Authentic Cajun Filé Gumbo

This recipe comes from Allen’s years growing up in South Louisiana and will make a delicious savory soup.  The recipe has a modest amount of spices in it but feel free to make it hot like Cajun country with a little extra cayenne and pepper sauce.

Yields: 12 Servings

Total Preparation Time: 4 hours*

*you can cut your prep time down to 1 hour by making your roux and stock ahead of time!


  • 2 whole small chickens (old laying hens or roosters make the best gumbo meat) apprx 7 lbs together.  quartered
  • Three links, apprx 3-4 lbs sausage
    • This can be smoked sausage made with salt and pepper and beef and/or pork or andouille sausage 
    • It is very important not to use Italian or other flavored sausage
  • 1 large or 2 med yellow onions, chopped
  • 1 large or 2 med bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 qts chicken or other poultry stock
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Cayenne pepper to taste
  • 4 bay leaves
  • ¼ stick of butter
  • 2 tbsp of bacon fat (or another ¼ stick of butter)
  • 1 cup roux (see roux directions)
  • 1 cup green onions, chopped
  • 1 tsp gumbo file
  • 3 cups tender young okra, sliced (optional)

Gumbo Directions

Be sure to have your roux prepared before you begin. (see roux directions)


You will need a 2 gallon pot and a large cast iron skillet.

In the pot, melt ¼ stick of butter, add in onions and saute until translucent.  About 2 minutes. Then add garlic and bell pepper and continue to saute for 5 minutes. Lower or turn off heat.


Season the chicken quarters with the salt, pepper, paprika and a dash of cayenne. 


In the cast iron skillet, add your bacon grease or butter and once the pan gets hot and the fat melts, place your ¼ chicken pieces into the skillet until the skillet bottom is covered. Brown each piece well on both sides and as they are finished add to the pot with the onions and bellpeppers. Add more chicken to the skillet as space is available and continue to move everything toward the gumbo pot.


Once all the chicken is in the pot with the vegetables. Add your prepared roux to the top of everything. Turn the chicken pieces with a spoon until they are coated in the roux. Reserve the rest of the roux.


Add chicken or poultry stock, fill the rest of the pot with water until the chicken pieces are submerged. Stir well to incorporate the roux into the liquid. Add bay leaves.


Let simmer for 1.5-6 hours. The longer the better. If less time, let it boil, if longer, keep it just under boiling. If you are adding Okra, add somewhere within this cooking time. During this time season to taste adding cayenne pepper for heat, salt as necessary and roux/file for darkening and thickening.


When it is about 20-30 minutes until serving time, take the chicken pieces out and allow to cool.  Continue a low heat on the pot.  Add the andouille sausage and gumbo file to the pot and when the chicken is cool enough debone the pieces, adding the meat to the pot and discarding the bones and skin.


Add the green onions, turn off the heat and cover.


Serve over rice and with saltine crackers on the side. Some folks will add a scoop of potato salad to the gumbo at serving time.




How to Make a Roux


There are two ways to make a roux. One is the old-fashioned way or what might be considered a “wet roux” by combining flour and fat. The fat could be butter or lard or a mixture of the two. In short, do the milk and cereal method. Start out with about ¾ cup of fat and add flour mixture until it is an opaque color (will be whitish yellow to begin if using refined flour)


You want to stir the mixture on medium heat until it is a dark brown.  The tone of the roux is very much an expression of the cook.  The darker color the richer and deeper the flavor and that flavor tends to be stronger than some of the other flavors.  The lighter, the more the chicken flavor for example will shine through which makes the gumbo taste a bit more like a chicken onion soup.


After the roux reaches the desired color you can allow it to cool. It will keep in a refrigerator for weeks when done.


A New Way

The second more modern way to make a roux which we like very much for convenience and storage in our family life paradigm is the dry roux which is simply roasting the flour at 350 in the oven until it reaches the desired color.  You don’t have to stir as much as the stove-top method but you should open it every 20 or 30 minutes and give it a stir around the bottom and perimeter of the cast iron skillet. This will give more of the flour a chance to brown and show you the sort of combined tone of all of the granules.  When done, and cooled, this burnt flour could be kept in a mason jar in your pantry for months.  It works exactly the same way.


Gluten-Free Gumbo!


Bob’s Redmill… the red bag actually makes an excellent Wet or Dry roux. Nothing changes except use it in the place of flour.  This is an amazing instant-inclusionary measure when cooking for large groups. Never had a complaint or a question!