Mardi Gras is just around the corner and what could be more emblematic of New Orleans than Louisiana Shrimp Gumbo? Even if you can’t travel to The Big Easy you can sample its delicious cuisine right in your home. Mix up a big pot and celebrate Fat Tuesday the NOLA way. This recipe has been updated from the original February 2015 version in order to provide a better experience for our readers. Last update February 2019.
Authentic Gumbo Background
I discovered gumbo crosses all class barriers — Cajun or Creole — it appears on the tables of the poor as well as the wealthy. I learned this when we had dinner with Honey’s Louisiana born Aunts Emilie and Adèle.
The dinner was going along just fine until I asked them how to make a proper gumbo.
“Well, the only proper gumbo is a Creole seafood gumbo.” Aunt Emilie immediately piped in. “It has your shellfish, tomatoes, a delicious dark roux made with butter and flour, okra, and if I have filé, I’ll add that to the pot.”
“No, no!” said Aunt Adèle. “To get the taste of a true gumbo you need to make it the Cajun way. You have to add ham, chicken, and Andouille, plus the trinity. And we make our roux with oil and flour, no butter!”
“Ha! Oil!” said Aunt Emilie. “You can’t get a dark, tasty roux with oil. You need butter. Cajun cooking doesn’t have the refinement of Creole!”
“Really?” asked Aunt Adèle. “Why, then, are so many Cajun restaurants and no Creole?”
I swear those two sounded just like Ouiser Boudreaux and Clairee Belcher in Steel Magnolias. But in-between the friendly bickering I did learn quite a bit about shrimp and chicken gumbos.
All it takes to make a great gumbo is…
- favorite meat
- The Holy Trinity
- dark roux
- strong stock
- amazing seasonings
The evolution of seafood gumbo
Just like Aunts Emilie and Adèle have different ways to cook their gumbo they couldn’t actually claim that the dish and method of preparation originated with either the Creole or Cajun people.
In fact, shrimp gumbo is a perfect example of the melting-pot nature of Louisiana cuisine: Gumbo derives from a West African word for okra, suggesting that gumbo was originally made with okra.
But there are those who use filé, which is dried and ground sassafras leaves, in their gumbo and that is a contribution from the Choctaws and possibly, other local tribes.
Then there is the French influence in the use of roux, although the roux in gumbos is much darker than in French cuisine.
Cajun and Creole Gumbo Seasoning
Although they disagreed on countless things, the Aunts finally agreed on these seasonings for their gumbos.
- Black Pepper
- Garlic Powder
- Onion Powder
- Cayenne Peppe
- Dried Oregano
- Dried thyme
Aunt Emilie admitted that Creole seasoning mixes use more paprika than Cajun mixes. Also, the mixes often include sweet basil, celery seed and white pepper.
I suspected that’s because Cajun cooking is rural and basic while Creole is citified. Aunt Adèle confirmed my suspicions by saying that she grew up in the some of the fancy seasonings weren’t readily available to them.
A proper Louisiana Gumbo
People are very passionate about what constitutes the texture and consistency of a “proper gumbo” and exactly what should be in it.
Some Cajuns argue that no tomatoes or okra touch their gumbo, while some say that filé is necessary for the taste and texture.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be in the middle of some of those arguments — they get fighting mad!!
Every October there’s a World Championship Gumbo Cook-off in New Iberia, Louisiana.
There you’ll find all sorts of combinations in the stew
- Andouille or chorizo
One ingredient that all agree upon — rice.
More Cajun and Creole Gumbo Similarities
Both of them use the “the Holy Trinity” which is their version of the French mirepoix.
Traditional mirepoix calls for:
- two parts diced yellow onions
- one part diced carrots
- one part diced celery.
A typical trinity
- two parts diced yellow onions
- one part green bell pepper
- one part celery
Sometimes also garlic and parsley.
Part of gumbo’s appeal is that it’s very forgiving of the cook. Measurements don’t have to be exact you may substitute with what’s at hand. It’s a lot like our Chicken Minestrone Soup.
How nice is that?
How about giving Louisiana Shrimp Gumbo a try? You can substitute chicken for the shrimp and chicken stock for the clam juice making it Chicken Gumbo.
And believe me this seafood Gumbo is as good as it looks. Give it a try — you’ll love it.
And as they say in Louisiana. . .
. . .Laissez les bons temps rouler! – Let the good times roll!
Tutti a tavola è pronto
Un caro saluto e alla prossima
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This is just like the Clam Juice we use in our recipe. Clam juice is so handy especially when you want that additional clam flavor. We even splash some more juice in the pot when we make mussels or a fish stew. When we make fish chowder we add some of this tasty juice to enhance the flavor of the chowder.
Louisiana Shrimp Gumbo: A Stew For All Tastes
Whether you call it Cajun Gumbo, Creole Gumbo, or just Gumbo we call it delicious! This stew is so forgiving. Add whatever meat you want. Chicken Gumbo is very popular and you can easily substitute it for the shrimp. You prefer Andouille sausage to the Kielbasa? Put in what you and your family like. The blending of cultures is what gives this stew a depth of flavor that’s missing from other dishes. We guarantee that you’ll want to celebrate Mardi Gras more than once a year.
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Louisiana Shrimp Gumbo
- 1 pound medium shrimp 31-35 count peeled, deveined and sliced in half lengthwise -- they'll curl up when cooked.
- 4-5 oz. of kielbasa sausage sliced then sliced again in half moons you can also use andouille sausage**
- 6 strips 1/2 lb. thick-sliced bacon
- 1 cup yellow onion diced
- 1 cup celery diced
- 1/2 cup red bell pepper diced
- 3 jalapeno peppers we left the seeds in -- we like it HOT!
- 1 Tablespoon garlic minced
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 Tablespoons dry sherry
- 1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 3 cups bottled clam juice
- 1 1/2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup frozen sliced okra
- 1/4 cup scallions green onions thinly sliced white and green part
- Brown Rice made according to package directions we like to make extra so we have it for other dishes We like to add a scoop to the plated gumbo
- An alternate method is to add 1/2 cup converted-style rice at the final boil with clam juice and broth.
- Chopped celery leaves for garnish
- Slice the shrimp in half lengthwise and set aside
- Fry bacon until crisp in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and let drain on paper towels and set aside. Pour off bacon drippings, reserving 5 Tablespoons. Return the pot to the burner.
- Saute shrimp in 2 Tablespoons drippings for 3 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly. Remove shrimp and set aside.
- Saute onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic in 3 Tablespoons drippings for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Combine flour and seasonings; stir into vegetables. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Deglaze with lemon juice, sherry, and Worcestershire, scraping up bits from the bottom of the pot.
- Add the clam juice and broth ( also the 1/2 cup converted rice if you want it cooked in the gumbo) Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low, and cook 20 minutes.
- Stir in okra, scallions, shrimp, and bacon.
- Remove from heat and let sit for 5 minutes.
- To serve you can pour the gumbo over a serving of rice or you can add a scoop of rice on top of the gumbo like we did.
- Garnish with celery leaves.
- * Don't cook the okra too long - it will turn stringy.
- ** We use kielbasa sausage instead of andouille because we find it has less fat in it.
- ***Whenever we make a dish we have all the items prepped ahead of time. For instance, we will mix the flour with the seasoning in a dish and in a measuring cup we will have the deglazing liquid ready to pour into the pot.
- Inspired by a gumbo recipe in Cuisine At Home - June 2003 issue.
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