This Green Gumbo recipe, famously known as Gumbo Z’Herbes is a classic Louisiana dish. This stew features a mix of tender greens, dark roux and smoked sausage and ham. It’s simple to prepare and full of comforting flavors.
Table of Contents
Why to Love this Recipe
- Vibrant Fusion of Flavors: The combination of an odd number of greens – mustard, turnip, bok choy, watercress, and kale – mingle harmoniously with the cajun and creole spices, roux and smoked meats.
- Versatility in Ingredients: This recipe is flexible; you can adjust the greens and meats to your liking. A great recipe to use what you have on hand.
- Simple Preparation: Despite the impressive array of flavors, the preparation of this gumbo is surprisingly straightforward.
- Hearty and Satisfying: The addition of meats like ham and andouille sausage makes this dish incredibly hearty and filling.
- Make-Ahead Friendly: Gumbo tends to improve in flavor over time, making it an excellent make-ahead dish that tastes even better the next day.
- Celebratory Dish: Whether it’s a holiday feast or a regular family dinner, this Green Gumbo brings an element of celebration to any table.
Why Use an Odd Number of Greens
Gumbo Z’Herbes is a traditional Louisiana Creole gumbo made with a variety of mixed greens. The types of greens used can vary widely, but common choices include collards, kale, turnip greens, spinach, chard, parsley and dandelion greens.
The tradition of using an odd number of greens in Green Gumbo is a cherished custom. The quote “You will acquire a new friend for every kind of green in the pot—and we hope one of them is rich!” is attributed to Chef Leah Chase of New Orleans. This quote was mentioned in her Gumbo Z’Herbes recipe featured in Southern Living.
It reflects the tradition associated with the dish, where each type of green added to the pot is said to bring a new friend in the coming year! It’s a fun tradition that adds a bit of mystique to this delicious dish.
Overview of Ingredients Needed
Odd Number of Greens: I used mustard greens, turnip greens, bok choy, watercress and kale. Other options include collard greens, spinach, arugula, swiss chard, napa cabbage, beet greens, dandelion greens, carrot tops, romaine lettuce and any other leafy greens of your choice.
All-Purpose Flour: Used to create the roux which a thickening agent and flavor enhancer.
Avocado Oil: Used in the roux. You can also use peanut oil, grapeseed oil, canola oil or vegetable oil.
Holy Trinity: Onion, green bell pepper, celery plus garlic.
Creole/Cajun Seasoning and Cayenne Pepper: Adds a distinct and spicy Creole flavor profile to the gumbo. Adjust the cayenne pepper for desired heat.
Better Than Bouillon Chicken Base: Optional. A concentrated flavor that enhances the depth of the chicken stock.
The Meats: I used andouille sausage and ham in this recipe. I like to also use smoked turkey but my local stores were out of stock. You can also use ham hock, bacon, chicken, beef brisket, shrimp, crawfish, or any combination of meats based on personal preferences or availability.
Chicken Stock: Feel free to use chicken broth, vegetable stock or plain water if you’re using the chicken bouillon.
File Powder: Optional. If your gumbo isn’t as thick as you’d like you can add file powder (dried sassafras leaves) once the gumbo is removed from the heat. If added to the stew during cooking it can become stringy and ruin an otherwise delicious gumbo. It should be added to the gumbo off the heat just before serving or serve it at the table for guests to sprinkle themselves.
Cooked Rice for Serving: Served as a base for the gumbo, soaking up its rich flavors. You can also serve with quinoa or cauliflower rice.
How to Make Gumbo Z’Herbes (Green Gumbo)
Prepare the Greens
Rinse the greens thoroughly under cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Remove any large, tough stems and roughly chop greens. Set aside.
Make the Roux
In a large pot over medium heat or medium-low heat, heat avocado oil then stir in flour. If you’re a beginner at making roux then start with medium low heat. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the mixture turns a dark brown color that’s similar to the color of chocolate. This is your roux, which will thicken the gumbo and give it a rich flavor. Take your time, this will take 30 – 40 minutes. And be sure to stir constantly to prevent burning. Do not walk away from your roux! Been there. Done that.
