Packed with 3 types of shellfish, a bowl of this Seafood Gumbo is a flavorful way to warm up on a chilly winter day!
A good bowl of gumbo on a cold winter day is hard to beat. I lived in southern Louisiana for a number of years, and while I currently live 1,500 miles away, Cajun and Louisiana-inspired recipes still make regular appearances in our house. Case in point? Gumbo. A good bowl of gumbo is hard to beat on a cold winter day! On a side note, did you know that gumbo is the official state food of Louisiana? That’s quite a statement considering the amount of good food in Louisiana!
If you’ve never made a pot of gumbo at home, then now is as good a time as any! In it’s most basic description, gumbo is a soup. But calling gumbo a soup is an injustice. Eating a bowl of gumbo is an experience! There are layers upon layers of flavor, and you can play around with the types of proteins to make all sorts of different gumbos. Today’s version is a Seafood Gumbo packed with shrimp, crab and littleneck clams.
No matter the type of gumbo you eventually plan to make, the basic steps are always the same. The first element is a dark roux. Roux is a critical component of many Cajun dishes, and making a roux isn’t all that difficult. However, you need to stir it. A lot. If you burn the roux, you might as well just start over. If you cook that roux over low heat and stir it often, it will eventually turn from clear to light brown to dark brown. I learned how to make gumbo from an wise, old coworker that I knew from LSU. She told me that a good roux should be the color of the Mississippi River – muddy brown. That line always stuck with me!
Once you’ve got a nice dark roux in the pot, then comes the holy trinity of Cajun cooking – diced bell peppers, onions and celery. Let’s stop for a quick moment and talk about pot size. I’m terrible at estimating the size of a pot I’ll need. For this Seafood Gumbo, I pulled out our smaller 5.5-quart Dutch oven. Once I put in the chopped veggies, I took a look at the pot and realized I had once again made a mistake. Ugh! So I moved everything into the larger 7-quart Dutch oven. The larger size worked perfectly – but it meant I had to do extra dishes afterwards.
Back on track with the larger pot, the rest of this Seafood Gumbo came together with relative ease. I opted for shrimp, crab and clams, but you can absolutely play around with these ingredients. Oysters are a common addition to Seafood Gumbo. Andouille sausage and duck are often paired with the oysters, too.
Finally, a word about the thickeners used in gumbo. Okra is a common way to thicken gumbo, and I often add a bag of frozen okra to the pot. Did you know that the word ‘gombo’ actually means okra in the Bantu language? That’s how important okra is to a good gumbo! (These days, okra is a bit more optional, although I personally enjoy okra in gumbo.)
Gumbo filé is another thickener. Just like gumbo needs to start with a good roux, gumbo should finish with a spoonful of file. Filé powder is simply ground sassafras leaves. Aside from helping to thicken the gumbo, filé also brings a very unique, earthy flavor to the gumbo. For me, a gumbo without filé doesn’t taste like gumbo. Filé powder isn’t added to the pot of gumbo. Instead, it’s stirred into the bowl of gumbo right before serving. In fact, we typically just bring the jar to the table and add however much we prefer.
I hope this post has inspired you to make a big batch of Seafood Gumbo! To be fair, this is a large batch of gumbo – you can absolutely cut this recipe in half. Either way, I hope you enjoy this Seafood Gumbo as much as we do!
Did you make a batch of this Seafood Gumbo at home? Leave a comment, or snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (@Spicedblog). I’d love to see what you include in your version of this gumbo!
- ⅔ cup all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup vegetable oil
- 2 medium yellow onions peeled and diced
- 2 green bell peppers diced
- 2 stalks celery diced
- 2 tsp minced garlic
- 2 14.5-oz. cans stewed tomatoes
- 2 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1½ dozen little-neck clams
- lemon zested and quartered
- 4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
- 4 cups water
- ½ pound lump crabmeat
- 1 pound medium shrimp peeled and deveined but tails left on
- 3 cups sliced okra
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1½ tsp black pepper
- 1½ tsp kosher salt
- cooked white rice for serving
- gumbo file for serving
- chopped green onions for serving
- Using a large stockpot or Dutch oven, add the flour and oil; stir until well combined. Place pot over medium-low heat and cook, stirring very often, until mixture turns dark brown. (Note: This mixture is called a roux, a staple for many Cajun recipes. It is important to cook a roux over medium-low heat as anything hotter will cause the mixture to scorch and taste burnt. If the roux burns, you will need to start over. It will take 20-25 minutes to create a dark brown roux, but it’s well worth the time!)
- Add the diced onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, stewed tomatoes, tomato paste, dried thyme, clams, lemon zest and quartered lemons; stir until well combined.
- Add chicken stock and water. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a gentle boil. Let cook for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add crabmeat, shrimp, okra, cayenne, black pepper and salt; stir until well combined. Let cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- To serve, place ~1 cup of cooked rice in a bowl. Top with several ladles of seafood gumbo. Stir in 1-2 teaspoons of file powder. Garnish with chopped green onions prior to serving.
Looking for more tasty Cajun recipes? Check out these favorites, too!
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Mmmmm. I haven’t made gumbo since we lived near the Gulf. (Or paella, for that matter.) Now, after looking at these great pics, I think I need to start collecting some good frozen seafood. Love anything Creole and Cajun.
I hear ya, Mimi – fresh seafood is such a luxury! I’ve found that frozen seafood can work, though. Gumbo is one of those dishes that has so many layers of flavors. Either way, I hope you get a chance to make a good pot of gumbo soon!
You gumbo looks absolutely perfect, David. It’s one of our favorite cold weather meals and I can’t wait to try your version. Love how loaded with good stuff it is!
