Seafood Gumbo

Seafood Gumbo Recipe

Remember when you were a little kid and you would wake up early on Christmas morning feeling super-excited? That’s how I feel on Super Bowl Sunday. I jump out of bed, start my day with a cold beer, and begin making this seafood gumbo recipe. This particular gumbo, brimming with Louisiana bounty, is my favorite dish to make. In fact, you might say that this gumbo was the dish that made me want to become a chef. My mother always made seafood gumbo on Super Bowl Sunday, and I started doing the same when I moved out, going to Chinatown to shop for my ingredients.

 Spare no expense for this recipe. Get the freshest seafood you can find, and plenty of it, to extract all the sweet, briny flavors. The stock is key—it should be rich and full of flavor. (For an even richer stock, double the amount of shrimp shells, or add 3 to 4 pounds of fish bones. If you use fish bones, add them after you toast the shrimp shells.)–Donald Link

Author's Reflections on Making Roux Note

According to author and Cajun cook Donald Link, the process of making roux for this seafood gumbo recipe can be hypnotic. It takes about an hour, and you can’t stop stirring or walk away from it. Watching the oil and flour mixture slowly change color and begin to take on its unique aroma gives you plenty of time to be alone with your thoughts. My roux is made with vegetable oil, not butter, because its neutral flavor really lets the seafood shine. Once the roux has reached its proper color, the chopped vegetables are added, which creates a near volcanic reaction of bubbling, steaming, and sizzling. The roux at this point is around 400°F (204°C) and the addition of cold vegetables causes an explosion of flavors and smells. Once I had to run to the store right after making roux and the lady at the checkout said, “Wow, something sure smells good.” I replied, “That would be me.” She laughed and I said, “No, really, I’ve been making seafood gumbo—it’s me you’re smelling.” “You’re right,” she said. “It is gumbo I smell.” That’s how powerful the aroma is.

Seafood Gumbo Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • 5 H, 15 M
  • Serves 12 to 16

Ingredients

  • For the seafood stock
  • At least 6 cold beers for the chef
  • 4 pounds medium (16 to 20 count) shrimp, shell-on and preferably head-on
  • 6 blue crabs
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 celery stalk, coarsely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 4-inch fresh rosemary sprig or 2 tablespoons dried
  • 13 bay leaves
  • 9 quarts (36 cups) water
  • For the seafood gumbo
  • 3 cups vegetable oil
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 medium green bell peppers, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 2 jalapeño peppers, stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons filé powder
  • 2 teaspoons chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • Several dashes of hot sauce
  • 2 pints shucked oysters, liquor strained and reserved
  • 1 pound crab claw meat, carefully picked over for shells

Directions

  • Make the seafood stock
  • 1. Crack open a beer and start sipping while you peel the shrimp. Set the shells and heads aside in a bowl. Set aside the bodies for the gumbo.
  • 2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the crabs and a generous amount of salt, cover the pot, and boil for 5 to 7 minutes. Drain immediately and set the crabs aside to cool. (Yes, after just 5 to 7 minutes. If you were going to fully cook the crabs, you would boil them for 10 to 15 minutes, but you want to leave most of the flavor in the crab to cook in the gumbo, so here you’re heating them just enough to take them apart and salvage the shells and sweet meat.)
  • 3. Peel the front flaps and tops off the crabs and place in a large bowl with the shrimp heads and shells. Use your fingers to scoop out the orange back fat from the middle of the crab and set aside in a small bowl. Break the crab bodies into four pieces and set aside for the gumbo, but in a different bowl as the shrimp bodies.
  • 4. Heat the oil in a large pot over high heat. Add the reserved crab and shrimp shells and shrimp heads, if using. Cook, stirring until the shells turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, garlic, paprika, rosemary, bay leaves, and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 1 hour.
  • 5. Remove the stock from the heat and strain, discarding the solids.

