Gumbo is one of my favorite stews in the world. There are Cajun versions, Creole versions, gumbo from Alabama and from Mississippi.
I've tried dozens of gumbos in my travels in the Deep South, and none have been bad. Some better than others, but this is a stew made with lots of patience and lots of love.
The Backbone of a Good Gumbo Recipe
A gumbo hinges on its thickeners. A roux of flour and fat is the primary one, and is in almost every gumbo I've ever eaten.
How dark you take the roux is your preference. Most Louisiana gumbo I've had relies on a roux that's almost the color of dark chocolate. Beyond the roux, you usually have a choice of a second thickener—okra or filé powder, which is made from the leaves of the sassafras tree.
This version, using chicken thighs and andouille sausage, uses only a roux and okra.
Gumbo almost always has a variety of spices in it, and a store-bought Cajun or Creole spice blend will do just fine here. But in case you live in a place where you can't get one, I've included a recipe for my spice blend below.
Vegetables and Meats to Use in Gumbo
You have some leeway in making gumbo, as it is really just a melange of meats and veggies. Most gumbos use a lot of the "Holy trinity," i.e., celery, green pepper and onion, but not too many other vegetables.
There is no reason you can't make a vegetarian gumbo. As for meats, any will do. I often use a slew of game meats in my gumbo, but so long as you use more than one you'll be fine. Chicken, andouille sausage and shrimp are a common trio. Beef, for some reason, is rare in gumbo.
What is Andouille Sausage?
Originating from France (particularly the Normandy and Brittany regions), andouille is a smoked sausage made with pork. The American version originates from Louisiana and is smokier and spicier.
Popular in Cajun and Creole cuisine, American andouille sausages can be either fresh or fully cooked. If you can't find andouille, you can substitute Spanish chorizo, which is similar in texture. If you don't want that extra spice, you can use a kielbasa instead (just don't tell a Louisianan!)
Tips for Making the Best Roux
A blond (or white) roux is commonly used to thicken soups, sauces, and gravies. For gumbo (and jambalaya), it's customary to make a brown (or dark) roux, which has more flavor but less thickening power.
Brown roux can take a long time to make and needs more of your attention. But the flavor is worth it.
To make brown roux, first get the fat nice and hot before adding the first bit of flour. Then, lower the heat bit by bit. Keep cooking and whisking until you get the roux a nice nutty brown. It can feel like it takes forever, but don't rush it, because high heat can quickly burn your roux.
Err on the side of lighter roux if you're worried about burning it. Or you can do a cheat and brown your flour in the oven, cooking it on a rimmed sheet pan in a 350˚ F oven and stirring every 15 minutes until the flour is evenly brown. Then add to the hot oil in the recipe as directed in Step 4, except you will only need to cook and stir it for about 3 minutes.
How to Store Leftover Gumbo
Refrigerate leftover gumbo in an airtight container for up to 3 days, maybe longer.
You can also freeze gumbo in an airtight container (or freezer-safe zip-top bag) for 6 to 8 months. Thaw in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before you plan to eat it.
The Best Dishes to Serve with Chicken Gumbo
More Cajun and Creole Recipes to Make!
- Shrimp Etouffee
- Slow Cooker Jambalaya
- Stewed Okra and Tomatoes Creole Style
- Toni Tipton-Martin's Classic Jambalaya
- New Orleans Beignets
Chicken Gumbo with Andouille Sausage
I include a recipe for my own Cajun spice blend, but you can use a commercial spice blend if you want. Commercial Cajun seasoning often contains salt, and my blend doesn't, so if you are using store-bought Cajun seasoning, you may want to add salt more judiciously.
A word on the andouille sausage: try your best to find it. We've found it in regular supermarkets, and it comes fresh or smoked. Either is good. It can be spicy, though. So, if you are sensitive to spicy foods, lower the amount of cayenne in the recipe and use a mild Italian sausage instead.
This recipe does not call for filé, but you can use it if you like. I add a couple tablespoons of filé to the gumbo right before I serve it, then put the filé on the table so people can add more if they want.
1/3 pound bacon, diced
2 to 3 pounds chicken thighs, skin on
1 to 2 pounds andouille sausage
1/2 cup peanut or other vegetable oil
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 green peppers, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
3 tablespoons Cajun spice, plus more to taste (see homemade recipe below)
1/2 to 1 pound okra, sliced into discs
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
Cajun spice mix
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon celery seed
2 tablespoons sweet paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano
Cook the bacon:
In a large stew pot set over medium heat, cook the diced bacon until crispy. Remove the bacon and set aside. (You'll add it back in when you serve your gumbo.)
Brown the chicken in the bacon fat:
Set the chicken thighs skin side down in the bacon fat to crisp. Salt the meat side, which will be facing up in the pot.
Cook the chicken, without moving, for at least 4 to 5 minutes before turning the chicken over.
Brown the other side of the chicken thighs. You start with skin side down to render some fat, which you will need for the roux. Remove the browned chicken thighs and set aside.
Brown the sausages:
Brown the sausages in the fat, remove and set aside.
Make the roux:
If you want, measure how much fat is in the pot; it should be about 1/2 cup. Or, do what I do and add 1/2 cup peanut oil to the pot. Let this heat up a minute or two, then stir in 1 cup flour. Stir this almost constantly for the first few minutes, then every couple minutes or so thereafter.
Lower the heat to medium-low and cook this roux until it turns dark. How dark? I like my roux the color of coffee with just a tiny bit of cream.
You can go all the way to chocolate brown, but be careful! If you burn your roux, you will need to start over and make it again. This whole process can take about 30 minutes.
Heat the chicken stock:
While you are stirring and cooking the roux, bring the chicken stock and water to a boil in a separate pot.
Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, then add the garlic and tomato paste:
Add to the roux the onion, green pepper and celery and mix well. Let this cook, stirring often, for about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic, stir again and cook for another 2 minutes. Mix in the tomato paste.
Ladle the hot stock into the gumbo, and stir in some spice:
Using a large ladle, add the hot chicken stock to the gumbo. It will sizzle and seize up as the roux absorbs the liquid.
Keep adding more stock, stirring all the time and scraping the bottom of the pot, to incorporate all the stock and all the roux.
You might not need all 2 quarts, but add enough to make the gumbo slightly more watery than you want it to be at the end. Remember, you are going to cook this down for several hours.
Stir in half (3 tablespoons) of the Cajun spice mix, taste the gumbo, and add more if you want.
Lower the heat, and add the chicken:
Lower the heat to medium-low and add back the chicken thighs. Now you can either eat the skin while it's still crispy, or toss it into the gumbo and chop it fine later. I tend to do half-and-half.
Simmer this gently, stirring from time to time, until the meat wants to fall off the bones of the chicken, about 90 minutes. Remove the chicken and let it cool a bit.
Add the sausage, okra, and chicken meat:
While the chicken is cooling, cut the andouille sausage into thick discs and drop them into the gumbo.
Add the okra.
Pick the chicken meat from the bones and chop it roughly. Add it back into the gumbo.
At this point, you can cook the gumbo for another hour or up to several more hours, depending on how cooked down you want the final stew to be.
Add green onions, parsley, and bacon to serve:
When you are ready to eat, add the green onions, parsley and bacon and stir well. Serve over rice, or with good French bread.
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 10 to 12|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 52g||66%|
|Saturated Fat 14g||71%|
|Total Carbohydrate 18g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 2g||8%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 20mg||98%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|