Cast Iron

Alton Brown's Shrimp Gumbo

February 10, 2015
13 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
Author Notes

A hands-off method for a rich, dark gumbo roux, so you can celebrate Mardi Gras away from the stove. While I recommend following the recipe as written—and it's well worth the trouble of finding head-on shrimp and filé powder for what might be the most soul-stirring gumbo you've tasted—the most important lesson to take away here is that any gumbo is more within reach when you bake your roux. Adapted slightly from The Food Network. Serve with rice. —Genius Recipes

Watch This Recipe
Alton Brown's Shrimp Gumbo
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Serves 6
  • 4 fluid ounces vegetable oil
  • 4 ounces all-purpose flour (or about 1 cup less 4 teaspoons, if measuring by volume)
  • 1 1/2 pounds raw, whole, head-on, medium-sized (31-50 count) shrimp
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1/2 cup diced celery
  • 1/2 cup diced green peppers
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup peeled, seeded, and chopped tomato (fresh or canned)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage, cut into 1/4-inch slices and browned in a little oil
  • 1 tablespoon filé powder
  • Rice for serving
In This Recipe
  1. Heat the oven to 350° F.
  2. Place the vegetable oil and flour into a 5- to 6-quart cast iron Dutch oven and whisk together to combine. Place on the middle shelf of the oven, uncovered, and bake for 1 1/2 hours, whisking 2 to 3 times throughout the cooking process.
  3. While the roux is baking, de-head, peel, and devein the shrimp. Place the shrimp in a bowl and set in the refrigerator. Place the heads and shells in a 4-quart saucepan along with the 2 quarts of water, set over high heat and bring to a boil. Decrease the heat to low and simmer for 1 hour or until the liquid has reduced to 1 quart. Remove from the heat and strain the liquid into a container, discarding the solids.
  4. Once the roux is done, carefully remove it from the oven and set over medium-high heat. Gently add the onions, celery, green peppers, and garlic and cook, moving constantly, for 7 to 8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the tomatoes, salt, black pepper, thyme, cayenne pepper, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Gradually add the shrimp broth while whisking continually. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the shrimp and sausage, and stir to combine. Add the filé powder while stirring constantly. Cover and allow to sit for 10 minutes prior to serving. Serve over rice.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Tiffany Joy Burns
    Tiffany Joy Burns
  • Virginia Murrell
    Virginia Murrell
  • Lacy Loar
    Lacy Loar
  • WaterBoiler
  • Nicole Lyons
    Nicole Lyons
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

65 Reviews

Tiffany J. February 26, 2020
Delish! I couldn't find tail-on shrimp in Minnesota so used 1 lb shell-on shrimp and a whole lobster to get a good broth flavor. Andouille seems to come in 12 oz packages so used it all and think it was perfect. Only used 2 tsp salt since 1 TBSP seemed like a bit much and I'm glad I did; think it could actually be reduced to 1.5 tsp. Wonderful with a grapefruity Sauvignon Blanc to balance it all out!
Richard P. April 27, 2019
I swap out half the veg oil for bacon drippings.....cant beat it!
Shrinkrap September 14, 2016
Third time, each the charm, but my roux has been golden. And I'm usually finding substitutes for the full on shrimp head broth. This last time, shrimp tails, duck broth, and bottled clam juice.
foxyfine February 7, 2016
Never heard of making a roux in the oven,that's the only way to make it now! Didn't have file,or clam juice and it still had good flavor. Used the tomatoe also

Stephanie S. December 20, 2017
File makes all the difference! Try it next time!
R February 4, 2016
It's recipes not what I misspelled below.
R February 4, 2016
I'll probably use the roux tip, but not crazy about the rest of receipe in total and will use one I got from a couple of Cajuns which includes oysters. Also, never heard of tomatoes in gumbo.
Rita B. February 27, 2019
we're having a family oyster fest this weekend. Would love to get your gumbo receipt that includes oysters!
Victoria B. February 4, 2016
My mother in law browned flour in the oven stirring occasionally till it was just the right color - then she cooled it and stored the flour in the freezer till she was ready to make her gumbo. That way she always had just what she needed to make her amazing chicken and oyster gumbo.
Virginia M. February 4, 2016
For Lacy Loar,

