Seafood Gumbo

This seafood gumbo loaded with shrimp, as in this classic Southern Cajun recipe, screams for a cold beer and a lazy weekend afternoon dedicated to nothing but cooking.

A two-handle bowl of seafood gumbo on a piece of wood.

This seafood gumbo recipe was originally titled Super Bowl Seafood Gumbo, as the author makes this Cajun specialty each year for the occasion, just as his mother did before him. And we gotta say, we can understand why it’s a once-a-year-sorta recipe given that it takes the better part of a day to create the layers of flavors. That said, we can think of no better way to spend a weekend afternoon than standing at the stove conjuring this sorta excellence. And, thankfully, it makes ample to share.–Renee Schettler Rossi

Seafood Gumbo

  • Quick Glance
  • (8)
  • 1 H, 45 M
  • 5 H, 15 M
  • Serves 12 to 16
4.8/5 - 8 reviews
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  • For the seafood stock
  • For the seafood gumbo


Make the seafood stock

Crack open a beer and start sipping while you peel the shrimp. Set the shells and heads aside in a bowl for the stock. Set the bodies aside for the gumbo. (Something to keep in mind for subsequent batches of gumbo is if you desire a richer stock, you can simply double the amount of shrimp shells. To amass this stash of shrimp shells, each time you peel some shrimp for a recipe, stash the shells in the freezer.)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the crabs and a generous amount of salt, cover, 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 so it imparts some to the gumbo.

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 dump it in a small bowl. Break the crab bodies into 4 pieces each and set aside for the gumbo in a different bowl as the shrimp bodies.

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the reserved crab and shrimp shells and shrimp heads, if using. Cook, stirring frequently, until the shells turn pink, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, garlic, paprika, rosemary, bay leaves, and 9 quarts cold water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and gently simmer for 1 hour.

Remove the stock from the heat and strain, discarding the solids.

Make the seafood gumbo

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 darn near 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, 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 impart a burnt taste to the entire roux.

Carefully add the onion, bell pepper, celery, jalapeños, and the reserved crab back fat. (We say “carefully” because this will create 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.) Stir until the vegetables are well coated.

Stir in the garlic, salt, paprika, filé powder, chili powder, black pepper, cayenne, white pepper, oregano, red pepper flakes, thyme, and hot sauce and continue to cook, stirring, for a few minutes.

Add 2/3 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 gentle simmer.

If necessary, start skimming the oil from the top of the gumbo almost instantly (by the end of the cooking process, the gumbo will probably 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 1/3 of the stock, tasting as you go, until the flavor tastes more like the stock than the roux. If you don’t use all the stock, freeze the remaining stock for another use.

When the flavor of the gumbo 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. Originally published January 30, 2012.

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    *What You Need To Know About How To Make A Proper Roux

    • 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 to put together a proper roux—and the process can’t be rushed. (That means no, you can’t stop stirring the pot or walk away from the stovetop). Watching the oil and flour mixture slowly change color to a robust darkness and begin to take on its unique aroma, says Link, gives you plenty of time to be alone with your thoughts (rather than obsessively checking Instagram to see how many folks liked your story acknowlledged the world that you’re making roux). He makes his roux with vegetable oil, not butter, to ensure that the neutral flavor can let the seafood take center stage.

    Recipe Testers Reviews

    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 6 beers suggested in the recipe, I fell a bit short, but I don’t think the recipe lacked any flavor as a result.

    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 could be 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 6 hours—and I would consider myself a cook with the stamina of a marathon runner. The author was right about the 6 beers for the cook.


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    1. Hello! How are you? Thank you for this lovely recipe. I plan to make it this upcoming Friday afternoon, March 16th, but I am about bit confused about the fourth step for the seafood stock.

      Do I use the water from boiling the crabs in addition to whatever else is needed to equal 36 cups of water? Does the instruction to discard the solids apply to the onion, celery, and bay leaves along with the shrimp shells and crab flaps and tops?

      “Make the seafood gumbo” 9th step question:
      After the shrimp is added at the end, is there a possibility the shrimp will become mushy from simmering for an hour? Thank you so much for your time and efforts.

      1. Hi Laquasha, this recipe calls for the crabs to be drained after cooking. The 36 cups of water will form the basis of the stock after the crabs are cooked and drained. As far as the shrimp, we have not had a problem with them becoming mushy but you can certainly add them later if you wish.

