Gumbo is one of the most quintessential dishes in Louisiana, with styles ranging from a more Cajun, dark roux gumbo to lighter, tomatoey style Creole gumbos. Everybody and their mama has a favorite style with their own recipe or variation! Growing up in the capital city of Baton Rouge, I got a taste of both styles, with influences from Lafayette to New Orleans and everywhere in between.
Now that I’m all grown up and living life in Lafayette (hey, Hub City!), I proudly make my gumbo from scratch, down to the roux (the darker, the better for gumbo!) and you won’t find a tomato in the gumbo pot, no matter how hard you look! Here in Cajun Country, folks take their gumbo seriously and there’s a real sense of pride in these recipes that have been passed down for generations.
The most important step to this recipe (and a ton of other cajun classics) is the roux. To make a roux, you heat roughly equal parts oil (or butter) and flour over a medium/high heat, stirring constantly. The longer you stir, the darker the roux will become and there’s a good use for just about every color you reach (minus a burnt, black roux, of course!). It’s a pretty simple concept, but the process requires every bit of your attention from start to finish.
There are a decent amount of options out there for people that aren’t interested in stirring the pot non-stop for a good 15-30 minutes. You can find everything from jarred and powdered roux to liquid “gumbo base”. Whatever method you turn to is up to you, but don’t be afraid to try out a roux from scratch. It isn’t necessarily a crucial step to a killer gumbo, but it definitely helps!
You can read the full step by step instructions down below, but another important step worth mentioning comes when you’re adding the broth. After the roux has browned and you’ve sautéed your veggies, you’re going to want to add that broth in very slowly! Add just a hefty splash a time, stirring it into the roux until it takes on more of a liquid consistency. At that point, you can add in a little more at a time. If you just dump all that liquid in (which I’ve done before, without even thinking!), the broth won’t have a chance to fully incorporate and you’ll end up with an oily, splotchy, separated base for your gumbo.
Making a gumbo from scratch may seem like an intimidating process, but don’t be afraid to get in there and give it a shot. If you burn a roux, you’re only losing out on some flour and oil, which isn’t a huge loss. Just toss it out and try, try again!