Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Aug 27, 2009 07:13 PM

Gumbo recipe

The Chowhound Team split this tangent from a discussion of gumbo in Los Angeles.

* * * * * * * *

Since there is no good gumbo, here's a foolproof recipe:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cut flour

Cook. Low heat. NOT NON-STICK PAN. Stainless steel or cast iron. Cook until dark red/brown. It might take 45 minutes. Your patience will be rewarded.

Dutch Oven.

A big one. Add roux (butter & flour) and saute 1 large onion, 1 cup red peppers, 1 cup celery. Then add about two to three cloves of garlic.

In separate pan, brown 2 lbs chicken (i prefer breasts) Add to dutch oven. Add one drained can (14.5 oz) of tomatoes.

Cover with stock (homemade is best; seafood stock from Whole Foods is amazing)

Add two bay leaves, two teaspoons of fresh thyme, teaspoon of cayenne, few shakes of red pepper flakes, fresh cracked pepper, some fresh parsley. And a pinch of sugar or honey. High heat.

While coming to boil, in same pan you cooked chicken, brown 2 andouille sausages. (Go to Wurstkutche downtown...they have the best). When nice and brown, add to dutch oven. Bring to boil.

Cook for 45 minutes. Add 1 1/3 cups (thereabouts) of FROZEN OKRA. It works much better than fresh. Cook ten more minutes. Take off heat. Cool for several hours. Then put in the fridge (after removing bay leaves) and chill overnight. Sounds nuts but the flavors will grow exponentially.

When ready to serve, heat up to simmer. Add 1 pound de-veined shrimp and just barely cook them -- like 2 minutes.

Serve over rice. File is an absolute must (It's not Gumbo without file in my mind) Go get some and sprinkle over.

Works every time...

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Thanks, I appreciate the recipe, I really do. It's one cajun recipe I've never dared to try, since a) I'm an ol' Yankee, and b) nothing will compare to what my husband used to eat in his law school years in Memphis. But I may just have to surprise him and try it for his birthday this year!! PS - I'll take your word for "foolproof", but you'll hear from me if it ain't!!

    Question: Why not do the roux in the same dutchie as making the gumbo?? Just wonderin' as in, one less pot to clean, and that's how I make / start my jambalaya (not with roux) but all in one pot? Thanks again!!

    1. Wow, how did that happen? I just got up to refill my wine, and BOOM! there you are!! Pretty slick!! PS - Love Wurstkuche but going downtown is a PITA - can I use aidells or is chicken andouille out of the ?

      Another question: since my dutchie is cast iron, will that work for all?? What I mean is, and here I go, altering a perfectly good recipe to suit my own selfish needs, but work with me here - can I brown the chicken breasts in the dutchie first, then make the roux, obv. after cleaning out the schmaltz, but can I make a roux with schmaltz? Then, proceed? And when do you add the file, or did I miss it? Thanks again!

      And Bayoucook, I know you'll see & read this -- any advice, friend??

      29 Replies
      1. re: Phurstluv

        File should be added only when the pot is off the heat....Gumbo with file does not reheat well...So I serve it at the table with everyone adding it to their personal taste....


        1. re: Uncle Bob

          Really, I did not know that. Hmmm... that's interesting. I'm not a huge okra fan, although I understand it is crucial to this dish. So, if I reheat it the next day, only add the file when I'm about to serve it. I need a measurement as well, about how much for a 6 qt. pot of gumbo??

          Thanks for everyone's help.

          1. re: Phurstluv

            How much is hard to say....For flavor ~~ to taste.--- As a thickener ~~ as much as it takes. Personally I would not add file to 6 qts of Gumbo unless I knew it was all going to be consumed now, and then only to taste ~~ Again it does not reheat well....the consistency will get goopy. Some people like to use the term ropey ~~~ Serve the file at the table --- A pinch or two in your bowl.. or more to your taste.~~~That being said, a rule of thumb is 1/2 to 1 teaspoon file per quart of Gumbo ~~~ Okra can be (should be IMO) dry fried in a tiny bit of oil before going in the pot...this removes some of sliminess.


