Seafood gumbo web

The Inside Scoop on Louisiana Gumbo

It's always gumbo season in Louisiana! Here’s what you need to know about the state’s favorite dish.

Louisiana has adopted an official state drink (milk), an official state fruit (strawberry) and two official jellies (sugar cane and mayhaw). In 2004, the state declared gumbo as the official state dish. This staple of local cuisine is synonymous with the state, and the word “gumbo” is even used to describe Louisiana’s melting-pot culture.

How Did Gumbo Get its Name?

The specifics on Louisiana gumbo's origins, unfortunately, are a little uncertain, but the name gumbo comes from the West African word for okra, “ki ngombo.” Okra was used as a thickener and some gumbo recipes still incorporate the pods. Filé powder, which is ground sassafras, is another ingredient traditionally used for thickening and flavor. Some add a dash of the powder at the table and some pass on the powder altogether.

No two gumbo recipes are the same, and you’ll find regional differences, but most start with a roux base (flour and oil/butter). The "trinity”— chopped onions, bell peppers and celery—are added, along with stock and seasonings. The two most popular kinds you’ll find dished out at local restaurants are chicken-and-sausage gumbo and seafood gumbo. Seafood gumbo might include any kind of combination of shrimp, crab, oysters or crawfish. But there are countless variations. Some add duck or even steak or turkey. Gumbo z’herbes, or green gumbo, is made without meat, just greens and herbs, and is a Lenten favorite. No matter where you go and what kind you order up, one thing’s for sure: Gumbo is always served atop a nice scoop of rice. 

Traditional Gumbo Recipes

When Food Network chef Bobby Flay chose to "throw down" with New Orleans' own Poppy Tooker to see who makes the best gumbo, he tangled with the wrong woman. Tooker walked away the winner, and now you can create the same dish in your own kitchen. Try Poppy Tooker's seafood gumbo recipe or try this recipe if you prefer chicken and sausage.

bacon gumbo

Louisiana gumbo comes in a variety of flavors and styles.

Gumbo Festivals

Throughout the Bayou State, many towns and parishes host their own celebrations in honor of our state dish. We've listed a few of the most popular festivals below; you can also check out the complete list of gumbo festivals. Don't forget to mark your calendars for your next visit!

Bridge City Gumbo Festival: More than 2,000 gallons of seafood and chicken and sausage gumbo are served during this October festival. You can visit their website to get their world champion gumbo recipe, too!

Louisiana Gumbo Festival: Held each October in Chackbay. In this part of the state, the dish is often served with a scoop of potato salad in the bowl or on the side.

World Championship Gumbo Cook-Off: A three-day festival in New Iberia where you can spend the day sampling the best in the world of gumbo! In between bites, groove to the live Cajun and country music. 

Top 5 Places to Try Gumbo in Louisiana

  1. Dooky Chase's: A New Orleans treasure serving up gumbo Creole-style. 
  2. Pat's of Henderson: This Lake Charles staple offers the classic seafood gumbo and chicken & sausage gumbo, plus shrimp & okra gumbo and crawfish gumbo. You'll want to try them all! 
  3. Prejean’s: Based in Lafayette, their pheasant, quail and andouille gumbo has been a favorite, featured at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
  4. Maglieaux's: Enjoy a warm bowl of hen & andouille gumbo with riverfront views at this Natchitoches spot.
  5. Abby Singer's Bistro: This popular spot in Shreveport features both seafood gumbo and chicken & andouille gumbo. If you can't decide, they're known to mix the two if you ask, delivering the best of both worlds.

There are countless eateries serving up variations of gumbo all over the state. Discover more restaurants in Louisiana.