Creole and Cajun cuisines of the southern USA are known for their iconic cozy, flavorful dishes, and this article is dedicated to one of their specialties. So, let’s have a look at gumbo and its ingredients.
Gumbo is a hearty stew packed with animal protein and vegetables, traditionally served with rice. We can find three main types of gumbo in reference to southern cuisine. They are:
Here’s to all the exciting information we have stacked up for you in this comprehensive gumbo article! And the best part is right at the bottom- keep scrolling!
What Is Gumbo?
Gumbo is obviously one of the most iconic and popular dishes you can find in the Creole and Cajun cuisines. It is more like a cross between a soup and a hearty stew in which other ingredients apart from its basics could slightly vary depending on the recipe, region, household, or cook. Gumbo can be enjoyed on its own, but traditionally it is served with cooked white rice.
All general facts apart, gumbo can be recognized as a dish with diversity. Although people apart from the southern USA could see this dish as one of the spotlights, many variations could be found within the cuisine. In essence, gumbo could vary starting from the texture, color, ingredients, flavor, etc.
A Little Peek To The History And Origin Of Gumbo
Gumbo is popular for its manifestation of the intersection of southern cuisine’s three main cooking cultures- Native American, West African, and European. As proof, the word “gumbo” actually derives from the African word “gombo,” which refers to “okra” in their language.
In fact, okra is a key ingredient in the dish. And it is believed that the dish adapted to its present nature through the enslaved Africans’ usage of okra in their traditional dishes, the French colonists developed the gumbo roux, and the usage of sausages is basically a result of the Spanish settlers in Louisiana.
However, gumbo recipes began to emerge in New Orleans cookbooks at the advent of the nineteenth century. The sources say that in 1803, gumbo was spooned out at a gubernatorial blowout in New Orleans, and in 1804 this dish was served at a Cajun community on the Acadian Coast.
Creole Gumbo ~
Basically, the gumbo dish prepared in New Orleans and southeastern Louisiana is known as “Creole Gumbo.” The dish was named after Louisiana-Creole people, who were the descendants of the area’s Spanish, French and African immigrants.
Ingredients in Creole Gumbo
Creole gumbo is not much different from the Cajun one we’ll discuss in the next section. But still, gumbo from Creole cuisine includes tomatoes, and seafood, along with a darker roux than that is used in Cajun gumbo.
Spices And Herbs In Creole Gumbo
- Creole seasoning (This blend is a combination of piquant spices and several herbs, including cayenne pepper, paprika, garlic powder, thyme, basil. etc.)
- Garlic (fresh garlic/ garlic powder/ garlic salt)
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- Bay leaves
Other Ingredients In Creole Gumbo
- Seafood- Creole gumbo often comes together with seafood like shrimp, crawfish, crabs, lobsters, and scallops.
- Chicken- Lean chicken meat is sauteed with a bit of oil, or rotisserie chicken is incorporated along with sauteed sausages into the broth. In most recipes, we see a combination of chicken, smoked sausages, and seafood.
- Stock- In most recipes, chicken stock or seafood stock is used, which can be made at home or pre-packaged from the store. Some recipes include bullion cubes, so low-sodium stock is used in such instances. In fact, the stock is vital in gumbo since it serves as the bulk of this dish.
- Tomatoes- Stewed canned tomatoes or freshly stewed tomatoes are used often.
- Holy Trinity of southern cuisine- equal parts of celery, green bell peppers, and onions are used.
- Worcestershire sauce
- Hot sauce
- Tomato sauce
- White vinegar/ distilled vinegar
- Bullion cubes
- Amber-style beer
Is Creole Gumbo Keto-Friendly?
Creole gumbo is usually served with white or brown rice. So, this dish is considered high in carbs and therefore is not regarded as keto-friendly.
Is Creole Gumbo Vegan?
Traditionally, Creole gumbo is heavy on animal proteins like sausages, seafood, and chicken. The base of this stew is also made with chicken or seafood stock. Thus, classic Creole gumbo is not a suitable option for vegans.
