Gumbo is a stew or soup originating in Louisiana which
is popular across the Gulf Coast of the United States and into the U.S. South.
It consists primarily of a strong stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener, and
the vegetable "holy trinity" of celery, bell peppers, and onion.
Left: Roux-less gumbo with okra.
ingredient is okra, from the African name of which the dish takes its name.
Gumbo is traditionally served over rice. There is also a traditional meatless
lenten variety called gumbo z'herbes (from the French gumbo aux herbes),
essentially a gumbo of smothered greens thickened with roux.
Having originated in New Orleans, Louisiana, created by the
French, but enhanced by additions from other cultures, gumbo is the result of
the melting of cultures in Louisianan history. For example, the dish itself is
based on the French soup
bouillabaisse, along with the "Holy Trinity," which is
of Spanish origin—the ingredients are similar to a
sofrito—and the use of filé
powder (ground sassafras leaves) which is Native American.
A typical gumbo contains one or more kinds of poultry, shellfish, and smoked
pork. Poultry used is typically chicken, duck, or quail. Local shellfish such as
the freshwater crawfish and crab and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico are
frequently used. Tasso ham and andouille
sausage provide a smoky flavor to the dish.
sausage, a gumbo ingredient.
Gumbos can be broadly divided between those that use okra as a thickener, and
recipes using filé powder. Roux may be added to either.
Another division in types of gumbo is between Creole and Cajun styles. Creole
gumbos generally use a lighter (but still medium-brown) roux and include
tomatoes, while Cajun gumbos are made with a darker roux and never contain
tomatoes. Tomatoes are used in Creole gumbo due to the influence of Italian
immigrants to the city.
Gumbos can be broadly divided into three categories: those
thickened with okra, those thickened with filé powder, and those thickened
exclusively with roux. Modern recipes of both okra and filé categories generally
call for a roux that provides additional thickening and flavoring. Okra and filé
powder are, at least historically, not used together in the same dish. You may,
however, see a lighter roux combined with roped (sautéed plain to remove the
'stringy' effect) okra and topped with filé after cooking for the sweet flavor.
Filé powder, ground dried sassafras leaves, was in wide use by the native
Choctaws when European colonists arrived. In modern recipes, filé gumbos use
roux as their primary thickener, with filé powder added as preferred at the
table by the eater.
A dark roux as used in a Cajun gumbo is cooked until extremely dark. Butter will
burn if used to make this type of roux, so lard or oil are the fats of choice.
If the roux is to be used with okra, a lighter color may be desired, as the
flavor of a dark roux is quite overpowering. Most Creole gumbos do not use as
dark a roux as the Cajuns, but a medium reddish-brown type roux; the word roux
is a french word that means "russet-red." The "holy trinity" of onion, celery,
and bell pepper will often be cooked in the hot roux itself before the stock is
The traditional practice of using okra in the summer (in season) and filé in the
winter has played a role in defining the kinds of gumbo usually associated with
each. These associations are not hard and fast rules, but more of a general
guide. For example a purely seafood gumbo is usually not thickened with filé,
while one that is purely meat and game would usually not have okra. This
reflects traditional practices of fishing and crabbing in warmer weather and
hunting and butchering in cooler weather.
Steamed or boiled long-grained rice is usually eaten with
gumbo. The ratio of soup to rice is a matter of personal taste, and varies from
"damp rice" to a little rice in a bowl of broth.
Traditional side dishes include potato salad (sometimes instead of rice, from
the influence of German immigrants in the 19th century), fresh New Orleans style
French bread, crackers, and baked sweet potatoes.
Below is a simplified recipe of Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo
- a soup or stew which is thickened using
okra and dark roux from the southern United States.
Andouille Sausage Gumbo Recipe Ingredients
- 1 cup (240ml) canola oil
- 1 cup (240g) flour
- 2 bell pepper
- 1 large onion
- 4 stalks of celery
- home-made chicken stock;
or, water if absolutely
- Chicken breasts
- 1 package of pre-cooked
andouille sausage or other spicy
- cayenne pepper to taste
- salt to taste
Time: 1 hour
home-made chicken stock instead of water. Water has
no flavor by itself, and store-bought chicken stock
has way too much salt.
Recipe Cooking and Preparation
- Brown outside of chicken breasts in small amount
of oil then set aside.
- Make a roux in a large saucepan.
- Add Trinity to roux and soften.
- Slowly stir in water.
- Cut up chicken breasts and add to gumbo to cook
- Slice up pre-cooked andouille sausage and add
1/2 hour later.
Food Serving Suggestion
- Serve in a bowl with a little rice and green onions on top.
- Hot sauce can be added to taste.
- Filé may be added to thicken individual servings as served.
- Gumbo will be better if left over night and eaten the next day.