Louisiana Creole Gumbo

Like Nannie Used to Make

Finished seafood gumbo. Serve with rice

 The Spruce

Prep: 60 mins
Cook: 2 hrs 40 mins
Total: 3 hrs 40 mins
Servings: 8 servings
Yield: 3 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
613 Calories
32g Fat
20g Carbs
63g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 8
Amount per serving
Calories 613
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 32g 40%
Saturated Fat 6g 30%
Cholesterol 320mg 107%
Sodium 1420mg 62%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 63g
Vitamin C 27mg 134%
Calcium 201mg 15%
Iron 4mg 25%
Potassium 996mg 21%
*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.)

Generational family recipes tend to get taught by cooking together with nary a written recipe in sight. This recipe is no different. It took days of calls, emails, and text messages to family, plus deep sensory mediation, to recall watching my my grandmother, "Nannie," or Ms. Anna Mae King to you, assemble this important family recipe.

What I inherently knew was all of the foundational elements of any Creole gumbo: roux, the Holy Trinity, okra, and canned tomatoes. I can close my eyes now and instantly see Nannie in her housedress and wig, diligently stirring the roux in the black cast iron pan until it was a beautiful chocolate color, taking special care not to burn it.

Nannie took the same care with the okra. It was never added directly to the gumbo pot without par-cooking it in the same cast iron pan as the roux. The process is called "roping," or at least that is what she called it, sautéing the okra until it is bright green and the viscosity from the pod subsides. Now don't quote me, but she might (MIGHT) have added a teaspoon of sugar to the mix to aid in the de-sliming.

Now here comes the fundamental difference between a Creole and a Cajun gumbo, an element that often causes a debate about "real" gumbo. We are talking tomatoes. There is no question for me. Adding the tomatoes was my favorite part because Nannie would let me squish them by hand over the gumbo pot. Those Cajuns don't know the fun they're missing.

The questions that did arise for me in writing this recipe had to do with the proteins Nannie used. Chicken, shrimp and blue crab I knew, though the methodology for the crab escaped me. So I took some appropriate chef-editor liberties. However, when I close my eyes again, I see Nannie browning some stew beef in that same cast iron pan before adding it to the gumbo pot, too. My mother confirmed.

What you will not find in this family Creole gumbo recipe is andouille sausage or filé. The former is for Cajun gumbo and I don't think Nannie liked it anyway. However, the latter was a straight up, "no ma'am, not in my gumbo!"

With that, I dedicate this memory recipe to my beloved and missed grandmother, my mom and sister, and the entire King family. From our family to yours, laissez les bons temps rouler!

"Although this recipe involves many steps, it's worth making and you can taste the love and care of every step and ingredient in the final result. I broke up the prep into two days, which made the gumbo more manageable to cook. And as the recipe suggests, feel free to adjust the seasoning to your taste." —Young Sun Huh

Louisiana Creole Gumbo Tester Image
A Note From Our Recipe Tester

Ingredients

For the stock

  • 1 quart low-sodium chicken broth

  • 4 large live blue crabs, cooked and cleaned, outer shell reserved (or frozen cooked crabs)

  • 1 pound large, U-26, shrimp, cleaned, shells reserved

For the roux

  • 1/2 cup canola oil, or lard or vegetable shortening

  • 1/2 cup flour

For the gumbo

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 2 stalks celery, diced

  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

  • 3 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 teaspoons Creole seasoning, Lawry's or Old Bay, plus more to taste

  • 1 (14 to 14.5-ounce) can whole tomatoes

  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 5 dashes hot sauce, plus more to taste

  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil

  • 1 pound stew beef, cut in 1-inch cubes and seasoned with salt and pepper at least one hour prior to starting the recipe, if not overnight

  • 1 pound bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs, seasoned with salt and pepper at least one hour prior to starting the recipe, if not overnight

  • 1 1/2 cups sliced fresh okra, about 6 ounces

  • Kosher salt, to taste

  • Freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

  • Cooked white rice, preferably short-grain Carolina rice, for serving

  • Sliced green onions, for garnish

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. Bring beef and chicken to room temperature before beginning the recipe.

