Have you ever wondered what all the fuss is about when people discuss making roux (pronounced "roo") for gumbo? Maybe you feel intimidated, or just wonder why even bother.
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What is the best cookware to use?
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.
What is the recommended fat to use?
The best type of oil would peanut, vegetable or canola. Stay away from olive oil.
If you prefer using animal fats, like we do, you can choose from lard or bacon grease. Butter is only good for a very light colored roux, and it's not recommended for the dark colored one that's needed for gumbo.
What is the best color?
Traditionally, Creole gumbo is made with a copper penny-colored, and a Cajun gumbo is made with a deep reddish-brown color. Either one tastes very good in a gumbo.
How to Make
Gather your two ingredients: fat (lard) and flour.
In a cast iron skillet, melt the lard over high heat then gradually add the flour a little at a time.
Whisk the flour into the melted lard with a large metal whisk until all the flour is well mixed. Whisk until it begins to bubble. Keep stirring. After 5 minutes, turned the heat down to medium high.
Continue whisking, making sure to get into the corners.
After a few minutes you'll start to see a change in color. The first color stage is a light caramel color. When you hit that stage, turn the heat down to medium.
You might want to change your whisk for a wooden spoon. Keep stirring and you'll see the next color change: a light peanut butter color. Compare your color with a jar of peanut butter.
The next color stage will be the copper penny stage. This is the color you'll want for a Creole type gumbo. It will take another 20 to 30 minutes of stirring to get to this point.
The flour should smell nutty, not burnt. Remove the cast iron skillet from the heat and stir for another 5 minutes as it will continue cooking.
- Have all the ingredients and supplies ready before you start. Measure out the fat and flour. If you plan on cooking the holy trinity as soon as the it's done, have the onion, celery, and green pepper all chopped and ready beside the stove.
- 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.
- Be patient. A good roux takes time--anywhere from 45 minutes to one hour. If you want to compare color, take out a jar of peanut butter and a copper penny before you start. Relax and enjoy the process.
- If you're making it ahead of time, let it cool, then transfer it to a bowl, cover, 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.
- It is best to use it right away by adding in chopped onion, celery, and green pepper (the Cajun trinity). Next, cook the veggies in the roux. Once done, you can proceed with making the gumbo that day, or freeze the veggie/roux mixture to make it in the future.
- Once the it is finished, keep it in the cast iron pan, remove from the burner, and let it sit until you are ready to use it later in the day. Just reheat it over medium-low heat, then proceed with making the gumbo.
Note: This post is Part 2 of my three-part series in making gumbo. To read Part 1, check out how to make seafood stock. Read Part 3, where I share how to make gumbo.
To make it right, roux requires care, attention to detail, and time, but the end result is so worth it.
- Lodge Cast Iron Skillet: this 10-inch skillet retains heat wonderfully and is quite versatile.
- Stainless Balloon Whisks: this set of three whisks is perfect for sauces, dressings, and puddings.
- Faberware Measuring Cups: these measuring cups come in 1 cup, ½ cup, and ⅓ cup sizes.
Do you love Creole cooking? You'll want to try these other delicious recipes, too.
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How to Make Roux for Gumbo
- ¾ cup solid lard
- 1 cup all-purpose flour, plus more if necessary
- Melt the lard or some other fat (like peanut oil, vegetable oil, or bacon grease) over high heat in a large cast iron skillet.
- Gradually whisk in the flour until it is well mixed. Whisk constantly until the mixture begins to bubble, then keep stirring. After 5 minutes, turn down the heat to medium high.
- Continue whisking constantly, making sure to stir at the edges of the pan as well. After a few minutes, the flour mixture will start to change color. Once it turns a light caramel color, turn the heat down to medium.
- If you like, exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, but keep stirring constantly. The flour will continue to change color over a period of time. In the next color stage, it will be a light peanut butter color. You might want to keep a jar of peanut butter out to compare.
- To have a Creole type gumbo, you will want the roux to be the color of a copper penny. This will require about 20-30 more minutes of constant stirring. Be patient--it's worth it. If you want, you can keep a penny close by to compare. 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. Your goal is to have it a smooth and silky consistency, not lumpy.
- If your goal is to have Cajun type gumbo, you will want your roux to be a darker reddish brown color. In order to achieve this, turn the heat down to low. This will allow you to control the color of without burning it. Keep stirring until you are almost at the desired color.
- Remember, 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. Because of this fact, it's a good idea to turn off the heat and remove it from the burner when it's one or two shades lighter than you want it to be. Continue stirring until it cools, roughly 5 minutes.
- Before you start, get all the ingredients and supplies.
- 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.
- Be patient it will take 45 minutes to one hour.
- Making this ahead of time? Let it cool completely then transfer it to a bowl, cover, and refrigerate to use the next day.
- If time allows, it is best to use this right away by adding in chopped onion, celery, and green pepper and cooking the Cajun trinity in the roux.
This recipe was originally published on June 8, 2018.