Cajun-Style Gumbo

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Yield:

    10 or More


Appears in

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

Craig Claiborne's Southern Cooking

By Craig Claiborne

Published 1987

  • About

This Cajun-Style Gumbo was prepared in my home some time ago by Paul Prudhomme. The preferred ham for this dish is the specially cured New Orleans version known as tasso, but it is seldom available outside Louisiana. In substituting a store-bought ham, choose one that is not heavily smoked.


  • 1 cup melted pork lard, or peanut, corn, or vegetable oil
  • ¾ cup flour
  • 2 cups finely chopped onions
  • cups finely chopped sweet green peppers
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery
  • 10 small or 5 large bay leaves
  • teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Freshly ground white pepper
  • 2 teaspoons Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon finely minced garlic
  • pounds fresh, tender young okra, cut crosswise into ¼-inch-thick rounds, or 3 packages (10 ounces each) frozen cut okra, thawed
  • 3 cups smoked ham pieces (each about 1 inch long and ½ inch wide)
  • ¾ teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt to taste, if desired
  • 4 cups peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped fresh tomatoes (about 2 pounds), or chopped imported canned tomatoes
  • 6 cups Fish Stock
  • 1 pound peeled, Blanched Crawfish Tails
  • Filé powder to be added as desired, optional


  1. A heavy, black iron skillet is almost essential for the preparation of this dish. It is also strongly recommended that all the ingredients be chopped and assembled before starting to cook. Combine and assemble them in the order in which they will be used so that they may be added without hesitation.
  2. Heat ½ cup melted lard or oil in the skillet until it is barely smoking. Add the flour and stir vigorously and constantly with a wire whisk, about 3 minutes, or until the mixture is the color of dark chocolate. Take care that it does not burn.
  3. Quickly add 1 cup onion, ½ cup green peppers, and ½ cup celery. Reduce the heat and cook, stirring, about 3 minutes. Add 4 small bay leaves or 2 large ones, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon white pepper, and ½ teaspoon black pepper. Cook, stirring, about 1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon minced garlic and cook briefly, stirring. Remove from the heat. Scrape the mixture into a large casserole and set aside. There should be about cups.
  4. Heat the remaining ½ cup melted lard or oil in a black iron skillet over very high heat. When it is hot and almost smoking, add the okra. Cook, stirring often, about 15 minutes. Frozen okra will require a shorter cooking time. Add the remaining onion, green peppers, celery, and minced garlic, 1 cup ham pieces, and the remaining bay leaves. Continue cooking over high heat, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, and add the remaining cayenne pepper, white pepper, and black pepper, and the garlic powder. Add salt, if desired.
  5. Cook until the mixture is quite dry, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Cook over high heat, stirring often, about 10 minutes. Stir carefully and often all over the bottom to prevent sticking and burning.
  6. Pour and scrape this mixture into the large casserole containing the browned flour. Add the fish stock and the remaining ham. Cook over moderately high heat for about 1 hour. Stir often all over the bottom. (The base of this gumbo may be made to this point several days in advance and refrigerated. It also may be frozen.)
  7. Add the crawfish tails and bring to the boil. Let simmer about 5 minutes.
  8. When ready to serve, remove the bay leaves. Serve the filé powder separately to be added by each guest according to taste. Serve with plain boiled or steamed rice.