After learning how to make gumbo from a chef in New Orleans, I’m so excited to finally share my plant-based rendition of this comfort classic! Made with the holy trinity of flavor bases (celery, onion, and bell pepper) and vegan sausage, this Vegan Gumbo recipe will make you feel like you’ve just stepped into a Louisiana kitchen. I’ll teach you how to make a classic roux vegan to help thicken the soup with two pantry staple ingredients: flour and fat!
It’s not a secret that I love to travel. My love of travel sparked my curiosity about food and desire to pursue a degree in nutrition and sensory science. You can learn so much about the culture and history through local food so anywhere I go, I try to do a local cooking class or food tour to learn more about the region’s cuisines.
When we visited New Orleans last fall, I knew I needed to learn about Cajun and Creole cooking and that gumbo would be a part of it. A local chef taught us how to make authentic gumbo (along with a trick to making a roux that takes gumbo from good to great).
Once I learned how to make this, I knew Live Eat Learn needed a vegetarian gumbo. So, I’ve taken what I learned in New Orleans (THE place to be for Cajun or Creole cooking) and applied it to my own gumbo. Needless to say, I’m so excited to share with you what I’ve learned and to teach you how to make the ultimate vegan gumbo too!
Why you’ll love it
- Streamlined is what I like to call my version of gumbo because I’ve paired down the steps to exactly what you need to do to have the absolute best flavor.
- Spicy and flavorful is what all Louisiana cooking is known for. Nothing lacks heat or salt and this soup is no exception.
- A great Sunday dinner that doubles as meal prep thanks to how well it keeps in the fridge and can be reheated.
Ingredients for vegan Gumbo
Gumbo uses mostly pantry staple ingredients and although the list may be a bit longer than other recipes here, each ingredient serves a specific purpose. Let me explain!
- Flour: Flour is how the roux is thickened. You can probably use a 1:1 gluten-free flour replacement if needed, but the texture may be gritty.
- Oil: A roux emulsifies flour and fat so for a vegan roux, I chose to use oil. This could be any type of vegetable oil or olive oil.
- Oil: Whatever type of oil you are using for the roux, can also be used to saute the vegetables in.
- White onion: These add sweetness and are easy to find in-store. White onion is always preferred but a yellow onion could be used in a pinch.
- Celery: I know celery can seem like a weird ingredient to use as an aromatic, but its natural bitterness plays off of the sweetness of the bell pepper and onion.
- Green bell pepper: Most of the sweetness comes from the pepper. Green bell peppers have just enough sweetness as opposed to their counterparts, orange, yellow, and red bell peppers.
- Garlic: Please please please use fresh garlic! I promise it will add SO much flavor!
The holy trinity
The holy trinity is an off-shoot of the traditional mirepoix from French cooking. It uses aromatics to create and develop a flavor base that can be used in a variety of dishes. While a mirepoix uses onion, carrots, and celery, the Holy Trinity uses bell pepper instead of carrots. There is a whole host of reasons this could be, but the most common though is that bell peppers grow better than carrots in the South.
- Button mushrooms: These are the most common type of mushroom found and their texture makes them a great substitute for the traditional shrimp in gumbo.
- Vegan sausage: There are a variety of vegan sausages on the market now. We found using Kielbasa style was the most similar to meat sausage because of how much seasoning they already have.
- Vegetable broth: You can make your own or use store-bought. Just don’t use low sodium because salt enhances flavors, and I chose quantities for regular vegetable broth (full-sodium).
- Kidney beans: These also help to beef up the gumbo in place of the shrimp. I prefer to use kidney beans as opposed to other varieties because they are larger and hearty, holding up better to the long cooking time.
- Optional okra: This is typical of authentic gumbo but it’s not very common in stores. If you can find it, it also helps to thicken the soup.
- Vegan Worcestershire sauce: This can be kind of hard to find so I like to order it on Amazon to keep on hand. A local health food store or Whole Foods might carry it as well.
- Thyme leaves: Thyme is a very unique herb that is a staple of authentic gumbo. Just be sure to remove the leaves from the stem otherwise the stem with get in the way of eating.
- Hot sauce: What I learned from New Orleans is that Louisiana is very serious about its hot sauce. We were recommended to use Crystal hot sauce or Slap Ya Mama’s because it has the right amount of heat and spices. Other classic hot sauces will work too but for example, a habanero hot sauce wouldn’t be good in gumbo.
- Paprika: Either smoked paprika or sweet paprika can be used but I prefer smoked.
- Bay Leaves: Although you might wonder what bay leaves do, they add another depth of flavor to the gumbo that is subtle when there but sorely missed when not there.
- Basics: salt, file powder, cayenne pepper, and black pepper all help to create the classic Cajun flavor profile of this vegetarian gumbo.
How to make Gumbo Vegan
Making gumbo is super simple to do but there are quite a few ingredients and some special tricks to it. To make this recipe fool proof, I recommend reading through the steps first and preparing the ingredients before starting to cook.
