Packed with 3 types of shellfish, a bowl of this Seafood Gumbo is a flavorful way to warm up on a chilly winter day!
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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!