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 new recipes 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 how to make green gumbo, shall we?
Look at all those AWESOME greens. Oh my. You KNOW I love my greens. I mean, see Seared Sausages with Mustard Greens and Peppers. SO GOOD.
What is Gumbo Z'Herbes, or Green Gumbo?
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.
Making the Roux
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.
Learn more about How to Make a Roux.
How to Make Gumbo Z'Herbes
Once your roux in ready, you'll cook down your Cajun 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! Serve it with potato salad! So good!
Frequently Asked Questions About Gumbo
I get a lot of questions about gumbo in general. Here is some information for your consideration.
What Is Gumbo? What Makes Gumbo a Gumbo?
Gumbo is a conglomeration of different cultures and cuisines. It is essentially a stew, and it the official state cuisine of Louisiana. It is made from stock that is thickened with a roux and sometimes includes okra and/or filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves) as additional thickeners.
Flat out, Gumbo is AWESOME. HUGE on flavor.
What Are the Ingredients in a Gumbo?
More traditional gumbos start with a roux - a mixture of fat and flour - then add the Cajun Holy Trinity of vegetables, which is bell peppers, onion and celery. Stock is added along with a variety of meats and seafood, such as smoked andouille sausage, chicken, gator, crawfish, shrimp and more.
It is highly seasoned with a blend of Cajun seasonings - see our Homemade Cajun Seasoning Blend Recipe - or Creole seasonings.
More traditional gumbos include okra as a thickener, and can also be thickened with filé powder which is dried and ground sassafras leaves.
From there, the recipe interpretation is open to the cook.
What is the Cajun Holy Trinity?
The French have the mirepoix - carrots, onion and celery - and French cuisine has heavily influenced Cajun cooking. When the French landed in Louisiana, they quickly found that carrots do not grow well in the Louisiana soil, so replaced them with bell peppers.
So, the Cajun Holy Trinity consists of bell peppers, onion and celery.
How to Make a Good Roux
Essentially, stir together the oil and flour in a large pot and bring up the heat. Keep it fairly low. Start stirring. The oil and flour will meld quickly and you'll have a sort of liquid slurry that comforms to the bottom of the pot. If you don't keep stirring, the roux will start to burn and you'll have to start over, so do not stop stirring.
Stirring is a must!
You can smell it when the roux burns. It's acrid, unpleasant, a bit like burnt popcorn. If that happens, forget it. Toss it and start over. It will ruin the flavor of the gumbo. So be careful, and don't bring up the heat too high. Keep it low and slow.
What you're looking for is the color of the roux. It starts out the color of flour, very light, batter-ish, but as it heats while you're stirring, it will begin to brown, going from a light brown to the color of peanut butter or copper, and eventually to a rich chocolate brown.
This can take anywhere from 20-45 minutes, depending on your desired color. Personally, I take 20-30 minutes for my roux.
You can stop when you achieve a copper or peanut butter color. The roux is great then, coaxed of outstanding flavor. You'll have a thicker gumbo with this color of roux. If you continue to a darker chocolate color, you'll have a thinner gumbo with a slightly deeper flavor, so feel free to experiment to discover which shade of roux produces the best gumbo for your taste buds.
Learn more about How to Make a Roux.
Adjusting the Heat Factor
Cajun and Creole cuisine, particularly gumbo, aren't meant to be HOT. It is SPICY for sure, which means it includes a lot of spice and seasonings, but as a chilihead, I like to bring in a little bit of heat to please my own palate.
So, when working with the ingredients - bell peppers, onion, and celery are traditional with Cajun and Creole cooking - I like to include jalapeno peppers as well, or some other hotter peppers, depending on my mood. Here is a great example of a very hot and spicy gumbo that I love - Mike's Spicy Gumbo, made with ghost peppers.
Check out my post about my New Orleans foodie experience. So awesome!
Check Out My Other Gumbo Recipes
If you love gumbo, check out some of my other gumbo recipes.
- Mike's Spicy Gumbo, made with ghost peppers
- Creole Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- Cajun Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
- Southwest Style Chicken Gumbo
- Learn More with How to Make Gumbo - a Guide
Check Out These Other Popular Recipes
If you enjoy this recipe, I hope you'll leave a comment with some STARS. Also, please share it on social media. Don't forget to tag us at #ChiliPepperMadness. I'll be sure to share! Thanks! -- Mike H.
Gumbo Z’Herbes Recipe - aka Green Gumbo
- 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 20-30 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.