  • Make the seafood gumbo
  • 6. Heat the 3 cups vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot but not smoking, whisk in the flour and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, whisking slowly but constantly, until the roux has thickened and is the color of a dark copper penny, 45 minutes to an hour. You’ll want to reduce the heat gradually as you go. When the roux first begins to take on color, for instance, reduce the heat to medium. Continue in this fashion, gradually lowering the heat as the color of the roux deepens. By the end of the cooking, when the roux is appropriately dark, the heat should be on low. It’s essential to whisk the roux constantly as it cooks (but not so vigorously that you splatter the roux and burn yourself!), because if even a small bit of flour sticks to the pot, it will become spotty, scorch quickly, and burn the entire roux.
  • 7. Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery, jalapeños, and the reserved crab back fat. (I say “carefully” because this will create a near volcanic reaction of bubbling, steaming, and sizzling.) Stir until the vegetables are well coated. Stir in the garlic, salt, paprika, filé powder, chile powder, black pepper, cayenne, white pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and hot sauce and continue to cook, stirring, for a few minutes. Add two-thirds of the strained stock and the oyster liquor, bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pot to ensure nothing clumps and burns, until the mixture returns to a simmer.
  • 8. Start skimming the oil from the top of the gumbo almost instantly (by the end of the cooking process, the gumbo will have released almost all of the oil from the roux). Continue to simmer and skim for about 1 hour. Taste it. If it still has a strong roux flavor, gradually add the remaining one-third of the stock, tasting as you go, until the flavor tastes more like the stock than the roux. If your seafood gumbo doesn’t have a strong roux flavor, freeze the remaining stock for another use.
  • 9. When the flavor of the liquid has developed and its appearance is clearer (that is to say, with fewer dots of oil), add the oysters and crab meat. Bring the seafood gumbo back to a simmer and cook gently for 15 to 20 minutes. Skim once more and add the shrimp, and simmer for 1 more hour. Ladle the seafood gumbo into bowls and crack open another beer.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Jo Ann Brown

Jan 30, 2012

I’ve never made seafood gumbo before—at least, not real gumbo. Wow, what an intense experience. It was very delicious and so balanced that aside from a nice kick at the end of each spoonful, everything just melded together. Pure harmony. BUT it’s very labor intensive. That explains why it’s called Super Bowl Sunday Gumbo. The Super Bowl happens once a year, and that’s just about the limit of how many times I want to cook something for six hours — and I would consider myself a cook with the stamina of a marathon runner. He was right about the six beers for the cook.

Testers Choice
Bette Fraser

Jan 30, 2012

I thought this was a very good seafood gumbo recipe. Since I live on the West Coast, we get Dungeness crabs (known to all humans as the best crab anyway) so I used those instead of blue crabs. The gumbo had a nice depth of flavor and a nice amount of seafood, too. While I certainly tried to consume the six beers suggested in the recipe, I fell a bit short, but I don’t think the recipe lacked any flavor as a result.

Comments
Comments
  1. Sooska says:

    How many servings does this make?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Lots, Sooska! As noted just below the photo, this recipe makes 12 to 16 servings…

  2. Jamie says:

    At least 6 cold beers for the chef? LOL! Wonder how many people will notice this in the ingredient list at first glance? I love Gumbo! Only once made a shrimp creole, never a gumbo and this one looks fabulous! Thanks for sharing!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi, LC Editor-in-Chief says:

      Our pleasure! Just wait’ll you try it, Jamie. That is to say, try the gumbo…and maybe the 6 beers for the chef as well…

  3. Wow this looks amazing! I’m going to make it for my husband who has never tried gumbo (probably never even heard of it actually…) thanks!!!

  4. mamapaloosa says:

    It looks really good, but I would not simmer those seafoods for an extra hour plus. you’ve already extracted the seafood flavors from the shells in the brew. just sayin.

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Many thanks, mamapaloosa. We hear you. So many home cooks, so many ways to make gumbo….

