Cajun Gumbo Recipe

Cajun Gumbo in bowls and in a pot

The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

Prep: 75 mins
Cook: 3 hrs
Total: 4 hrs 15 mins
Servings: 8 to 10 servings
Yield: 14 cups
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
464 Calories
27g Fat
25g Carbs
30g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
×
Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8 to 10
Amount per serving
Calories 464
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 8g 41%
Cholesterol 129mg 43%
Sodium 928mg 40%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 3g 9%
Total Sugars 7g
Protein 30g
Vitamin C 20mg 99%
Calcium 95mg 7%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 875mg 19%
*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.

"This is a delicious gumbo recipe! The roux is not difficult to make, but it does take some time and mindfulness, so just keep an eye on it and adjust your heat accordingly. Once you’ve got your roux, the rest is very straightforward." —Michelle Velasquez Cinotti

Cajun Gumbo Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

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

  • Cooked white rice, for serving

  • Thinly-sliced scallions, for serving

  • Hot sauce, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Cajun Gumbo ingredients in bowls

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  2. Melt duck fat in a large pot on medium heat, then whisk in the flour. Continue cooking on medium heat, whisking frequently, until the roux is dark brown, the color of milk chocolate, but not black or burned. This will take about 18 to 20 minutes, depending on your flame.

    Roux in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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. 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.

    Roux, diced onions, green pepper, and celery in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Chicken stock, roux and vegetables in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Oil in a pan, and chicken thighs on a plate

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Chicken thighs cooking in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Chicken thighs cooking in a pot with the roux mixture

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Sausage slices cooking in a pan

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Sausage and crab added to the pot with the gumbo

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Gumbo seasoned with bay leaves and dried thyme in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Chicken pieces in a bowl

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Cajun gumbo in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Gumbo in a pot

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

  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.

    Cajun Gumbo served in a bowl with rice, and a side of sauce

    The Spruce Eats / Christine Ma

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 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 thin cartilage) and stir it in at the end.
  • 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.