Green Gumbo

Mardi GrasCajunGumbo

A traditional Louisiana gumbo served during Lent that is based on loads of greens such as collards, kale, turnip greens and spinach.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Green gumbo, or gumbo z’herbes, is a Lenten tradition in Louisiana. Ironically, it is not always vegetarian, as this hearty stew is often served on Holy Thursday to fortify the faithful for the Good Friday fast.

Our version includes a ham hock and smoked andouille sausages, but you can leave them out to make a vegetarian gumbo.

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The tradition for gumbo z’herbes is to include many different kinds of greens in the gumbo—and to always include an odd number. Why? Apparently for every different green you add, you will find a new friend in the coming year.

Why and odd number? Not really sure, although I bet it has to do with old West African or French folklore. Gumbo zav, which is how its pronounced in Louisiana, appears to be related to the French potage aux herbes, or the West Indian callaloo, which in turn has its origins in West African cooking.

Which greens? Any you’d like. I used collards, turnip greens, lacinato kale, curly kale and dandelion greens. Other good options would be chard, spinach, parsley, mustard greens, arugula, the tops of radishes or carrots… you get the idea.

Green Gumbo

A word on the roux: Try to use peanut oil if you can find it, as it lends a particularly excellent Cajun flavor to the gumbo. Lard, while not vegetarian, would be my second choice. But regular vegetable oil will work, too.

The recipe below includes a Cajun spice blend that makes more than you need for this gumbo. You can save it for later, or serve it at the table with the file powder.

If you’ve never heard of file (fee-lay) powder, it is the dried, ground leaves of sassafras. It adds a sweet flavor to the gumbo and will thicken it a bit, too. Only add the file at the end of cooking, though, or it will turn into nasty, goopy strings.

Green Gumbo Recipe

  • Prep time: 30 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 10-12


  • 1 cup peanut oil, lard or other vegetable oil
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 Tbsp Cajun seasoning (see below)
  • 1 ham hock (optional)
  • 10 cups water
  • 3 pounds assorted greens (i.e. kale, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, spinach, chard, parsley, dandelion greens, beet greens), chopped (about 14 cups)
  • Salt
  • 1 pound smoked andouille sausage (optional)
  • File powder to taste (optional)

Cajun Spice Blend

  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 Tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 Tbsp sweet paprika


1 Make the roux: Start the gumbo by making a roux, which will add a lot of flavor and thicken the gumbo. Heat the cup of peanut oil or lard (both are traditional roux ingredients) over medium heat for a minute or two and then stir in the flour. Mix so there are no lumps.

make roux for green gumbo cook green gumbo roux until dark brown

Cook the roux over medium-low heat until it is the color of chocolate. It is your choice how dark you let your roux go. The darker it is, the better, but once the roux gets dark it can burn easily, so you must stir constantly and keep and eye on it.

2 Heat water to a simmer: While the roux is cooking, bring the 10 cups of water to a simmer.

3 Add onions, celery, green pepper, then garlic to roux: When the roux is dark enough, mix in the chopped onions, celery and green pepper and turn the heat to medium. Let this cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften. Add the garlic and cook another 1-2 minutes.

cook holy trinity of onions celery green pepper for green gumbo base

4 Add bay leaves, spice, hot water: Add the bay leaves, the Cajun spice and slowly stir in the hot water. The roux will seize up at first, but keep stirring and it will all come together in a silky broth.

make green gumbo base stir green gumbo sauce

5 Add ham hock, greens, cover and simmer: Add the ham hock and all the greens. Taste for salt, but remember the ham hock will be salty, so let the broth be a little under-salted for now. If you want to add more Cajun spice, do so now. Cover the pot and simmer gently for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

add ham hock to green gumbo add greens to green gumbo

6 Remove meat from ham hock bones, chop and return to pot: Check the ham hock. If the meat is falling off the bone, remove it, discard the bones, chop the meat and return it to the pot. If the hock is not ready, keep simmering the gumbo; ham hocks don't always cook at the same rate.

7 Add andouille sausage: Once the hock is ready, add the andouille sausage and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve with file powder at the table.

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Green Gumbo with Clam Juice - from No Recipes

Green Gumbo with Fresh Corn and Okra - from Not Eating Out in New York

Wild Game Gumbo - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Hank Shaw

A former restaurant cook and journalist, Hank Shaw is the author of three wild game cookbooks as well as the James Beard Award-winning wild foods website Hunter Angler Gardener Cook. His latest cookbook is Buck, Buck, Moose, a guide to working with venison. He hunts, fishes, forages and cooks near Sacramento, CA.

More from Hank

71 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Tammy

    Have to give this recipe a 5 star I made this gumbo my family fell in love with this green gumbo the roux is what made us enjoy it so much and I like eating it the next day I put collard green and mustard green I put smoke sausage in my and I did put smoke chicken also,but this is very good gumbo and I will make it again


  2. Sherri Sullivan

    Enjoyed this recipe. Didn’t use Sausage, but did use Ham Hock. Great flavor. Used spinach and mustard greens.


  3. Natasha

    Tastes authentic! Surprising depth of flavor. Really love how it turned out. I used kale, collard greens, mustard greens, and of course, threw in some okra since it’s gumbo! I was elated to find a ham hock locally (a rare occurrence). I used chicken andouille sausage and unrefined peanut oil. This recipe is going into my regular meal rotation. A big plus is the extra Cajun spice blend, which I stored in a spice container for future use. Plus, the Cajun spice blend has minimal salt content and is flavorful. Many thanks, Hank!


  4. Guy

    Thanks for the inspiration! Had mustard greens & kohlrabi greens in my CSA box and this was just what I wanted to do with them. Added lardons and used my own cajun spice blend (based on Emeril’s recipe that I make in 4 cup batches at a time). Condo smells terrific!


  5. Twinkle

    Making do with what I had available (mustard greens & inordinate amount of curly kale; smoked jalapeño turkey kielbasa and no ham hock; no file or cajun seasoning either). I used a chili seasoning that had almost all of the required spices (although probably in the wrong proportions and missing celery seed) so I added more garlic , fresh thyme, and fresh celery to make up for missing ingredients. Recipe is forgiving but make sure you don’t skimp on the time spent on the roux. It really provided a nice depth of flavor. Really comforting and lovely gumbo to have during a wild Texas spring storm on Easter Sunday.


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