I absolutely love gumbo! To be honest, I still prefer a chicken + sausage gumbo over a seafood gumbo, but it is fun to mix things up now and then. Perfect cold weather comfort food!
My hubby and I would always order gumbo for our dating anniversary, but I have never thought to make it at home! This looks so good and hearty, David. You’ve got me craving all the Cajun food now!
No way! You should absolutely make a pot of gumbo at home sometime, Michelle. To be honest, I still prefer a chicken and sausage gumbo, but the seafood version is a nice way to mix things up. Either way, gumbo is a classic comfort food for chilly days! 🙂
this looks good to me but sadly hubby doesn’t eat seafood! mm i seem to keep saying things like that about him but really he eats most things:) but me and okra? it’s a no-go.
I get it, Sherry. Laura doesn’t love okra either. I personally love it in gumbo, but Laura picks around it. That’s ok, though. And if Mr. P doesn’t eat seafood? Make a chicken + sausage gumbo instead! (Truth be told, that’s still my favorite type of gumbo, although it is fun to mix things up with the seafood version on occasion.)
Wow, this sounds delicious! I’ve actually made gumbo before, once, from a recipe by a cyber-friend from my early blogging days, Ryan Boudreaux, who goes by the moniker “Cajun Chef Ryan”. You should check him out if you don’t know him.
But anyway, getting back to gumbo… This one looks even richer and more delicious than the one I made, as it has clams and crab in addition to the shrimp and okra. I think I’ll make a second attempt with your recipe this time. I even still have the filé powder in the cupboard!
Ah, if you have file powder on hand, then you are half-way home! To be fair, I still prefer my chicken and sausage gumbo (https://spicedblog.com/creole-style-chicken-and-sausage-gumbo.html – don’t judge the photos!), but the seafood version was a fun way to mix things up.
So now I need to go look up Cajun Chef Ryan – I just opened a new tab to check out his site. Thanks for the referral there! I love Cajun food, so it’ll be fun looking through his recipes and getting inspired.
We ordered in a delicious sea food pasta bake from our favourite Italian on Saturday night. But do you know I can’t remember last time I made a gumbo. I love this version. Stuffed full of all the kinds of seafood that Lynne and I love. Thanks David. Hope you guys are well!
Ah, a seafood pasta bake? That sounds quite tasty! I remember the seafood in Scotland being particularly good. That sounds like a great Saturday night meal – and all the better since it was take-out and you didn’t have to clean up! Hope you and Lynne are staying well over there, my friend!
OK, David, you know me and where I come from, so when I say you nailed this one I truly mean it. The first thing my eyes locked on was the okra, a must in my cooking book. The next thing that caught my eye in your amazing image I what I believe to be a container of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning. Another must-have (I actually have it shipped to me from the US). Then I saw the little neck claims and thought wow, I’ve never thought of that. We have wonderful clams and mussels around here that I’ll now have to try in a gumbo.
When it comes to the roux, my great-grandmother always taught me that a good cajun roux should look like polished mahogany, so muddy Mississippi works too. Thanks for sharing a great recipe and food culture…
Haha – we do indeed share a love of Cajun food, Ron! And I agree with you about okra. I love okra in my gumbos! And you are indeed correct that there is a bottle of Tony’s in the background. That is a pantry staple for me – and not just for Cajun/Creole recipes! Fortunately, I can find it up here in upstate New York – although I wasn’t sure when we first moved up here. (As you noted, the ability to ship things like Tony’s is a must!)
Polished mahogany, eh? I like that! It sounds so much more refined than muddy Mississippi. 🙂 Thanks so much, Ron!
Guess what? I’ve never had gumbo! This looks like a fabulous place to start! With all that seafood, it looks super hearty and belly warming! Perfect on a cold winter day like today! I know hubby would love it too 🙂
Wait. Stop everything. You’ve never had gumbo, Dawn!? And you live up in the frigid northland, too! In fact, with your access to all sorts of seafood, I bet y’all could whip up a tasty gumbo. Personally, I still prefer chicken and sausage, but that’s just me. Either way, put a gumbo on the list!
I love seafood gumbo and I am glad that you added clams in this gorgeous gumbo. I can literally imagine all the wonderful flavor in the dish. I’ve never been to Louisiana and it is on my bucket list to visit someday when the pandemic is over. Can’t wait to try this myself
So I don’t cook with clams all that often, but I knew I wanted them in this gumbo. They were a fun addition! Personally, I still prefer a chicken and sausage gumbo, but it’s always nice to mix things up from time to time. Stay warm, Holly!
You’re spot on, David! Gumbo is an EXPERIENCE! From the cooking to the eating, one of the best food experiences there is! I do love a good gumbo, and yours with all that seafood – awesome! I’m hoping to increase the frequency of my own gumbo making, because it isn’t difficult, and simple food, well seasoned is what life is all about! Love this! (And you’re so right – it’s Gumbo week!)
You make a great point here, Laura. Half of the fun of food is the experience. From the making to the eating, the experience is where it’s at! And gumbo really is an experience. I personally still love chicken and sausage gumbo, but I did have fun mixing it up with the seafood in this version. Thanks so much!
This is my type of gumbo! With those clams, I bet they are very tasty
Ah, this gumbo was quite tasty indeed, Raymund! Perfect for these chilly days. Spring is coming sometime…I think…
What a gorgeous and delicious gumbo! I love that description of what a good roux should look like. Muddy brown like the Mississippi River. That’s going to stick with me as well! So interesting that okra is literally a thickener in gumbo! Really really informative and delicious recipe right here David, yum!
That saying about roux and the Mississippi River has always stuck with me, too, Shannon. And it really is the perfect description! I love a good gumbo, and this seafood version was a fun way to mix it up from the usual chicken and sausage version that we make. Thanks so much, my friend!