Time: 1 hour || Active time: 25 minutes
At the farmer’s market this weekend there was some beautiful organic okra and these sweet-hot red creole peppers, and I knew what I had to do. Gumbo!
A thick and tangy stew filled to the brim with veggies straight from the garden and two kinds of beans. This is a great weeknight meal that is perfectly suited to my taste, because as I learned, that’s what gumbo is all about. A toasty roux, fresh tomatoes, plenty of onion and garlic, fresh thyme, and of course, okra. If you’re an okra newbie, or maybe just afraid to cook with it, this is a great recipe to start with. I use lots of veggie broth to thin the roux and cook the okra, and then reduce it with a long simmer, making for a thick velvety sauce that is not at all slimy.
But let’s start from the beginning, because Southern cooking doesn’t come naturally to me. It’s not something I grew up with, besides maybe fried chicken, and I was probably in my twenties before I even ever had a po boy. There is a gumbo recipe in Veganomicon, and it’s delish, but that was all Terry.
When I set out to make a recipe I’m not familiar with, I bury my face in my hundreds of cookbooks and just research, research, research. Sure, I’m not inventing a cure for any deadly diseases or creating a blueprint for world peace, but I do like to know a little bit about whatever I’m cooking. I bet there’s someone in New Orleans right now doing the same thing with matzoh ball soup!
I started out thinking it kind of funny that a Brooklyn girl in Nebraska was making vegan gumbo, but I came to realize that it wasn’t really that weird. Gumbo is many things to many people, a mish mash of so many cultures, from African to French to Native American. In fact, with the exception of salt I couldn’t even find one ingredient that was absolutely integral to the dozens of gumbo recipes I pored over. I figured there would be something, like, say, celery, but not every recipe even had that. Same for thyme, or meat, or okra. All were common, but not common enough to say that gumbo has to contain them.
So if I were an alien dropped from the sky onto earth for just one day and with just one mission — bring back gumbo intelligence — I would come away from it with a few understandings. Gumbo is a thickened stew with creole herbs and spices and lots of chunky stuff in it. It can be thickened with a roux, or with okra, or with file powder, and sometimes it’s a mix of all three. Most often, it’s served with rice. And of course I would have to report that it’s the official dish of the state of Louisiana!
I used the creole peppers I picked up at the market, which are a nice sweet hot, similar to Italian red peppers. But use whatever not-spicy red pepper you can get. I also think that vegan sausages would be a great addition! Add them towards the end if you like.
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup flour
1 medium sized onion, diced large
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaping cup sweet red peppers, diced large (or one red bell pepper)
2 cups cherry tomatoes (or chopped tomatoes)
1 teaspoon salt
Fresh black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
8 springs fresh thyme (plus extra for garnish)
2 1/2 to 3 cups vegetable broth at room temperature
2 cups okra (about 10 oz) sliced 1/4 inch thick or so
1 1/2 cups cooked kidney beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 1/2 cup cooked garbanzo beans (a 15 oz can, rinsed and drained)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Rice for serving (I used a pretty pink rice)
First we’re going to make a roux, but it has a little less fat than a traditional roux, which means it doesn’t get as goopy. If you’d like a more traditional roux, just add 3 more tablespoons of vegetable oil. Okay, so, let’s proceed.
Preheat a large, heavy bottom pot over medium-low heat. The wider the pot the better, so that you have lots of surface area to make your roux.
Add the oil and sprinkle in the flour. Use a wooden spatula to toss the flour in the oil, and stir pretty consistently for 3 to 4 minutes, until the flour is clumpy and toasty.
Add the onion and salt, and toss to coat the onions completely in the flour mixture. As the onions release moisture, they will coat more and more. Cook this way for 5 minutes, stirring often. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds or so.
Add the peppers and tomatoes and cook down for about 10 more minutes. If using cherry tomatoes, place a cover on the pot to get them to cook faster and release moisture. As the tomatoes break down, the mixture should become thick and pasty.
Season with fresh black pepper, add bay leaves, smoked paprika and thyme and mix well.
Stream in the 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth, stirring constantly to prevent clumping. Add the okra and beans, then turn the heat up and cover to bring to a boil. Stir occasionally.
Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let cook uncovered for 30 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the stew is nicely thickened and the okra is tender. If it’s too thick, thin with up to 1/2 cup vegetable broth. If it’s not as thick as you like, just cook it a bit longer.
Add the lemon juice, and adjust salt and pepper to your liking. Let it sit for 10 minutes. Remove bay leaves and thyme stems (if you can see them) then serve in a big, wide bowl, topped with a scoop of rice and garnished with fresh thyme.
Sounds delicious. i’ve only made gumbo once before (with chicken) but I would love to try a vegetarian one!
delicious combination of greens 🙂
Thanks for the recipe. I made this tonight and it was great. I used black beans + a diced seitan sausage instead of chickpeas and kidney beans. As a Brit this is my first time trying “gumbo” but it certainly won’t be the last 😀
Simmering roux is one of those “smells” from my childhood. As far as the ingredients go, I think it depends on which side of the state you’re eating your gumbo in (we rarely had okra but if you tell my mom you’re making a roux out of anything besides shortening and flour, she’ll knock you on your feet). My dad is from the “heel” of Louisiana and his mother taught my mom how to make all the creole/cajun staples he ate growing up. She said that there are as many ways to make gumbo as there are people in Louisiana (but only hers was the right way, of course).