- Make the roux by heating the flour and oil together. We’ll discuss this more below!
- Cook the holy trinity by sauteeing the vegetables in oil until soft.
- Add your protein to the large pot with the vegetables and cook until browned.
- Make it gumbo by adding the rest of the ingredients and finished roux to the pot.
- Serve it over rice and adjust the salt if needed.
More about roux
A roux is a staple of French cooking that uses flour and fat to thicken soups, sauces, and more. It’s French roots also show in Cajun cooking since some of the earliest settlers to Louisiana were French. Roux can be made in 3 main styles, all of which use the same steps but take different times:
- takes 3-5 minutes
- blonde color
- good for gravy and soups, lacks complex flavor
Light Brown Roux
- takes 10-15 minutes
- light brown in color
- also good for gravy and soups but has more flavor than a blonde roux
Dark Brown Roux
- takes 20-40 minutes
- dark brown or milk chocolate brown in color
- perfect for gumbo!
Leftovers will keep in the fridge in a sealed container for 5 days. Or, it can be frozen for up to 3 months, just let it thaw before reheating. To reheating, slowly heat on the stove.
Gumbo is great because you can mix up the fillings to match your taste or what you have on hand. Here are a few simple ideas.
- Okra can be added to the gumbo for a more authentic flavor and to help thicken the sauce even more.
- Other vegan sausages like andouille or spicy, even Italian, can be used for another flavor profile.
- If you can’t find vegan sausage, try using seitan crumbles, soy curls, or even cauliflower chunks. However, cauliflower will change the cooking time and yield less protein overall.
Can I make this gluten-free?
Yes, you can use a 1:1 gluten free flour replacement but the texture may be slightly gritty in the roux.
My roux burned, what can I do?
Unfortunately, if you roux burns you will have to start over. This is why it’s so important to keep the heat low and slowly develop flavor, stirring constantly to prevent it from burning. The good news is that once the roux is done, you can store it in the fridge for up to a month to use in a variety of dishes!
Can I make this in advance?
As I noted above, the roux can be made in advance but the entire gumbo is best eaten the day of. Making the roux in advance can save you up to 40 minutes and makes this gumbo ready in under an hour! Plus, if you get easily distracted, making the roux separately can help ensure it doesn’t burn. You can also dice and prepare all of your vegetables and spices in advance to save on prep time.
What type of rice should I serve with gumbo?
A medium or long grain white rice, like jasmine rice, is preferred with gumbo because it has SO much flavor already. And topping with green onions add a nice crunch and fresh flavor!
what to eat with gumbo
Gumbo is delicious over rice and with your favorite side dish. Here are a few of my favorite pairings to serve with gumbo.
- Classic Panzanella Toscana Recipe is an Italian staple salad with bread but it also pairs perfectly with spicy gumbo!
- Vegetarian Wedge Salad has a creamy dressing and crunchy topping that can quickly be prepared while the gumbo cooks.
- Air Fryer Blooming Onion adds a crispy element to your dinner with hearty gumbo.
- 1 cup flour
- ¾ cup oil
- splash of oil
- 2 cups diced white onion about 1 large onion
- 1 cup diced celery about 4 ribs celery
- 1 green bell pepper
- 8 cloves garlic minced
- 16 oz sliced button mushrooms 453 g
- 4 vegan sausages we used vegan kielbasa sausages, sliced
- 8 cups vegetable broth 2 L
- 1 15-oz can kidney beans drained
- ¼ cup vegan Worcestershire sauce 60 mL
- 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tbsp hot sauce like Crystal
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp each salt, file powder, cayenne pepper, black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- Rice prepare while gumbo cooks
- Sliced green onions
- Roux: In a large saute pan, whisk together 1 cup flour and ¾ cup oil. Cook over medium/low heat, stirring often until mixture turns the color of milk chocolate.This will take 20 to 40 minutes and requires frequent stirring to prevent it from burning. I like to have it cooking while I prep the other gumbo components nearby, stirring it every minute or so.
- Holy Trinity: Heat a splash of oil in a separate large saute pan or pot over medium heat. Add 2 cups diced white onion, 1 cup diced celery, and 1 green bell pepper. Cook until onion is soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in 8 cloves garlic and continue cooking for a minute.
- Protein: Add a 16 oz sliced button mushrooms and 4 vegan sausages (sliced). Cook until browned, about 10 to 15 minutes.
- Make It Gumbo: If you haven't been using a large pot already, transfer your protein mixture to a large pot. Add the finished roux, 8 cups vegetable broth, 1 15-oz can kidney beans, and all seasonings. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30 to 45 minutes to thicken and let flavors blend.
- Serve: Taste before serving and add more salt if needed. Serve with rice and ample sliced green onions. Salt will bring out all the flavors – if it tastes at all bland it just needs a touch more salt. I've included 1 tsp as a baseline, but everyone's vegetable broth and vegan sausage has different amounts of sodium so you may need more.