New Orleans is often referred to as a gumbo city, which is true for two reasons. First, we do love our gumbo, a rich, stew-like dish that’s traditionally served over rice. And if you consider the history, ingredients, and preparation of gumbo, then it’s easy to see why the city of New Orleans is a gumbo itself – a combination of cultures and culinary practices (including French, West African, Spanish, and Choctaw Indian) that come together to create something so darn good you’ll keep coming back for more.
Gumbo takes patience, time, and is best enjoyed in a social setting with friends and family since most recipes yield at least 10 servings.
The GoNOLA Guide to Gumbo
It starts with a good roux…
While there are many variations, it is a fact that all gumbos begin with a roux, which is a mixture of oil and flour slow-cooked over low heat to the desired darkness of your choice. Some prefer a lighter roux, while others enjoy the richness of one that’s dark and more chocolate-colored. Next, finely diced onion, bell pepper, and celery are added, which is what we call the “Holy Trinity,” a flavoring component in just about all Cajun and Creole cooking. A rich stock, usually seafood or chicken, is added to the mix along with meat and sometimes okra, and is set on the stove to simmer for hours. The process of cooking gumbo is one that takes patience, time, and is best enjoyed in a social setting with friends and family since most recipes yield at least 10 servings.
The cult classics
There are two cult classic styles of gumbo that frequent local menus: seafood gumbo and chicken and andouille sausage gumbo. Some love both and some lean more towards one than the other. Here, Chefs Isaac Toups and Kevin Belton share their secrets and love for their own individual styles of gumbo. Which one is your favorite?
Chef Isaac Toups’ and Chef Kevin Belton’s recipes
Chef Isaac Toups’ chicken and andouille gumbo
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs
- Kosher salt, to taste
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
- 1/2 cup grapeseed oil, plus 1 tablespoon
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 ribs celery, diced
- 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 8 ounces amber-style beer
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
- 4 bay leaves
- 1 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch coins
- cayenne pepper, to taste
- cooked white rice, for serving
- sliced scallions, for serving
- Season the chicken with salt, black pepper, and one tablespoon of grapeseed oil. Broil it until slightly charred and golden, about 10 minutes, and set aside.
- Heat a thick-bottomed, 4-quart Dutch oven over medium. Add the oil and flour and, using a whisk, stir constantly, taking care not to allow any to splash and burn you, until the roux has turned dark brown (the color of a bar of Hershey’s chocolate is about right), about 25 minutes.
- Add the garlic, celery, jalapeño, bell pepper, and onion and cook for one minute. Add the beer to deglaze, then add the stock, thyme, bay leaves, and one teaspoon black pepper. Stir slowly and continuously until the gumbo get back to a simmer, then add the chicken thighs and the sausage.
- Bring to a simmer and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, for three hours. Gumbo should be thickened but not like gravy! Season with cayenne and serve with cooked rice. Top with scallions and enjoy!
Chef Kevin Belton’s Creole seafood gumbo
- 1 pound fresh okra, cut into quarters
- 2 1/2 quarts fresh seafood stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 3/4 cup chopped celery
- 3 tablespoons Big Kevin’s Bayou Blend Creole seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined with tails on (about 16-20 shrimp)
- 1 pound fresh crab claws
- 1/2 pound fresh crab meat
- 1 pound andouille sausage, cut in rounds about 1/4-inch thick, optional
- Kosher salt and pepper, to taste
- 4 cups cooked white rice
- 1/2 cup chopped green onions
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place okra in a Dutch oven and roast, uncovered. Okra will begin to weep and become thick and stringy. Continue to bake until the stringy texture cooks away, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a large stockpot, bring the seafood stock to a boil over medium-high heat. Add bay leaves.
- In a large skillet, start your roux by heating vegetable oil on medium heat. Stirring continuously, sprinkle in flour until your mix is the consistency of wet sand. Continue to cook and stir until the roux is a dark peanut butter color.
- Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add bell pepper and celery and continue to cook until vegetables soften another 4 minutes. Sprinkle in Creole seasoning and cayenne pepper and stir to fully incorporate. Cook for 1 minute.
- Add roux and vegetables to stock and mix thoroughly. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Add shrimp, crab claws, crabmeat, and sausage, if using. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve over rice and garnish with green onions.
Where to go for gumbo
Check out a few of our favorite places to try it below. (We’ve also got a whole blog post about it here)
Restaurant R’evolution – Chef John Folse kills it with his “Death by Gumbo,” a version that includes semi-boneless stuffed quail, a dark roux, rice, andouille sausage, and poached oysters.
Galatoire’s – For more than 100 years this fine-dining restaurant on Bourbon Street has been feeding locals the truest taste of Creole, like their seafood and okra gumbo with oysters, crab, and shrimp.
Arnaud’s – Celebrating 100 years in 2018, this family owned restaurant in the French Quarter has some of the best chicken and andouille gumbo you’ll find in the city. And one heck of a Sunday jazz brunch, to boot.
Brigtsen’s – With Chef Frank Brigtsen running the show, you’re in for a treat. His file gumbo (ground sassafras tree leaves) with chicken and andouille sausage has an ingredient list that’s simple, but the flavor it yields is highly complex.
Restaurant Stanley – Located on the iconic corner of St. Ann and Chartres is where you’ll find a bowl of shrimp, oyster, chicken and andouille sausage gumbo that’s hard to beat. Feeling Cajun? Add a scoop of potato salad for $2.50.
Herbsaint – Cajun born and bred Chef Donald Link kicks things up a notch with this duck, tasso, and andouille gumbo at his St. Charles Avenue restaurant.
Parkway Tavern – Not just known for po-boys but an awesome version of gumbo as well. Head on over to Mid-City to sample their version made with turkey and alligator sausage.
K Paul’s – Chef Paul Prudhomme made millions selling his own line of spices and marinades, but it’s his food that’s worth every penny – especially his chicken and andouille gumbo with pan-braised chicken, house-made stock, and a dark roux.
The Gumbo Shop – There aren’t many places you can find gumbo z’herbes in New Orleans, but The Gumbo Shop serves it all year long. Made with greens like mustard, collards, spinach, kale, and swiss chard, this is a gumbo you can feel good about!
Dooky Chase – Known for serving up some of the best soul food in town, Chef Leah Chase has made a name for herself with both locals and tourists. Don’t miss out on a bowl of her meat and seafood gumbo that features shrimp, crab, chicken, ham, veal brisket and two kinds of sausage. She means business!