My father is from New Orleans so all of the amazing meals that I truly enjoyed growing up were Creole dishes. My grandmother made the most amazing pot of gumbo I ever tasted and for the past few years I have been trying to replicate the wonderful flavor she seemed to create with ease. Her gumbo was my favorite childhood dish. Of course her recipe was filled with sausage, seafood and chicken (as are many traditional gumbo recipes) but I was determined to make an amazing vegan gumbo. I have been experimenting for a while on ways to make Creole meals vegan but still have the great New Orleans flavor. I am happy to say that I finally perfected the ultimate gluten-free vegan gumbo! My recipe includes eggplant, red and green bell peppers, Parisian carrots, celery, kidney beans, onions, yellow squash and a ton of seasoning. I also wanted to make sure that it was gluten-free as I make the roux with gluten-free flour.
The word gumbo comes from a West African word that means okra. Many recipes throughout the history of this dish have okra as a staple. Some folks would even say that gumbo is not truly gumbo unless it has okra in it. But my recipe is delicious without okra. I am not a huge fan of the vegetable. I thought that eggplant would be a better ingredient to use. The great thing about gumbo recipes is that they vary from region to region, even from kitchen to kitchen. Everyone has their own special combination of ingredients and signature seasonings. The one thing that seems to be standard in all gumbo recipes is the use of file powder (ground sassafras leaves). This is added to a bowl of gumbo right before you eat. It is the perfect added touch to a delicious meal.
While traditional gumbo is a meal that takes several hours to cook, the vegan version is a fairly quick process. It is an easy meal to create, though the initial prepping of the vegetables (the chopping) is time consuming. Plus there is a lot of stirring over a half-hour period in order to keep the vegetables cooked but still firm. The one thing that requires added caution is the roux. A good roux is the heart of a delicious pot of gumbo. If you don’t stir the roux constantly, it can burn easily and you will have to start over.
Gumbo usually comes with white rice but I wanted to add as much nutrition to the gumbo as possible. I substituted the white rice with black rice, which also gave it an added nutty flavor.
Gluten-Free Vegan Gumbo
(can serve 6-7 people)
1/2 of an eggplant cubed
1 whole white onion minced
1 whole yellow squash
½ red bell pepper chopped
½ green bell pepper chopped
5 celery stalks chopped
2 cups of Parisian carrots or chopped carrots
2 cups of cooked kidney beans
1/2 cup of olive oil
½ cup of gluten-free flour
2 cups of vegetable broth
3 cups of water
2 tablespoons sea salt
1 tablespoon of creole seasoning
4 bay leaves
1-tablespoon cayenne (optional)
1 cup of cooked black rice
1. In a large pan with a drizzle of olive oil, sauté onions and bell peppers until the onions are translucent. Set to the side.
2. Make your roux. (You need to get it to be the color of peanut butter or darker). Add olive oil to a large pot and turn on medium heat. Slowly sprinkle in the gluten-free flour while stirring. Continue to stir until all flour is mixed in and the color turns a rich brown. It is important to continue to stir as the roux could burn quickly. Once a dark color is reached, slowly add in water and vegetable broth. Please keep in mind that making the roux can take several minutes. Continue to stir until everything is mixed well.
3. Add sautéed onions, bell peppers, celery, eggplant, yellow squash, carrots, and kidney beans.
4. Add all seasonings.
5. Let cook on medium heat for 25 minutes. Stir every five minutes.
6. Serve in a bowl with a nice scoop of black rice on top.
7. Add about a teaspoon of file powder and enjoy!
More gluten-free Vegan recipes by Sorina: Jalapeno Peppers
Zucchini Pasta with Avocado Mushroom Sauce
Also see: Tom Kha (Thai Coconut Soup)
Photo: Sorina Fant