Apr 19, 2011

Serious vegetarian gumbo

Back when I was a meat eater, I thought vegetarian gumbo was a joke. And who could blame me – there are so many bland, tomato-y versions out there (real gumbo doesn’t contain tomatoes, people!). So being a serious gumbo fanatic, I just had to tackle the challenge of making one that lived up to my high standards while still being relatively heart-healthy.

My version starts with a deeply-colored roux, which of course is the heart and soul of any real gumbo. I followed Alton Brown’s easy oven method and it worked like a charm – I’ve never achieved a roux so beautifully dark on the stove. Other essentials include the “holy trinity” of onions, green peppers and celery, and herbs and spices like sage, thyme cayenne and white pepper. So far, so traditional.

But here’s where I veer off the beaten path: portobello mushrooms, vegetarian sausage and chicken-style seitan, which provide a nice variety of chewy textures for this meatless gumbo. I use Field Roast’s smoked apple sage sausages, and they are remarkably good here, albeit way too high in sodium. I’m sure there must be other good faux meat products out there somewhere, but I find most of the soy-based sausages to be sorely lacking in comparison. Next time I make this, I will try VeganDad’s homemade seitan Andouille sausages. Smoked paprika, always my friend, provides the requisite smokiness. The resulting bowl of gumbo is deliciously rich and sultry. Even though it contains no shrimp, I swear you can almost taste the bayou.

Note: During fresh okra season, definitely use a pound or so of that in place of the mushrooms. If you do that, skip the filé powder: it’s one or the other.

Serious Vegetarian Gumbo

½ cup plus 1 teaspoon organic high-oleic safflower oil
½ cup white whole wheat flour
3 medium onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
3 stalks celery, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 medium green peppers, chopped (about 3 cups)
3 portobello mushroom caps, gills scraped off, chopped (about 2 cups)
3 large cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dry sherry
4 cups chicken-style vegetable broth (recommend Imagine’s No-Chicken Broth)
1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcestershire sauce (use regular if you’re not a veg)
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves
1 teaspoon dried sage leaves
1 teaspoon white pepper
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more to taste
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon smoked paprika, or a bit more to taste
4 vegetarian sausages, sliced (I used Field Roast smoked apple sausage)
1 16-ounce package chicken-style seitan

For serving:

Gumbo filé powder, optional
Tabasco sauce
Cooked rice

Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the oil and flour in a large ovenproof dutch oven. Bake for 1¼ hours, or until the roux is very dark.

Add the onion, peppers, celery, mushrooms and garlic and cook on the stove over medium heat for about 7 minutes. Add the sherry and cook for one minute, then add the vegetable broth, Worcestershire sauce, herbs and spices.

Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. If the gumbo seems too thick, add water as you see fit (you can leave the gumbo on the thicker side if you’re not serving the filé powder on the side).

Heat the remaining teaspoon of oil in a large skillet. Add the sliced sausages and brown on both sides. Add the seitan and cook for one minute more, stirring.

Add the sausage and seitan to the pot and simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Serve over brown rice, and pass the file powder (if using) and Tabasco.


Yes, there are a few other vegetarian gumbo recipes out there that are worth their Tabasco:

Wednesday Food Blogging’s vegetarian gumbo with smoked tofu

Vegan Dad’s gumbo with homemade seitan andouille sausage

Chow.com’s Gumbo Z’herbs

Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

See more recipes: Entrees, Vegan


  • Thanks for sharing this delicious recipe. Having grown up on the bayous of the Florida Panhandle, I miss the Cajun dishes.

  • I love a good veg version of traditional creole/cajun food – will have to try this! I had not heard of the oven method for the roux. Wow! Don’t know if I’d have the patience for that but it sounds like you can’t go wrong. And I too love my smoked paprika.

  • Keely

    This was a killer recipe! Changes to the recipe – I didn’t use the mock meats because I didn’t want to spend on the packaged ones and didn’t have time to make any, but I know it would have been even better if I had! I dumped in a bag of frozen sliced okra, used smoked salt instead of the salt and smoked paprika, no Worcestershire, and black pepper instead of white pepper. All of this is just because it’s what I had on hand. These multiple changes and it was still the best gumbo I’ve had in years. You really can taste the bayou! I can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch today.

  • tina

    what’s the fat content?

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Sorry, I don’t calculate the fat content on my dishes. And it depends on what kind of vegetarian sausage you use. I think you can do it yourself at nutritiondata.self.com

  • […] Serious Vegetarian Gumbo Tuesday: Miso Udon Noodles with Tofu Wednesday: Penne with Roasted Asparagus & Balsamic Butter […]

  • Linda

    Did you cover the Dutch oven when in the oven? Do you need to stir it while in the oven. Are sage and oregano leaves the same as sage powder or regular oregano found at most bro drees?

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Nope, you don’t cover the Dutch oven or stir. See Alton Brown’s recipe for reference: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shrimp-gumbo-recipe/index.html
    And dried sage and oregano should be readily available in stores. I recommend leaves, not ground. But if you can only find ground, use half the amount.