  2. Make the stock. To a large sauce pan add chicken broth, outer crab shells, and shrimp shells, cover, and set over medium-low heat. When it comes to a boil, adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer covered for 20 minutes and keep on low until ready for use.

  3. Make the roux. Add oil to a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat and sprinkle in flour while whisking. Continue whisking until it turns a milk chocolate color, 16 to 18 minutes. Don't walk away during this step.

  4. When the roux is ready, add the Trinity (the onion, celery, and bell pepper), garlic, and Creole seasoning. Sauté until onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.

  5. Strain the chicken-seafood stock. Discard the seafood shells.

  6. Deglaze the gumbo pot with with half of the stock. Add the can of whole tomatoes, crushing each by hand over the pot, plus its liquid.

  7. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, thyme, and bay leaf. Bring it to a boil and reduce it to a simmer.

  8. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a cast iron pan over medium-high heat. Sear stew beef, in batches if needed, and move directly into the gumbo pot when done.

  9. In the same cast iron pan, sear the seasoned chicken thighs, skin-side down first, until golden on both sides, about 10 minutes total, moving them to the gumbo pot when done.

  10. In the same cast iron pan, add the okra to the rendered chicken fat, and season with salt and pepper and/or more Creole seasoning. Sauté okra until verdant and the viscous texture subsides, about 8 minutes. (This is known as "roping.") Add okra to the gumbo pot.

  11. Add remaining chicken-seafood stock to cover the ingredients. If the ingredients are not covered by the stock, add water.

  12. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook for 30-45 minutes, giving a good stir and taste every 15 minutes. Season with more Creole seasoning, salt, hot sauce, Worchestershire sauce, black pepper as needed for your taste.

  13. Remove thyme stems and bay leaf.

    Gently remove chicken thighs from the gumbo pot to a cutting board. Remove bones and skin, cut into rough chunks and add the meat back into the gumbo pot.

    If the thighs have fallen apart, just remove the bones (the same number of thighs you added) and the skins you can easily find.

  14. On a cutting board, crack cooked and cleaned blue crabs in half. Then, with a mallet or the back of the blade of a chefs knife, gently crack both joints of the claws.

  15. Add crab and shrimp to the gumbo pot, cover, and simmer for 6 to 8 minutes.

  16. Prepare a serving over cooked white rice, making sure each serving gets at least half of a crab. Garnish with scallions and hot sauce(s) for diners to spice to their taste.

Taste, Taste, and Taste Some More

With this recipe, as with any recipe, always taste as you go. You are building flavor at every step. There are many elements seared or cooked separately from the others that are seasoned. You want to make sure you have an idea of elements that are salty, sweet, spicy, sour, smokey and more and control how they come together.


It is the moments of tasting where you are able to adjust accordingly by, for example, cutting the broth with water if you over-seasoned the beef or chicken or adding more Creole seasoning to the vegetable base before before adding the remaining ingredients.


Taste, taste, and taste some more.

No Crab Shells in My Gumbo, Please!

I get it. While sucking the broth from the crab and methodically removing its sweet meat from its shell is the bee's knees for me, having half of a crab sticking out from a bowl of gumbo is daunting and laborious for many.


In place of this, simply buy the best lump crab meat you can find, which is already cooked, and add it at the end, either by:

  • if serving to a group that will finish the whole pot: fold into the pot right before you are serving
  • if serving some and storing the rest: gently sauté the lump crab in butter and Creole seasoning until just warm and covered. Top each serving with desired amount and finish with scallions. Reserve the remaining for seconds (because that WILL happen).

Storage and Reheating

For leftovers, if there are leftovers, I suggest storing by portions of use, for 1 to 4 people, in airtight containers in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or in the freezer for up to 2 months, max.


When reheating, whether refrigerated or frozen, it is important to first bring portion(s) to room temperature as it will aid in not overcooking the gumbo and the precious seafood ingredients in it.


It is preferable to use a stove top method over a microwave to gradually warm only, not cook the gumbo. Use an appropriate sized sauce pan to your portion. Add a little water to help loosen, stir, cover, and set over medium-low heat just until hot but not boiling.


If the microwave is your preference, use the COOK TIME and POWER LEVEL functions, setting to 3 minutes at a 60 percent power level, removing and stirring half way through. Add more time as needed.