Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about when people discuss making roux for gumbo? Maybe you feel intimidated, or just wonder why even bother.
If you're getting ready to make gumbo, check out our recipes for seafood stock and New Orleans gumbo.
You might be wondering, what is a roux? It is a classic French cooking technique that is means browned butter. Traditionally, you start with equal amounts of flour and fat by weight. The fat is melted, then the flour is gradually added by whisking it in so it is smooth. It is then cooked to the level of brownness that is needed for the recipe: white, blonde, light brown, or dark brown. It is an essential thickener to sauces, gravies, soups, and casseroles.
Why This Recipe Works
- Ratio: We use slightly more flour than fat with a ratio of 1 cup flour to ¾ cup fat.
- Heavy Bottomed Skillet: We use a cast iron skillet when making a dark roux for gumbo because it has more even heat distribution so the roux won't burn as easily and has superior residual heat which allows it to continue to cook and darken once it's off the heat.
- Heat: We suggest using low medium to medium heat for making a dark roux for gumbo, so it doesn't burn. You can smell it when it burns; it's like burnt popcorn. When this happens, you'll have to start over.
- Constant Stirring: We are firm believers in constant watching and stirring so it doesn't burn. Remember to get into the corners.
Curious what you need to make roux for gumbo? There's only two simple ingredients: fat and flour. Let's talk a little about these key ingredients.
- Flour: All-purpose flour is the best choice for this recipe. We haven't tested this recipe with gluten free flour, so if you need to go this route for dietary reasons, please experiment.
- Fat: You can use a variety of different neutral tasting oils or animal fats for roux for gumbo, but we like to use lard or vegetable oil. Butter is good for a white, blond or peanut butter roux. We don't recommend butter for a roux that is copper penny colored, milk or dark chocolate.
See recipe card for full information on ingredients and quantities.
How to Make
Gather your two ingredients: fat (oil or lard) and all purpose flour.
- In a cast iron skillet, melt the lard or heat the oil over high heat until shimmering then turn it down to medium heat and gradually add the flour a little at a time.
- Whisk the flour into the fat with a flat whisk until all the flour is well mixed. After 2 to 5 minutes, you'll start to see a change in color. The first color stage is a white roux.
3. Keep whisking and after 5 to 10 minutes you'll see the next color change: a blonde roux. As it thickens, change the whisk for a wooden spoon. Make sure to stir into the corners.
4. After 15 to 30 minutes, you'll eventually see the roux change to a peanut butter color, which is the light brown roux.
3. The next color stage will be the copper penny stage which can take 30 to 45 minutes. This is common for a Creole gumbo.
4. After that, the milk chocolate roux for gumbo which takes 45 to 60 minutes and finally the dark chocolate roux. Both the milk chocolate and the dark chocolate roux is commonly used for Cajun gumbo.
The flour should smell nutty, not burnt. Remove the cast iron skillet from the heat when it's the milk chocolate color and let it cool in the cast iron skillet. It will darken and thicken as it cools.
The favorite choice of chefs is cast iron, either enameled or seasoned, because of its even heat distribution and excellent heat retention. If you don't own a cast iron, use a heavy-bottomed skillet. Using a pan that has a thin bottom will increase your chances of burning it because the pan will heat more unevenly and won't hold the heat as well.
The best type of oil fro a roux for gumbo would be a unflavored oil like vegetable or canola. Stay away from olive oil, coconut oil, or peanut because they aren't neutral. If you prefer using animal fats, like we do, you can choose from lard, bacon grease or duck fat. Butter is only good for a white, blond and peanut butter roux, and it's not recommended for copper penny, milk or dark chocolate colored roux that's needed for gumbo.
The best flour for roux for gumbo is all purpose flour. Since you need to cook the flour for 45 to 60 minutes for a milk chocolate or dark chocolate roux, it's best to stick to what will give you consistent results.
Traditionally, the ratio for making roux is 1:1 fat to flour. We like to use the ratio 1 cup of flour to ¾ cup melted lard or vegetable oil when making roux for gumbo. Both of these ratios will give you 1 cup of roux.
Learning how to make a roux is a skill every chef should have. A white or blonde roux can be used in sauces like alfredo basil sauce, creamy soups like beer cheese soup, gravies like in Salisbury steak, béchamel sauce, and New England clam chowder.
A peanut butter to copper penny colored roux has a nutty flavor and is used in Creole gumbo, shrimp étouffée, and espagnole sauce.
A milk or dark chocolate roux for gumbo has a rich complex flavor and is used in Cajun seafood gumbo.
- Make Ahead: Yes, this recipe is perfect to make ahead. Just allow to cool completely then store in the fridge.
- Leftovers: Allow to cool then place in an airtight container, like a mason jar, and store in the fridge for up to 1 month.
- Freeze: Allow to cool completely, and put in a freezer friendly container for up to one year.
- Reheat: When ready to use, thaw in the fridge overnight, then put the roux back in the cast iron pan, reheat over medium-low heat, and proceed with making gumbo.
- Stir constantly. Have a wire whisk and a wooden spoon beside the stove. Change hands so your arm gets a break. If you have a responsible kitchen helper, you can take turns stirring. Don't walk away from it.
- Warning Signs: If your roux for gumbo has black flecks, smells burnt, or it turns black, it is burnt and you must start over.