Cook the Vegetables
Add the chopped onion, green pepper and celery to the pot with the roux. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
Add the Seasonings
Stir in the Creole seasoning, cayenne pepper, chicken base, salt, and black pepper. Mix well to ensure the seasonings are evenly distributed.
Add the Meat
Add the diced ham and sliced andouille sausage to the pot. Give it a good stir.
Add the Stock and Greens
Pour in the chicken stock, then add the chopped greens. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
Simmer the Gumbo
Bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about an hour to an hour or until greens your preferred tenderness.
Finish the Gumbo
If you’re using file powder, stir it into the gumbo after it has finished cooking and has been removed from the heat. Garnish with hot sauce or red pepper flakes.
Ladle the gumbo in a bowl with a scoop of white rice or brown rice. Enjoy!
Expert Tips and Tricks
Choice of Greens: Use many different kinds of greens in the gumbo, and always include an odd number. You can use any greens you like. Just be thoughtful about the different flavor combos.
Cooking the Roux: Cook your roux until it is a deep dark brown color. This can take up to 45 minutes, but it will be worth the wait. Also consider getting a roux spoon.
Filé Powder: If you’ve never heard of filé (fee-lay) powder, it is the dried, ground leaves of sassafras. It adds flavor to the gumbo and will thicken it a bit, too. Only add the filé at the end of cooking, though, or it will turn into nasty, goopy strings. No thank you!
Washing Greens: Wash the greens thoroughly, several times if necessary to get any residual dirt and grime. Also wash the greens that come prepped in bags to be on the safe side.
Customize Spice Levels: Adjust the amount of cayenne pepper to suit your preferred spiciness. Start with smaller amounts and gradually add more according to taste.
Meat Selection and Combination: Experiment with different meats for varied flavors. The combination of smoked sausage and ham adds depth, but feel free to incorporate other meats like chicken, turkey, or seafood for a unique twist.
Simmering Time: Let the gumbo simmer on low heat for at least an hour. This allows the flavors to marry together and the greens to soften while maintaining their texture.
Pair this gumbo greens recipe with a side of freshly baked cornbread, french bread or a simple green salad for a complete meal that’s hearty and satisfying. This stew also pairs well on your holiday table alongside sweet potato casserole, smothered turkey wings, mac and cheese and cornbread stuffing.
This gumbo only gets better with time! Store any leftovers in airtight containers in the fridge and reheat in the microwave or on the stovetop.
This Green Gumbo a.k.a. Gumbo Z’Herbes is big on flavor yet simple to make. It’s perfect for the holidays or any special occasion, celebrating the vibrant essence of Louisiana. Let me know in the comments below if you make this delicious stew!
Creole Inspired Gumbo Greens (Gumbo Z’herbes)
- 4 pounds greens, mustard greens, turnips greens, bok choy, watercress, kale, etc
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/2 cup avocado oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 2 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tbsp cajun seasoning
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper, adjust to taste
- 1 tbsp better than bouillon chicken base
- 8 oz ham, diced
- 12 oz andouille sausage, sliced
- 6 cups chicken stock
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and black pepper to taste
- file powder, optional
- cooked rice, for serving
- hot sauce and red pepper flakes, for garnish
- Prepare the Greens: Rinse the greens thoroughly under cold water to remove any dirt or grit. Remove any large, tough stems and roughly chop the leaves. Set aside.
- Make the Roux: In a large pot over medium heat, combine the avocado oil and flour. Stir constantly until the mixture turns a dark brown color. This is your roux, which will thicken the gumbo and give it a rich flavor. Take your time, this will take about 45 minutes.
- Cook the Vegetables: Add the chopped onion, bell pepper and celery to the pot with the roux. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds.
- Add the Seasonings: Stir in the cajun seasoning, cayenne pepper, chicken base, salt, and black pepper. Mix well to ensure the seasonings are evenly distributed.
- Add the Meat: Add the diced ham and sliced andouille sausage to the pot. Give it a good stir.
- Add the Stock and Greens: Pour in the chicken stock, then add the chopped greens. Stir well to combine all the ingredients.
- Simmer the Gumbo: Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for about 45 minutes to an hour.
- Finish the Gumbo: If you’re using file powder, stir it into the gumbo after it has finished cooking and has been removed from the heat.
- Serve: Ladle the gumbo over cooked rice and serve hot. Enjoy!