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Seafood Gumbo

by Mary Sacks

Seafood Gumbo

The history of Gumbo is complex. The Big 3 ingredients have different roots. Gumbo is derived from the West African word for okra, filé by way of the Choctaws Indians, and the roux is French. Most familiar are gumbos made of chicken and sausage, but references to seafood gumbo appear in print as early as 1885.


  • 2 qt. prepared RBC Seafood Broth
  • 1½ lbs. medium shrimp (41 to 50 or 51 to 60 per lb.) or 2 lbs. if using head-on shrimp
  • 2 cups chopped white onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • ¼ cup plus 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 lb. fresh or thawed frozen okra, sliced ¼ inch thick (about 4 cups) (See Food for Thought below)
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
  • ½ lb. fresh or pasteurized lump crabmeat (about 1½ cups), picked over for shells
  • 1 Tbsp. dried thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper; more to taste
  • 1 cup fresh shucked oysters (halved if large)
  • ½ cup thinly sliced scallions (about 8)
  • hot sauce, to taste


  • Preparing the Okra. To develop its flavor, okra should be pan-fried before it is added to the gumbo. Pan-fry in ¼ cup of oil over medium-high heat until browned. Cook in batches, if necessary, so that the okra is only in one layer while frying. Drain on paper towels. Place the prepared Okra to the side.
  • Heat the remaining 6 Tbsp. oil over medium-high heat in a 6-quart Dutch oven. Once it’s hot, add the flour and stir constantly with a wooden spoon or heatproof spatula until the roux reaches the color of caramel, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the onion and stir until the roux deepens to a chocolate-brown, 1-3 minutes. Add the celery and bell pepper and cook, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the prepared RBC Seafood Broth, okra, tomatoes, gumbo crabs (if using), thyme, bay leaf, salt, and pepper. Adjust the heat to medium-low or low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes.
  • Five minutes before serving, add the shrimp, fresh or pasteurized lump crabmeat (if using), oysters, and scallions. Add hot sauce, salt, and pepper to taste. Serve in large soup bowls over ¼ cup cooked rice per serving.
  • Serve hot sauce on the side.

Food for Thought

  • Filé. Filé is a classic thickener, but not used in this recipe. It has a distinctive earthy flavor. I’m not a big fan and usually, with this recipe, no other thickening is necessary other than the roux.
  • Okra. Okra contains a lot of “slime.” Pre-frying the okra ahead of time will cut down on the slime and so will soaking the okra in vinegar and water for about 20 minutes before it’s cooked. This recipe calls for pan-frying the okra, but deep frying it will also work.
  • Make Ahead. Making Gumbo the day before is a great idea. Gumbo is like many stews, always best the second day. If you are not going to serve this dish until the next day, I would hold off on the seafood until you are heating it up for dinner.


  • 6 to 8

Mary Sacks
Mary Sacks


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