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Chicken Gumbo Recipe

Course: Main Course
Total Time: Under 2 Hours
Skill Level: Moderate
Cost: Moderate
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Chicken Gumbo

Photo by: Joseph De Leo

The chopped vegetables in this gumbo, significantly less brothy than most versions, meld with the roux to form a rustic, thick sauce with plenty of substance and character. The gumbo is then additionally thickened with okra or filé powder (ground dried sassafras leaves). If okra is used, it cooks along with the other ingredients, but the filé powder is stirred into the gumbo at the last moment, just as the pot is removed from the heat. I prefer to use filé because it imparts a tantalizing undercurrent of smokiness to the stew.

A bowl of rice is the classic gumbo accompaniment, but for a change of pace we enjoy it served over biscuits. Split a biscuit and put the bottom half in a bowl, spoon lots of gumbo over it, then top with the other biscuit half.

Yield: SERVES 10 TO 12

  • 12 whole chicken legs (about 6 pounds total), drumsticks and thighs separated
  • 2/3 cup canola or other vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 large onions, chopped (see Notes)
  • 4 medium ribs celery, trimmed and chopped (see Notes)
  • 3 large red bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (see Notes)
  • 2 large green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded, and chopped (see Notes)
  • 2 bunches scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and chopped (see Notes)
  • ½ cup chopped ham
  • ¼ cup diced bacon
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
  • 4 cups Chicken Stock or canned low-sodium chicken broth, or enough to cover
  • 1 tablespoon file powder


1. Rinse the chicken under cold running water, removing any excess fat. Pat dry with paper towels.

2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large, heavy pot over medium-high heat. When it just begins to smoke, add only enough chicken drumsticks and thighs to fit into the skillet without touching and sauté until well browned on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes total. Using tongs, transfer the pieces to a platter and set aside while you sauté the remaining pieces in batches, as necessary.

3. When all the chicken has been removed from the pot, reduce the heat a bit and sprinkle the flour over the drippings, whisking rapidly to blend. Cook the roux, whisking constantly, until it achieves a peanut-buttery color, 5 to 6 minutes. Watch carefully; you don’t want to burn the roux. As soon as the roux is the right color, add the chopped vegetables along with the ham, bacon, and garlic; be careful, because steam will be created on contact with the very hot roux. Reduce the heat to very low and sauté the mixture gently, stirring frequently, until the vegetables start to soften and give off a little liquid, about 5 minutes.

4. Add the bay leaves, salt, cayenne, black and white peppers, and thyme and stir well to mix. Add 4 cups chicken stock, stirring well to mix, then return the chicken legs to the casserole. Add more stock, if necessary, to cover the chicken and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is very tender and almost but not quite falling off the bone, 25 minutes.

5. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chicken legs to a platter and set them aside. Increase the heat under the pot to high and cook the sauce, uncovered, until it’s reduced to a light sauce consistency, 10 to 15 minutes. Return the chicken to the pot and cook until heated through, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, stir in the filé powder, and let stand for 5 minutes before transferring to a serving dish.


Vegetables chopped in a food processor usually come out too mushy for most dishes—however, that’s just the texture you want for this gumbo. So if you’ve got a processor, use it to chop away.

© 2000 David Waltuck and Melicia Phillips

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information is based on 12 servings.

Nutritional information does not include Chicken Stock Recipe. For nutritional information on Chicken Stock Recipe, please follow the link above.

521kcal (26%)
852mg (36%)
35g (54%)
7g (37%)
148mg (49%)
91mcg RAE (3%)
61mg (102%)
55mg (6%)
3mg (17%)

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