Does Creole Gumbo Contain Gluten?
Creole gumbo is not typically gluten-free since the gumbo roux contains flour. In addition, the bullion cubes might also contain traces of gluten.
Does Creole Gumbo Contain MSG?
Traditionally, Creole gumbo does not call for MSG. But, if you use different types of sauces, store-bought stocks, bullion cubes, or even some sausages might contain MSG. Therefore, this dish cannot be considered one hundred percent MSG-free.
Cajun Gumbo ~
Cajun gumbo is commonly made in southwestern Louisiana. The dish was named after the French-speaking settlers who were expelled from Arcadia. Cajun gumbo typically comes together with smoked sausages and chicken and does not usually contain tomatoes, like Creole gumbo.
Spices And Herbs In Cajun Gumbo
- Cajun seasoning- This seasoning usually includes robust ingredients like paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, black and white pepper powder, dried thyme, etc. This rich seasoning blend complements the animal proteins and vegetables in gumbo, adding the perfect amount of seasoning to the liquid.
- Garlic (fresh garlic/ garlic powder/ garlic salt)
- Cayenne pepper
- Black pepper
- Bay leaves
Other Ingredients In Cajun Gumbo
- Chicken stock
- The Holy Trinity- celery, green bell pepper, and onions
Is Cajun Gumbo Keto-Friendly?
Since Cajun Gumbo is typically served with rice, the dish is considered high in carbs. So, this will not essentially be a good pick for the ones on a keto diet.
Is Cajun Gumbo Vegan-Friendly?
A classic Cajun gumbo is rich in animal protein, and the base liquid is usually put together with chicken stock. So, traditional Cajun gumbo is not vegan-friendly.
Does Cajun Gumbo Contain MSG?
Artificial additives like MSG are not essential requirements for this dish. But still, the stock, bullion cubes added, and sausages might contain MSG.
Does Cajun Gumbo Contain Gluten?
The base of Cajun gumbo is made with a roux that contains wheat flour. In addition, if you add bullion cubes to this dish, they also might contain gluten. Therefore, this dish is not a good option for those who
are sensitive to gluten or track a gluten-free diet.
Gumbo Z’herbes (Green Gumbo) ~
Traditionally, gumbo z’herbes, also known as Green Gumbo or Gumbo of Greens, is considered the vegetarian version of Cajun gumbo. This variety of gumbo was introduced for the Catholics who expected to abstain from eating meat during Lent and is very popular in Louisiana.
The greens were cooked to a pulp and strained through a sieve to make a thick green liquid. Preparation for this type of gumbo was time-consuming. However, even though the traditional preparation was meant to be vegan or vegetarian, the dish has evolved in modern times with the addition of crab meat, sausages, ham, etc.
Spices And Herbs In Gumbo Z’herbes
- Cajun seasoning
- Black pepper
- Ground red pepper/ red chili flakes
- Bay leaves
Other Ingredients In Gumbo Z’herbes
This gumbo dish is enriched with an assortment of greens, such as:
- Romaine lettuce
- Mustard greens
- Collard greens
- Turnip greens
In addition to these greens, this dish also contains:
- Vegetable stock
- Green bell pepper
- The Holy Trinity- Onion, green bell peppers, celery
- Smoked sausages
- Smoked ham
- Crab meat
Is Gumbo Z’herbes Keto-Friendly?
Like all the other gumbo types, gumbo z’herbes is also served with rice. Therefore, this dish is also not a good choice for keto dieters.
Is Gumbo Z’herbes Vegan-Friendly?
Traditional gumbo z’herbes is a perfect pick for vegans since it only contains greens, vegetables, and vegetable stock as the base liquid. But the modern-day gumbo z’herbes often contain assorted meat and sausage types, which will not be suitable to have on a vegan diet.
Does Gumbo Z’herbes Contain MSG?
