Cast Iron

Alton Brown's Shrimp Gumbo

February 10, 2015
20 Ratings
Photo by Mark Weinberg
  • Prep time 45 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Serves 6
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

What You'll Need
Watch This Recipe
Alton Brown's Shrimp Gumbo
  • 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
  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
  • Rita Benziger Daly
    Rita Benziger Daly
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

81 Reviews

Ann February 28, 2022
Born in NOLA. No, no, no tomato.
Twinkle February 17, 2022
I made this recipe with some changes due to what I had available:

+ Roux base made with 4 oz AP flour and reduced avocado oil to 3.5 oz (due to someone mentioning that their gumbo felt too oily)

+ Roux mixture baked 350F degrees at 75 minutes with 3 whisks spread throughout bake time seemed to give the right color, borderline too dark/burnt. Recommend keeping a closer eye after the first 60 minutes, checking every 10 minutes just in case

+ Upped all the veggies (2 cups onion, 1 cup celery, 1 cup green bell peppers) and I used the 1/2 cup of chopped tomatoes given the relative small amount compared to the other veg

+ Used the recommended spices & herbs, subbing in dried thyme as I didn't have fresh, upped cayenne to 1/2 tsp, and added 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika (as my andouille wasn't smoked)

+ Used 8oz clam juice and diluted chicken broth for liquid as I didn't have shrimp shells to make shrimp broth

+ Used 12oz of andouille to make up for less shrimp (only had 16 oz of Gulf shrimp). Don't use oil when browning andouille as they release so much fat!

+ Didn't have file powder :(

Served with basmati rice and garnished with some scallions. It turned out reasonably well! I hoped all the vegetables & tomatoes (tomato skeptics/haters: you don't notice them!) would balance everything out but there was a lingering heaviness on the palate. I'll try the flour toasting trick as mentioned by @CMonie to cut back on the oil (and maybe try peanut, as this helps the flavor profile as well), keep the aforementioned higher veggie ratio, and get file powder to see if my next batch of gumbo turns out better.

*For those wanting a cleaner shrimp stock, buy wild-caught shell-on shrimp, rinse thoroughly, and use only the shells & tails (omitting the heads).
Anastassia January 10, 2022
Gumbo does not have tomatoes…Shrimp Creole has tomatoes.
KLS January 12, 2022
That is exactly what I was going to say!!!!! BUT, Yankees DO put tomatoes in Gumbo, LOL
Anastassia January 12, 2022
Middendorf’s has a disclaimer on their menu stating there is tomatoes in their gumbo. It’s unfortunate.
I recently went to a party where the gumbo was served with dirty rice. It has totally changed my life. Delicious.
CMonie October 29, 2021
Many Pros and some Cons with this recipe. The Pros: making roux in an oven is great if you are afraid of spending an hour making a dark roux, only to burn it the last five mins. You don’t need to use oil either when baking the flour in the oven. This way you can reduce the oil content to what you prefer when you add it in a pan and then the vegetables.

The key to making a good gumbo is when you mix the roux and broth. The broth needs to be at room temperature when you add it to the hot roux. This way it will congeal very smoothly. If not, hot roux and cold broth will result in a clumpy mixture.

Won’t get into the tomatoes vs no tomatoes but if you do use them, it’s not a lot, more for color.

The spice and vegetable ratios are fine. But for Seafood gumbo, adding some Ole Bay is advisable. Also add white pepper.

