Cajun Gumbo Recipe

Cajun Gumbo

The Spruce Eats / Adrienne Cheatham

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 30 mins
Total: 3 hrs
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 10 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
580 Calories
34g Fat
31g Carbs
38g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 580
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 34g 44%
Saturated Fat 10g 51%
Cholesterol 161mg 54%
Sodium 1160mg 50%
Total Carbohydrate 31g 11%
Dietary Fiber 3g 12%
Total Sugars 9g
Protein 38g
Vitamin C 25mg 123%
Calcium 119mg 9%
Iron 4mg 20%
Potassium 1094mg 23%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

When it comes to making Gumbo, there are as many different recipes as there are people in Louisiana. Ingredients and amounts are a matter of region, availability, and personal taste. Still, gumbo largely falls into two main categories, Cajun and Creole. Cajun gumbo is a style of gumbo predominantly made in the region known as Acadiana, or Cajun Country. This region is comprised of 22 parishes in the southern part of the state, west of New Orleans and east of Lake Charles, stretching from the Gulf of Mexico to about 100 miles north.

The most widely-known version of Cajun gumbo is made with chicken and andouille sausage, dark roux, trinity (onions, green bell pepper, and celery), chicken stock or broth, and is thickened with okra, gumbo file powder, or both. Because there is a large swath of Cajun country that has water access, gator, crab, shrimp, crawfish, or other seafood is sometimes added to the pot if it is available, and there are versions that use turkey and other wildfowl or game. As long as you have the basic tenets of Cajun gumbo down, you can substitute ingredients and riff as you see fit. It’s about building a hearty dish that is full of flavor by stewing the ingredients until they are tender and the flavors have melded and developed into a rich stew.

Growing up in Chicago, my mother made gumbo every year around the holidays. There was only one style of gumbo for us, and after marrying a man from New Orleans, I learned that the style of gumbo we knew so well was Cajun. In New Orleans, Creole gumbo is the style you’ll find in most restaurants and home. It has a few key differences from Cajun gumbo, but also a few similarities. Dark roux is the basis of both, giving gumbo its characteristic color and flavor.

Both styles of gumbo are delicious, and are perfect examples of several cultures coming together in our history, but I am partial to the Cajun style. The combination of chicken and andouille, with a ton of trinity that almost liquifies as it cooks in the chocolate-hued roux, does something to my soul. The deep, warm, complex flavors that you get by stewing the ingredients low and slow are intoxicating. And it's endlessly versatile and can be customized to suit your taste and time. Once you get the feel for Cajun gumbo, you’ll know exactly how to tweak it for yourself and your household, because at its core, it’s an exercise in making the most out of what you have for your loved ones.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup duck fat, or canola or grapeseed oil

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour

  • 2 large Spanish onions, chopped

  • 3 medium green bell peppers, seeded and chopped

  • 5 stalks celery, ends trimmed and chopped

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed and chopped

  • 8 cups (2 quarts) chicken stock

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs

  • 1 pound smoked andouille sausage, sliced about 1/4-inch thick

  • 1 (1/4-pound) crab knuckle, or 1/2 pound crab meat (not jumbo lump)

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 pound okra, caps trimmed, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

  • 1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce

  • 1/2 teaspoon gumbo filé powder

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

  • Thinly-sliced scallions, for serving

  • Hot sauce, for serving

  • cooked white rice, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Melt duck fat in a large pot on medium-low heat, then whisk in the flour. Continue cooking on medium-low heat, whisking frequently, until roux is dark brown, the color of milk chocolate, but not black or burned. This will take about 25 to 30 minutes, depending on your flame.

  3. When you reach the desired color, immediately add the trinity—the diced onions, green pepper, and celery—plus the garlic. Using a wooden spoon, stir the trinity into the roux, making sure it is evenly distributed, season with a few pinches of salt and black pepper, and turn the heat to medium. The roux will look dry at first, cook the trinity in the roux, stirring frequently, until the vegetables begin to soften and the roux looks moist, about 10 minutes.

  4. Gradually stir in the chicken stock, dissolving the roux and preventing lumps, turn the heat up to medium-high and bring the pot to a boil.

  5. While you’re waiting for the pot to boil, heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper and add the tablespoon of oil to the pan.

  6. Place the thighs skin-side down in the pan and sear until the skin is a deep golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Flip the thighs and sear the bone side for 2 to 3 minutes.

  7. Remove the thighs from the pan and add to the pot, leaving the fat in the pan and keeping the sauté pan on medium-high heat.

  8. Add the sliced andouille to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until the sausage is browned in places and the edges are curling, about 5 to 7 minutes.

  9. Turn off the heat, then use a spatula to scrape the andouille and any accumulated fat into the pot. Add the crab knuckle and give the contents a good stir to combine. If the ingredients are not covered by the stock, add 1 to 2 cups water to just cover.

  10. Raise the heat under the pot and bring its contents to a full boil. Then reduce the heat to a simmer and add the bay leaves and dried thyme. Skim any fat and foam that accumulates on the surface and simmer for one hour.

  11. Carefully remove the chicken thighs to a large plate. When the chicken has cooled a bit, discard the skin, bones, and cartilage, shred the meat, and return it to the simmering pot.

  12. Add the okra and Worcestershire sauce and continue simmering the gumbo for another hour on low heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking or burning.

  13. Remove the crab knuckle and pick out any remaining meat. Stir the crab meat into the gumbo to distribute and then discard the shell. Stir in the filé powder, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper. Simmer for another 5 minutes, then turn off the heat.

  14. To serve, place about 1/2 cup cooked rice into serving bowls and ladle the gumbo on top of the rice. Garnish with sliced scallions and add a few dashes of hot sauce to taste.

Make Ahead

  • Gumbo is better the next day, so feel free to make ahead and keep refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to serve. 
  • The roux can be made up as early as four days ahead of time. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  • Chop your veggies—onion, green bell pepper, and celery—up to two or three days ahead, and keep refrigerated in airtight containers or bags.

Recipe Variation

  • Crab knuckle is the body base the legs are attached to on king crab. It's sold by the pound and is usually already broken apart. If you have difficulty finding it, substitute with 1/2 pound crab meat (not jumbo lump, which has thing cartilage).
  • Use chicken sausage instead of andouille sausage.

How to Store and Freeze

Gumbo also freezes well, so any leftovers can be packed into freezer-safe bags or containers and frozen for up to three months.

What's the difference between Cajun and Creole gumbo?

  • The type of fat used in the roux is likely to be different; hunting is common in rural Cajun country, so animal fat in cooking is more common than in the city.
  • Creole gumbo is typically seafood/shellfish based, and may have some Tasso ham or andouille sausage for flavor, while Cajun gumbo has andouille and chicken or other fowl with the occasional shellfish thrown in.
  • Creole gumbo also frequently uses tomato, which is largely considered blasphemous in the making of Cajun gumbo.
  • Creole gumbo tends to be thinner and is more of a soup while Cajun gumbo is a bit thicker and eats more like a stew.