New Orleans Seafood File Gumbo

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My New Orleans Seafood Gumbo recipe is packed with beaucoup flavor! It’s filled with smoked sausage, crab, shrimp, and the holy trinity (onion, bell pepper, and celery). This comforting classic is guaranteed to be a hit and comes together in an hour.

Bowl of New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

As a New Orleanian, I take pride in gumbo. Not only the ones I make but the authentic gumbos like cajun gumbo, chicken and sausage, okra, and the least known gumbo zerbes. Serve as a big part of my cultural heritage.

Authentic gumbo has an aroma that grabs you by the nose. The combination of the dark roux, Cajun herbs and spices, chicken, shrimp, ham, tasso, smoked sausage, crab, okra, stock, and hot sausage. All of these key elements of amazing ingredients are what make gumbo special. 

I want you to be able to make a pot that tastes as it does in various homes in New Orleans and South Louisiana. 

Over the years, I have seen some pretty blasphemous ingredients added to gumbo. Some seafood and other ingredients should not be added to gumbo, no matter what. If you are guilty of adding these ingredients, it’s not your fault. You did not have a friend like me to tell you, “Babby, that don’t go in there.”

I’m not going to show you how to make a New Orleans-style gumbo. 

I’m going to show you how we make seafood gumbo in New Orleans.

I’m also going to teach you my technique of how to make a dark roux in 5 minutes without spending 45 minutes to an hour stirring the roux. I know it sounds too good to be true, but I’ve used this technique for decades, and it’s perfect.

Enough talking let’s dive into making an incredible soul-satisfying pot of seafood gumbo.

Key Ingredients

You’ll have fresh seafood and the following ingredients if you’re ready to make the best seafood gumbo recipe ever.

Roux

Gumbos are all about the roux, which forms the base of the dish. Make sure your roux is a dark chocolate brown color before you add your liquid. Once you’ve added the stock, the color will lighten up. 

Cajun Seasoning

Using the correct Cajun seasoning can work with 12 different herbs and spices. That’s why I use Savory Cajun seasoning; 1/4 cup does a great job of seasoning this gumbo to perfection. 

Seafood stock

Making your own seafood stock is an important part of achieving that mouth-watering seafood flavor we’re going for here. However, you can use chicken stock if you can’t find seafood stock. 

Smoked Sausage

Feel free to use any smoked sausage you prefer. Beef, pork, turkey, and chicken sausage will all work fine; you don’t have to use andouille sausage.

Gumbo Crabs

Blue crabs work best in a New Orleans gumbo. Frozen blue crabs will work, too; thaw slightly, rinse and quarter them.

Shrimp

Any medium-large size is fine, but make sure your fresh shrimp are peeled, deveined, and rinsed before tossing them into the gumbo pot.

Cajun Trinity

In South Louisiana, you will always find this combination of onions, celery, green bell pepper, and garlic in everything savory in Cajun cooking.

Gumbo Filé

Filé is a powder made from dried sassafras leaves used to flavor and thickens gumbo. You can find Gumbo Filé near the other cajun seasonings. There are no real substitutes for it because it has a unique flavor. 

White Rice 

Cook a pot of rice while the gumbo cooks in its own pot. Once the gumbo is finished, you’ll serve it over a nice bowl of rice. 

Seafood File Gumbo Ingredients

Savory Seasoning Wide Ad

How to Make Seafood Filé Gumbo Recipe?

Before making gumbo, remember that the dark brown roux is the most significant factor in any gumbo. The roux adds signature flavor and body to the gumbo. A gumbo shouldn’t be thick like gravy but not as thin as a typical soup. 

How to make a dark roux? 

The tools needed to make a roux are a metal whisk or wooden spoon and a large pot of at least 6-8 quarts.

Heat oil in a heavy bottom pot or large dutch oven over medium-high heat, and bring oil to a smoke point. You will see faint white smoke coming off the oil; a thicker smoke will burn the flour, remove from heat and let the oil cool for 3 minutes.

Whisk flour and oil until dark chocolate-colored roux forms; if the roux is browning too quickly, remove from the heat while stirring fast and reduce heat to medium-low. Your roux should be thick and smooth, and pourable. If it’s too runny, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour; if the roux is too thick, add 1-2 tablespoons of oil to thin it out.

Add onion, green bell pepper, celery, and half the Cajun Seasoning, and stir for 2-3 minutes, making sure the roux has coated the vegetables fully (this is where you can add okra). 