            1. re: Uncle Bob

              Okay, now I realize how uneducated I am in this particular set of cuisine!!!

              And it's not 6 qts per se, that is the size dutchie I use, so maybe 3.5 - 4 qts of it? Guess it doesn't matter. So, add file at the table, so it's more like a seasoning, in that respect? And it thickens instantly, or adds flavor, I'm starting to get confused.....

              And I like your suggestion as to how to remove some of the sliminess of okra, b/c that's what turns me off. Can I cut it out all together?

              Again, I'm sorry to keep asking so many questions, but I really appreciate your insight & sharing your cooking experiences w/me!!

              1. re: Phurstluv

                Hope this helps ----

                All three bring the ability to thicken, each with their own unique flavor and thickening characteristics...File can be used as a thickener or as a "condiment' at the table. ~~~ Also, in addition to dry frying the okra before going to the pot..if you add it early on it tends to cook to pieces leaving only a silky smooth mouth feel. Lastly file powder can become "bitter" when it gets to use fresh.

                Regards & Have Fun!

                1. re: Uncle Bob

                  Thank you soo much, Uncle Bob. Very helpful.

            2. re: Phurstluv

              Many people do not use file if they are using okra...the effect is duplicated. And pace, Mr. Kruger, there are many, many wonderful gumbo recipes out there...have a look at John Folse's Enyclopedia of Creole and Cajun cuisine. Or Kit Wohl's N.O. Gumbo and Soups or an old favorite, N.O. Cooking by Richard and Rina Collin.

              1. re: penthouse pup

                So can I skip it all together and just use the file powder??? I really don't think I like okra that much!!!

                And btw,. does file powder go bad at some point?? I've had a spice jar full, always intending to make some gumbo, and never did. I assume like all spices, I should get a fresh one.

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  Trust me, you would not mind the okra at all after it cooks in the gumbo. I have served my okra-containing gumbo to professed okra haters who mistook the little slices for chiles, and liked it just fine.

                  1. re: Phurstluv

                    You can skip the okra if you are making a poultry-based gumbo. Most gumbo file recipes are for andouille, chicken (or duck) and sometimes shrimp...Most creole recipes relegate okra to seafood based gumbos. But gumbo is ultimately about roux, the trinity of peppers/onions/celery, garlic and broth, not to mention hot sauce. As Uncle Bob warns, file should be added when the gumbo is off the heat, and it does not reheat well. (I add it to the entire pot, lid covered, and wait for 5 minutes or so before then stirring and serving.)

                    File, which is sassafras, stores well--but sniff it to see whether there's still a tea-like aroma.

                    This site will give you all sorts of ideas and it features many images:

                  2. re: penthouse pup

                    Here's John Folse's recipe website. There's a roux-based chicken gumbo with no okra, and several other chicken gumbos too. Lots of gumbos with duck, different seafoods, etc.

                    You can - and should! - make gumbo in one pot! Except for making stock of course.
                    If you're going to use okra, add it to the Trinity once the veggies get soft and then saute it for awhile until it stops "roping." Let it cook down in the gumbo and it will almost dissolve. Even confirmed okra-loathers will eat it.
                    I never use both roux and okra together in the same gumbo. Nobody in my family ever has - neither country or city
                    I never, ever add file to the pot. It is a table condiment. Also good with many other foods. It goes with the salt, pepper, and hot sauce - on the table.
                    And we never add file to okra-based gumbos. Many people don't.
                    Not saying you can't, just that neither my Cajun nor Creole relative ever do.

                    1. re: MakingSense

                      When one orders gumbo in restaurant, do you really believe that the chef sprinkles file on the outgoing serving? Not likely. It's in the pot. Same can happen in the private kitchen. Or, if your tradition dictates, sprinkled into the serving on the dining room table--It's a variable. (And I completely agree about not making a roux when using okra...)

