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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Ingredients

  • For the seafood stock
  • For the seafood gumbo

Directions

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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    Comments

    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!

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