This recipe for Chicken and Sausage Gumbo starts with a dark roux which gives it tons of amazing flavor. Plus, I’m showing you my tips and tricks for making the perfect dark roux the easy way!
Look, I’m just going to level with y’all here… I have avoided posting a recipe for gumbo for years. I’ve had plenty of requests, but I’ve intentionally not posted my version.
Now, folks are passionate about their gumbo. And the conversation about what should and shouldn’t go in gumbo is akin to the whole “sugar in cornbread” argument. Now for me, I say you put whatever you want in there that makes you happy, as I always say. But despite the fact that it’s literally a free recipe that folks can choose to make or not, I know some are going to whine and complain about it.
So I’ve just avoided it altogether. But I was reminded the other day about the fact that though we always have some that complain, there are tons that are supportive or are smart enough to keep quiet if they can’t be kind. And those folks are the reason that I’m sharing this recipe.
Now before we get started I’m giving you a fair warning. This post is going to be a beast, filled with tons of great info. But if you’re truly interested in making some seriously delicious gumbo, grab some sweet tea and buckle up, because here we go…
What goes in gumbo?
In my extensive research about gumbo history, I’ve found that much like the conversation of cajun versus creole, there seems to be two camps: gumbo with tomatoes and gumbo without tomatoes.
In an effort to appease both factions, I’m sharing this version without tomatoes and my Chicken, Sausage, and Shrimp Gumbo that includes tomatoes. It just felt like the best way to do justice to the recipe.
Now, if there’s any common ground in the gumbo debates, it’s over the roux. While some folks claim a creole gumbo uses a lighter roux, more often than not, I see most gumbo with a dark roux.
What is a roux?
A roux (pronounced roo) is normally a blend of equal parts fat and flour and is the base for many sauces, gravies, soups, and stews.
When a roux is cooked, the flour toasts and develops a deep, rich flavor. The darker you cook the roux, the more flavor it develops. So for a super rich thing like gumbo, you want a dark roux.
Another thing a roux does is helps to thicken sauces and such. Gravy is a great example. The thing is, though, the longer you cook a roux, the more it loses the ability to thicken things. A lighter roux will thicken more and a darker roux will thicken less. So when you use a dark roux, you have to use a lot of it. But the reality is, in gumbo, a roux is more about flavor than thickening power. We’re going to use something else to get this stew thickened up.
Now, let’s just address the elephant in the room…
Making a roux can be pretty intimidating. It requires LOTS of stirring for long periods of time and can scorch very easily. Once it’s scorched, it’s unusable and you have to start over again. Even the most seasoned cooks can burn a roux. I’ve been cooking since I was 8 years old and burned a batch while testing and perfecting this recipe. Sometimes it just happens – even when you’ve seemingly done everything right.
But what if I told you there was an easier way?
Well, there is!
How do I make a roux?
You have a few options. I’m going to cover the stovetop and oven methods here. Let’s start with my preferred method…
Cooking your roux in the oven takes all the guesswork and frequent stirring over a hot stove out of the equation. Many restaurant chefs do it this way.
The downside to oven roux? Well, it takes a little while in the oven. Like 2 to 4 hours. (This can vary a lot).
But it’s pretty much hands-off, so you can be prepping your other ingredients or binge-watching your favorite show while it does its magic.
You simply combine the equal parts of fat (vegetable, peanut, or canola oil) and all-purpose flour in a very large dutch oven and bake at 350°F for 2 to 4 hours, or until the roux develops a chocolate brown color. (This time can vary a lot based on the oven, cooking vessel, and elevation, so watch for the right color. One reader even said hers got to chocolate brown in about 45 minutes!)
Can I make the roux on the stovetop?
Absolutely. This is the more traditional way. If you do go the stovetop route, I’ve got a few tips for you.
Cooking over low heat is the safest way to make a dark roux. Some will say that cooking it on a higher temperature will speed the process along. While this is true, the higher heat also increases the risk of the flour scorching. So it’s a trade off.
Once the roux gets hot enough, bubbles will form on the top. This is normal. Once those bubbles dissipate, the roux will start darkening.
Stirring constantly is a requirement to keep the roux from burning.
I recommend using a large, heavy bottomed enameled cast iron dutch oven to make the roux for this recipe. That way you don’t have to transfer the roux to another vessel to make the gumbo. You can finish it right in the same dutch oven.
Using a wooden spatula, a flat ended wooden spoon, or gumbo paddle allows you to scrape the flour bits that stick to the bottom of the pot off and keep them from burning.
As I said before, different recipes call for different colors of roux. The roux color is based on how long it’s cooked.
I give you some estimates on how long it will take to reach the desired color, but that time will vary based on the method and your specific oven or stovetop. My estimates are simply guidelines, so give yourself enough time to get it right.
Regardless of which method you choose to make your roux, I recommend stopping at the milk chocolate color stage as the residual heat will keep cooking the roux once it’s taken away from the heat. The roux will also darken some more once you add in the other ingredients.
What’s the best fat to use for making a roux?
When it comes to choosing the fat for your roux, I recommend a neutral oil with a higher smoke point like vegetable oil, canola oil, or peanut oil.
