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Gumbo is a spicy, hearty stew or soup, found typically in the states on the Gulf of Mexico in the United States, and very common in the southern part of Louisiana. It is eaten year round, but is usually found during the colder months. This is due to the extended cooking time required, as a large pot full of simmering liquid will heat up the surrounding area.

The dish named gumbo usually consists of two components, rice and broth, and is usually made in large batches. Left-over broth is frozen for later use. Rice is made fresh daily. The rice is prepared separately from the broth, and are mixed only in the serving bowl.

The gumbo broth can contain seafood (typically crab and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico), fowl (usually duck, quail, chicken or goose), and other meats, used as seasoning (smoked or fresh sausage, tasso (Cajun smoked pork), andouille (Cajun smoked sausage), and other smoked or preserved meats). A traditional lenten variety called gumbo z'herbes (from the French gumbo aux herbes), essentially a gumbo of smothered greens thickened with roux, also exists.

Many variations of the broth exist. Some say they can be separated into two schools of thought, okra gumbo and filé gumbo. Some gumbo recipies contain okra, roux, and filé, but most contain either okra and roux, filé and roux, okra alone, or roux alone. Mixing okra and filé is considered a cardinal sin in Louisianan cuisine.

Table of contents
1 Okra
2 Roux
3 Filé
4 Rice


The first kind of gumbo is made with okra. Some say that the word "Gumbo" originally meant "Okra" in an African language. In southeast Louisiana, many consider okra the one essential ingredient in gumbo, and anything made without okra cannot be called "gumbo".

Okra serves as a flavor base. The okra is cleaned, then cut into small pieces. Added to the pot with lighter meats, such as chicken or shrimp, the okra and meat simmer together with the typical seasonings of onion, celery, and bell pepper ("the trinity") for a number of hours. Other typical ingredients are parsley, hot peppers, and occasionally other vegetables, such as tomato. Sausage and other processed meats can be added as well, but this is not common.


A roux begins by mixing oil and wheat flour in a pot. This mixture is stirred constantly until the desired color is reached. That color can range from a light peanut butter brown, to very nearly black. The exact color of roux for a perfect gumbo is a point of contention. Every family has its own taste. This gumbo will also use "the trinity" of onion, celery, and bell pepper. The roux based gumbo will use nearly any type of fowl, shellfish, or processed meat. This type of gumbo is also known as a filé (FEE-lay) gumbo (Made famous in the classic song "Jambalaya" by Hank Williams).


Filé is dried and ground sassafrass leaves, and is sprinkled over the rice and gumbo by the individual, in the serving bowl. The filé acts as a thickening agent, and adds a unique flavor. Filé is sold already dried and ground in grocery stores.


The rice is nearly always plain white rice, steamed or boiled with only salt, and sometimes a trace amount of white vinegar or other flavorings added.

The ratio of broth to rice is also a point of contention. Some prefer "damp rice" and some only add a minimal amount of rice to a bowl of broth. This is stictly personal taste.

Traditional side dishes include potato salad, fresh bread, or baked sweet potatoes.