  • […] Serious Vegetarian Gumbo Tuesday: Miso Udon Noodles with Tofu Wednesday: Penne with Roasted Asparagus & Balsamic Butter […]

  • Carolyn

    I never never use canola oil or products with a canola oil ingredient, since I learned that there is no such thing as a canola. Canola oil is made from GMO rapeseed, whether that GMO crop is grown organically or not.
    If people want to avoid GMOs in their diet, there are numerous substitutions for canola oil.
    I would also caution people to be sure that when they purchase any soy product, that the soy used has been organically grown. Soy crops are heavy with pesticides.
    Happy vegetarian eating, and please keep on sharing the wonderful recipes.

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Carolyn, thanks for your comment. I do avoid GMO foods. As I understand it, canola was developed through plant hybridization, which is different than genetic modification. I worry more about what brand of canola I buy and how it was processed. Having said that, I do often use high-oleic safflower oil these days instead of canola.

  • WOW! Cathy, I made this gumbo for my clients today. It is so so so good! I only wish I could do it gluten-free so that all of my clients can try it. I did omit the chicken style seitan, but kept the delicious Field Roast sausage. One client wants it for Thanksgiving! And, I cannot wait to make it for my non-vegan friends.

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Jenné, that’s so great! I wasn’t sure if a gluten-free version of roux is possible, but I did just read anecdotally that millet flour works like a charm. That doesn’t solve the sausage problem, but it does get you part way there. I’ve never seen millet flour, but maybe I just haven’t noticed it?

  • Cynthia

    FANTASTIC recipe, I will definitely make this one again. I used frozen okra and canned kidney beans instead of the veggie sausage and seitan with delicious results. Thanks for posting!

  • Cindy

    How many people does this serve? I’m planning for a party of 50 people and want to serve this version for the vegetarians. Thanks!

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Cindy, this could probably serve six generously, or eight if there are other side dishes, etc.

  • Angelo

    Good looking recipe. A note on canola. It was developed with conventional breeding but is one of the major crops, including corn and soy, that have been made GMO to resist roundup and other herbicides. It can easily cross-pollinate with non-GMO canola (rape-seed). If using canola, use organic. Sunflower oil, olive oil and safflower oil will have no chance of being GMO.

  • Christianne Grayson

    Replying to making gluten-free roux: I’m always trying different flours because my daughter avoids gluten, usually mixing rice, white corn and sorghum flours together. I finally found millet, buckwheat and water-chestnut flour (who woulda thought?). I combined a few of these and used them in my roux. I also went a little unconventional and added these really odd looking mushrooms I got from an international store, chopped up fine, to give it a smoky-earthy flavor. The result was fabulous! Did I mention that this is the first time I’ve ever made Gumbo? I only thought of making it because of some almost gone-bad okra that needed used up. I used your recipe as a base and it has turned out wonderful! Anyway, I just wanted to add my experience to the gluten-free question.

  • Cathy C.

    Just wanted to say, “Thanks!” I was looking for a Vegan dish to include in my Mardi Gras dinner last evening, so I tried this recipe. YUMMY! (Couldn’t find seitan in my grocery store & didn’t have time to make some, so I subbed soy chicken-style strips, and couldn’t find the vegetarian Worcestershire, so had to skip that all together). I used Tofurky Sausages and Lightlife Chicken style strips, and calculated 8 servings at approx. 350 calories each (in case anyone was trying to calculate that!) Thanks so much for posting this!! :-)

  • Jessica P.

    Thank you for this recipe! Finally! I am from Louisiana, and I am so tired of seeing veggie gumbos with tomatoes! That is not a thing! I was wondering: What brand of chicken-style seitan did you use? I don’t think I’ve ever seen that before. Thanks so much!

  • Hi Jessica. So glad you found this recipe. It’s one of my best ones, and hasn’t gotten the love it deserves! The seitan brand is WestSoy, but why not make your own chicken-style seitan?! http://www.theppk.com/2014/02/chicken-stylee-seitan/

  • Yum! That looks much brighter and frhseer than gumbo that cooks all day (don’t get me wrong, I’m not knocking the authentic stuff!!).I found a technique for making the browned flour roux WITHOUT having to slow cook the flour in the fat for a long time, constantly stirring, hoping it doesn’t burn, etc. You can dump a bunch of flour on a sheet pan and bake it in the oven at the lowest temp possible (175-200F) for 2-5 hours – depending on how low your oven is, how much flour you have, etc. Get it dark brown – like the color you’d want to see used in your gumbo. The house’ll smell a bit scorchy, but you can make up a large batch of this, store it in the freezer, and then add spoonfuls as needed to thicken your next batch of gumbo. Lower fat, full’a flavor, and less time!

  • Barry

    Ok, just made this (still waiting for the rice to finish, what can I say? Timing is not my strong suit). Just tasting to see if I need to adjust anything and it amazing! No adjustments at all. This is a new go-to. And extra thanks for turning me on to the Alton Brown oven-based roux technique. Brilliant!

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