This dish does not traditionally call for MSG like any other gumbo variety. But the additions like store-bought stocks, bullion cubes, ham, and sausages might contain this ingredient.
Does Gumbo Z’herbes Contain Gluten?
The base of gumbo z’herbes is made with a roux which includes wheat flour. And if any bullion cubes are added, they might also contain traces of gluten, making the entire dish unsuitable for those who follow a gluten-free diet.
What Is Gumbo Base?
A gumbo base is a readily available product in the store that you can use to make a cost-effective, quick gumbo.
Pre-packaged gumbo bases typically come as a powder and generally contain roux, spices, herbs, file powder, seasonings, and other natural/artificial additives and preservatives. You will have to add rice, vegetables, meat, seafood, and sausages as required to make a complete gumbo dish.
Common And Special Ingredients Used In All The Varieties Of Gumbo
What Is The Gumbo Roux, And Why Is It So Important?
The roux is the key to any great gumbo recipe! This is usually made with one part flour and one part fat (oil, butter, or margarine). Making the roux consumes a bit of time, and it is a slow, conservative process to follow through. Generally, flour is added to hot oil and whisked through until well combined, and the mixture is dark brown (almost like mud or chocolate) and the texture of dough.
This ingredient adds a deep, rich flavor to the gumbo and gives it its thick signature consistency. Most make the roux as one step in making gumbo, or you can also make it ahead and store it. Roux can also be bought from supermarkets, groceries, or ordered from online vendors.
Okra In Gumbo, And Why?
Okra is a traditional ingredient in gumbo primarily added to get the thickness of this dish. As mentioned previously, okra is a vegetable that has roots in Africa. It is recognized for its slimy nature, and in modern gumbo recipes, okra is added as frozen cuts.
Those who are not very good fans of the sliminess of this vegetable tend to saute okra in a bit of oil before adding this to gumbo. It also adds a sweet, earthy flavor that perfectly balances the delicate flavor of the chicken and seafood.
File Powder in Gumbo
File powder, also known as Gumbo File, is produced from dried sassafras leaves. This ingredient was initially used by Choctaw Indians and was later embraced by Acadians (Cajuns) when they reached south America.
Gumbo file has a profound, earthy flavor similar to thyme and is often added to gumbo in the last stages of cooking. The key use of this ingredient is to thicken and enrich the dish to get authentic southern flavors.
Sausages As A Common Ingredient
Being another traditional addition, this ingredient plays a significant role in classic sausage gumbo. Cajun, Creole, and gumbo z’herbes typically call for smoked and spicy sausage variants such as Andouille and turkey. Other types of sausages like pork or beef are also used occasionally, but most recipes are hefty in Andouille and turkey.
Sausages are often paired with sauteed chicken, and sausages are also sliced and lightly pan-fried before adding to the broth of the gumbo. Nevertheless, adding one more type of sausage is important in gumbo since they define the profundity of the flavor of this dish.
How Is Rice Used With Gumbo?
Rice is another featured ingredient in this dish. All the gumbo variations are served with a portion of rice, and mostly, it is white rice -either whole grain or jasmine. But this type of rice totally depends on personal preference, and we occasionally see gumbo being served with brown rice as well.
Gumbo vs Jambalaya- What’s The Difference?
Gumbo and jambalaya are both famous and inherent dishes in southern cuisine. Although they contain similar ingredients, they are different in terms of texture and taste. In fact, jambalaya is basically a wet rice dish with a gravy-like consistency. On the contrary, gumbo is a stew that is served with rice. In essence, rice is a vital yet secondary ingredient in gumbo, while it is the main ingredient in jambalaya.
Concluding Thoughts About Gumbo In General…
Cajun gumbo, Creole gumbo, and gumbo z’herbes (green gumbo) are dishes that are treasured by the southern USA communities. Gumbo, in general, is one of their quintessential dishes enjoyed regardless of the event. This dish is a delectable, cozy, and wholesome food enriched with vegetables, meat, seafood, and a flavorful broth, served with fragrant cooked rice.