Cons: add more sausage, at least 1lb. A 1/2 lb isn’t anything. Secondly, put it in the gumbo longer at least 20 mins to give Gumbo a smoky flavor. You can also use Tasso to give it a more smoky

Ca c’est Bon!
GeorgiaCook October 26, 2021
I've been making a seafood gumbo for over 10 years for our family Christmas Eve Dinner. I've read many recipes online and tinkered with my recipe over time to get the exact taste that I wanted. Gumbo is like any other recipe, there are as varied as there are cooks. Ultimately you have to find the right recipe that you and your family will enjoy. I will also say that your ingredients matter. I've had some gumbos that tasted murky/muddy and did not care for them. The brand of andouille sausage that you use matters, taste it before you use it. I use Thomas Ragin' Cajun Original Hot Smoked Andouille Sausage. It's the perfect mix of heat and seasoning. The proteins that I use have included shrimp, crab, bay scallops, tasso ham and chicken. Use whatever proteins that you and your family will enjoy I also add a big can of diced tomatoes. They will blend in and break down in your final dish and they add flavor. I also add a tablespoon of tomato paste to my rue at the end along with my vegetables. It makes for a richer and more flavorful gumbo. Again you have to use ingredients that works for you and your family.

I cook my rue in a cast iron skillet and have done it both on the stovetop and in the over. I think the over method works best. It makes for better even cooking and it's less likely to burn. You also do not have to constantly stir it like you do with the stovetop method. I've used both bacon fat and regular oil to mix with the flour. The bacon fat just adds an additional layer of flavor. I've also used a mix of butter and oil, but prefer bacon fat. For the liquid base I've experimented with chicken stock, beef stock, clam juice, lobster stock and seafood stock. It's a matter of how seafood forward that you want your gumbo to be. I also add a couple tablespoons of Old Bay Seasoning and I've used Zatarain's crab boil. They both add great seasoning to your gumbo. As far as okra vs file powder, I think that okra will give you a cleaner tasting gumbo. I've not been a fan of file powder. Both are used to thicken your gumbo. I usually chop up my okra so that they blend in with the other vegetables.

Those are my basics.
cosmiccook September 17, 2021
You lost me at the tomatoes. And the 30-50 count head on shrimp. OKAY the roux in the oven too. I realize that not everyone can get good, fresh shrimp. Nor do you want to waste money on large shrimp if one I also don't care for shrimp heads in my stock. Makes for a muddier, funkier tasting stock. There are more authentic recipes out there. Better yet just come to New Orleans for some gumbo.
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.
cosmiccook September 17, 2021
NOW you're in the right direction. We do a smoked duck & andouille gumbo w shrimp for Mardi Gras. Takes about 3 days. Day 1 PARTIALLY smoke duck--just enough to get smoke flavor but not cook the duck. This can be done in a stove top smoker. Then I render the duck fat for PART of the stock. Shrimp tails are MUCH better than heads--they "funk" up the flavor--nothing wrong w adding clam juice to beef up the seafood flavor. DITCH the 'MATERS (this is a 200 yr. old argument in N.O--I'm in the camp of NYET) plus my husband detests shrimp in tomatoes. We make our roux tried and true--over a fire in a cast iron skillet. My husband is the "gumbo man' and yes, we have an entire play list of Gumbo songs-- ESSENTIAL to a successful roux. Have your chilled beer & Tequila at the ready while you stir (for drinking while listening to the play list--its required).
flourgirl February 23, 2022
Love that, Cosmiccook! I make what I call a 3-beer roux. By the time I finish the third beer, the roux is done!
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!
cosmiccook September 17, 2021
Or you could try Oyster soup (then there's Oyster Rockefeller soup) very rich. Oyster soup is served in New Orleans restaurants during the season. Or oyster & artichoke soup.
cosmiccook September 17, 2021
@ Rita, the link below is from Casamentos' --IMHO the finest New Orleans style oyster house--and probably the ONLY one left still making & serving daube.
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.
cosmiccook September 17, 2021
Butter has a much lower flash point, will burn before your roux is the correct darkness. As much as we LOVE brown Butta' we use peanut oil.
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.
cosmiccook September 17, 2021
I've tried just about every method I know of to get the perfect roux. Browning the flour alone, browning it in the oven etc. I just don't get the same results as on the cook top. Fortunately my husband LOVES to stir things. So he gets a stool, beer & spirit of choice & a great playlist he put together and let him go.
Virginia M. September 18, 2021
Great idea, I'll get my husband to do it. He does like helping me in the kitchen sometimes. Thanks.
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.