I am a Louisiana native who loves the culture and opportunities that our great state has to offer.
To make an authentic gumbo you need to accept that you're going to be in the kitchen for a while—but the end result is going to be absolutely delicious!\. So, relax, put on some Cajun tunes, grab a glass of wine, and let's get cookin'!
- 2-3 yellow or white onions (I use white, but pick your favorite), diced
- 1 bunch green onions, diced
- 1/2 bunch celery, diced finely
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 1 stick butter (channel your inner Paula Deen)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 whole cut-up chicken fryer (discard the gizzard and liver)
- 4 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 package andouille sausage (for a little kick), sliced into bite-sized chunks
- 1 package tasso, sliced into bite-sized chunks
- Cooked white rice, for serving
- Filé powder (also called gumbo filé), for garnish
- Yield: 6-8 servings
- Cooking for a crowd? Just multiply the ingredients as needed. Also, see my additional tips at the end of this article.
- Measurements: I usually just eyeball the measurements without getting too precise about it. This recipe is very forgiving, and it always works out well.
- Don't like certain ingredients? Everyone makes their gumbo a little differently, so if there are certain ingredients that you do not care for, feel free to omit them!
Step 1: Make Your Roux
Roux takes the longest to prepare out of anything, so I recommend starting this first. Whichever way you decide to make it, keep in mind the number one rule about roux: If it burns, toss it! Burned roux will ruin your whole gumbo.
Three Ways to Make Roux
- On the stovetop: This is the traditional way (see video below).
- In the microwave: Mix 2/3 cup of flour and 2/3 cup of vegetable oil in a microwave-safe container (I have used butter before, too) and microwave for 5-8 minutes. Roux is finicky, so watch it carefully. You might want to take it out to stir every few minutes to make sure it does not burn.
- Buy it ready-made: There are several different brands that are wonderful, but when I am making a big gumbo and do not feel like nursing the roux for hours over the stove, I use either Savoie's or Richard's Roux and use a mix of the light and dark.
Traditional Stovetop Roux
Step 2: Chop and Saute Your Vegetables
- Dice the yellow onions, green onions, bell pepper, and celery. How finely you dice your vegetables is a matter of taste, but I like to dice them up pretty small so that they almost melt into your gumbo in the end.
- Put each vegetable into separate bowls. The reasoning behind this is that you may choose not to use all of each vegetable, and this way you can freeze any leftovers for later use.
- Set aside the green onions. We will not be sauteeing these.
- In a pan over medium heat, saute the white or yellow onion and celery with about 1/2 tablespoon butter. Cook until the vegetables just begin to change color; take care not to burn. You may salt and pepper the vegetables as they cook, but do not add too much; otherwise your gumbo will turn out like a salt lick! Remove the onions and celery from the pan and set aside.
- In the same pan over medium heat, saute the green pepper with about 1/2 tablespoon butter. Again, cook until they just begin to change color, taking care not to burn. Remove from pan and set aside.
Step 3: Make Your Chicken Stock
Some people prefer to buy the store-bought chicken stock, but I say why bother? Making your own stock will save money and boost flavor!
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- Take your gumbo pot, fill it with water and just a tiny bit of salt, and put in your cleaned chicken. Set it on high heat and boil the chicken until the meat is almost falling off of the bone (about 1 to 2 hours). Once the chicken is cooked, remove it from the pot let it cool. Discard all of the chicken skin, fat, and bones so that you are left with just the meat.
- Transfer about half of the chicken stock from the pot to a separate bowl or container. You may need to add more stock later once everything is cooking in the pot. Whatever you don't use you can save for future recipes.
- Return the chicken meat to the pot along with the sauteed vegetables.
- Add the garlic. (I love garlic and add it into pretty much everything I can. The best way to add garlic to your gumbo is to use a garlic press. I use about 1/4 of a garlic bulb or about 4 cloves. You can use more or less to your liking.)
