Get a taste of New Orleans cuisine at home with this delicious gumbo! Smoky andouille sausage, okra, and aromatic vegetables make this an authentic recipe perfect for sharing.
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New Orleans is a melting pot of extravagant culture, abundant energy, live music, and Creole cuisine. I’ve enjoyed eating at iconic restaurants like Commander’s Palace and Brennan’s to smaller establishments off the beaten path. I always order gumbo everywhere I go, as each place has their own unique twist.
This recipe is a great way to learn classic kitchen techniques, from homemade chicken broth to a traditional roux for thickening. However, I’ll share quicker options if you’re short on time. This recipe makes a big pot of gumbo to share, or you’ll have plenty of leftovers. Now, in the kitchen, turn on some New Orleans Jazz and “let the good times roll” (laissez les bon temps rouler).
What is gumbo?
Is it a soup or a stew? It’s something more in between, dare I say, “stoup.” It’s a staple Creole dish originating from Louisiana. The preparation highlights the combination of African and European cooking techniques and flavors.
Gumbo is flavored with the holy trinity of vegetables like onions, bell pepper, and celery, plus hot cayenne pepper, various meat, and seafood. Depending on the regional style, it uses different thickening agents to add a rich texture, like roux and filé powder.
Cook the chicken
To develop the flavor of the gumbo, start by cooking the chicken and reserving the liquid. I use boneless skinless chicken breast or thighs or a mixture. It cooks quickly for a delicious broth. However, if you want a more robust stock, you can use bone-in poultry. I recommended using 2 ⅓ pounds of chicken instead to account for the bone.
For convenience, you can use 6 cups of shredded rotisserie chicken or leftovers to add later in the cooking process. You can also use store-bought unsalted chicken broth or stock instead of the homemade versions.
Cook the okra
Fresh okra is in season in the summer; otherwise, you’ll need to grab a frozen package. The light green, slender, tube-like okra seed pod has a grassy, slightly sweet flavor. When you slice it open, there are tiny white seeds. When cooked, it extrudes a clear edible goop called mucilage.
It may seem slimy after boiling, but it won’t be so noticeable once mixed with the other ingredients. A small amount helps thicken the consistency. Draining the liquid after simmering helps remove some of the sticky substance, so it’s not overpowering.
Thicken the gumbo with a roux
Making a roux is a classic French technique used as a thickening agent in soups, stews, and sauces. I make a dark brown roux from equal parts of butter and flour for this recipe. Prolonged cooking of 15 minutes over moderate heat adds a rich, deep toasted flavor. Make sure to keep stirring. You want it deep brown, not burnt!
Add a holy trinity of vegetables
The flavor base of many Creole and Cajun dishes is called the holy trinity. It’s a combination of bell peppers, celery, and onion. Depending on the meal, various ratios and amounts are used. It’s a Lousiana-inspired mirepoix, and it adds beautiful aromatics, color, and flavor to the gumbo.
I also add minced garlic for an earthy flavor and allium aroma. Saute the chopped vegetables until tender. As they release their moisture, the natural sugars come to the surface to add a hint of sweetness to complement the savory and spicy flavors.
Add bold seasonings
It’s not a creole dish without spice! I use dried herbs like thyme, basil, and bay leaf because they are more concentrated in flavor than fresh. To make the gumbo spicy and smoky, add cayenne pepper. A little goes a long way!
You can add a lower amount, about ¼ teaspoon to start, and increase to taste for more mild heat. For a vinegary spice, add hot sauce like Crystal. The andouille sausage is also hot and will infuse the capsaicin and flavor into the dish.
Andouille is the best choice to compliment the gumbo. It’s a smoky pork sausage mixed with cajun seasonings. The seasonings may include salt, garlic, onion, spicy red pepper, black and white pepper, paprika for color, and celery powder, depending on the brand.
I use cooked sausage and slice them into thick pieces to add to the pot. If you can’t find it at your local store, kielbasa or any other type of spicy sausage will work. You can even adjust the heat with more cayenne pepper or hot sauce.
I prefer my gumbo with pieces of tomato, but some would rather omit it based on their taste preference. Chef’s choice! It takes about 45 minutes to simmer. This duration lets the flavors meld together, and some of the moisture evaporate. I add the shredded chicken in the last 15 minutes of cooking, so it’s doesn’t dry out. The result is a rich, thickened broth with hearty chunks of ingredients.
Add the gumbo filé powder
If your pantry is not stocked with gumbo filé powder, then grab a bottle. It’s dried and ground sassafras leaves. It adds a characteristic eucalyptus aroma, with an earthy thyme flavor and even root beer notes. Did you know that the fizzy drink used to be made from the root bark of sassafras? It’s added at the end of cooking when the heat shuts off.
When mixed in, it lightly thickens the gumbo. It can develop a stringy flavor when overheated, so you wait to add it right before serving. Some readers serve it on the side so they can sprinkle it over the gumbo to their liking. I use Zatarain’s gumbo filé for my recipe.
