AskDefine | Define gumbo

Dictionary Definition



1 any of various fine-grained silty soils that become waxy and very sticky mud when saturated with water [syn: gumbo soil]
2 tall coarse annual of Old World tropics widely cultivated in southern United States and West Indies for its long mucilaginous green pods used as basis for soups and stews; sometimes placed in genus Hibiscus [syn: okra, okra plant, lady's-finger, Abelmoschus esculentus, Hibiscus esculentus]
3 long mucilaginous green pods; may be simmered or sauteed but used especially in soups and stews [syn: okra]
4 a soup or stew thickened with okra pods

User Contributed Dictionary




  1. The okra plant or its pods.
  2. A soup or stew made with okra.
  3. A fine silty soil that when wet becomes very thick and heavy.




Extensive Definition

Gumbo is a stew or soup originating in Louisiana, and found across the Gulf Coast of the United States and into the U.S. South. It consists primarily of a strong stock, meat and/or shellfish, a thickener, and the vegetable "holy trinity" of celery, bell peppers, and onion. The soup is traditionally served over rice. A traditional lenten variety called gumbo z'herbes (from the French gumbo aux herbes), essentially a gumbo of smothered greens thickened with roux, also exists.
The dish is very common in Louisiana, Southeast Texas, southern Mississippi and Alabama, and the Lowcountry around Charleston, South Carolina, near Brunswick, Georgia and among Creoles throughout the region. It can also be found in 'Soul Food' restaurants in most northern cities. It is eaten year-round, but is usually prepared during the colder months.
The stock is always as rich as possible, made with whatever complements the type of gumbo (seafood stock for seafood gumbo, chicken stock for chicken gumbo, etc.).
A typical gumbo contains one or more kinds of poultry, shellfish, and smoked pork. Poultry used is typically chicken, duck, or quail. Local shellfish such as the freshwater crawfish and crab and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico are frequently used. Tasso and andouille provide a smoky flavor to the dish.
Gumbos can be broadly divided between the use of okra as a thickener, and recipes using filé powder in that role. Roux may be added to either, and nowadays it is quite common for roux to be the sole thickening agent itself. Mixing okra and filé is uncommon in Louisiana.
Another division in types of gumbo is between Creole and Cajun styles. Creole gumbos generally use a lighter (but still medium-brown) roux and may include tomatoes, while Cajun gumbos are made with a darker roux and never contain tomatoes.


The word gumbo comes from the Bantu (Angolan) word (ki)ngombo, meaning okra.. The word came into Caribbean Spanish as guingambó or "qimbombó," two words now used for okra in Puerto Rico.


Gumbo has been called the greatest contribution of Louisiana kitchens to American cuisine. The dish has its origins in the meeting of cultures that occurred in Louisiana during the 18th century. French cooking techniques provided the beginning with bouillabaisse. The native Choctaw's filé powder and local seafood were a major addition to the local cuisine. West African slaves' imported okra found its way into the Louisiana kitchens, and provided gumbo with its name. Bell peppers, tomatoes and cooked onions were brought to the table by Spanish colonists.
The first written references to gumbo appear in the early 1800s. In 1885, the division between filé and okra-based gumbos was documented in La Cuisine Creole. The cookbook contained many gumbo recipes, some made with filé and some with okra, but none with roux..