Add garlic, bay leaves, remaining Cajun seasoning, and cayenne. Turn heat up to medium-high heat, and add seafood stock in thirds to prevent lumps. Add sliced smoked sausage, crab, thyme, and worcestershire sauce (here’s where you would add chicken).

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour uncovered; skim any foam that rises to the top (this is cooked flour). Taste the gumbo and add kosher salt and black pepper, and garlic powder to taste; add shrimp. Cover for 10 minutes until shrimp are fully cooked. 

Serve gumbo hot in a bowl over white rice and garnish with 2 teaspoons of filé powder, green onions, and fresh parsley. 

New Orleans Seafood File Gumbo in a bowl

What NOT to Add to Gumbo?

When I tell you that it took years for my grandmother to trust me with the gumbo pot, I mean it. In my house, gumbo is attached to my earliest food memories. 

While I know that gumbo varies based on the recipe, there are some ingredients that I will tell you do not belong in any gumbo. 

Here’s what NOT to add to Cajun-Creole gumbo: 

  • Corn 
  • Tomatoes 
  • Eggs
  • Whole Crawfish 
  • Mussels 
  • Clams 
  • Fish fillets or pieces
  • Boudin (sausage mixed with rice) 
  • Browning or Kitchen Bouquet 
  • Carrots 
  • Hot dogs (no, no, no…) 
Overhead shot New Orleans Seafood File Gumbo on wood table

Pro Recipe Tips and Tips

Here are some of my top tips to help you make the best gumbo: 

  • The dark your roux, the less thickening power it will have. 
  • Toast flour in a dry skillet or oven to make it healthier. Toast until peanut butter brown.
  • Everybody makes gumbo a little different, but dark chocolate color roux is the main ingredient.
  • Make a homemade shrimp stock by boiling the shrimp shells, heads, and scraps of vegetables for 30 minutes.
  • Feel free to use chicken stock instead of seafood stock.
  • Chicken broth and chicken stock will add the same flavor.
  • If you like a thicker gumbo, reduce the amount of stock to 10 cups. 
  • You don’t have to use andouille sausage to make Cajun gumbo. 
  • Frozen blue crabs will work, instead of fresh; thaw slightly, rinse and quarter them.
  • Are you looking for more heat? Double up on the cayenne pepper, or add hot sauce to your bowl. 
  • Alternatively, you can cut the cayenne pepper in half for less heat.
  • Feel free to use your favorite Cajun seasoning instead of Savory Cajun seasoning.
  • Feel free to use brown rice instead of white rice. 
  • Don’t be afraid of making too much—gumbo is ALWAYS better the next day.
  • Add the filé powder to your bowl at the dinner table. filé is a thickening agent, and a little goes a long way. Add too much, and your gumbo will turn slimy. 
  • Worcestershire sauce is an unusual ingredient, but it adds a great flavor to the gumbo.
  • If you want to make this gluten-free, I recommend using fresh okra as a thickening agent. Thaw and dry, frozen okra before cooking. 
  • Granulated garlic powder balances out the toasted roux flavors the best without using more salt. 
  • You can top your bowl of seafood gumbo with jumbo lump crab meat. 
  • Seafood gumbo is infamous for spoiling. Cooling it down quickly is the best way to keep it from spoiling. I like using a homemade ice block, a 2-liter or large plastic bottle filled with frozen water. 

How to Make Seafood Gumbo Recipe Video:

Seafood Gumbo FAQs

Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about this Southern comfort food recipe: 

What is the baste of Cajun gumbo?

The base of filé gumbo is a dark brown roux that resembles melted dark chocolate. The roux adds the correct color, flavor, and texture to make the best seafood gumbo. 

What does filé do for gumbo?

Filé powder is a thickening agent that has a unique flavor to gumbo. The Choctaw Indians would pound sassafras leaves until they formed a powder. Before eating, stir gumbo filé powder in your bowl. If added to the pot while cooking, it would thicken your gumbo.

Overhead shot of New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

Why is it called gumbo filé?

 
The name comes from the West African and Choctaw Natives. Okra is pronounced “ki ngombo in West Africa to describe a stew with fish or shell fished thickened with okra. Filé is a grounded leaf used as a thickener for soups and sauces by the Choctaw and other natives from the region. 

Why does seafood gumbo spoil?

Seafood gumbo spoils for two reasons, overcooking and improperly cooling. The best way to stop this is to fill up with water a clean large juice bottle or 2-liter and freeze it the night before. Remove any glue and wrapping from bottles.
 
