Seafood Gumbo

Classic Cajun Seafood Gumbo is intensely rich, yet delicate, and perfect for a chilly day. Chock full of shrimp, crab and oysters, this gumbo recipe sings with flavors from the sea. It makes a big batch, too, so you can share it or freeze it for later. Makes 12 servings.

Love Louisiana recipes? Give Crawfish Etouffee and Ground Beef Meat Pies a try, too!

Three bowls of seafood gumbo with shrimp and crab from above

This Louisiana Seafood Gumbo recipe highlights the best seafood and strikes a beautiful balance of briny and full-bodied without being overwhelming. The broth itself is velvety, and when combined with the crab meat, oyster and shrimp, it’s something special.

My husband and I first quantified this recipe in 2021, just before the Snowpocalypse here in Texas. We made it for New Year’s Day this year with his entire family, and got a lot of help, thanks to their gumbo knowledge.

As my father-in-law said, “It tastes like good seafood gumbo.”

And you know what? That’s a big ole success for this Tennessee girl.

What is gumbo?

Gumbo is a thick soup that is traditionally filled with vegetables, like onion, green bell pepper and celery, as well as a protein. (Some gumbos call for chicken and sausage; others, like this one, seafood.)

It’s believed that gumbo was brought to our country by enslaved people, and today, different regions of the country have their own styles of gumbos. Which is why you’ll see gumbos ranging from an okra and tomato-filled Gullah Geechee to a seafood and tomato Creole one.

Some notes on gumbo variations and where this dish comes from:

There are lots of different types and styles of gumbos. Gumbo is a word that’s found in several West African dialects and means okra. I’ve also read that there’s a word in Native Choctaw similar to gumbo that means filé, which are the ground sassafras leaves commonly used as garnish in gumbo.

The gumbo recipe I’m sharing today is a Cajun gumbo, which gets its flavor from dark roux and highlights shrimp, crab and oysters, along with the “Cajun trinity” of vegetables: onion, green bell pepper and celery. We’re not using andouille sausage or another smoked sausage in this recipe.

It’s a sister of our Chicken and Sausage Gumbo, but this one highlights the flavors of the sea.

Other Louisiana recipes to try: Crawfish Pie | Chicken and Sausage Jambalaya | Cajun Shrimp and Grits | Slow Cooker Red Beans and Rice | Instant Pot Gumbo

Ingredients for gumbo in bowls on black marble

Tools you need to make this recipe

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Ingredients you need to make a Louisiana seafood gumbo, Cajun-style

Before we dive into the ingredient list, let me go ahead and point out that the quality of the seafood you use in this recipe matters. You want to use the highest quality available.

Also, please, please don’t make substitutes in this recipe unless otherwise specified. The gumbo simply won’t taste like how it’s intended to taste. If you come back to complain, I will say I told you so. 😉

  • Unflavored oil—to sauté our veggies in! While this isn’t a necessary step, we like how it adds a little extra flavor.
  • The Trinity—this is the base of many Cajun and Creole recipes. It includes chopped green bell pepper, onions (yellow or white) and celery and imparts a ton of flavors to our stock.
  • Garlic—because is this ever a bad idea? No. No, it is not.
  • Liquids—we’re using a combination of water and chicken stock or chicken broth. If you’re feeling fancy and can find it, seafood stock would also be excellent here in place of the chicken broth.
  • SeasoningsSalt-Free Creole Seasoning, salt and pepper. We like to use a salt-free seasoning because most Creole and Cajun seasonings are super salty. (Fun fact: They’re basically the same thing, so you can use Cajun seasoning in this recipe in place of the Creole seasoning.)
  • Dark roux (if you don’t plan on making your own) or roux ingredients—which include equal parts unflavored oil and all-purpose flour.
  • Shrimp—we prefer wild caught Gulf shrimp in this recipe because the quality makes a difference. Make sure to peel ‘em before you throw them into the pot so they’re easy to enjoy!
  • Crab—this recipe calls for both clawmeat and the claws themselves. The crab really adds delicate flavor to the gumbo and cannot be replaced with another ingredient. Depending on where you live, use the best local (or local-adjacent) crab that you can find.
  • Oysters—and their brine! This adds the best umami, so please don’t toss this liquid out from the packaging. For this recipe, we’re using fresh shucked oysters. You can find them at many specialty stores and seafood markets.
  • White rice or brown rice, for serving.
  • Garnishes—green onions, fresh parsley and gumbo file, which are ground up sassafras leaves. It’s sometimes called file powder. Sprinkle these on top of your bowl of gumbo for extra flavor.

