Seafood Gumbo, with shrimp, crab, chicken Andouille sausage, and okra is an authentic spicy Cajun meal served over rice or grits.
This recipe is not super easy as it takes time to cook to properly develop all of the flavors. This recipe all starts with a dark and rich roux made from bacon drippings.
Seafood gumbo is one of those meals that is worth the time and effort. Most dinners in my house involve a 30-minute or less meal. Every so often, though, I like to put in the time and effort to create something special and unique in the kitchen.
Cooking something like gumbo from scratch is not for the faint of heart. Not only will it take a lot of your time and patience, but it will hit you hard in the pocket book. Shrimp and crab ain’t cheap. But, if you want to make something flavorful, a meal fit for a king that can be devoured for a fun occasion like Mardi Gras – well then, you can’t go wrong with this recipe.
Never enjoyed homemade seafood gumbo? Let’s start with the basics.
What is gumbo?
Gumbo is a Cajun stew that originated in Louisiana. Seafood gumbo consists of a flavorful stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener, and what is referred to as the “Holy Trinity” of vegetables in Cajun cooking. If you’re looking for an easy gumbo recipe, this isn’t it. Based on what’s required to make authentic seafood gumbo, I don’t see how it’s possible to make an easy gumbo. That is, of course, unless you make this recipe and freeze it for later!
When choosing a stock, I recommend beef broth. You can easily used boxed beef broth, but if you want outstanding flavor, you should make your own roasted beef broth. I make huge batches of it and always have some at the ready in the freezer. That way, whether you’re making something like gumbo, or an old fashioned beef stew, or a quick and easy beef stroganoff, you can make it with homemade stock. You can also make gumbo using chicken broth as well.
Gumbo typically contains shellfish. I chose to add shrimp and crab. Chicken is a very common ingredient. Andouille sausage adds great Cajun flavor.
Gumbo is thickened by several components. First is the gumbo roux. To make roux, you typically combine equal parts of flour and fat and you cook it long enough to make the flour golden brown. The roux in a gumbo is different, however, in that you cook it much longer to really develop the flavor. Okra is also a thickener, It has a rather slimy texture, but that just adds to the stew. Finally, gumbo file powder, which is made from ground sassafras, also acts as a thickener.
The Holy Trinity of vegetables is made from onion, celery, and green bell pepper. This is different from the combination that you might be more familiar with that consists of onion, celery, and carrot.
What is gumbo filé?
Filé powder, also called gumbo filé, is a spicy herb made from the dried and ground leaves of the North American sassafras tree. It is used in Louisiana Creole cuisine and is a necessary ingredient when making authentic seafood gumbo.
Filé is one of the ingredients used to both thicken and flavor the gumbo.
You can find filé powder at some specialty stores. You can also easily order it online.
How to make gumbo:
To make an authentic, homemade, seafood gumbo, you will follow a long and somewhat detailed recipe. There are many steps and ingredients, but the final result has out of this world flavor.
- My gumbo recipe starts with the roux. You can make your roux on the stove top over very low heat, but I chose to do it in the oven so I could more easily walk away. I used my dutch oven so that I could easily transfer it from the stove top to the oven. The trick to a well developed roux is to cook it low and slow. You need a low heat to keep it from burning. The slow ensures a long cooking time. I used bacon drippings, but butter would work well too.
- Next comes that Holy Trinity of vegetables I referred to above. I diced them up using the food processor because I like the way it shreds the veggies and cuts them into various sizes. Cook them up in the roux. I also added the sausage at this point because it was uncooked and I wanted the meat to absorb all of the flavor of the vegetables.
- Next, you add the stock and a bunch of other ingredients to get the stew cooking. This part needs about an hour.
- Finally, you’ll toss in your seafood and cook it for another hour or so. The entire gumbo making process benefits from low and slow. Like I said, this is not a quick and easy recipe, but it is well worth your time.
Why is gumbo called gumbo?
Gumbo is called gumbo because of it’s ingredients and the origins of those ingredients. I found some interesting sources through my research.
Two of the defining ingredients in gumbo are okra and the gumbo file powder. Okra is known as “ki ngombo“, “ochinggombo“, or “chinggombo” in Africa. Likewise, file powder, or ground sassafras leaves, were known as “kombo” by the Choctaw people. The Choctaw are Native Americans who occupied the Southern United States. Namely, the Louisana area.
What is the difference between a gumbo and jambalaya?
Both gumbo and jambalaya are Creole dishes made with meat and the Holy Trinity of vegetables which include onions, celery, and bell pepper. Both recipes often use seafood and andouille sausage.
So what is the difference?
Gumbo is defined by it’s use of okra and file powder. Those two ingredients are not used in jambalaya.
What is good to serve with gumbo?
Gumbo is typically served over rice. I recommend cooking a medium or long grain white rice. I also recommend cooking the rice with the least amount of water so that it’s not very soft and can hold up well against the sauce. If you’ve never used your Instant Pot to cook rice, it works perfectly!
Though not as common as rice, you can also serve gumbo with grits.
I cooked up a batch of jalapeno cornbread and served it alongside my gumbo too. Can’t go wrong with a sweet and spicy cornbread!
Authentic Seafood Gumbo
- 1/2 cup all purpose flour
- 1/2 cup bacon drippings
- 1 medium onion
- 1 small or half of a large bell pepper, stem and seeds removed
- 3 stalks celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 3/4 pound chicken or pork Andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4 inch thick pieces
- 1 1/2 quarts 6 cups beef broth
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce Tobasco
- 1/2 teaspoon Cajun seasoning
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 cup diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 10 ounce package frozen okra
- 1 1/2 pounds uncooked shrimp peeled and deveined
- 8 ounces lump crabmeat I used frozen
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 2 teaspoons gumbo file powder
- salt amount varies by preference
To make roux, whisk together flour and bacon drippings in a dutch oven and cook in 300 degree oven for 90 minutes, whisking every 15 minutes or so. This temperature should be hot enough to develop a rich dark roux without burning it, but if it smells like it's burning, reduce the temperature.
While roux is cooking, pulse onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic in a food processor. You want the cut pieces to be small as if you were dicing them with a knife.
Once roux is done, transfer dutch oven to your stove top. Add onion mixture and sausage. Cook over medium low heat. You want to cook the vegetables and sausage while not burning the roux. Stir occasionally. Cook until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
Slowly add beef broth to mixture in dutch oven. Scrape bottom of pan to loosen anything that stuck during the cooking process. Stir well to combine and bring to a simmer. Add sugar, hot pepper sauce, Cajun seasoning, bay leaves, thyme, tomatoes, tomato paste, and okra. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for one hour.
Add shrimp, crab meat, gumbo file powder, and Worcestershire sauce. Cook for an additional hour over extremely low heat.
Add salt to taste. I never specify the amount because I feel it's based on personal preference, but start out with a small amount, taste, and continue adding until the flavor is right.
Serve gumbo over a medium or long grain rice or grits.
Store in refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days or freeze in air tight container.