                      1. re: penthouse pup

                        I don't think that restaurant cooking or food service cooking is an acceptable guideline for preparation of traditional dishes, especially in New Orleans where it's often designed to appeal to tourists' expectations.

                        I agree with you that the use of file is a variable, and it's not used at all by many cooks in certain gumbos, and not at all by other cooks ever. Other cooks disagree with them, often vociferously, of course - about everything to do with gumbo.

                        There is so much disagreement about what does and does not get used in a gumbo that it's dang near impossible to make iron-clad rules.
                        You either grow up just "knowing" or spend a lot of time absorbing the knowledge from the traditional cooks. Even those old-timers break "the rules" with impunity if it's what they have on hand or for other reasons.

                        Leah Chase cooks her gumbo for 40 minutes after she adds the file.
                        Commander's uses file and okra in their seafood gumbo, plus what some would consider a shocking quantity of tomato, an ingredient not used in Cajun country. Their Gumbo Ya Ya uses neither okra nor file; I always serve file on the table with my Ya Ya, but never with seafood gumbo.
                        Collin's wonderful Gumbo z'Herbes recipe uses no roux, no trinity, no okra, and no file.
                        If Austin Leslie were still alive, I'd never tell him that he has to make a roux or add okra to that incredible file gumbo he served at Chez Helene - but I now use his method more often than not.
                        The oldest, most traditional Creole recipes often use allspice, cloves, or mace, traceable to the Caribbean influence in New Orleans.
                        I've eaten vegetables like corn and limas in summer gumbos and liked it. They were probably leftovers in somebody's fridge.

                        New Orleans food writer Tom Fitzmorris' opinion is that "the file goes in at the table, and then just a pinch for aroma...We call it file gumbo because Mama put file only in chicken gumbo and okra only in seafood gumbo."
                        I'm sure lots of people screamed bloody murder over that one because that's a very traditional view, but an amazing number of people would agree. But then, my very traditional family even made chicken gumbo with a little okra sometimes.

                        Some rules get bent, but when they get bent too far, the "gumbo" is no longer gumbo. The trick is knowing the tradition, not a set of "rules" that anyone tries to codify when that may be impossible.

                        1. re: MakingSense

                          Tip my hat to your thoughtful reflection--

                    2. re: penthouse pup

                      PP, I was just about to say that about the file and okra. There as many Gumbo recipes as there are those who cook it. And it is not necessarily "Cajun," although Cajuns certainly do make Gumbo.

                      I usually use okra and forget the file. I agree with Uncle Bob about dry frying the okra before putting it in. And we always use at least one whole chicken. Breasts dry out in any case, but by the time the Gumbo is ready to serve, you won't find any chicken in it, anyway. It will all have been absorbed by the whole.

                    3. re: Phurstluv

                      I would disagree that okra is _crucial_ to the dish.
                      I love okra, but the hands down best gumbo I ever ate was a roux based one with chicken (dark meat, of course), andouille, shrimp, and tasso...but without okra or file.
                      I can't remember if file was offered as a table condiment; it may have added an interesting dimension but this gumbo certainly didn't need it.
                      It was an incredible meal and I've made it at home several times since first having it in Louisiana many years ago.

                      1. re: Phurstluv

                        Lots of gumbos are made without okra. In fact, there are as many variations on gumbo as there are gumbo cooks. And many gumbos contain no file, and most that contain okra don't have file. Okra and file are not similar in taste or texture; they're not interchangeable.

                        I'm Louisiana born and bred. If I had to categorize, I would say there are city (Creole) gumbos and country (cajun) gumbos. And there are endless variations on each. Beyond that, I'm not venturing. People equate gumbo recipes with honor in these parts :)

                        I make "cajun" gumbos, originally based on a Paul Prudhomme recipe: dark roux, holy trinity, spices (no file), stock, andouille, and either a combination of seafood (shrimp, crab, oysters) or one of poultry (chicken or quail or duck or cornish hen, or some combo thereof, often w/ one of these smoked). No okra, no tomatoes.