If you can’t find one of the seafoods, consider adding proportionate amounts of the other two. (So if you can’t find crab, add 3/4 lb. of both oyster and shrimp in addition to what the recipe calls for below.)

Collage showing how to make the broth for seafood gumbo

How to make Seafood Gumbo

Make your roux, if you’re making one, and set it aside. (You need 16 oz. or 2 cups of roux for this recipe, so use 1 cup oil and 1 cup flour.)

Mise en place. Chop the veggies. Peel your shrimp. Measure out your water and stock.

Saute the veggies. Heat the oil in your gumbo pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped veggies. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until softened.

Add the liquid. Pour in the water and the stock, and bring to a boil. (You can turn up the heat to high at this point, but it’s still going to take 15-20 minutes or so to bring this amount of liquid to a boil.)

Add the roux. When the liquid has reached a rolling boil, measure in the roux, stirring consistently to help the mixture break down into the boiling water.

Collage showing how to add the seafood to gumbo

Simmer for 30 minutes. At least. You can simmer it for longer if you so desire.

Before serving, add the seafood. Make sure that the water is boiling when the seafood is added.

  • 20 minutes before serving, add the shrimp.
  • 15 minutes before serving, add in the oyster and crab.

It is important to add the seafood at the end so that it doesn’t overcook and get tough!

Serve immediately with rice and your favorite garnishes.

Collage showing the final gumbo and ingredients in a ladle

Erin’s Easy Entertaining Tips and Tricks

A Seafood Gumbo is considered a fancier gumbo since seafood typically costs more than what you’d normally find in a Chicken and Sausage Gumbo. (I’ve heard seafood gumbos referred to as “Christmas Gumbos” because they’re for special occasions.)

If you want to share your Seafood Gumbo with guests, you’re an excellent friend! 😉

We’ve been making gumbo for years for our annual New Year’s Day party, and I have a few tips and tricks to making the hosting and entertaining easier on yourself…

  • Make your gumbo a day in advance… but leave out the seafood until the day of. Gumbo takes some time to set up and get going, but it takes time for the flavors to meld together. Put it together the day before your party, and store it in the fridge. Skim any excess fat from the top before reheating the morning of your party, then adding the seafood right before you serve it.
  • Have the fixings to serve it with! Rice is a must, and so is gumbo file* (affiliate link)! Some folks enjoy potato salad with gumbo, while others add hardboiled eggs.
  • Double the recipe for a crowd or half it for a smaller gathering. When halving this recipe, we always err on the side of more protein and round up to the nearest pound if necessary.

The key to any gathering that involves food is everyone having fun. That includes you, too, so don’t let this stress you out!

Two bowls of Seafood Gumbo on black tile with spoons and a white towel

Frequently Asked Questions

What is seafood gumbo made of?

This seafood gumbo is made from a combination of the Cajun trinity (green bell peppers, onions, celery) plus a bounty of fresh seafood from the Gulf, which includes shrimp, crab and oysters.

How do you add flavor to gumbo?

Honestly, the roux adds such beautiful flavor to gumbo that it’s really important to do it right (or find one that’s been pre-made for you.)

I can’t find a jarred roux. How do I make one?

A roux is equal parts oil and flour. For this recipe, you’ll need 1 cup oil and 1 cup flour. Heat a skillet over medium heat on your stovetop, and add the oil. When the oil is shimmering, add the flour. Cook until it turns a dark brown. Stir constantly so it doesn’t burn. It’s done when it smells nutty and delicious.

