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Apr 15, 2010 07:01 PM

Question about tomatoes in gumbo

I'm going to be attempting to make gumbo this weekend, for the first time. The recipe I'm planning to use (suggested in another thread here, calls for a can of whole tomatoes. My husband, the (former) southern boy who I'm cooking this for, hates whole cooked tomatoes, yet loves gumbo and says he's "sometimes" had it with them (and picks them out).

So, my question is, do the tomatoes serve as a "base" for the gumbo? Could I use a can of crushed tomatoes and preserve the flavor of the recipe? It's not just that I've never cooked it, but I've never eaten it, so I have nothing to go on here. Thanks in advance.

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  1. Your husband should not have to pick out the tomatoes because tomatoes do not belong in gumbo. You'll have a hard time finding a gumbo recipe by any NO chef that includes tomatoes in any form. Same goes for beef, which the recipe you linked to also has. I had something called gumbo that had tomatoes and beef in a NYC restaurant and it tasted like some weird variety of Campbell's vegetable beef soup. Never heard of adding sugar to gumbo either. I suppose it's to mellow the acidity of the tomatoes.

    Also, no need to increase the fat content by sauteing the vegetables in butter (you'll end up with an oily slick on the top if you do). Make the roux, and while it's still hot, soften the chopped veggies in it.

    For ingredients you can use whatever recipe you like, but for me, the basic method is:

    If using ham, sausage, or chicken, brown in a skillet
    Reserve any rendered fat.
    Make the roux, adding oil, butter or lard to the fat.
    Soften veggies in roux.
    Combine all ingredients except seafood and simmer for a while.
    Add seafood about 10 minutes before serving.

    1. I add tomatoes to mine if I'm making a vegetable gumbo or if I have some I need to use up, but you don't have to. There is no need to add sugar to a gumbo, period. Also, there is no need to cook your vegetables in a different pan than the roux. You make the roux first then sweat the veggies in it. I noticed that your recipe contains okra and file powder. IMO, you don't need the file if you're using the okra which acts as a thickener like the file.

      Contrary to what the poster above stated, original gumbo did have beef in it as well as other meats. A lot more use tomato than you may think. Here's a little info on the history of gumbo to give you some insight, see here:

      Here's a couple links for some better gumbo recipes:
      This is the color your roux should look, by the way. You can sub seafood for chicken in this one and use raw chicken instead of cooked as it need to simmer anyway.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Cherylptw

        Guess I'll be going with a different recipe than the one I posted! Looks like I need to do a bit more research.

        I just hate being excited to make a recipe for the first time and then not having it come out as well as I'm hoping, so I appreciate the tips. Thanks to both!

      2. If your husband doesn't like cooked tomatoes...Leave them out. They aren't necessary nor are they prohibitive...Some folks use them. ~~~ Sugar is foreign to me...I would leave it out.
        ~~~ While any and all meats can be, and are at times used in Gumbo, I personally find the use of Beef with Andouille, Crab, and Shrimp..."different". Again, I personally would leave it out of this recipe. ~~~ I would substitute the water with maybe a little shrimp stock (4 cups) made from the shrimp shells...The remainder (4 cups) maybe some de-fatted chicken stock. Plain water has no taste/flavor. ~~~ Okra and File are not normally used together "in the pot"...Since the recipe calls for the file to be sprinkled on top at the end, it is being used as a condiment, not as a thickening agent...That's certainly not unheard of!! So let your tatse buds be your guide ~~~ It want take 10 minutes to cook the shrimp and crab...5 minutes tops for the shrimp, and stir in the crab just a minute or two prior to serving. HTH..

        Have Fun & Enjoy!

        1. There are almost as many different recipes for gumbo as there are people making it. In my neck of the woods (New Orleans and Louisiana), types are opften broadly categorized into Cajun and Creole (or "country" and "city")--but even those distinctions aren't very useful as there are so many variations within each and all sorts of hybrids. And for every "rule," there's somebody breaking it. That said, it's not just "anything goes," as some cookbooks would suggest.

          Other posters have given good tips; here's my two cents.

          I have never heard of, and feel pretty confident in saying that, tomatoes never serve as the "base" for gumbo, nor are they ever a major ingredient. In most cajun versions, there are no tomatoes at all. My gumbo, adapted from a Paul Prudhomme recipe, is built from a dark roux base, into which veggies ("trinity" + chopped garlic) are cooked down w/other seasonings, and it contains no okra, no tomatoes. ( In a roux-less gumbo, okra may be the base, and some folks will add some tomato. (My mother makes a roux-less shrimp gumbo with lots of okra and some chopped tomato. It is completely different from mine.)

          I have never heard of, or seen a recipe that calls for, sugar in gumbo. That is just plain odd.

          Beef is rarely used in gumbo in these parts, but I have seen it. Usually seafood or poultry, or some combination of those, with or without some kind of pork sausage or other cured pork, are the proteins.

          Gumbo is greatly enhanced by the use of stock or even canned broth. People making poultry gumbo will often cook whatever poultry is going into the gumbo in water w/aromatics to make stock (or as Uncle Bob notes, use the shrimp shells for seafood stock).

          And as Uncle B says, okra and file are not ordinarily used together. (My versionuses neither.)

          So if tomatoes are a problem, don't include them. Your gumbo can be delicious and perfectly authentic without them.

          1. Some gumbo recipes call for tomatoes. Usually only the Creole style with a light colored roux and then only seafood. Normally in a Cajun gumbo tomatoes are NOT used. I grew up on the bayous of Louisiana and we had gumbo at least once per week for as long as I can remember. We never had tomatoes in our gumbo. has lot's of recipes and most do not have tomatoes as an ingredient