    2. Made this tonight and it came out great. Time consuming and made a huge batch which I’m freezing. I used clams instead of oysters since I wasn’t shucking oysters

    3. I made this recipe today and it was delish (I ended up going back for seconds…twice!)!!! It was the most labor-intensive meal I have ever prepared in my life but it was well worth the result. Also I was a gumbo virgin so I didn’t know what to expect and thought I had made a terrible mistake when the oil never rose to the surface after boiling the gumbo for a long time. After reading the comments (wish I had read them prior to making the gumbo), I’m glad I was not the only one that had the same problem although I still would like to know what went wrong with my procedure since I would have preferred skimming the oil off the gumbo and avoid eating it…. Oh well… It was finger-licking good so I can’t complain too much. I made some changes: I halved the ingredients for the roux, didn’t use crab (added clams, fish and extra shrimp instead) and left everything else pretty much the same (doubled the quantity of cayenne pepper and paprika ). I added the roux to the seafood stock to control the thickness and ended up with almost half of leftover roux after getting the desired thickness. So I’ll be freezing the leftover roux to make one more batch of gumbo in one or two weeks and this time will make sure to have blue crab or crab meat on hand as well as prawns to add more seafood flavor to the gumbo. I am not sure whether I would ever spend 6 hours in the kitchen preparing one dish again but I thank you for the recipe. It was well worth the time and effort….

      1. Susie, so glad to hear that you love this roux as much as we do! Yes, it takes some time and tending, but wow, right?! So worth it! As for the oil not rising to the surface, thank you for mentioning that. I think that tends to happen when the heat is a little high during the boiling. The agitation sorta emulsifies everything together so that it doesn’t separate. The same sorta thing happens when you’re making stock and you have the heat a touch high which emulsifies the liquid and any impurities in the bones that would otherwise float to the surface but instead become attached to the liquid molecules which results in a cloudy stock. At any rate, glad you felt comfortable enough to make some tweaks. You’re so very welcome!

    4. When I read this recipe, my first thought was I’d never ever seen a roux using 3 cups of oil, especially for a gumbo that only serves 12 to 16. But then I saw Donald Link called for 9 quarts of water — a large amount of water. As you will note in his directions for making the stock, he only simmers the stock for one hour, which, of course, would not reduce the amount of liquid very much. It seems some of the Commenters remarked at how thick their gumbo turned out. I have a feeling they reduced the stock a lot while making it and thus it turned out too thick. I’d try making half the amount of roux for this size gumbo. Or you can make all of the roux called for, let it cool and then remove up to half of it to another container. If your gumbo is too thin at the end, heat some of the leftover roux in a large Pyrex dish in the microwave and add some of the liquid from the gumbo to it and stir it together, like you would if you were making a cornstarch slurry; then stir that into your “too thin” gumbo. After it cooks for several minutes, if it’s not thick enough, repeat with the rest of your roux. Don’t worry about when the oil appears in the gumbo either. Just skim it from the top once it appears.

      To make your seafood stock even better, use only enough water to cover your crabs when cooking them. When you strain out your crabs, save that crab water and use it as part of the water you make your shrimp/crab stock in.

      Try cooking the gumbo for only 20 to 30 minutes after adding the shrimp, as they cook quickly. Try adding the oysters after the gumbo tastes “done” to you. You just need to cook them in the hot liquid for 10 to 15 minutes at the most.

      I’d definitely use a 12 to 16 quart stockpot to make this gumbo, as you’re using 9 quarts of water in addition to the other ingredients. Nothing worse than needing to add more liquid to a pot and not having the room!

      1. Hi Robbie, this is a great dish for a Christmas Eve dinner, providing you allow yourself enough time to cook the roux. Once the roux is done, you can add additional shrimp or other seafood and serve with rice (or my favorite, grits) to feed a crowd. Were you planning on doubling the recipe? If so, you will need a very large stockpot.

        1. Robbie, I love that you’re making this for 40! And if you don’t have a single extraordinarily large stockpot, perhaps a couple large ones? Or maybe a local restaurant would loan you one?

    5. We just tried this magnificent recipe in France. So we had to convert cups to grams and liters and maybe that’s why our roux was a bit abundant and our stock just enough. We added some okra too and the seafood gumbo was really thick. But it was delicious!

      Next time we will make less roux but we’ll keep the okra and make more stock.

