A classic Cajun recipe for green gumbo, aka "Gumbo Z'Herbes", made with your choice of chopped greens - collards, mustard, turnip, chard, you name it. It is traditionally vegetarian, though you can add andouille and smoked ham if desired.
We're having a last blast of winter cold here, so for me, that means it's time for a warming pot of gumbo. But not just any gumbo! We're making a very traditional gumbo you may not have heard of, called "Gumbo Z'Herbes", or classic Cajun Green Gumbo. I'm all holed up here anyway working on my forthcoming cookbook AND I have a couple of screenplays in the works, so why not make a big pot of something that I can chow down on a little at a time? Gumbo is perfect for this! I can sneak downstairs for a quick bowl, even bring it back to my desk while I'm clicking away on the keyboard and editing loads of photos for this new book.
Yeah, gumbo is awesome like that, especially Gumbo Z'Herbes. Good old green gumbo. Let's talk about green gumbo, shall we?
Look at all those AWESOME greens. Oh my. You KNOW I love my greens. I mean, see Mike's Winter Ale Gumbo, or Seared Sausages with Mustard Greens and Peppers. SO GOOD. Gumbo Z'Herbes is traditionally vegetarian. It originated in the Louisiana region to be served during Lent, when Catholics weren't supposed to eat meat, though over the years meat has been incorporated into the recipe, so if you're looking for a non-vegetarian version of this, feel free to include smoked andouille or smoke ham, or BOTH! I've included options for those in the recipe. Or, simply omit the meats and keep it vegetarian.
The key here, as with any gumbo, is the roux. You must learn to make the roux. A good roux is cooked slowly and stirred-stirred-stirred. People who grow up with Cajun and Creole cuisine learn this from a very early age. It involves standing at the stove for a good 20 minutes to up to an hour or longer, depending on how much roux you're making, stirring, stirring, stirring, until your roux browns nicely. It's good when it turns the color of peanut butter or a copper penny, but you can keep going and cook it until it turns a dark chocolate brown. Try it as many ways as you'd like to see which depth of color and flavor you prefer.
Once your roux in ready, you'll cook down your holy trinity - onion, bell pepper, celery - along with some garlic and all of those wonderful greens. You can use any types of greens you prefer - collard greens, turnip greens, mustard greens, dandelion greens - go for it. I am partial to collard greens and Swiss chard, but that is just me. I also tossed in some serrano peppers because I like a bit more heat!
Next, add in your stock and seasonings and let it all cook down. The greens will soften up and will mingle with that hearty, wonderful roux and you will not have a better pot of flavor anywhere. Right on your own stovetop.
I do hope you enjoy your Gumbo Z'Herbes! Let me know how it turns out for you!
NOTE: I first wrote a couple versions of this recipe for Chile Pepper Magazine. It's in their latest issue - Cajun and Creole. If you're interested in Chile Pepper Magazine, get yourself a subscription. I've added a link to the right where you can pick one up at Amazon (affiliate link, my friends!).
Gumbo Z’Herbes - aka Green Gumbo - Recipe
- 3/4 cup peanut oil or vegetable oil
- 3/4 cup flour
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 2 serrano peppers, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 2 bay leaves
- 3 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
- 1 tablespoon cayenne powder
- 6 ounces andouille, sliced into ¼ inch slices (optional)
- 6 ounces smoked ham, diced (optional)
- 6 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock for non-vegetarian)
- 2 pounds mixed greens – collards, mustard, turnip, chard, dandelion, etc.
- 1 tablespoon file powder, or to taste
- Cooked white rice for serving, if desired
- Add peanut oil to a large pot and heat to medium heat. Add flour and stir. Cook for 30-40 minutes, constantly stirring, until the roux browns to the color of chocolate.
- Add peppers, onion and celery. Stir and cook about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic, andouille and smoke ham (if using). Cook another minute.
- Add Cajun seasoning, cayenne and stock. Stir to incorporate.
- Mix in chopped greens. Cover and cook 90 minutes, until greens are very tender.
- Remove from heat and stir in file powder.
- Serve over white rice if preferred, or straight into a bowl.