                        My non-native mother makes seafood gumbo that is completely different: no roux, okra, tomatoes, seafood. She learned to make it from my father's creole Italian mother. Many people, especially my sister who lives away, in what seems a culinary wasteland, requests it every time she is with my mother, here or there. My non-native husband hates Mom's gumbo. It's all, as in most things, a matter of taste.

                        But there's no one way to cook gumbo.

                        Uncle Bob's recipe sounds good to me except for the file. But if you don't like okra, you may not like it. My hubby doesn't like okra, and he's never had gumbo containing it that he likes.

                        I've probably confused things, but that wasn't my intent.

                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                          Actually, no you haven't and I appreciate your input, nomadchowwoman, it's actually the first time I'm beginning to understand.

                          Glad to know I don't have to use okra, and that it is actually an evolving type of a dish, I should have known that, since most cajun cuisine is that way, and everyone has their own style of making it. I guess I'm most intimidated by the fact that my husband loves it so, and used to have it practically daily at a li'l ol' dive in Nashville. When I moved cross country to be with him, he took me there and we met the owner of Breaux, and he was most certainly a Cajun, and his gumbo was the most unbelievable thing I have ever tried, as a cajun food. So I just know whatever I make will not live up to Breaux, but it's good to know, after some trial, error and advice from friends like you, I can eventually make a gumbo as my own!! Thanks again to all!!

                          PS - your cajun style of gumbo, NCW, is most like what I would make, with all poultry, no okra or file. I love seafood, but DH doesn't so I think I'll try yours. Thanks again!

                          1. re: Phurstluv

                            Good luck, and I'll say what a lot of the other posters have said already: A dark roux is the key (if you're using roux, of course). If you use poultry and are going to brown it first, the fat you end up with can be used to make the roux. (If you do this, I'd then remove the skin. It will always end up being a soggy mess inn gumbo.) Or you can start w/ clean oil and flour, and add cooked meat (as in leftovers or something pre-smoked) later.

                            I have no doubt you can make a good gumbo; it's--as I'm sure you've figured out--a very forgiving dish.

                            And no doubt the owner of Breaux (possibly a Breaux himself?) was a Cajun!

                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              Good to know, re: using the chicken fat (aka "schmaltz") in the roux. I assume it'll have to be the same proportion as the flour? So I should measure it out first?

                              When I make jambalya, I always use the leftover fat from the chicken parts & sausages to sautee the trinity, then deglaze. Sounds like it's similar for the gumbo. And also, good to know to take the skin off, before adding the poultry pieces back to the gumbo. Thanks again for all of your help!!

                              1. re: Phurstluv

                                The standard ratio is half flour, half fat, but I discovered at some point that you can use less fat than flour with no sacrifice of flavor. So I often use 1 part fat to 1 1/2 parts to 2 parts flour. This cuts the calories a bit, but it means the roux will be thicker and "muddier," not as smooth and glossy (and pretty) as with equal parts. Once you start adding roux to the stock, however, the difference will disappear. Just remember that the amount of flour determines the thickness of the gumbo; reducing the fat won't affect that. If you are inexperienced .or at all nervous about making a dark roux, you might start with the standard 1:1 ration; it will be easier to gauge the roux by the way it looks.

                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                  Got it, thanks, I've made roux lots of time, but never cooked down so long as to be brown, that is necessary for a gumbo. Knowing that this is not a low calorie dish anyway, I hesitate to "lighten" it, if you know what I mean. I will start with 1:1 first. Once I've made a few and have the technique under my belt, then I'll experiment. Thanks again!!! Really appreciate all of your thoughts and time on this request!

                                  1. re: Phurstluv

                                    I love my gumbo k Pauls.. Did watch Alton Browns show on Gumbo not impressed but he might be on to a couple of things. Roux 1part fat to 1 part flour by WEIGHT not Volume and he sliced okra and baked on cookie sheet said it takes out the slimeyness might give i a go...


                                    1. re: don515

                                      I fry the okra in a dryish pan for about a half hour, and add a splash of cheap vinegar. I heard that helps get rid of the slime. Cooked til it browns a bit (half hour), and then no one knows it's okra except me. I cook it at the same time as the roux, to be efficient.

