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, you can 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 canola 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
Gumbo filé powder, optional
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