For The Most Flavorful Gumbo, Always Make It In Your Slow Cooker

Making a big-ole steaming pot of Cajun-Creole gumbo can, honestly, be as complicated as it looks — at least in the sense that it requires multiple steps, intuitive timing, and a lot of experimentation before getting it just right. It's all well worth the effort when finally plopping that bowl of gumbo on your table and putting spoon to bowl to mouth — but what if there were an easier, less time-consuming method of making gumbo?  Actually, there is. And it surprisingly involves a small kitchen appliance already lurking in countless home pantries or cabinets: The slow cooker, which provides convenience, flavor, and melt-in-your-mouth tenderness.

All those things come into play when creating an otherwise time-intensive pot of Louisiana-style gumbo. Simmering that earthy, spicy stew for hours in a slow cooker brings out myriad layers of rich flavor complexities, as ingredients permeate one another for a coordinated grand finale. That's quite a feat, given the riotous mix of spices, peppers, meats, sausages, and vegetables making up a thick Cajun or Creole gumbo.

Hands-on prep and in-pot cooking

Tasting Table's slow-cooker gumbo requires less than 15 minutes of hands-on prep time. That's compared to far more when making stovetop gumbo. The main time-sucker in the traditional approach comes from creating a Cajun-style roux, which makes less-seasoned chefs tremble with insecurity. One little misstep, or a moment of divided attention, can cause a frustrated do-over as the roux sticks, scorches, or turns into a bland blob before your very eyes. 

Not so with a slow cooker, as this independent electric ceramic crock stands on its own merit once filled with all the gumbo goodies. The estimated 15 minutes of prep time includes chopping and measuring out ingredients typically included in any gumbo. And that list is long, including the essential "holy trinity" of Cajun cooking: Finely diced celery, onions, and bell peppers. You'll still get those three sacred ingredients started outside the slow cooker, sauteeing them on the stovetop as usual.

Adding flour to the sauteed stovetop trinity mix bypasses the need for making a time-consuming cajun roux. From that point on, your slow cooker takes over. Everything else joins the trinity and flour inside the crock, from broth to andouille sausage, chicken or shrimp, Cajun seasonings, bay leaves, oregano, powdered cayenne, and thyme, and toward the end, some sassafras gumbo filé and okra. As they bubble and brew for hours, you miraculously end up with a large ceramic pot full of hearty, complex, multi-layered Louisiana gumbo.