As a girl who grew up eating gumbo, I’m itchin’ to try this. There were rarely any veggies in our gumbo growing up besides green onions… just rice, roux, and meat (shrimp or chicken, none of that mixing meats nonsense in our house) so this will be a nice experiment and if I’m halfway pleased, I may even try taking it home to mom and dad some time. Thanks!
I’m pretty excited about this! I couldn’t resist picking up some okra at the farmer’s market and came here and typed in okra. I knew you’d have something for me. My boyfriend’s jaw hit the floor when he saw this recipe pop up, so we’re pretty eager to try it. Tonight we’re “hanging out” in Chicago with vegan Italian Beef… but tomorrow, I’m heading south to make this gumbo. 😉
This is amazing. So amazing I made it in the summer. Yum!
This is FANTASTIC! I didn’t have smoked paprika and just used regular, it was just fine like that. Great recipe!
I picked up some fresh okra on a whim, and made this. It was amazing! I have never cooked with okra before, and haven’t eaten it since I was a little. This gumbo is absolutely delicious. I didn’t have any fresh thyme, so I used dried. I didn’t have smoked paprika, so I used sweet but added a few drops of liquid smoke. I have some okra left over, and I’m thinking of just making a second pot of this gumbo, instead of trying anything else new!
I am obsessed with gumbo… mostly the okra, and the spices, and have been looking for a good vegetarian option. I just made this and it was quite delicious!! Nice work!! I just didn’t add any rice, and added some gumbo file. You’ve inspired me to try it so many different ways now!
Great gumbo! I just made it and can confirm it’s a good one. I added 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper to give it a bit of kick and didn’t have any canned (or soaked) kidney beans but it worked fine without them. Yum yum! Thanks!
This is so good! I cooked it tonight and added soy crumbles and nori! Yummm.
Delish. Very easy. Sliced frozen okra made the recipe even easier. Celery and mushrooms were nice additions, and I am sure zucchini would be too. Thanks!!!
Deelish! Used frozen okra, canned tomatoes, & skipped bell pepper all together! My non vegan 10 year old & her best friend ate 2 bowls each!
This looks awesome and I am itching to try it out. There is some great vegan chorizo they sell here that will go perfectly I think. For the historic factor, it may be of interest to know that the French word for Okra is ‘gombo’. The vegetable was introduced to the French by African slaves who brought it with them to the French Antilles and grew it (it is originally from India), so probably that is where it came from in the south as well. So I would agree with a couple of others that if it ain’t got okra it ain’t gumbo. One could even say that “Okra gumbo” is a redundant term – just saying the same thing in 2 languages. 🙂 I came across this because I am trying to figure out where I can find okra here in France, and now I know if I go to African specialty markets I can find it.
I made this last night and I really loved it! It’s a very hearty dish. I added some vegan chorizo and it was dyn-o-mite. I do have a question though–just out of curiosity because I’m trying to understand how to throw recipes together–what is the purpose of the lemon juice at the end?
Your recipes have enabled me to cook scrumptious vegan stuff for years Isa. I’m so appreciative!
Made this several times and became a very happy girl.
Flipping awesome!!!! It had great rich flavor. Hubby and I both loved it. I didn’t have okra (which always makes me think of Oprah) but I threw in some extra flour and green beans instead (got the green bean idea from a substitute list for okra). Also threw in some vegan sausage. Yum yum yum!!!
Do you think this could be made in a crock pot?
Does anyone have an nutritional facts for this?
I roughly followed this recipe – had to make a few substitutions and I didn’t measure anything. It came out beautiful and really delicious. I never thought of using beans in a gumbo.
Sadly I have a capsicum (bell pepper) allergy; any suggestions for a suitable substitute? I’ve got some okra and would love to make this recipe! Thanks!
I made this and it was DELICIOUS! Thank you so much for sharing 🙂
I made this today, and it got me to thinking: what’s the deal with roux? I know a traditional Roux is made by cooking flour in a fat/oil until it’s toasted and deeply brown. It serves as a thickener, and to add color & flavor. I don’t use oil in cooking anymore, so I just toasted flour in a cast iron skillet until lightly browned, and used that as a thickener, in broth instead of oil. It turned out wonderfully. Does a traditional Roux cooked in fat add anything to a dish (besides the properties of the fat, aka taste & texture) that plain old flour or toasted flour would not? I can’t think of anything. So why do traditional recipes bother with all the work making a roux in the first place? And let me say prophylactically that I know what I did is NOT a real roux, and no offense meant to those with deeply held roux opinions! Just take it as a given that I enjoy the whole foods, plant-based way of eating, and just wanted to come as close to authentic as I could within those parameters. Thanks!
I made this lastnight and it was delicious!
Yep – this works just fine. I am trying to cut way back on my food bill since I do a lot of running around, and I’m also trying to eat better in general. This recipe suits both bills, and it’s way tasty too!
Made this recipe last week, and it was delicious. I love Okra. I favor gumbo with sassafras or file powder instead of the flour due to wheat intolerance. But this recipe was impressive and full of flavor. I used gluten free flour.
What size pot would be best to use?
I followed the recipe very closely, except I 1) substituted black-eyed peas (my fave legume) for the chickpeas and kidney beans, 2) used very finely ground whole wheat Atta flour instead of white for the roux, 3) reduced the oil to 1 tbsp. and 4) added some dried Aleppo pepper flakes. It was fabulous! When my understated and decidedly non-vegan husband texted me “This jambalaya (sic) is excellent!”, I knew it was going into regular rotation at our house! The perfect meal for a chilly Canadian prairie winter. I may add Beyond Hot Italian sausage the next time I make it, but – I may not. Served over brown rice, it is the bomb, all by itself. Thank you, Isa.