- Add about 1/4 of the green onions to let them cook down. If you love green onions, add more in! Reserve the remaining green onion for garnish.
Step 4: Saute the Sausage and Tasso
- Over medium heat, saute the sausage and tasso in some butter to lock in the flavor. I do not season either of these because there is already plenty of flavor in the meat, and you do not want to over-season. Some people simply slice the sausage one way, but I like to quarter it so that you have smaller bites of sausage throughout the gumbo (same for the tasso).
- Cooking the sausage and tasso should only take a few minutes. Make sure the heat is at medium. I find that cooking over high heat only makes the outsides char and the insides dry out.
- Once the meat is all browned, add it to the pot with the chicken stock.
Note About Sausage Brands
As far as the brand of sausage goes, this is also by preference. I use Savoie's or Richard's, but there is also Manda and many other brands available. The best sausage of course comes from a local butcher that makes their own, but if you do not have access to one, any of those brands (or your favorite) will suffice.
Step 5: Add in the Roux
- Add 3 to 5 tablespoons of the roux you made in step 1. The good news here is that you cannot mess up! Remember the chicken stock that you saved from earlier? If you add too much roux, add more stock to thin it out. If your gumbo is not thickening up enough, add a little more roux.
- While your gumbo is cooking, it is best to have a stash of cookies or goodies on the side to have with a glass of wine or beer. Now you have time to pop in a movie and wait a couple of hours while your gumbo cooks down.
- Season to taste. Since you have already seasoned the vegetables, and the meats already have their own seasoning in them, you do not want to add too much seasoning and make it too salty. It can be hard to fix a gumbo that has become too salty.
- Garnish with green onion and filé powder. Serve with rice and enjoy!
Tip for Reheating
If you plan on cooking your gumbo ahead of time and then cooling it in the fridge, make sure that you reheat it on low heat. If you don't the gumbo will burn! This is experience talking here, so you can trust me on that one.
Cooking for a Larger Crowd?
If you are making this recipe for more than six to eight people, take whatever number you are cooking for and divide by eight. Then take this number and multiply it by each part of the recipe.
When I cook gumbo for my annual Christmas party (about 50 people), I use three whole chickens, three packs of sausage, two packs of tasso, and the rest of the recipe is multiplied by the recommended way that I just mentioned. Make sure to have extra chicken stock and roux on hand so that you can thin or thicken the gumbo as needed.
Also, I normally cook two gumbos for this party, but if you have a burner and large cast iron pot, you can cook a gumbo this size. I just prefer to cook mine indoors!
Other Tasty Gumbo Variations
Sometimes, you just want something more than a regular chicken gumbo. Here are a few suggestions so take it up a notch!
- Cornish hen gumbo: Instead of a regular chicken, use Cornish hens. If you have a local meat market like I do, you may be able to get pre-seasoned Cornish hens. Hold out on salting your gumbo until the end if you go this route though, because most likely it will be seasoned enough. My mom made hers this way one year and it is on my list of top five gumbos, for sure.
- Duck and andouille gumbo: If you or someone you know is a hunter (such as my husband), there are often plenty of ducks to go around during hunting season. If you are getting tired of duck bombs (I will post this and several other appetizers soon), then use regular chicken stock, boil the duck before you add it into the gumbo, and discard the water in which you boiled the duck. I have found that my better duck and andouille gumbos are when I go this route. This way, you boil a bit of the "gamey" flavors out. Then use andouille sausage for an extra kick of flavor.
- Seafood gumbo: This is not something I cook often, but not because it is not tasty—I just tend to prefer other options. My favorite seafood additions are oysters and shrimp, though there are many other seafood options, as well.
- Okra: Add okra to any of the above for a change in flavor! One of my grandmothers used to always put okra in her gumbo, and I thought it was really good. If you are not used to eating okra, however, you should know that when okra is boiled it can be kind of slimy. So don't add this unless you love okra! Dice the okra before adding to the gumbo.