- Be patient. A dark roux takes time--anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. For fun, if you want to compare color, take out a copper penny, milk and dark chocolate before you start. Relax and enjoy the process.
- The roux darkens and continues to cook when it's removed from the source of heat, especially if it's in a cast iron pan.
- If you're making it ahead of time, let it cool, then transfer it to an airtight container, like a mason jar and refrigerate to use the next day. When ready to use, put the it back in the cast iron pan, reheat over medium-low heat, and proceed with making gumbo.
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How to Make Roux for Gumbo
- ¾ cup melted lard or vegetable oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- Melt the lard or heat up the vegetable oil over high heat in a large cast iron skillet.
- White: Gradually whisk in the flour until it is well mixed, then turn the heat down to medium and whisk constantly. After 2-5 minutes, you'll start to see a change in color. This stage is called a white roux.
- Blonde: Keep whisking and after 5-10 minutes you'll see the next color change: a blonde roux. If you like, exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, but keep stirring constantly so the flour doesn't burn.
- Light Peanut Butter: After stirring for 15-30 minutes, the flour will darken to a golden brown or peanut butter color. For this stage, keep the heat to be anywhere between medium low and medium.
- Copper Penny: This will require about 30-45 minutes of constant stirring. Be patient--it's worth it. The smell of the flour browning should give off a nutty aroma. If you smell it burning, lower the heat or move the cast iron skillet off the burner for a while. If there are black flecks in the roux, it is burnt and you'll have to start over, as a burnt roux will taste bitter.
- Milk Chocolate: After 45-60 minutes of stirring, you'll achieve a milk chocolate color roux, which is perfect for a Cajun gumbo.
- Dark Chocolate: After you reached the milk chocolate roux stage, remove the cast iron skillet from the heat and continue stirring for a couple of minutes. Allow the roux to cool in the skillet, and it will darken because of residual heat. Now, you'll have a wonderful base for your gumbo.
- Get all the ingredients and supplies ready before you start making your base for gumbo.
- Stir constantly with a a wire whisk or a wooden spoon, and don't walk away from it. If you need to leave it, recruit a kitchen helper to stir.
- Warning Signs: If your roux for gumbo has black flecks, smells burnt, or it turns black.
- Be patient! It will take 45-60 minutes of stirring to get a milk chocolate roux for your gumbo.
- The roux darkens and continues to cook when it's removed from the source of heat, especially if it's in a cast iron pan.
- Making this ahead of time? Let it cool completely, then transfer it to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 month.
Serving sizes and nutritional information are only an estimate and may vary from your results.
Antoinette & Randale Jackson
WHY NOT COCONUT OIL???
Coconut oil isn't our top pick for roux for gumbo, but technically you can use any oil that doesn't have a low smoke point. Let us know how you roux turns out!
Why not. Peanut oil
Yes, you can definitely use peanut oil.
Can I make this is a magalight pot
You absolutely can, Eddie!
Good recipe but there is no "Holy Trinity" in recipes/cooking. The trio of ingredients you mentioned are the Cajun Trinity. There is also a Chinese trinity and a trinity known as a mira poix.
I'm so glad that you enjoyed reading this post and that you're really into cooking. Wikipedia lists the "holy trinity" in Cajun and Creole cuisine as a valid term that most likely originated in the 1980s by chef Paul Prudhomme.
Just wanted to thank you for your post it was so easy to do
You're very welcome, Jacki! Glad you found this easy.
I wanted to post a photo to see if I got my roux too dark. (But I don’t see where to upload a photo 😂) I’ve made roux this will be my second time. I had saw somewhere where you could get it the color of chocolate. This time that’s what I done. But the time before I don’t it the color of peanut butter. It was amazing. So I wanted to try to go darker for even more flavor. I kept it stirred so that it didn’t stick. 😁 Even though it didn’t stick..how do you tell if it’s burnt or not? When I let it cool to pour in the bowl for storage it was so thick. Is that normal?
Hi Teresa! We don't have a place for you to upload a photo on our blog, but you can definitely do that on Pinterest! Just find our Roux pin on Pinterest and leave your photo there.
We're thrilled that you found this recipe to be good! You can tell if the roux is burnt by smelling and tasting it. It definitely will be very thick; that's a good thing. Happy cooking!
A true cajun gumbo has a very dark roux - not the color of a copper penny. The trick is to stir stir stir and don't let it burn - making roux takes more than 30 minutes usually depending on your batch - it should be more the color of chocolate - that's the key to a good roux
Cheryl, feel free to cook the roux longer if you like a darker color. Creole rouxs are typically very pale, so this recipe technically would be considered a Cajun roux. The copper penny stage is the lightest that one should go, but darker is totally okay as well.
This is a wonderful comprehensive recipe. I thank you, so very much. Terren
Thanks, Terren! We're so glad that you enjoyed the recipe!
Your recipes and explanations are extremely well-done. I often have people ask me for my gumbo recipe, but I don't have the patience to write out all the steps and find it hard to explain. You've given me a great resource to share. People are so afraid of roux, but the most ingredient of all is patience, which you added. For some reason, however, people outside of Louisiana think of roux only as something we make for gumbo. So many other great Louisiana dishes begin with a light roux and for those butter is a delicious fat to use.
Thank you so much, Suzanne! You're right--many dishes use a roux, such as white sauces and gravies. We're glad you enjoyed the gumbo recipe!