Gumbo is the official state cuisine of Louisiana. And although ingredients might vary from one part of the state to another, it primarily has meat or shellfish cooked in stock along with the holy trinity (celery, bell peppers, and onions), flavored with spices for gumbo, and thickened with either okra, filé powder, or a dark roux.
You are probably most familiar with seafood gumbo and chicken gumbo but there are several gumbo recipes that used a variety of ingredients as well – like ham, bacon, crab, shrimp, oysters, and beef. Ever since its existence was first referenced in 1803, it did go through a series of changes until it evolved to the dish we’ve come to know today.
And although gumbo is Louisiana’s signature dish, when tracing its origin, it’s quite clear that there are influences from different cultures, the West African, Native American, and European, that ultimately resulted in this well-known and beloved dish.
The very name gumbo comes from the West African word ‘ki ngombu” which means okra. It was used as the thickener for a version of gumbo that is stew-like with fish and shellfish. Filé which is made from dried sassafras leaves is used as an alternative to okra and reflects the Native American’s contribution to the dish’s evolution. Its European cooking influence, on the other hand, is evident with the use of a brown roux to thicken the dish.
Whether you prefer the southeastern region’s version of gumbo (seafood-based with tomatoes) or the southwestern region’s version (meat-based with chicken or andouille sausage), both are amazingly delicious and flavor-packed because of the spices for gumbo used in the dish. Both have undeniable lovely flavors from the main ingredients that are even highlighted with the use of different seasonings.
And to give you ideas on what spices for gumbo to use, here’s a list along with recipes that you can sample to see the spice combinations in action.
Spices for Gumbo
Mesquite seasoning is a red, reddish-brown, or a bit orangey-colored Southwest blend of different spices and seasonings. It’s supposed to give you that mesquite flavor without the actual wood chips. Mesquite is a type of small tree that is popularly used in giving smoky flavor to grilled meats. This seasoning has an earthy, warm sweetness, and smoky flavor. The blend usually contains garlic and onion powder, paprika, cumin, rosemary, sugar, and other spices or seasonings.
Because mesquite seasoning is a spice blend, its nutritional content varies depending on the kind and amounts of spices and herbs used in the mix. A typical blend contains capsaicin because of its paprika content and antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds because of the rosemary and other herbs.
This Smoked Turkey and Andouille Gumbo is flavor-packed for sure. Aside from using smoked turkey wings, and andouille sausage, it’s also seasoned with mesquite seasoning, cayenne, white pepper, chile flakes, Worcestershire sauce, granulated garlic, and granulated onion.
Paprika is a finely ground bright orange-red, reddish-brown, or deep red spice. Its taste can vary from mild and sweet to very hot. The smoked variety has an additional outdoorsy flavor on top of its fruity and somewhat bitter taste.
Paprika is known for its capsaicin content which has antioxidant properties. It’s also rich in iron and vitamin E which both help in boosting healthy blood.
If you love chicken thighs then this chicken gumbo recipe is perfect for you. It also used sausage and seasonings like paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and other seasonings. The recipe calls for boneless chicken thighs. If you don’t know how to debone one, then simply opt for deboned chicken or ask your butcher to debone it for you. You can also try buying fresh chicken online so you’re sure of what exactly you’re getting.
Cajun seasoning generally has a reddish-brown color that slightly varies depending on the amounts of spices used in the blend. Its spicy and earthy flavor comes from a blend of different seasonings like cayenne, paprika, garlic powder, pepper, oregano, and other few spices or herbs.
Because it’s a blend of different spices, it also contains an array of nutritional content and health benefits. For instance, it contains vitamin B6 because of garlic powder and capsaicin because of paprika and cayenne.
This Shrimp Gumbo with Andouille Sausage is made simple with the use of Cajun seasoning. Roux and filé are also used to thicken the dish. Don’t be too quick to throw out the shells from the shrimp because you can make your own shellfish stock by simply boiling it in water.
Bay leaves have a shiny green color on top and a paler green underside when fresh. When dried, the color turns into matte olive green. It has a pungent and sharp bitter taste – that is if you’re going to eat it whole. But more than its flavor, it’s the aroma that makes it special. It has that herbal with a slightly floral aroma that is quite reminiscent of thyme and oregano.
It contains vitamins A and C, iron, calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Bay leaves may help in managing diabetes, improving digestion, and protecting the body against oxidative stress. It also contains antibacterial properties.
Again, if you love chicken thighs, you’re surely going to love this chicken gumbo dish. The bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are first seared, cooled down, and then shredded to chunky bits. You may be thinking why not use boneless thighs, to begin with, well, because its bones and skin did have flavors as well. But of course, feel free to use the deboned ones if you don’t want to go through the process of removing, bones, skin, and cartilages before you shred them.
Thyme when dried has a deep, mature green color with a woody texture. It has an earthy, somewhat minty, sweet, and peppery taste with hints of floral. It can actually last for up to three years If properly stored.
Thyme contains small amounts of potassium, magnesium, and vitamins A and C. It’s particularly known for its thymol content – found basically in the essential oils of thyme that have antiseptic, antifungal, and antibacterial properties.