Some gumbo traditionalists say butter is best and while I don’t disagree on every level, butter has a few disadvantages. Sure, butter adds great flavor but, butter has a low smoke point which means it burns easily. The milk solids in butter also scorch easily, so I don’t recommend using butter to make dark rouxs. Butter is great for light rouxs for things like gravy or béchamel sauce, but if you want a dark roux, I recommend one of the oils above. If you must use butter, a clarified butter or ghee will generally produce better results since it has had the milk solids removed.
Once the roux is finished, the hard part is over. Seriously. The rest is easy peasy.
Can I make the roux in advance?
Once made and cooled, the roux can be put in an airtight container and stored for future use. When made with oil, it can be stored on the counter for a few days or in the refrigerator or freezer for much, much longer. Roux made with butter will need to be refrigerated.
Making the gumbo…
There are a few things worth mentioning as they relate to the ingredients in the gumbo.
Chicken and Stock
To give you options, I simply listed 6 to 8 cups of chicken stock and shredded cooked chicken. You can use plain shredded cooked chicken or even a shredded rotisserie chicken.
I prefer to use that 2 to 4 hours it takes to cook the roux in the oven and simmer a 5 to 6 pound chicken with some onions, celery, garlic, salt, and pepper and then use that for my shredded chicken and then strain the stock to use as well. It’s totally up to you. Either way way will produce delicious results.
While andouille has its roots in France, in the US it most commonly refers to a cajun style smoked sausage that has a little heat. It’s the sausage most traditionally used in gumbo. If you can’t find andouille, it’s possible to find another cajun style sausage in your grocery store. I most frequently use Conecuh Cajun Style Smoked Sausage, but realize not everyone can get their hands on that. If all else fails, any kind of smoked sausage will work in a pinch.
Okra versus Filé
As I mentioned earlier, the dark roux has virtually no power to thicken the gumbo once it’s been cooked that long to achieve that dark color. I prefer to use okra in this case. It does a great job of thickening the gumbo and giving it flavor. I actually happen to prefer gumbo with okra.
I use fresh okra when I have it, but normally can’t get fresh during the colder winter months when I want gumbo, so I often use frozen and it works just fine.
I realize that some folks characterize that thickening power as “slimy” and don’t want to include it in their gumbo. Some folks say that cooking or roasting the okra first eliminates that mucilage that gives the okra its unique texture. That’s true, but eliminating that mucilage also eliminates the okra’s ability to thicken the gumbo up. So, doing that will get you some nice okra flavor, but no thickening power.
So, if okra isn’t your thing entirely, some filé powder will do the trick.
Filé is made from ground sassafras leaves. Once ground, the filé has virtually no flavor, but will help to thicken the gumbo. You’ll want to add the filé at the end of cooking and use it sparingly. It has a tendency to make the gumbo stringy. Filé is French and literally translates to “spun.”
And yes, you can use both okra and filé, but do so sparingly. We’re making gumbo here, not jello. 🤣
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil (plus 1 tablespoon)
- 3 ribs celery, diced
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 2 large green bell peppers, seeded and diced
- 5 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons creole seasoning
- 6 to 8 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 pound andouille or cajun smoked sausage, sliced
- 6 cups shredded cooked chicken*
- 1 pound okra, trimmed and chopped** (frozen works, too)
- cooked white rice, sliced green onion, and hot sauce for serving
Make the Roux
- Option 1: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup oil in a very large oven-proof dutch oven. Bake uncovered for 2 to 4 hours, stirring 2 or 3 times, or until the roux is milk chocolate brown in color. Once done, you'll finish the gumbo on the stovetop. (This time can vary a lot based on the oven, cooking vessel, and elevation, so watch for the right color. One reader even said hers got to chocolate brown in about 45 minutes!)
- Option 2: Combine the flour and oil in a very large dutch oven on the stovetop over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring pretty much constantly, until the roux is a milk chocolate brown color. Be sure to frequently scrape the bottom of the pot when stirring. I like to use a flat-ended wooden spatula or gumbo paddle for this to ensure you get the bits off the bottom of the pot and keep them from burning. This process can take anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes – or longer – depending on the exact heat of your stove. Be sure not to burn your roux or your gumbo will taste burned. If you start seeing black flecks in the roux, it may be scorched. A quick taste will confirm. If so, you'll need to start your roux over. It's much better to undercook your roux than have it burn, but you will sacrifice flavor.
Sauté the Aromatics
- Place the dutch oven with the finished roux over medium heat and add the celery, onion, and bell pepper. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the vegetables have softened and the onions are translucent.
- Add the garlic and creole seasoning and cook for about 1 minute or until the garlic is fragrant.
Add the Stock
- Gradually add 6 cups of chicken stock, bay leaves, and thyme and stir. Add salt, pepper, and additional creole seasoning to taste. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook uncovered for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Sauté the Sausage
- In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil, add the sliced sausage and brown.
Add the Protein and Thicken
- Once the gumbo has simmered, add the cooked sausage and shredded chicken. Stir to combine. Add the okra and simmer uncovered for an additional 30 to 45 minutes or until thickened. Add additional broth, if desired. Spoon away any excess grease that may accumulate on the top. Remove the bay leaves.
- Serve the gumbo with hot cooked white rice, a sprinkle of sliced green onion, and a few dashes of hot sauce – if desired.
* If nutritional values are provided, they are an estimate and will vary depending on the brands used. The values do not include optional ingredients or when ingredients are added to taste. If calorie count and other nutritional values are important to you, I recommend grabbing your favorite brands and plugging those ingredients into an online nutritional calculator.