This can take 30-45 minutes, just depending on how warm your skillet gets and how comfortable you feel cooking it. I always recommend starting out slowly because a burned roux cannot be used.

What can I prep ahead to make this gumbo as easy as possible?

Here are a few things you can do in advance:

Chop all the veggies. We will sometimes do this 1-2 days before we make our gumbos. Store them in the fridge in a sealable food container. Make sure it’s sealed tight because those onions will stink up your fridge.

Chop the garnishes, too. Do this at the same time you’re prepping the veggies for the gumbo itself, and store separately.

Cook your rice. Warm rice is awesome, but it can certainly be reheated in the microwave easily.

A bowl of seafood gumbo garnished with rice and green onions

How to find seafood for gumbo

If you don’t live near an ocean, finding quality seafood might be challenging! Here are some tips and tricks of how to find these ingredients near you:

  • Visit a high-end grocery store. If it’s got a fish counter, start there and also ask about their frozen selections, too.
  • Find a specialty seafood shop. This has been my go-to since living in Dallas. If you give them a heads up, you can have them special order the ingredients you need, too.
  • Special order it. There are online companies like Giuseppe’s Market at Samuel’s Seafood, Cajun Grocer and others that will ship fresh or frozen seafood to you.

Whatever you do, please do not purchase imitation crab or canned crab for this recipe. It doesn’t have the same flavor or mouth feel. And if you’re going to go all-out on a Seafood Gumbo, treat yourself to the real thing.

Three bowls of seafood gumbo with shrimp and crab from above
Yield: 12 servings

Seafood Gumbo

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Classic Cajun Seafood Gumbo is intensely rich, yet delicate, and perfect for a chilly day. Chock full of shrimp, crab and oysters, this gumbo recipe sings with flavors from the sea. It makes a big batch, too, so you can share it or freeze it for later.

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons flavorless oil
  • 3 large yellow onions (about 3 ½ cups chopped)
  • 5-6 celery stalks (about 2 ¼ cups chopped)
  • 3-4 large bell peppers (2 ½ cups chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup chicken stock *or seafood stock*
  • 4 qts. (1 gallon) water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon Salt-Free Creole Seasoning
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 16 oz. (2 cups) dark roux
  • 2 lbs. shrimp, peeled
  • 1 lb. crab clawmeat
  • ½ lb. crab claws
  • 1 lb. shucked oysters, fresh

Garnishes

  • Green onions, chopped
  • Parsley, chopped
  • Gumbo file

Instructions

  1. Make a dark roux, if you’re making one, and set it aside. (You need 16 oz. or 2 cups of roux for this recipe, so use 1 cup oil and 1 cup flour.)
  2. Prep the ingredients. This means chop the veggies. Peel your shrimp. Measure out your water and stock. Find a pot large enough. (It needs to fit 17 cups liquid plus 4 ½ lbs. seafood.)
  3. Saute the veggies. Heat the oil in your gumbo pot over medium heat. Once hot, add the chopped veggies. Cook for 10-15 minutes, or until softened.
  4. Add the liquid. Pour in the water and the stock, and bring to a boil. You can turn up the heat to high at this point, but it’s still going to take 15-20 minutes or so to bring this amount of liquid to a boil.
  5. Add the roux. When the liquid has reached a rolling boil, measure in the roux, stirring consistently to help the mixture break down into the boiling water.
  6. Simmer for at least 30 minutes. You can simmer it for longer if you so desire to let the flavors meld.
  7. Twenty minutes before serving, add the shrimp to the boiling water.
  8. Fifteen minutes before serving, add in the oyster and crab, stirring occasionally to cook. It is important to add the seafood at the very end so that it doesn’t overcook and get tough!
  9. Serve immediately with rice and your favorite garnishes.