Here’s another chicken gumbo recipe, Chicken and Smoked Sausage Gumbo. And this one used chicken breast, so perfect if you prefer white meat. It’s seasoned with dried thyme, oregano, black pepper, and cayenne. The smoked sausage is also a big factor in flavoring the dish up.
Depending on the amounts of spices and herbs used in the blend, Creole seasoning usually has a bright red color. It also tends to be more herbal compared to Cajun seasoning. In fact, herbs like oregano, rosemary, and thyme are common ingredients in this spice blend.
And just like Cajun seasoning, Creole seasoning also has many nutritional content and health benefits. For one, the herbs in the blend are rich in antioxidants that prevent cell damage. That is on top of the calcium, magnesium, and iron that can also be found in these herbs.
This dish is made simple by using Creole seasoning, dried thyme, bay leaves, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Using bone-in chicken breast gives the dish an additional flavor, especially because chicken breast has a quite mild taste compared to dark meat.
Hot sauce comes in red, green, or brown colors. It’s basically made from chili peppers, vinegar, and salt. Well-known Tabasco is a brand of hot sauce that used tabasco peppers. Many hot sauces are also fermented so they have that funky flavor in addition to the heat.
Hot sauce of course contains capsaicin. This active component of chili peppers has anti-inflammatory properties that can help in promoting heart health. It may also promote calorie deficit and speed up metabolism which helps in weight loss.
Enjoy this spicy New Orleans Gumbo with Shrimp and Sausage. Simply adjust the tabasco sauce or cayenne if you’re not up for spicy food – but really, you should try it first. With a good tabasco sauce, you’ll add some really good flavor in there and not just plain heat.
Parsley is an herb with green, flat, or curly leaves and long thin stalks with a soft and delicate texture. It’s great for brightening up dishes because of its clean and peppery taste with hints of earthiness.
Aside from parsley’s antioxidants content, it’s also a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron. It also contains vitamins A, C, and K. It may boost immunity, enhance liver health, and improved bone health. Parsley also contains antibacterial properties.
Now seafood lovers will surely enjoy this Seafood and Okra Gumbo. It’s simply seasoned with Cajun or Creole seasoning, hot sauce, dried thyme, and white pepper. The addition of fresh parsley towards the end of the cooking really gave it some fresh kick that works wonderfully with its strong-flavored sauce.
Worcestershire sauce has a dark brown color, thin consistency, and savory, tangy, and slightly spiced flavor. This fermented liquid condiment is created and named after Worcestershire, England. It generally contains sugar, anchovies, tamarind, onion, garlic, molasses, and other seasonings.
Worcestershire sauce should be used sparingly because although it does add flavor to your dishes, it’s quite high in sodium. It also only contains very small amounts of iron, zinc, copper, potassium, and vitamin C.
Other than the fact that the dish looks incredibly appetizing, it also used beef Shank Cross-cut along with the smoked beef sausage. So, you can pretty much guess that this Classic Cajun Beef Gumbo is going to be delicious!
Cumin is oftentimes mistaken for caraway seeds but the former is slightly larger in size and is also lighter in color. Cumin also has an earthy, warm, and slightly pungent flavor that is further enhanced when it’s dry roasted first.
Cumin contains flavonoids, which are natural compounds with antioxidants properties. It’s also a good source of iron, magnesium, calcium, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B6, C, E, and K. It may help in promoting digestion, improving blood sugar control, and reducing food-borne illnesses.
If you don’t have much time to spare in the kitchen but really craving a good bowl of gumbo, this Quick and Easy Crab and Vegetable Gumbo is for you. You’ll have to purchase in advance some of the ingredients though, like frozen gumbo-blend vegetables and crab claw meat. Or perhaps you can make a quick run to the grocery store! After all, this dish, which is simply and beautifully flavored with cumin, ground red pepper, black pepper, and garlic powder, is quite a treat.
Dried oregano looks paler and crumbles easily compared to fresh ones. It has a bold, earthy flavor with a sweet, somewhat spicy, and slightly bitter taste. It also has a sweet almost minty, aroma.
Oregano particularly contains thymol and carvacrol which help in fighting infections because of its antiviral properties. In addition to its antioxidants content, oregano also contains fiber, manganese, iron, calcium, and vitamins K and E.
This Half-Hour Chicken Gumbo is made possible with the use of rotisserie chicken. It’s further flavored with andouille sausage and simply seasoned with dried oregano and ground pepper. This is perfect when you have leftover rotisserie chicken. Or for when you’re in a time crunch because grabbing a rotisserie chicken on your way home will help in cutting the cooking time for your gumbo.
Sage has oval-shaped and thick leaves with color that ranges from grayish-green to whitish green and woody stems. It has an earthy and slightly peppery taste with notes of mint, lemon, and eucalyptus.
Sage is particularly high in vitamin K which aid in blood clotting. It also contains magnesium, copper, zinc, and vitamins A, C, and E. In addition to its antioxidants content, it also has anti-inflammatory properties.
It’s time to put that slow cooker to use and make this Chicken Gumbo Soup. Aside from the fact that it’s rich in veggies, it’s also beautifully flavored with herbs like sage, rosemary, and thyme. So, expect fresh flavors, smoky taste, and an overall hearty and satisfying dish.