Do you love to eat gumbo? If so, here's a recipe that tastes amazing, and includes the techniques and pro tips that chefs use. Keep reading to find out!
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How do you thicken gumbo?
- The traditional way to thicken this dish is to use a dark reddish brown or copper penny-colored roux. It is the backbone of this recipe and gives it a lovely smoky flavor.
- Okra gives a silky smooth texture and helps thicken it. Some people think that fresh okra tends to thicken better than frozen, but frozen is more readily available and convenient.
- Adding file powder just before serving adds additional flavor and thickening, but if you used okra don't use file powder--it's a cardinal sin to use both!
- You can always thicken it by keeping the lid off and letting the it simmer until it's the desired thickness.
What is file powder?
File powder is made from immature dried leaves of the sassafras plant, which is commonly found in the eastern U.S. It's often used as a thickening agent, and has a unique flavor that can't be substituted.
However, it shouldn't be added to the pot while it's cooking because it will make it stringy. Ideally, allow each guest to stir it into their own bowl.
What kind of vegetables are used?
Traditionally, you will find the holy trinity (onion, celery, and green pepper), plus garlic.
Fresh or frozen okra is commonly used when it's not a seafood gumbo, but it all boils down to personal preference. Some people just don't like okra because of the slime, texture, or taste. My girls and I absolutely love okra, so it's not gumbo at our house without okra!
The last vegetable that you'll find in gumbo is tomatoes. It can be used in either seafood gumbo or chicken and sausage gumbo, or you can leave it out. That's the beauty of gumbo; it's versatile and you can easily adjust it to your personal tastes.
Besides shellfish, what kinds of meat can be used?
- It is common to use some sort of poultry, with chicken being the most popular.
- A spicy, smoky pork sausage, like Andouille, is usually sliced into coins. If you can't find the real deal, substitute with chorizo or a smoked kielbasa.
- Tasso, which is cured smoked pork shoulder, is popular with Cajun style. Although it is hard to find outside of Louisiana, other substitutes are smoked ham or Canadian bacon.
- For this recipe, I decided to used smoked bacon. The goal is to pick a meat that has a spicy, smoky flavor.
How to Make
Gather your ingredients.
Start by browning your chicken in olive oil then transfer to a plate. Once it cools, shred it with a fork.
Cook your coined sausage and cut up bacon next.
Put the cooked chicken, sausage and bacon aside or in the fridge while you make the roux. Take your time making the roux, since this is a crucial step in making it taste mouthwatering. Get the step-by-step photos and lots of helpful tips in my recipe for roux.
Since I made my roux earlier in the afternoon, I transferred the roux from the cast iron skillet to my heavy bottomed stainless steel pot before cooking the onions, celery, green pepper and garlic.
Next, pour in the seafood stock. For this recipe, I used homemade shrimp stock. I share step-by-step photos and the recipe for shrimp stock here.
Continue making the gumbo by adding the okra, spices, and half of a lemon. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the lemon, then add the shrimp, hot sauce, and black pepper. Stir and adjust seasonings to taste.
- Brown the meat beforehand.
- Take your time making the roux. A dark roux is the backbone of gumbo; it thickens it and gives it a smoky flavor.
- Use the holy trinity (onion, celery, green pepper).
- Use seafood stock.
- Choose between okra or file powder as additional thickening agents.
- Add a unique blend of spices to your taste.
- Add shellfish (shrimp) at the end.
- Garnish with parsley and or green onions.
- Serve over hot rice.
- Let each guest add hot sauce or file powder to their own bowls.
Craving more Creole cooking? Check out these delicious recipes.
- How to Make Roux for Gumbo: this easy roux is one of the secrets to fabulous gumbo.
- Creole Red Beans and Rice: this easy comfort food dinner is cooked low and slow for the best flavor.
- One Pot Creole Jambalaya: a flavorful dinner packed with Andouille sausage, chicken, and juicy shrimp.
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Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound chicken breasts
- sprinkle of salt and pepper
- 12 ounces Cajun-style Andouille sausage, cut in coins
- 6 slices smoked bacon, cut in ¼ inch pieces
- ¾ cup lard
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 ½ tablespoons garlic, roughly 6 cloves
- 5 cups seafood or shrimp stock
- 10 ounces fresh or frozen okra, sliced
- 4 thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ lemon, without seeds
- 1 pound large shrimp, shelled and deveined
- hot sauce, to taste
- sprinkle salt and pepper
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, for garnish
Brown the Meat
- Heat the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. Brown the chicken breasts, turning over once. Once browned, remove from the heat and place on a plate. Once the chicken has cooled, shred with a fork.
- Add the bacon pieces and coined sausage to the pot, and cook until the fat is rendered from the bacon and the sausage is slightly brown. Remove from the heat and place on a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
Make the Roux
- In a 10-inch cast iron skillet, heat the fat (lard) over medium heat, whisk in the flour, and stir constantly until the roux turns a deep copper color, about 45 minutes. Check out my recipe for making roux for gumbo to get step-by-step photos and many helpful tips on this important step.
Making the Gumbo
- Transfer the roux to a heavy-bottomed pot and add the onion, green pepper, and celery. Stir and cook over medium high heat until it starts to soften, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant.
- Pour in the seafood stock and add the sausage, bacon, and shredded chicken. Stir until well combined, then mix in the sliced okra, fresh thyme, bay leaves, and half a seedless lemon.
- Cover and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Remove the lemon, then add the shrimp, hot sauce, salt, and black pepper. Stir and cook for 5 more minutes, then adjust seasonings to taste.
- Garnish the gumbo with chopped fresh parsley. Serve over hot rice.
- This recipe tastes even better the next day. It also keeps well in the fridge for a few days, and it can be frozen.
- To make this quicker and easier, make the seafood stock and roux ahead of time. You can even brown the meat in advance.
- A dark roux is the backbone of gumbo; take your time making the roux as it will thickens this stew and will give it a smoky flavor.
- For additional thickening agents, use okra or file powder.
- Add hot sauce or file powder to your own bowl to customize it.