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Red bean gumbo with greens

Updated: Apr 25, 2021

Let's start with what is a gumbo? It is a traditional soup from Louisiana, with variations in the neighbouring southern states. The French founded New Orleans in 1718 and left a deep impact of their culture that even exists today. History shows the first recipes from the Choctaw Native American and West African slave cultures using French cooking techniques. The dish involves cooking a roux, oil or butter and flour, cook into a sauce, but in a gumbo this sauce is cooked slowly and caramelized, from a light pink to a deep brown depending on the dish. A gumbo also almost always has onions, celery and peppers in the sauce that add to the characteristic flavor. Finally, a gumbo has Filé powder, dried powdered leaf from the sarsaparilla tree, this is the main flavoring agent in root beer.

Most commonly gumbos are usually made with a mix of seafood, sausage, bird and meat, however newer vegetarian versions, like this one, are appearing. They usually contain a mix of meats, seafood and sausage or chicken and sausage, an element that adds additional complexity of flavor to this dish. So yes, gumbos are complex soups (or stews) that are flavorful and delicious.

This vegetarian gumbo is complex, the delicious flavor of the caramelized roux, the earthy flavors of the green and beans, the combinations of spices make for a delicious dish. Traditionally, gumbo is served with plain rice, I wanted to upgrade this by serving it with Spoon bread that added a very creamy texture to the dish.

This massive tome is one of Deborah Madison's early books that highlights her depth of knowledge from the America and from around the world. This is an essential cookbook for anyone interested in vegetarian food, techniques and great dishes.

For more recipes from this cookbook click here.


3 large bunches greens, mustard greens, collard greens, chard, spinach, or other greens of your choice

1-1 1/2 cups water


1 cup red kidney beans, soaked overnight in water

3 cups water

1 clove garlic, sliced


1/3 cup oil

6 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon Filé powder

1/2 cup parsley, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

`1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1 tablespoons sweet paprika

1/2-1 teaspoon chile flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

2 onions, chopped fine

2 peppers, a mix of poblano, green, yellow, red or orange, diced into small cubes

3 celery stems, diced into small cubes

5 cloves garlic, minced

Salt to taste

Remove the tough stems from the greens and wash them well, usually in 3 changes of water to get rid of all the grit. Cut them fine. Add the greens to the water with the salt and cook till the greens are soft and tender, about 10-15 minutes. Different greens take different times to cook, make sure all of them are well cooked. Cool and set aside with the cooking liquid.

Soak the beans overnight. Change the water out and cook with the salt and garlic. Cook till the beans are just tender and have a bite, about 15-20 minutes. I like to cook dried beans so i can control the bite. You can use canned beans, but they will be mushier.

Heat the oil on medium heat in a pot and add the flour. Stir well, you should get a wet slurry, if not add some more oil. Cook stirring often till you get a deep red color, about 15-20 minutes. This roux gives the dish its distinct flavor, don't rush it.

Add the Filé, parsley and dried herbs and cook for 1 minute. Add the vegetables and mix well to coat the vegetables. Cook on medium heat for 10-15 minutes till the vegetables are cooked through and soft. Be careful not to burn the roux, you may need to turn the flame own if you feel that it is scorching.

Add the beans and garlic, salt, cooked greens and half the cooking liquids. Mix well and simmer for 10 minutes. The soup should have a thick stew-like consistency, you can add more of the cooking liquids if needed. Taste for salt and adjust.

Serve topped with some minced fresh parsley and plain rice or Spoon bread, like I have.

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