Place the frozen bottle in the pot of gumbo to cool it off fast.

overhead shot of New Orleans Seafood gumbo in a blue bowl.

What is traditional in gumbo?

The traditional ingredients in a New Orleans gumbo are the roux, Cajun seasoning, onion, celery and bell peppers, chicken thighs, breast or wings, shrimp, shucked oysters, ham, tasso, smoked sausage, crab, okra, stock, and hot sausage. 
 
Making your own stock is optional, but if you have fresh seafood, you should have some scraps to make a stock.

What does it mean for gumbo to spoil?

When seafood gumbo is not cooled before going in the fridge or cooking the gumbo too long after adding your seafood, the gumbo will spoil from overcooking the seafood. I like to keep frozen water bottles in my freezer and place them in the gumbo to help cool down in under 2 hours. 

Overhead shot of New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

What are some ways to cool gumbo?

There are three main ways we chill large pots of anything in the culinary industry, and they all are great ways to ensure food is safe for consumption. 

1) Divide the large pot of gumbo between two pots.

2) Fill your sink with ice water (enough to come halfway up your pot) and place the cooled pot inside the ice water. Stir occasionally to release heat and refill the ice as much as needed. 

3) Keep frozen bottles of water in your freezer. For an ice block, you can use any juice bottle, water bottle, or 2-liter. Make sure it’s clean and free of any plastic film with the company branding.

What is seafood gumbo made of?

New Orleans seafood gumbo ingredients vary because everybody makes them a little differently. A gumbo base is a roux, seafood stock, crabs, shrimp, smoked sausage, onions, green bell pepper, celery, garlic, bay leaves, and a thickening agent like filé powder or okra. 
 
The ingredients perfectly complement one another for a classic New Orleans comfort food uniquely from the bayou region. 

What kind of crabs should you use in seafood gumbo?

Blue crabs are best in gumbo. If you’ve ever heard someone talk about “gumbo crabs,” they were talking about blue crabs. They’re found in abundance along the coastline of Louisiana, and if fresh isn’t available in the frozen isle for them.

gumbo in the pot

Can you freeze gumbo?

Absolutely! Gumbo, like soups and stews, freezes well. Once the gumbo has cooled down, you can transfer it to an airtight container and freeze it for up to 3 months. When you’re ready to enjoy it, let it thaw in the fridge overnight and reheat it on the stove for about 10 minutes. 

What to serve with New Orleans seafood gumbo?

Now, don’t get me wrong—this hearty seafood gumbo is a meal all on its own. That being said, if you’re hosting a large group for dinner or a cookout, then you might want to add some side dishes and a delicious dessert. If you’re wondering how to host the best dinner party, you’re off to a great start with this entree. 
 
Here are some of my favorite dishes to serve with filé gumbo: 
 
Garlic Chive Cheddar Biscuits
Moist Southern Cornbread
New Orleans Baked Mac n Cheese 
Southern Cornbread Dressing 
Instant Pot Southern Collard Greens
Southern Sweet Tea 
Classic Buttermilk Pound Cake 
Fried Sweet Potato Pie

How to store leftover seafood gumbo?

Gumbo is one of the best make-ahead meals out there because it tastes better the next day. You can serve it all week long as quick and easy lunches or dinners, especially on those extra busy days. It is imperative to cool your seafood gumbo because your gumbo can spoil the gumbo. You can store leftover gumbo in a few ways:
 
Fridge: After the gumbo cools, transfer it to an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.
 
Freezer: After the gumbo cools, transfer it to an airtight container. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
 
Reheating: Heat a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, add the gumbo, and cook until the mixture starts to boil. Remove from heat and enjoy over hot rice. 
 
If heating from frozen, I recommend transferring the gumbo to the fridge in a bowl the day before you want to eat it so it can fully thaw. 

Bowl of New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

More Cajun-Creole Recipes

Here are some more authentic New Orleans recipes you’ll want to add to your dinner table. 

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Before You Begin 

Here are the steps I use to make cooking a pot of gumbo stress-free.

Step 1: Get all the ingredients and tools for the seafood gumbo on the counter.

Step 2: Prep and wash all the seafood and make seafood stock. While the stock is cooking, prep my other ingredients and place them into individual bowls.

Step 3: Follow the recipe below and set my timer until it’s time to dig into a delightful bowl of New Orleans seafood gumbo.

My New Orleans gumbo will have your taste buds singing with joy. I hope you have a wonderful experience and meal with this recipe. I left as many tips as possible to make sure you would be successful. After you have a bowl, please leave a comment and a star rating. And be sure to share it with your friends and family on social media.

