This week, we’re cooking gumbo, a slow-simmered, savory-spicy dish that captures Louisiana’s French, Native American, and African heritages. Chock full of bold ingredients, gumbo is a smorgasbord of Cajun and Creole cooking—you’ll find Andouille sausage, chicken or shrimp, a “trinity” of celery, onions, and bell peppers, stock, a flour-based thickener called roux and often times filé, a seasoning made from ground-up sassafras leaves. A bed of fluffy white rice ties everything together, soaking up gumbo’s rainbow of flavors.
Gumbo first appeared in Louisiana cookbooks during the early 19th century, but versions of it have existed since French settlers voyaged to southern Louisiana in the early 18th century. Traveling with African slaves, they encountered the Choctaw Native Americans, both of which led to modern Creole and Cajun cooking. In the 1970s, gumbo gained popularity outside of New Orleans thanks to Louisiana senator Allen Ellender. Known for his outstanding Cajun cooking, he loved sharing his recipes for gumbo, jambalaya, and other dishes with numerous presidents and political figures. Today, the U.S. senate cafeteria serves “Ellender’s Gumbo” in his honor.
We’ve chosen our best gumbo recipes just for you, all made with a variety of different techniques and ingredients. You’ll find filé in specialty spice shops such as Penzey’s or in grocery stores. And whether you’re a gumbo-newbie or a well-seasoned veteran, be sure to watch our step-by-step video for our Chicken-and-Sausage Gumbo.