Notes

The quality of the seafood matters in this recipe. If you can’t find fresh seafood, consider purchasing frozen or ordering the items from a shop that will ship them to your doorstep. Whatever you do, do not use imitation or canned ingredients.

If you can't find one of the seafoods, consider adding proportionate amounts of the other two. (So if you can't find crab, add 3/4 lb. of both oyster and shrimp in addition to what the recipe calls for below.)

Because of the price tag that comes with keeping seafood fresh, this recipe is a special one and is pricier than other gumbo recipes. If fresh seafood isn’t in the cards for you for whatever reason, consider this budget-friendly Instant Pot Gumbo instead.

How to make gumbo ahead of time for entertaining: Saute the veggies, add the liquid and cook until the roux is completely broken down. Chill and refrigerate. The next day, heat the mixture, and once boiling, add the seafood, as instructed in the recipe. Serve immediately.

How to find seafood for this recipe:

If you don’t live near an ocean, finding quality seafood might be challenging! Here are some tips and tricks of how to find these ingredients near you:

•Visit a high-end grocery store. If the store has a fish counter, that’s a great place to start. They might also have frozen seafood that you can choose from, too.
•Find a specialty seafood shop in your town. This has been my go-to since living in Dallas. If you give them a heads up, you can have them special order the ingredients you need, too.
•Order it online. There are online companies that will ship fresh or frozen seafood to your doorstep.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 323Total Fat: 10gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 279mgSodium: 1886mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 1gSugar: 4gProtein: 41g

Nutrition facts are an estimate and not guaranteed to be accurate.

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10 Comments

  1. Can I reheat the gumbo? This is a large quantity and if I want to have it a few days later, what do you recommend?

    1. Hi Deborah! Yes, you can reheat the gumbo. We’ve found that reheating it in the microwave works just fine. You can also reheat some over medium heat on the stovetop if that’s more your speed. We’ve used both of these methods, and it just depends on how much we’re reheating to determine which one. (When we used to host our NYD gumbo parties, we’d make the gumbo the day before, let it chill in the fridge overnight and then reheat on the stovetop the morning of.) I hope you enjoy it!

    2. You can always freeze it in air tight containers or vacuum sealed bags. Personally, this Louisiana girl likes it better the next day. And we make our own seafood stock.

  2. My wife and I pretty much make the same Seafood Gumbo as your above Seafood Gumbo receipe. We have lived in Southwest Louisiana for over 70 years. Linda is a full blooded Cajun , being 1/2 a Broussard and 1/2 a Guidry. Linda will not condone my adding of chicken stock to a seafood Gumbo. Please shed some light on how you think that the chicken stock affects taste in a Seafood (Christmas) Gumbo. The seafood gumbo that I made this morning, set us back for right around $100.00 for ingredients, so I do not get to “practice’ as much as I would love to making Seafood Gumbos.

    1. Hey there, Jerry! Seafood stock is delicious in this recipe, too, and I have notes in both the post and recipe card about it. 🙂 We added chicken stock because it’s more accessible for us. (I’ve never seen it on shelves of our usual grocery store.) I personally think the seafood that goes into the pot (plus the brine from the oysters) gives amazing flavor. But the seafood stock obviously adds more flavors of the sea to this recipe and is a great addition if you can find it, which it sounds like you can!

      I hope y’all’s gumbo tasted amazing! I’m encouraged to hear that this recipe is very similar to the one you and your wife have been making for years. Cheers!

      1. There’s simple ways to make seafood stock with the ingredients you already have. In a pot of boiling water, add the shells of all your seafood, ends and skin of onion, a little Tonys and let it boil for a few hours then strain it. Viola…seafood stock.

  3. Oh my word!! This was hands down the BEST gumbo recipe that I have ever made or eaten in my life!! THANK YOU! this is a keeper!

    1. This makes me SO happy to hear, Michaela! Our family adores this gumbo, too, so I’m thrilled to hear it was the best you’ve ever had! I hope you and yours get to enjoy it throughout the fall and winter months, too.

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