Eat Like a Princess - Tiana - Gumbo

Ask anyone what food they associate with The Princess and the Frog and you will get one of two answers - gumbo or beignets. These are classic dishes found in most places in the Big Easy. New Orleans has a reputation for culture, people, and food. It is a melting pot of influences which shine through just about everywhere - between Creole, Cajun, and soul food ingredients you can't go wrong if you stop for a bite to eat. Since we are eating like a princess this year I wanted to find something really special. I've made gumbo before but never really looked for an authentic recipe. You can be sure that the gumbo Tiana cooks with her Daddy is the real deal.

Gumbo is essentially a stew with vegetables, meats, spices, and a thickener. Depending on the region of Louisiana the official combinations might be a little different. Creole gumbo was known to include tomatoes, Cajun gumbo was known to include more seafood, but most gumbos needs a thickener. This either came in the form of okra or filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves). Gumbo also tends to be spicy with the addition of Cajun or Creole seasoning (salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cayenne, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme) and Tabasco sauce. Rice is usually included. Check out this info graph on Cajun vs Creole!

Cooking gumbo begins with a dark roux. I've talked about making a roux before in my posts with cheese sauces like the Mickey Pretzels and Loaded Fries, but a roux is basically a fat and flour cooked to provide a thickener for a soup or sauce. This was the first time I had done a darker roux which means it is cooked longer for a deeper flavor. I would recommend you start with a lower heat because it went fast for me and I got a little nervous! Luckily my husband was there for roux support to keep stirring the pot while I caught up in other areas. The desired color for this recipe was a little past peanut butter - check out the photo below - mine started out blonde like the left image and turned into dark roasted PB after about 12 minutes. Depending on how hot your pot is it could take between 10-20 min. If you go a little slower with the heat you'll have more control since you need to be constantly stirring which is what I prefer in the kitchen. Gumbo is a great opportunity to practice your mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) which is a French term for having all your ingredients chopped and measured, pans, bowls, tools, and equipment ready to go before you start cooking. Having everything prepped and ready will really help since you won't be distracted by prepping ingredients and if your pot gets too hot you can pull it off the heat and just keep roux moving.
Photo Credit: Tastes Better From Scratch

Once your roux is ready, the next step is the holy trinity - onion, celery, and bell pepper. These three vegetables are the base for southern dishes, similar to onion, celery, and carrots for Italian food.  I used two-thirds of a red, yellow, and green bell pepper for added visual appeal and some sweetness. Since my husband isn't a huge fan of the holy trinity (mostly celery and bell pepper), I diced everything pretty small. If you like your veggies chunkier I think that should be fine too. What I found, however, was that everything cooked down to a soft texture with the small dice and the veggies didn't have distinct bell pepper or celery flavors anymore, they were just gumbo! My husband really loved this and he was totally satisfied. Whew!

I chose to add chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp to the gumbo but you can use as many or a few of these proteins as you like. My husband said he could have gone without the shrimp, I don't think Tiana would have approved. If adding chicken, dice into 1 inch pieces and pan fry with Cajun or Creole seasoning. The seasoning I use is Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning and it is great on everything especially fried breakfast potatoes! Don't add shrimp until the last phase of cooking to prevent them from getting tough. Regarding heat for this dish I was conservative with the Tabasco and seasoning as I figured I could add if needed but I couldn't take it away. This ended up being the perfect plan because the balance of salt, spice, and heat was perfect!

Just like Tiana's Daddy said, something this good just has to be shared, so here is an amazing gumbo recipe you can make at home.

New Orleans Gumbo

Prep Time 30 min, Cooking Time 70 min
Serves 4-6 people


½ cup high heat oil, such as canola, corn, or vegetable
½ cup all purpose flour
1 medium onion, diced
2 bell peppers (I used ½ of each red, green, yellow, orange – see note), diced
3 stalks celery, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 bay leaves
13 ounces andouille sausage, sliced thin
1 - 2 chicken breasts, cut into 1" chunks
1 tbs Cajun or Creole seasoning
1 tbs Tabasco sauce

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 (14.5 ounce can) stewed tomatoes and juices, roughly diced
1 ½ pounds raw, medium shrimp tails off and de-veined
2 teaspoons gumbo filé

  1. If using chicken, add a teaspoon of oil to a skillet over medium high heat. Add 1 inch chunks of chicken breast, season with Cajun or Creole seasoning, and cook until browned on one side, then flip pieces and brown the other sides until cooked through. You can also cook the sausage until brown around edges in this step to add a little more flavor. Use a slotted spoon to remove chicken and/or sausage from pan and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a large dutch oven or a heavy bottom pot over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until combined and smooth. Switch to a wooden spoon and continuously stir for 10-20 minutes or until the roux darkens to just past a deep peanut butter color. If you get behind, take the pot off the heat completely and keep stirring until you catch up. But do not let the roux burn! (If you smell it burning, you will need to throw is out, clean the pot, and start over, unfortunately there’s just no saving burnt roux!) 
  3. Once the roux reaches that deep rich brown color, add the onions, bell peppers, and celery and continue to cook, about 8-10 minutes or until the veggies soften, stirring as needed so the vegetables don’t stick. 
  4. Add the garlic, chicken, and andouille sausage. Continue to cook for an additional 1-2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
  5. Add the chicken broth, stewed tomatoes, Cajun or Creole seasoning, Tabasco sauce, and bay leaves then bring to a simmer. Turn heat to low, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Add the shrimp and stir to release anything from bottom of the pot and continue cooking for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque. Remove bay leaves. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and Tabasco as desired. Remove from  heat. Add the gumbo filé and stir to thicken. 
  7. Serve with rice and enjoy!

I have to admit this recipe is one of the best things that has ever come out of my dutch oven. It had the perfect balance of spice and heat. Veggies were soft and the flavor was deep and rich. Texture was thick but smooth. I think Tiana would have approved of my gumbo. It was spicy as prepared with the ingredients above but if you have adventurous eaters at home you can leave the Tabasco out completely and add to taste for each individual bowl.

If you give this gumbo a try let me know what you thought. How was the heat level for you? Comment below!


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