty" flavor, thus, peanut oil)over high heat until it begins to smoke. With a long-handled metal whisk (I use a wooden spatula), gradually mix in the all-purpose flour, 3/4 cup (I put the flour in a sifter and have someone sift it into the iron skillet as I stir like crazy), stirring until smoth. Continue cooking, whisking constantly, until the roux is dark red-brown (I take a brand new penny out of my pocket, lay it on the counter, and cook the roux to that color), about 3 to 5 minutes. If you burn it, if there is a flake of blackened roux, throw the whole thing out, and start over, otherwise, it will ruin your food. For the etouffee recipe, this is where you remove the roux from the heat and add the "trinity". The roux/trinity mixture quickly darkens even more. Sorry about the quantities, but all I can tell you is that this recipe fills my iron dutch oven up half-way, and that this amount will serve 8.

                              Like I said, this is for Paul Prudhomme's Crawfish Etouffee, from his Louisiana Kitchen cookbook. The stuff is delicious, and is not that hard, and everyone, and I mean everyone, is shocked by how delicious this stuff is. Another recommendation? Stansell rice. You can get it on the internet. Cajun rice for cajun recipes. It is called "Popcorn rice", as it has a popcorn-like fragrance when cooking. The best rice I've ever eaten.

                              Good luck, everybody.

                              9 Replies
                              1. re: dhedges53

                                hey 1 handy gizmo i like to use when slaving over a roux is a flat whisk-- it is flat, almost like a pancake flipper or fish turner, but otherwise looking like a whisk that someone ran over. because it's flat, you can whisk with the whole thing submerged in a small amount of roux. it's less effort to keep the roux whisked up & imo there is less chance of burning. i use the same tool for a lot of sauces.

                                1. re: soupkitten

                                  I've heard of a lot of people really liking that wisk for rouxes. I've been meaning to buy one. I usually start of with a regular wisk and then when it gets to a nice consitancy I switch to a wooden spoon, but I usually always end up with some of it jumping out at me and little burns spots on my wrists.

                                  1. re: malenky

                                    It's funny you mentioned the flat wisk. I was just discussing that very implement of destruction with my sister. That's what my mom uses to cook gravy. I've had a hard time finding one but it would make the process a whole lot easier particularly if you're cooking in a pot that does not have the flared sides like a skillet does.

                                    1. re: GrillMaster

                                      You should certainly be able to find a flat whisk at Williams Sonnoma or Sur La Table, maybe even at Bed, Bath and Beyond. I have two: a stainless steel, and a plastic-coated for my non-stick pans.

                                2. re: dhedges53

                                  ITA the Stansell's family rice. Do they still have the peacocks at their farm?

                                  And I bow down in abject admiration for someone who can make a dark roux in four or five minutes. I cook it longer and slower because I just don't have the touch for that hot and fast.
                                  And now, I am really hungry and have frozen crawfish in the freezer and they're LA crawfish, by gum.

                                  1. re: dhedges53

                                    Sifting flour over an open flame? Sounds like a science experiment. This should be labelled, "Don't do this at home without protective gear."

                                    1. re: Dovid

                                      Well, if you get any hot roux on your bare skin you'll know where they got the idea for napalm.

                                      1. re: Louise

                                        bacon grease is a must for a food roux.one thing i learned is to chill the roux before putting it into the pot.also i love using arrowroot over corn starch to thicken as the arrowroot will stay clear. the cornstarch will cloud the liquid.if its still thin when its time to serve go the the oldest trick and add a little instant potatoes. good luck

                                      2. re: Dovid

                                        Actually, you don't sift flour into the open flame. There is a large iron skillet with hot oil between the flour sifter and the "open flame". I've done it dozens of times with great success and without the need for "protective gear."

                                        Hope this helps!