The difference between gumbo and jambalaya
Gumbo is a hearty soup or stew inspired by the French bouillabaisse and named after the West African word for okra “guingombo.” It can be thickened with a dark roux, okra, file powder, or a combination. Rice is served on the side with gumbo. Jambalaya is rooted in Spanish influence from paella. It’s a rice-based dish simmered with various vegetables, meats, and seafood.
Regional styles or variations
In different parts of Lousiana, the style of gumbo can differ. The southeastern region can be seafood-based with tomatoes. In contrast, the southwestern area can be meat-based with chicken or andouille sausage and thickened only with a roux. Also, some prefer to serve the gumbo filé on the table instead of cooking with it.
Serve this with
You will see this ingredient in many gumbo recipes from Louisiana. Filé powder is sassafras leaves that have been dried and ground into a fine powder. It’s used to thicken gumbo just before serving.
Okra helps with thickening and adds a unique taste. If you don’t like it or can’t source it, omit it or there are substitutes. For flavor and thickening, gumbo filé works well, about 1 tablespoon if not already in the recipe. For texture, use chopped nopales, eggplant, or green beans.
Different regions in Louisiana have preferences to add tomatoes. I prefer the tomatoes’ sweetness and acidity, but you can omit them if desired, although the gumbo will be slightly less chunky.
Yes! However, the roux must be cooked on the stovetop then transferred to the slow cooker. I also recommend sauteing the vegetable in the roux for better flavor. Add the cooked okra, chicken, and gumbo filé powder in the last hour. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours, or high for 5 to 6 hours.
The color of the roux impacts the thickening
There are different types of roux colors; white, blond, brown, and dark brown. They can be cooked for a few minutes, up to 15 minutes, until the desired color and flavor are developed. A general rule of thumb is that the lighter the roux, or less cook time, the higher the thickening power, but the least flavor. The gumbo’s deep brown color and nutty taste are from the well-developed roux.
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Chicken Andouille Sausage Gumbo
- 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken breast, or thigh
- 2 quarts water, to cook the chicken
- 1 pound okra, 1" pieces, or frozen
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup unsalted butter
- ½ cup all-purpose flour
- 1 ½ cup yellow onion, ¼" dice
- 1 ½ cup bell pepper, ¼" dice, green and red
- ⅓ cup celery, ¼" dice
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 cups diced canned tomatoes
- 12 ounces andouille sausage, cooked, ½" slices
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme,
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon gumbo filé, Zatarain's
- Cook the Chicken – In a medium-sized pot, add chicken and cover with 2 quarts of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer until fully cooked, about 20 to 25 minutes. The internal temperature should reach 160ºF (71ºC). Strain the chicken broth and reserve.
- Shred the Meat – Remove cooked chicken from the pot. Allow it to cool, then shred into small pieces. Cover and set aside.
- Cook the Okra – In a medium-sized pot, add okra and ½ cup of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cover. Simmer, occasionally stirring, until tender, about 7 to 9 minutes. Transfer to a colander, drain and set aside.
- Make the Roux – In a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot, combine butter and flour. Cook over medium heat, frequently stirring with a whisk, until a dark brown roux forms, about 15 minutes. If needed, increase the heat if you do not see a substantial color change. In the last 5 minutes, continuously stir, so the roux does not burn.
- Saute the Vegetables – Add onion, bell peppers, celery, and garlic to the pot. Sauté until vegetables are tender, about 8 to 10 minutes.
- Cook the Sausage – Add cooked okra, tomatoes, and sliced sausage. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the Seasonings – Add bay leaf, thyme, basil, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
- Simmer – Stir in 4 cups of the reserved chicken broth. Loosely cover the pot and simmer over medium-low heat, occasionally stirring until the gumbo thickens, about 30 minutes.
- Simmer the Chicken – Add the cooked shredded chicken and simmer for an additional 15 minutes.
- Add the Gumbo Filé – Turn off the heat and slowly stir in the gumbo filé. Do not reboil after adding, as this tends to make the gumbo stringy—taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired. Add more chicken broth if you want a less thick consistency.
- To Serve – Scoop and serve over steamed rice.
- Recipe Yield: About 6 cups
- Serving Size: About 1 cup
- For a Mild Spice: Reduce cayenne pepper to ¼ teaspoon, increase to taste. Chili powder can also be used but won’t be as smoky in flavor.
- Use Rotisserie Chicken: Add 6 cups of pre-cooked shredded chicken.
- Store-bought Broth or Stock: You will need 4 cups, plus more if you want to adjust the thickness.
- Make it Gluten-Free: Use cassava flour instead of all-purpose flour. Adjust cook time based on the color change of the roux.
- Adding Seafood: Shrimp or crab can be added in the last 5 to 10 minutes of simmering. Cook until no longer raw.
- Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to 1 week. Freeze individual portions for up to 3 months.
- Reheating: Reheat on the stovetop over medium heat, stirring until hot. Add more chicken broth or water if needed.
- Recipe Source: “Favorite Recipes from Famous New Orleans Restaurants,” by Express Publishing Co. (1981).
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