                                  2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                    It's not technically true that "the amount of flour determines the thickness of the gumbo" (or any dish) if you cook a roux to a very dark color. Then the roux serves as the flavoring agent that gives Cajun food the distinctive taste that "outsiders" often miss.

                                    The rule of thumb is the darker the roux, the less thickening power it has - until it loses all power to thicken.

                                    One of the best primers on roux is this one by Louisiana chef John Folse that explains the differences among various types of roux and their uses past and present in the city and the country, including classic blonde roux.

                                    1. re: MakingSense

                                      What I was trying to say, however clumsily, is that reducing the amount of oil won't make the gumbo thicker even though the roux will look thicker if you use, say, two parts flour to one part oil/ fat, as I often do. In other words, one cup flour and one of oil or one cup flour and 1/2 cup oil--the gumbo is pretty much the same consistency. I always cook my (gumbo) roux to pretty much the same color, a dark brown, so I haven't experienced the difference in thickening you note by cooking it darker, to, say, a black roux.
                                      So I don't doubt what you're saying. I was just offering advice based on my experience, which, in gumbo roux making is admittedly limited to my standard practice for some 25 years or so of one particular shade of roux.

                                      I know that Chef Folse is an authority on Cajun cuisine, and I am awed by his knowledge of both the history and the practice. I learned to make dark roux for my gumbo from Paul Prudhomme; as roux color goes, I've found his photos in his Chef PP's Louisiana Kitchen cookbook very helpful. And as I always loved his gumbos, I've adapted one of his recipes for my go-to gumbo.

                                      The key to good flavor in gumbo, no matter whose method one uses, imo as in yours, is a dark roux. But those who don't use a roux will, of course, disagree.

                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                        I cook my flour to a slightly darker than butterscotch color, as I've heard tell. Is yours darker than that?

                                        1. re: coll

                                          yes, somewhere between milk chocolate and dark chocolate. now, some people--including Prudhomme--say the ideal gumbo roux is black, but as I love the taste of gumbo once the roux gets to a dark reddish brown, and it's very difficult to get a black roux right, I stop at a deep chocolate color, which I and those I feed find perfect. But those are just my preferences. (If I'm making an etouffee or a poultry stew, I make a lighter roux, stopping in the early reddish brown stage.)

                                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                            Just thought of this, for those interested in roux techniques.

                                   has some great articles and even some videos.

                    4. The original comment has been removed
                      1. I am making this today. I have used Emeril's recipe but found it too oily. Then I found one that I liked that used a lot of okra to thicken. So nowe I will try yours out and report back. Thankk you for the recipe, this is one of my Husband's favorites!

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: JEN10

                          Couldn't wait until tomorrow to eat it. This is by far the best Gumbo I have ever made. Just delicious, nice consistency, not to thick, not to thin. Delicious smoky flavor with all that shreaded chicken and shrimp, love all the sausage. I froze a good deal of it for a visit with my Mom. Thanks for the recipe!!!

                          1. re: JEN10

                            I used the okra as stated in above recipe, then we sprinkled some file at the table. I think you just need to start a pot and go for it Phursluv. You can make changes next time if needed. I did cook my roux untiil it was nice and dark, that I believe is a key to Gumbo.

                            1. re: JEN10

                              Thanks JEN10, and that is the only thing I did already know about gumbo - the absolute key is a dark roux, well cooked. And as soon as it's not averaging 100 degrees here in So Cal, I am going to go for it!!

                        2. My all-time favorite gumbo is the one Brooks Hamaker posted on Egullet. It's his mom's recipe.

                          This one uses both roux and okra!

                          When I've made it, I didn't have easy access to whole crabs, so left those out. I've made it both with and without the oysters. The best batch I made used stock from a big bag of freezer-saved shrimp and crab shells, shrimp and crabmeat (no oysters). I've only made it with very fresh seafood, so if you have to use frozen, supermarket stuff, your mileage may vary wildly.