Okra, filé powder, and roux

Gumbos can be broadly divided into three categories: those thickened with okra, those thickened with filé powder, and those thickened exclusively with roux. Modern recipes of both okra and filé categories generally call for a dark roux that provides additional thickening and flavoring. Okra and filé powder are, at least historically, not used together in the same dish. You may, however, see a lighter roux combined with roped (sautéed plain to remove the 'stringy' effect) okra and topped with filé after cooking for the sweet flavor.
Filé powder, ground dried sassafras leaves, was in wide use by the native Choctaws when European colonists arrived. In modern recipes, filé gumbos use roux as their primary thickener, with the actual filé powder added as preferred at the table by the eater.
A dark roux as used in a Cajun or Creole gumbo is cooked until extremely dark. Butter will burn if used to make this type of roux, so lard or oil are the fats of choice. If the roux is to be used with okra, a lighter color may be desired, as the flavor of a dark roux is quite overpowering. Most Creole gumbos do not use as dark a roux as the Cajuns, but a medium reddish-brown type roux; the word roux comes from the french word "rouge", meaning "red." The "holy trinity" of onion, celery, and bell pepper will often be cooked in the hot roux itself before the stock is added.
The traditional practice of using okra in the summer (in season) and filé in the winter has played a role in defining the kinds of gumbo usually associated with each. These associations are not hard and fast rules, but more of a general guide. For example a purely seafood gumbo is usually not thickened with filé, while one that is purely meat and game would usually not have okra. This reflects traditional practices of fishing and crabbing in warmer weather and hunting and butchering in cooler weather.

Typical combinations

The following are some common combinations of ingredients that are included in gumbo:
  • Seafood gumbo, with crab, shrimp, crawfish, fish and/or oysters. Often supplemented with tasso or andouille
  • File' Gumbo (Often seafood or Chicken & Sausage)
  • Gumbo ya-ya (A gumbo that includes hard-boiled or poached eggs)
  • Chicken and sausage gumbo
  • Crawfish gumbo
  • Beef gumbo, a variant from the Carolinas, rare in Louisiana
  • Turkey and sausage gumbo, popular after Thanksgiving
  • Duck and Oyster (or Shrimp) Gumbo
  • Squirrel Gumbo
  • Rabbit Gumbo
  • Greens (with or without seafood and/or meat; see Gumbo Z'Herbes below)
While the sausage used is traditionally andouille, other smoked pork sausages can be substituted. The sausage can be removed and replaced with fresh at the end of the cooking period, otherwise it tends to have lost much flavour to the liquid.


The rice is nearly always plain white rice or parboiled rice, steamed or boiled with only salt. The rice used with gumbo is a long-grained rice that sticks well to itself and does not disperse in the gumbo.
The ratio of soup to rice is also a point of contention. Some prefer "damp rice" and some only add a minimal amount of rice to a bowl of broth. This is strictly personal taste.
Traditional side dishes include potato salad, fresh New Orleans style french bread, crackers, or baked sweet potatoes. Many Cajuns add potato salad to their gumbo and eat it with or without rice.

Gumbo z'herbes

Gumbo z'herbes, literally "greens gumbo," (IPA [gəmbou zæ:b]) is a unique variation of the dish usually associated with the Lenten season and particularly Holy Thursday or Good Friday. It was originally spelled in standard French, "gumbo aux herbes." It consists of the standard roux and stock plus a combination of several greens, such as collard, mustard, turnip, cabbage, spinach, lettuce, chard, parsley, scallions, etc.
In different family traditions, the dish, usually served only at the Holy Thursday or Good Friday evening meal, had to have a set number of different greens, usually seven or nine, and it would be referred to simply as, for example, "nine kinds of greens" gumbo. In the days before high-end grocery chains with their opulent produce displays, cooks were not above sneaking out to their gardens to snip off a few nasturtium or other known non-toxic leaves to make the required number.
Presumably this variation was devised in traditionally Roman Catholic New Orleans in keeping with the Lenten spirit of austerity, and may have originally consisted of greens only. But the penchant of the region's cuisine for embellishment led inevitably to the addition of local seafood (shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, and sometimes fish) — which were at least permitted under the Catholic Church's fasting guideline — and eventually seasoning meats (ham, sausage, bacon, even beef)--which were not.


External links

gumbo in Bulgarian: Гъмбо
gumbo in Danish: Gumbo
gumbo in German: Gumbo
gumbo in Spanish: Gumbo
gumbo in Italian: Gumbo
gumbo in Japanese: ガンボ (料理)
gumbo in Norwegian: Gumbo (matrett)
gumbo in Portuguese: Gumbo
gumbo in Chinese: 秋葵湯飯

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Privacy Policy, About Us, Terms and Conditions, Contact Us
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2
Material from Wikipedia, Wiktionary, Dict
Valid HTML 4.01 Strict, Valid CSS Level 2.1