Gumbo is a popular Louisiana-style stew, typically made of broth (or roux) and rice, often with the addition of meat or seafood.
It is generally well-seasoned, spicy, and packed with delicious flavors and aromas. However, one of the biggest tricks when it comes to a perfect pot of gumbo is achieving the right consistency.
In case you end up with a runny, liquid gumbo, one of the best ways to thicken it would be by adding some all-purpose flour mixed with cold liquid.
This is, however, just one of the methods you can use to thicken gumbo, so keep on reading to discover more.
How thick should gumbo be?
The secret to a perfect gumbo consistency lies in cooking time. The longer the stewing process – the thicker and heartier the consistency of the stew.
This is precisely why many people choose to prepare their gumbo in a pressure cooker, letting it slowly simmer for hours.
In case you haven’t had the time to let it simmer for that long, or you’ve added too much broth and now the consistency is too runny, you can easily thicken gumbo.
If you’d like a thicker gumbo consistency, do not add the dry thickener directly into the hot pot of stew.
Mixing the gumbo thickener with some cold liquid before pouring it in is the best way to avoid any lumps.
It is also important to keep stirring the mixture, so the thickener is mixed in well, and it is blending into the gumbo completely.
When it comes to the gumbo consistency, it is completely up to you to decide how thick you’d like it to be, although it is usually thicker than soup.
Generally, the consistency of gumbo should be on the thicker side, just like many other types of stew. Original gumbo recipe calls for hours of slow-cooking, which develops quite a hearty texture.
However, if you notice the gumbo getting too thick, you can always add some more stock. In case you decide to pour in some water, make sure not to go overboard, as it can alter the texture and water down the flavors.
How to make gumbo thicker
A gumbo too thin can be fixed in a matter of minutes – but to achieve the desired consistency without any lumps, it is necessary to choose the right thickener.
What’s more, it is necessary to know when and how to add the thickener without ruining the texture of the gumbo.
Without further ado, let’s take a look at the best methods to thicken gumbo and get that stew-like, rich consistency.
Many people prefer to add roux to gumbo as the most efficient way of thickening it which will just improve its richness and flavors.
In case you’ve never made a roux in your kitchen before, it may sound a bit intimidating, but the key is in stirring the mixture continuously.
Roux is essentially a mixture of fat and flour, and it is one of the most common thickening agents for stews.
For a gumbo roux, you’ll want to use the 1:1 ratio of flour and fat – preferably animal fat, especially if you’re adding meat to the gumbo.
Animal fat (tallow or lard) is the best choice of fat for stews, gumbo included, being that it is packed with flavors and aromas that will elevate the overall taste of the dish.
The first step to making a perfect gumbo roux is heating some animal fat or vegetable oil over medium heat.
When adding the flour, you want to make sure you’re adding just a little bit at a time, stirring the mixture continuously so the flour doesn’t burn.
The continuous stirring will also prevent any lumps from forming. Furthermore, you don’t want to cook the roux for too long as it may develop a bitter taste.
The perfect moment to add the roux to your gumbo is once the veggies and the meat have cooked in the stock. You want to lower the heat and start pouring in the roux slowly.
It is necessary to stir the gumbo as you’re adding the roux mixture, so it is evenly distributed. Once you’ve mixed in the roux, leave the gumbo to simmer on low heat for at least an hour.
The longer the cooking time – the thicker and darker the sauce will become. If you’re looking for a lighter color and a more “soupy” consistency, you can shorten the cooking time.
In case you don’t like using roux in your cooking, or you just want a simpler alternative, you can go ahead and add a bit of flour mixture into the stew to thicken it.
However, to prevent any lumps from forming, we wouldn’t recommend going in with just flour, as it will not dissolve completely – especially not in a pot of hot gumbo.
The best way to go about this is to combine flour with a cold liquid of choice – preferably the stock you used as the gumbo base.
This way, you won’t alter the flavor profile of the gumbo, but actually, intensify the flavors and aromas even more.
Combining the flour with a hot liquid would lead to lumps, and you wouldn’t get a smooth, coherent mixture.
