Monday, November 23, 2009

Gluten Free Gumbo: Begin With a Gluten Free Roux

Signature gumbo from Bozo's Seafood Restaurant...Image via Wikipedia
I made gumbo last weekend, which as we all know, starts with a roux. Gumbo is the ultimate comfort food
for anyone with a southern mother (like me), and as the house was filled with the signature smell of Cajun cooking, I felt at home here in Oregon for the first time. The recipe below does not contain exact portions, because I always just make it up as I go. Instead I describe the process and give some guesses.

As those close to us know, Courtney is allergic to wheat, which is one of the only two ingredients in roux. I had made gumbo once or twice with a quinoa flour roux, which was alright but somewhat disappointing. The quinoa did not thicken up the way roux should, and added a strange nutty overtone. So this time I consulted the all knowing Internet, and was shocked by the dearth of information on gluten free roux. There was only one decent link to Gluten Free Girl and this video, but that is a french roux and I needed a Cajun one.

I decided to wing it. Believe it or not, the most simple solution turned out perfectly. I grabbed a bag of GF All Purpose Baking Flour from Bob's Red Mill (a lovely company) and used it exactly as I would regular flour. It thickened up just the right amount, browned well, and tasted delicious. I almost think they should market it separately as 'GF Roux Flour.'

Cajun roux is different from french roux primarily in that vegetable oil is used in stead of butter (any fat can be used for roux, but different regional cuisines have different traditions). It is also used differently, as a thickener for stews and soups (gumbo, jambalaya e.g.) and not so much as a thickener for sauce (veloute or bechamel would be thickened with a french roux).

Cajun roux is made with vegetable oil for two reasons: first it is cheaper than butter (a lot of Cajun recipes use ingredients that are cheap and abundant in the south), and second because you can make the roux much, much darker in oil. With a french roux, the butter will burn before the roux cooks to the right color, which various cookbooks have described as "the color of peanut butter," "a deep nutty brown," "walnut," etc. Whatever you call it, you'll never get there with butter.

Gluten Free Basic Gumbo

Canola or other high heat oil (about a half cup)
GF all purpose flour (about a half cup)
Chicken stock (about 4 cups)
Andouille Sausage (a link or two) cut into bite size bits
Left over or pre-cooked chicken (about a pound)
The holy trinity: onions, green bell peppers, and celery (about 2 cups, roughly diced, even portions of each)
Shrimp (half to a whole pound)
Fresh herbs (bay, thyme, parsley, etc.)
Cooked plain white rice
Gumbo File (ground sassafras leaves)

For gumbo, make the roux in a heavy pot or dutch oven (cast iron is best) by mixing roughly equal part oil and flour. Cook over a high heat, stirring constantly, until the flour reaches the desired color (several minutes). When the roux is dark enough, add the holy trinity and the chicken stock to cool it off a bit and stop the flour from over cooking. My mother always sauteed the trinity in the roux for a few minutes before adding the stock, allowing them to brown a little. Either way tastes very good. After the stock, add the chicken and the fresh herbs.

In a separate pan, grill the andouille sausage until it is well browned all over. Remove with a slotted spoon, adding the sausage to the gumbo without transferring the extra fat. Bring the gumbo to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for about 20 minutes.

About 5 minutes before serving, add the shrimp. When the shrimp is cooked through, remove the pot from the heat. Serve over rice sprinkled with gumbo file, with Tabasco or other hot sauce at the ready.


For those with a heat tooth: adding a jalapeno or two with the trinity will please. Alternatively (or additionally) add cayenne pepper with the herbs.

For those with a taste for Thai: serve the finished gumbo with fish sauce and sriracha instead of Tabasco. I did this last time I had it, and I thought it was just about the most delicious thing I ever had, and I now believe fish sauce is the perfect condiment for gumbo.

Seafood Gumbo: instead of (or in addition to) chicken add crab legs, crayfish, scallops, or any other fish or crustacean really. Add it with the shrimp, careful not to overcook.

Vegetarian/vegan: Gumbo z'herbes is a traditional lenten version of gumbo for catholic southerners. Leave out the chicken and andouille sausage. To get some of that andouille flavor add cayenne pepper, black pepper, paprika, garlic, and plenty of sea salt. In place of the meat, throw in a mix of greens such as collard greens, spinach, dandelion, etc. This site gives an excellent list of greens to include, but I think the extra step of par boiling the greens is really unnecessary, just trim and chop into spoon able size and boil in the gumbo itself. Obviously, use vegetable stock instead of chicken.

Gumbo on Foodista
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  1. Hey, if you want some other great recipe ideas. I found this woman by the name Rose Cole, she's a certified nutrition coach and she has awesome Holiday Recipes that are gluten free. Her site is I highly recommend checking it out!

  2. Thanks for referencing me in the gumbo post. A couple of things: I always add the onions to the roux first and then add the other veggies. No reason, other than I love the smell of onions cooking in roux. Also, I always include the following dry spices: salt, celery salt, black pepper, white pepper, and red cayenne pepper. I don't go too heavy on the salt, and I am very liberal with the white pepper. Every gumbo is individual, and I can hardly wait to taste yours when I visit!

  3. I started making the gumbo with roasted chicken a few years back (from leftovers), and have never boiled a chicken again. I season the chicken with good amounts of sea salt, rosemary, thyme, pepper and garlic and then roast till tender and golden(and fight my husband off of it until I can make gumbo). I de-bone while warm and toss the skin in the stock along with the drippings (remove skin from stock before adding to roux). The chicken turns out moist and tender in the gumbo. I have had my 100%certified swamp raised Cajun friends almost cry when they taste gumbo made this way. Enjoy....

  4. Many thanks for this post! As a new GF eater, I've been wracking my brain trying to determine how best to make a roux as I know and love it . . . this helps!

  5. I wonder if you can use that same gluten free flour to roast the flour in the oven and do a dry roux? I've been using dry roux for a while to cut back on the oil a bit.

  6. Good recipe for GF... I made this and it turned out great.. Next time I would only use 1/2 the amount of flour and oil that I normally use... The GF roux ended up being very thick once I added it to the pot...
    Thanks for the information... Now my friend can enjoy GF Gumbo at my house when we watch the Saints... :)