  5. Roux Pig Sooie says:

    This sounds incredible, Renee! We have an annual gumbo cook-off this weekend and I’m going to try this recipe. There’s a 5-gallon minimum, so we can’t afford oysters or crab in the pot (in Arkansas, too, there’s nto much selection). You think we just increase the shrimp to jazz it up?

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Hey, best of luck, Roux Pig Sooie! (I grew up on a farm in Iowa so naturally I love the “Pig Sooie” part of your name….) And yes, absolutely, simply up the amount of shrimp or toss in some peeled crawfish. Let us know how it goes!

  6. Cyndi says:

    I am a yankee (born, bred Ohio) who moved to Texas 30 years ago and somehow managed in all the Texas transplants to find, fall in love with, and marry a true coon ass. I never attempted Cajun cooking, but after years of prodding, pleading etc…, I made this for a culinary cookoff last year, I won first place, and now must make it for my husband regularly. Excellent recipe!

  7. Mary Joseph says:

    I’m not sure about what you’re calling ‘back fat’ from the crabs…are you referring to what some call the ‘butter’? I always thought that stuff was the waste (stool) of the crab’s elimination process, and was to be thrown out!

    • David Leite says:

      Mary Joseph, yes, back fat and crab butter, the yellow-orangeish fat found inside the back of the shell of large crabs, are the same thing.

  8. Seafood gumbo is definitely a special occasion dish–not just because of the cost of the ingredients, but because you want a slow afternoon to dawdle in the kitchen to prepare it, to smell the spices and seafood and gather friends to talk (and drink) while you cook. Your dish looks amazing–makes me long for a trip to the east coast where great seafood is more available.

    • David Leite says:

      Thank you kindly, thewholekitchen. Yours seem pretty swanky, too, which is why I linked to it.

  9. Jamela says:

    My girlfriend doesnt even know what gumbo is!! And of course it is almost impossible to explain the amazingness of gumbo. Thanks for the recipe :)

  10. gina says:

    Do we have to use that much oil? Also can I add lobster and okra to it if so when would be the best time to add it?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi Gina, the oil is important in the development of the roux but by the end of the cooking process, most of it will have been skimmed off. I think that the gumbo would be terrific with okra and lobster. Probably best to add the okra with the rest of the vegetables and the lobster along with the shrimp.

  11. James says:

    Hey, how much water is used in the seafood stock mixture and how much seafood stock does it make?

    • Beth Price says:

      Hi James, the recipe calls for 36 cups of water. After an hour of simmering, you will end up with a bit less but, as the recipe calls for the stock to be added to taste, an exact measure isn’t necessary.

  12. James says:

    Thanks! Just made it! Was so good! I’m from south Louisiana and picky about gumbo, but I’m not a cook so I normally have to get relatives to make it, or go down south… this was great! Just like back home! I could not get any whole crabs so I doubled the crab meat…I also added crawfish and extra shrimp…came out great!!!!!

    • Renee Schettler Rossi says:

      Music to our ears, James! So terrific to hear that you like it as much as we do. Really appreciate you letting us know that this measures up to what you get down in south Louisiana.

  13. MsG10123 says:

    Hey,
    Love your recipe, I want to try it, but don’t know if others would like the oysters. Can I add okra, lobster and clams to have a variety of shell fish? Would it be wise to use seafood stock (Swanson’s) instead of water, just to eliminate the salt? I am also prefer extra virgin olive oil, would this scorch the roux?

    Please Respond Thanks~!

    • Beth Price says:

      Hey MsG, you can certainly play around with your protein in a gumbo. I make a version that is shrimp, chicken and sausage. It’s all good. As far as the seafood stock, you will get a fresher taste when you make you own. You can also control the amount of salt as opposed to prepackaged stock that is laden with sodium. Because of the long cook time to get to a dark roux, a neutral vegetable oil will work best.

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