One of the great chameleons of American cuisine, no two gumbo recipes are exactly the same. Whether thickened with a Creole tomato-and-
okra base, a rich Cajun dark roux, earthy filé powder, or some combination of the three, the classic stew remains one of Louisiana’s most well-known dishes—and one of the world’s most versatile comfort foods.
Our favorite gumbo recipes vary wildly. Once the “holy trinity”—that essential mix of celery, green bell pepper, and onion—has been diced, all sorts of other ingredients can be added to the pot.
Smoked turkey and andouille sausage yield a classic country gumbo, while goose and foie gras combine in an elegant version from New Orleans. Seafood gumbo, made with crab legs, prawns, crawfish, or oysters, is popular primarily along the Gulf Coast, while gumbo z’herbes, a restorative vegetarian iteration defined by its mix of fresh greens, is traditionally enjoyed during the Catholic period of Lent.
Despite their many humble ingredients, each of these versions is equally extraordinary. Once you’ve made your selection, take a minute to go over our quick
gumbo tips, and remember: Whichever formula you choose, gumbo is a labor of love. Besides the holy trinity, the only essential ingredient is time, necessary for creating the depth of flavor elemental to any great gumbo.
“There are as many ways to make gumbo in Louisiana as there are cooks,” says chef Frank Brigtsen of Brigtsen’s restaurant in New Orleans, “but the thing they all have in common is the use of a roux.” Get the recipe > Dan Dao
This seafood gumbo from Brooklyn’s Maison Premiere features smokey andouille sausage, seared shrimp, oysters, and crab. Get the recipe > Thomas Payne
This meatless gumbo, made with various greens, is a traditional Lenten dish in Louisiana’s Catholic communities. Ham, sausage, or meat stock is often used in the soup at other times of the year. Get the recipe for ‘Green’ Gumbo (Gumbo Z’Herbes) > Thomas Payne
Located in a Lafayette, Louisiana farmhouse from the 1830s that has served as both a Confederate Army headquarters and, during the city’s 1980s oil boom, a singles bar, Café Vermilionville smokes the turkey for this luxurious gumbo right out back in a makeshift smoker. The resulting dish embodies the rich flavors of dark roux and barbecued meat. Get the recipe > Ingalls Photography
New Orleans chef Donald Link was born and raised in the Cajun town of Lake Charles, Louisiana, and this rustic gumbo, which is often served at his St. Charles Avenue restaurant Herbsaint, always reminds him of home. To give the gumbo added flavor, Link makes his roux with the same oil he uses to fry the chicken, which he later shreds and adds to the pot, along with his homemade andouille sausage. The result is a dark, thick, rustic stew with just the right amount of heat. Get the recipe > Chris Granger
Most gumbos begin with a roux—a flavorful thickener made by cooking fat with flour. But there are as many ways to make a gumbo as there are cooks in Louisiana. Many versions of the dish, especially those of Creole origin, are made without a roux, including this recipe from The Times Picayune’s Creole Cookbook (Random House, 1989), which uses a combination of tomatoes and okra as a thickener. While adding tomatoes to gumbo is heresy in many Cajun kitchens, Creole cooks are fans of the bright, sweet complexity they add to the dish—and so are we. Get the recipe > Ingalls Photography
One of the best things about gumbo is that it’s a truly imaginative dish—one that can be made with whatever happens to be in your kitchen at any given time. This recipe—based on a hand-written version given to us by Barbara Sias, a cook at the Rice Palace restaurant, in Crowley, Louisiana—combines inexpensive cuts of meat, including oxtail, ground sausage, and turkey necks, yielding a rich, hearty gumbo that, despite its humble ingredients, is nothing short of extraordinary. Get the recipe > Ingalls Photography
Abbeville, Louisiana native Janice Macomber, who teaches Cajun-style cooking at the New Orleans Food Experience, gave us the recipe for this seafood-laden, subtly spicy gumbo made from the bounty of Louisiana’s waters. Into the pot go blue crabs, shrimp, and delicious chunks of lump crabmeat, resulting in a dish that’s reminiscent of the bayous of south Louisiana. No matter where you live, be sure to use the freshest seafood available. Get the recipe > Chris Granger
Prejean’s restaurant in Lafayette, Louisiana, dishes up this rich gumbo chock full of smoked duck and andouille sausage. Get the recipe > Chris Granger
Opened in 1880, the iconic New Orleans restaurant Commander’s Palace is known for its refined versions of classic Creole dishes, such as pecan-crusted Gulf fish served with sweet corn, Gulf crab, and spiced pecans, quail lacquered with chicory-style coffee, and this elegant gumbo from chef Tory McPhail, made with rich, smoky goose meat, foie gras, and a variety of mushrooms. Get the recipe > Ingalls Photography
This dish is sort of a gumbo in reverse: quail, roasted to a deep golden brown, is stuffed with dirty rice and smothered in a chocolate-colored purée of roux, andouille, duck, and vegetables. As you slice the quail, the dirty rice falls out, spilling into the bowl and mixing with the sauce. Get the recipe > Chris Granger