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Recipe:

Bowl of New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

New Orleans Seafood Gumbo

Kenneth Temple
My New Orleans Seafood Gumbo is packed with incredible flavor, it comes together in only an hour. This gumbo is guaranteed to be a hit.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 20 mins
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Cajun, Creole, New Orleans, Soul Food, Southern
Servings 12 persons
Calories 461 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup canola oil
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup Savory Cajun seasoning
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 1 stalk celery chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 12 cups seafood stock
  • 1 lb. smoked sausage sliced
  • 6 blue crabs halved
  • 5 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper
  • 2 lbs. shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 1-2 cups brown rice cooked
  • gumbo file powder optional

Instructions
 

  • In a heavy bottom 5 qt. pot, over medium high heat add oil, bring oil to a smoke point, you will see a faint white smoke coming off oil, (a thicker smoke will burn the flour, remove from heat and let cool for 3 minute add flour and whisk, you want a dark chocolate colored roux, if roux is browning to fast remove off heat while stirring and reduce heat to medium-low.
  • Once roux is dark chocolate add onion, bell pepper and celery, stirring for 2-3 minutes, add garlic, bay leaf and cayenne. Turn heat up to medium-high heat, add stock in thirds, add sausage, crab, thyme and worcestershire.
  • Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for one hour uncovered; skim any fat that rises to the top. Taste gumbo and add salt and pepper to taste, add shrimp. Let sit for 10 minutes for shrimp to cook. Serve hot with rice.

Notes

Pro Recipe Tips and Tips
  • The dark your roux, the less thickening power it will have. 
  • Toast flour in a dry skillet or oven to make it healthier. Toast until peanut butter brown.
  • Everybody makes gumbo a little different, but dark chocolate color roux is the main ingredient.
  • Make a homemade shrimp stock by boiling the shrimp shells, heads, and scraps of vegetables for 30 minutes.
  • Feel free to use chicken stock instead of seafood stock.
  • Chicken broth and chicken stock will add the same flavor.
  • If you like a thicker gumbo, reduce the amount of stock to 10 cups. 
  • You don’t have to use andouille sausage to make Cajun gumbo. 
  • Frozen blue crabs will work, instead of fresh; thaw slightly, rinse and quarter them.
  • Are you looking for more heat? Double up on the cayenne pepper, or add hot sauce to your bowl. 
  • Alternatively, you can cut the cayenne pepper in half for less heat.
  • Feel free to use your favorite Cajun seasoning instead of Savory Cajun seasoning.
  • Feel free to use brown rice instead of white rice. 
  • Don’t be afraid of making too much—gumbo is ALWAYS better the next day.
  • Add the filé powder to your bowl at the dinner table. filé is a thickening agent, and a little goes a long way. Add too much, and your gumbo will turn slimy. 
  • Worcestershire sauce is an unusual ingredient, but it adds a great flavor to the gumbo.
  • If you want to make this gluten-free, I recommend using fresh okra as a thickening agent. Thaw and dry, frozen okra before cooking. 
  • Granulated garlic powder balances out the toasted roux flavors the best without using more salt. 
  • You can top your bowl of seafood gumbo with jumbo lump crab meat. 
  • Seafood gumbo is infamous for spoiling. Cooling it down quickly is the best way to keep it from spoiling. I like using a homemade ice block, a 2-liter or large plastic bottle filled with frozen water. 
 
Storage:
Fridge: After the gumbo cools, transfer it to an airtight container. Keep in the fridge for up to 7 days.
Freezer: After the gumbo cools, transfer it to an airtight container. Keep in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Reheating: Heat a small or medium saucepan over medium heat, add the gumbo, and cook until the mixture starts to boil. Remove from heat and enjoy over hot rice. 
If heating from frozen, I recommend transferring the gumbo to the fridge in a bowl the day before you want to eat it so it can fully thaw. 

Nutrition

Calories: 461kcalCarbohydrates: 21gProtein: 42gFat: 23gSaturated Fat: 5gPolyunsaturated Fat: 5gMonounsaturated Fat: 11gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 197mgSodium: 1755mgPotassium: 918mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 864IUVitamin C: 19mgCalcium: 180mgIron: 3mg
Keyword gumbo, seafood gumbo, seafood gumbo recipe, new Orleans seafood gumbo recipe, New Orleans seafood gumbo, Cajun Seafood gumbo recipe
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