Shrimp Filé Gumbo

This recipe has never failed me and is incredibly forgiving. I’ve served it for more than 30 years to groups of college students as well as dozens of family and friends. There is never an empty bowl or leftovers.

The list of ingredients and number of steps looks daunting, but don’t be afraid. It is worth all the time and effort and your guests will thank you. As my husband’s grandmother, a great cook from the Mississippi Delta used to say, “First you make a roux.”


BASE (prepare all these before you start the roux):
• 2 lb. sausage (such as Andouille, kielbasa, or smoked), sliced 1/4" thick
• 2 c. chopped yellow onion
• 2/3 c. chopped green peppers
• 1/2 c. sliced scallion tops
• 2 T. minced fresh parsley
• 1 T. minced garlic
• 2 lb. medium or large shrimp, peeled, and deveined

• 2/3 c. vegetable oil
• 2/3 c. flour

• 4 cups chicken broth
• 2 cups water
• 2 t. salt
• 1 T. black pepper
• 1.5 t. cayenne pepper
• 2 T. dried thyme
• 3 bay leaves, crushed
• 3 T. filé powder

First, you make the roux. Heat oil in heavy 7- to 8-quart pot over medium-high heat.

Gradually add the flour to the oil, stirring constantly with a whisk and or spatula. Reduce heat to low and cook until the roux is the color of hot cocoa.

When the roux is ready, quickly add the sausage, onion, green pepper, scallions, parsley, and garlic. Stir to combine and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring.

Add 1/4 c. water and all the seasonings except the filé powder. Mix gently but thoroughly.

Keeping the heat low, gradually add the rest of the water and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for about 45 minutes. [You can hold the gumbo here for an hour or more before serving.]

Add the shrimp to the gumbo and bring to an easy boil for about 10 minutes. Remove pot from the heat and let it simmer down.

Add the filé powder and stir. Let the gumbo stand in the pot for 5 more minutes.

Serve in deep soup bowls over boiled rice, with Tabasco available for those who like it spicier.

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About the Author

Laura Lapins Willis is a writer and cook who lives in Sewanee, Tennessee. When she’s not in the kitchen or at the computer, you can find her hiking in the woods with her husband and their dog. She is the author of “Finding God in a Bag of Groceries” (Abingdon Press, 2013) as well as numerous essays about cooking and motherhood. She is writing a new book that combines recipes and memoir.