      As there are no blue crabs in France, we took “tourteau” (a bigger brown crab) instead. And since we were 6, we cut the quantities in two and so we just bought a single tourteau. We also bought only a dozen of oysters and it was enough in our opinion.

      The stock was super tasty! I decided to crush the heads of the shrimps to extract the very substance of their taste.

      I wanted also to limit to the maximum the crab suffering, so I froze the tourteau for half an hour and then, with a huge knife and a hammer, I cut the creature in two. It was instant death and it helped me get the best parts of the crab easily and use the rest for the stock.

      Anyhow, we had a marvelous time and we wanted to thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe.

      1. Flor, you are so very welcome. Many kind thanks for taking the time to let us know that you, too, had a marvelous experience with the gumbo. Loved reading about your tweaks and your humaneness. Greatly appreciated.

    6. Hi, I tried my best to make this and it was delicious, but mine was VERY thick, is it supposed to be like that? I had to add so much extra water just thin it down a little bit and it just seemed like enough to serve an entire party of 50+!!!!

      Some other recipes called to add the roux to the stock to adjust the thickness. It browned well and I thought I did it exactly as the recipe called but by the end it was just gloop! Have you had that problem? Where did I go wrong?

      1. Hi Katrina, you are right- this recipe can serve a crowd! I’m sorry that it turned out a little thick for you, how much seafood stock did you add?

        1. I didn’t really measure the pot. Maybe next time I will try more stock…I was just so unsure because it seemed like so much already and there wasn’t any room for more water XD

          1. Ah. I understand. Next time, perhaps grab a second large pot and divvy the contents between the two and then, if it thickens as it did this time, you can add more stock with room to spare.

    7. Hey thank you so much for posting this! I once worked at a Crab house near Disney that had the most amazing gumbo. I needed to learn how to make the dark roux which is the key. I have frozen shrimp and blue crab stock and I’m thinking of adding andoilli sausage.

    8. I’m so excited to try this recipe this Sunday! Unfortunately, there’s no crab available to me other than the frozen kind ): Do I need to substitute anything for the crab “back fat”? Is lobster an okay substitute or should I just increase the amount of shrimp?

      1. Dana, not to worry, you can be really inexact with the types of seafood you use. No need to follow the recipe precisely. So if you prefer lobster and can get a good deal on it, yes, that would be terrific, but shrimp would also be a fine substitute. Sorry to not have an exact answer for you, but it really isn’t crucial and can be tailored to your personal preference.

    9. I’ve never made gumbo, but I LOVE it. My first attempt will be Christmas. Any idea how big a pot I need..16/20 quart?

      1. Hi Cookie, in this case, the bigger the better. I use a large stockpot that is 10 inches high and 12 inches across which might be a little overkill but it does prevent any overflows. You will have a lot of stock in addition to the roux and seafood.

    10. Help! I’ve had the stock in the roux for over an hour now simmering, and no oil has risen to the top. None. The recipe says this should start immediately, but after an hour, no dice. I haven’t skimmed any oil and I’m already at the point where I’m supposed to add the crab…

      What do I do? I still have maybe under a third of stock left, but my 7 quart dutch oven is full.

    11. Hello,

      I will be making this for Christmas this week. If I wanted to add fish to this, what kind of fish would be best to use? Or should I keep fish out of it? Thanks! Can’t wait to try this!

    12. 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~!

      1. 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.

    13. 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!!!!!

      1. 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.

      1. 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.

    14. 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?

      1. 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.

    15. 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 :)

    16. 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.

    17. 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!

    18. 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!

    19. 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?

      1. 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!

    20. 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.

    21. 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!

      1. Where is the okra in this recipe? Am I missing or is okra not prefered? If okra was missed do you prefer fresh if available? Thanks!

        1. If you really want to be technical, okra in gumbo is more on the Creole side of Louisiana cooking and hails more from New Orleans, which is considered more refined than the “rustic” Cajun cooking of file (feel-lay) gumbo (file being dried and ground up sassafras). When it comes to cooking roux, the hours and hours of slow stirring give it a rich nuttiness and flavor that is worth the wait that comes from roasting to flour. But it has next to no thickening power anymore. This is where the okra vs file debate comes in; they are both thickeners to give the gumbo more of a stew consistency. I’ve had plenty of amazing and subpar gumbos that use one or the other so its just a matter of finding what you prefer.

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