I wouldn't use butter in a gumbo recipe because I'd be worried I'd burn it. The roux in a gumbo recipe has to be chocolate brown. Just my opinion.
BigPink November 2, 2019
While I have a strong preference for dark rouxs in my gumbos, it’s not uncommon for seafood gumbo (as opposed to chicken and sausage) to have a lighter roux
Lacy L. February 4, 2016
Is there any reason to not use butter for the roux? The only time I made gumbo, it tasted oily from the vegetable oil (a Lagasse recipe). Can I use butter instead?
R February 4, 2016
I've never had much luck following any of Emeril's recipes. I remember his show...most everything was cooked in the back for him...whenever he did cook something entirely, it was either burned or raw...BAM! indeed. Mostly, he was a showman.
tim February 4, 2016
tomato in gumbo!! no
Virginia M. February 4, 2016
I'm going to try this method. I hate standing over the stove stirring and stirring and in the end, more times than not, burning the Roux and having to start over. Hate that! I also wouldn't add tomatoes.
BigPink January 13, 2016
The entire state of Louisiana shakes their head at "1/2 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomato". Once you add tomato, you no longer have gumbo. I hope you enjoy your seafood stew. I guess we're lucky there aren't any carrots.
Also, file powder is to be added to each bowl after serving, not to the pot.
JustKatB February 4, 2016
That's what I thought when I saw the tomato too! File is also normally served on the side although I do add a teaspoon or two to the pot sometimes. But never tomato.
BigPink November 2, 2019
File powder is delicious in gumbo, but it must be added to the bowl at the table. It will wreak havoc on your gumbo texturally if you add it to the pot. You don’t want a glue-y roux.
WaterBoiler October 16, 2015
A friend of mine from Louisiana and I made this tonight. At one and a half hours, we were barely at the "peanut butter stage", and it was getting late. We pulled the pot out of the oven and finished on top of a gas burner. We were also using a Le Creuset. We got to "chocolate" in another 10 minutes, but we could have saved time by going the usual (Paul Prudhomme) way, getting there in in say 30 minutes, rather than and hour and a half with another 10 minute save tacked on. Neither of us thought this so called time saving method warrants a genius recipe. For us it didn't work. We had to rescue what was in the pot. We also thought, if you are going this way, the ratio of oil to flour is off. If you are going to do this, use a third less oil. (We used Wesson.). We think you should stick to the basics. Part of the fun of gumbo is that you might screw up the roux at the very end. Why start off screwing it up before you get there?
Lynn June 3, 2015
I have successfully used the Paul Prudhomme method for roux that calls for a very, very hot iron skillet and constant stirring for five minutes. He has a terrific chicken and sausage gumbo that you can find by Googling.
Dan M. May 18, 2015
Very good gumbo. I did not use shrimp but used a quart of chicken stock and the chopped beasts from a rotisserie chicken. I added a handful of thawed okra slices with the tomatoes. Yummy!
Dan M. November 5, 2015
Not beasts, breasts.
Nicole L. March 4, 2015
I found that the gumbo had a dirty taste. I followed the recipe to the 't', however o am wondering if I omitted the shrimp heads that that would have aleviated the 'dirt' taste, or strain the shrimp broth through a cheesecloth... or went with out the filé... what do you suggest to do differently? A friend suggested to add smoked paprika and white pepper to adjust the flavor, what do you think?

Desperately Yours...
Nicole April 1, 2015
My understanding from growing up in a Cajun home is that you shouldn't cook with filé. So I thought that was weird to add it to the gumbo while cooking. It should be used as a finisher, we put it on the table when gumbo is served. Maybe try it without the filé and see if it helps the dirty flavor. (I don't ever add the filé to my bowl though actually)
Nicole L. April 1, 2015
Thank you, this helps.
starvingfoodist April 12, 2015
Just a note that you don't actually cook the filé - it says to turn off the heat before adding, along with the proteins, which I read to be similar to if you would finish a dish with cream or lemon juice. Just thought I'd point out in case that was part of the dilemma. Cheers
CreoleGal February 12, 2016
I think it may be that your roux slightly burned, which is what I would be concerned about with the oven method. I too use Paul Prouhomme's fast roux method which makes it much easier to control the browning. I come from an old Creole French New Orleans family and we always add a half to a cup of (drained if canned) tomatoes to our gumbo. Very subtle, the gumbo is still dark brown with hints of red from the tomato pieces. And we use okra rather than file powder.
Nancy February 28, 2015
The presentation was beautiful. My roux was a nutty warm brown color. The green pepper, onion, garlic, thyme and bay all sauted together in a sumptuous mix. The shrimp were cooked perfectly by just putting them in at the end with the file. Just as the recipe said. I used lobster stock because I had it and wanted to use it. I just don't think I like gumbo that much. Maybe it's the andouille sausage that I don't care for.
Catesby M. February 24, 2015
Can you make it he roux with a 2-1 flour to oil rather than the 1-1 roux?
Susan W. February 21, 2015
1.5 hrs didn't give my roux a deep was more like a caramel color. Could this be due to the pot I used? Le Creuset enamel lined cast iron.
Kristen M. February 22, 2015
I've used Le Creuset before, and I think Alton Brown does too -- it may have just needed a bit more time, due to the temperature of your oven, or the size of the pot, humidity, or any number of other factors. If you're in a hurry, you could always pull it out and finish toasting the roux on the stovetop to get it to the color you want.
Emilie H. February 21, 2015
there are no fresh shrimp here with heads on them. Can I use seafood stock instead?
Kristen M. February 22, 2015
Yes, you can, but I've also used frozen head-on shrimp with good results if you can find those.