Needless to say, you can also use water, but make sure to taste the gumbo afterward to check if any additional seasoning is needed.
To make the thickening mixture, combine one part of all-purpose flour (or any other flour of choice) and two parts stock, water, or other cold liquid.
In case you decide to use other types of flour (especially non-glutinous), you may need to alter the amounts of flour and liquid to get a pasty, thick consistency.
Make sure to mix the ingredients well until you get a smooth, lump-free consistency. Once the mixture is ready, you can start adding it to the gumbo.
Remember to stir the gumbo continuously as you’re pouring in the thickener, ensuring that the mixture dissolves completely.
Let the gumbo simmer on low heat until it has reached the desired consistency.
When it comes to thickening your gumbo with cornstarch, the process is very similar to the flour method we’ve explained above.
To create the thickening cornstarch slurry, for every quart of gumbo you’ll need 2 tablespoons of cold liquid and 1 tablespoon of cornstarch.
Once again, the cold liquid will make the mixing process so much easier, and the thickening mixture lump-free.
What’s more, we recommend using the stock you used for the gumbo itself to make this slurry rather than water, but any kind of cold liquid of your choice will do.
Using a whisk, ensure that the mixture is completely lump-free, then slowly add it to the gumbo, stirring continuously to blend everything.
Allow the gumbo to simmer on low for one more hour for the consistency to become thick enough.
Okra, also known as lady’s fingers due to its shape, is the healthiest method of thickening your gumbo.
In addition to making the gumbo thicker, okra also adds more heartiness and crunch to the mix, as well as a beautiful, savory flavor.
To get the best gumbo thickness, you want to add about a pound of okra for every 5 quarts of stew. Before adding the okra, it is necessary to rinse them under cool water.
Prepare the okra by chopping them up crossways into smaller pieces, then add them to the gumbo, making sure you stir the mixture well.
Let the gumbo cook for one more hour, which will allow the okra to release all its delicious flavors and aromas while thickening the gumbo.
5. Vegetable soup base
Another convenient method of making the gumbo thicker while also improving its flavors is adding a pack of vegetable soup base.
Simply dissolve a pack of vegetable soup base in a cup of water and add it to the stew, making sure to stir constantly.
6. Cream of chicken soup
Cream of chicken soup is another ingredient that will give you instant results, and you won’t have to wait for hours to achieve the desired consistency.
Simply add one cream of chicken soup directly into the pot and make sure to stir it in well. Depending on the desired level of thickness, you may need to add a bit more stock or water.
A single cup of cornmeal can significantly thicken the gumbo without altering its taste and flavor while giving it a heartier texture.
Combine 1 cup of cornmeal with a little bit of water and whisk until there are no lumps and the mixture is completely smooth. Add the mixture to the gumbo and stir well.
A single cup of grated potato can improve the texture of any cooked dish and help you develop the desired consistency without having to add any flour.
Grate one large potato (or more, depending on how much gumbo you’re preparing) and add it to the stew. Cook for one more hour to allow the potato to release the starch and cook properly.
9. Let it simmer
Gumbo is a slow-cooked dish that should be left to simmer for hours. This way, not only will it thicken up on its own, but the ingredients will also release all its flavors and aromas.
Therefore, when preparing gumbo, it is necessary to be patient, as only one extra hour of cooking can make a huge difference.
Is gumbo supposed to be thick?
As with any other dish, both the texture and the flavor profile are completely up to you and your personal preferences.
However, if we’re talking about traditional Louisiana gumbo, the answer would be yes. Like any other stew, gumbo is usually on the thicker side, especially since it is cooked for hours.
Gumbo is a hearty, thick stew that is known for its consistency and intense flavors. Therefore, we’d recommend thickening the gumbo if you’d like to experience the “real deal”.
Adding the roux is, without a doubt, the traditional way of making the gumbo thicker, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t go with other options you find easier.
Both flour and cornstarch are very convenient, effective options that can be ready in a few minutes.
However, if you’d like to go with a healthier gumbo thickening option, you’ll certainly enjoy the addition of okra – both for texture and flavor.