Who wants Gumbo?

Sausage, Shrimp and Crab Gumbo


In Louisiana, possibly the most popular of all Cajun dishes is Gumbo. As a boy, I thought the okra seeds in gumbo were the eyes of crawfish, but that never stopped me from eating it. Of course, my mom made the best Gumbo. (I think my mother’s amazing cooking is becoming the theme of this blog.) In all seriousness though, her gumbo is amazing, and some of my fondest food memories as a kid revolve around her gumbo. All the vegetables would still be chunky and the soup extra thick with just the right amount of spicy heat. I remember how upset she seemed if she burned her roux, but I could never taste the difference.  Gumbo is quite possibly my favorite soup ever, and in my book, the definition of comfort food. It gets me nostalgic every time I eat it. With all its complex flavors, nothing else comes close. It’s rare these days that I make a pot, but when I do, it’s enough for breakfast, lunch and dinner for days. 🙂

Gumbo is a dish dependent on your taste preference, so to write a definitive recipe that will make everyone happy is an exercise in futility. I’ll get you started, but how salty or spicy or dark you like the roux/broth is entirely your decision. By the way, I mentioned I like to make a large pot so this is a giant recipe. Simply divide it if you want a smaller batch. This makes around 6 or more quarts of soup and requires you to have bacon drippings on hand for the roux base. If bacon drippings are something you don’t keep around the house, save the drippings from when you brown the sausages, and if it is not enough for the recipe just add another type of fat like butter or vegetable oil. There are a ton of different variations for making a roux so do not worry if you can’t follow the recipe exactly.

Sausage, Shrimp and Crab Gumbo Recipe:
  •  1 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
  •  3/4 cup bacon drippings
  •  1 cup finely sliced celery
  •  2 medium red or white onion, finely chopped
  •  2 medium green bell pepper, finely chopped
  •  6 cloves garlic, minced
  •  2 pounds Andouille sausage or any beef and pork blended sausage
  •  2.5 quarts of water
  •  6 cubes of beef bouillon
  •  2 Tablespoons of white sugar
  •  1/2 Tablespoon of salt or more to taste
  •  1/2 – 3 Tablespoons of Tabasco, to taste
  •  1/2 – 1 Tablespoon of Clean Slate Cajun Seasoning or if you are feeling lazy, Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning works well
  •  4-6 bay leaves depending on size
  •  1/2 teaspoon thyme
  •  1 (14.5 ounce) can of whole peeled tomatoes
  •  1 (6 ounce) can tomato sauce
  •  2 Tablespoons bacon drippings
  •  20 ounces cut okra (more is fine)
  •  2 Tablespoons distilled white vinegar
  • 1 pound lump crabmeat
  •  3 pounds uncooked medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  •  2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  •  4-6 teaspoons gumbo filé powder (hard to find in some areas, but impossible to replace. Very important to the flavor of gumbo.)
Start by browning whole sausages in a skillet on all sides. Remove from the pan and let cool. Slice the sausage and place back in the hot pan and brown both sides. Set aside and save the drippings for the roux if needed.
  1. To make a roux, whisk sifted 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup  bacon drippings together in a large, heavy saucepan (cast iron) over medium-low heat to form a smooth mixture.
  2. Temperature is very important, if it is to low it will take hours, if the temperature is to high you will burn the flour ruining the base.
  3. Cook the roux, stirring constantly, until it turns a rich peanut butter color, some people prefer a darker base, and cook the roux until it looks like dark chocolate.
  4. This can take 20 to 60 minutes so be patient, it’s the hardest part of the whole gumbo process, so you have to  watch the heat. Carefully adjust if things start smoking to much.
  5. Whisk constantly or roux will burn.If you have a high temperature silicone spatula this works very well to ensure nothing sticks.
  6. A finished roux will be very shiny and much thinner than when you started, it should smell similar to popcorn.
  7. When you have reached the desired color, remove from heat and continue stirring until mixture stops cooking.
  8. It is very easy to burn the roux if you leave it sitting in the hot skillet.
  • Stir the onion, celery, bellpepper, sausage and garlic into the roux.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat, and stir until the vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes.
  • Bring the water and beef bouillon cubes to a boil in a large pot.
  • Stir until the bouillon cubes dissolve, and mix the roux mixture into the boiling water.
  • Reduce heat to a simmer, and mix in the sugar, salt, Tobasco, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, whole tomatoes, and tomato sauce.
  • Simmer the soup over low heat for 45 minutes then mix in 4 teaspoons of filé gumbo powder.
  • While this simmers prepare the okra with 2 tablespoons of bacon drippings in a hot skillet. Cook the okra with the vinegar over medium heat for 15 minutes then remove okra with a slotted spoon and stir into the simmering gumbo until flavors have blended and it thickens, about one hour.
  • Just before serving, taste and add up to 2 more teaspoons of gumbo filé powder and the Worcestershire sauce.
  • Mix in the crabmeat and shrimp in the last moments.

All in all, this is a very involved recipe that can take a large part of the day preparing for. When it’s done, all that hard work is easily worth it. You will have enough to share (although you may not want to) but either way, invite friends and family over to enjoy this wonderful dish!


12 thoughts on “Who wants Gumbo?”

  1. You forgot the part about filling up the cd player with Beau Jacques, Bruce Daigrepont, Beausoleil while working on that roux! Yes, the ultimate comfort food–I make mine with shrimp stock which I make whenever I get head on shrimp.


      1. Oh sure. That’s what I loved about cooking in New Orleans: the boom box on the line tuned to WWOZ. “Boom box” = the 80’s: I date myself…


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