Now that winter is officially here and Christmas is just around the corner, I’ve been craving all kinds of savory comfort foods. Having been vegan for almost 5 years now, it’s safe to say that I can “veganize” almost any recipe! When I think winter comfort foods, I think stews and roasts, warm fireplaces and cozy jazz. If there is a dish that pretty much embodies it all, it’s gumbo.
The word ‘gumbo’ actually comes from a West African word for okra, which is why many people speculate that okra was a staple ingredient for the dish we know today. One of the earliest documented references to gumbo was found around the end of the 19th century. And since then gumbo has become a dish that crosses all class barriers and appears on the tables of both the poor as well as the wealthy. But what is gumbo exactly? Gumbo, now mostly known as a Cajun stew, is made up of stock, meat, shellfish and a thickener traditionally from a roux. It is also the state dish of Louisiana.
You don’t have to miss out on all the Gumbo goodness just because you follow a plant-based lifestyle. With all the great meat replacements that are available these days, you can seriously recreate any recipe out there, and not only make it cruelty-free, but also healthier for your body and mind.
This vegan chorizo sausage gumbo packs some serious nutrition as well as deep rich flavors. Also known as ‘lady’s fingers’, okra is a flowering plant that may have South Asian or African origins, but that still remains unclear. The mucilaginous fiber found in okra has been shown to reduce uncomfortable digestive issues such as bloating, indigestion and constipation, and okra also offers a dense profile of vitamins and minerals that are essential for skin and maintaining normal blood pressure.
The meat replacements I have chosen to use are soy-based which is an easy way to increase your plant-based protein. Although I have used vegan chorizo sausages and vegan chicken, you can substitute it for any vegan meat replacement, or use the real meat ingredients if you don’t follow a vegan diet. As long as you make the roux properly and add the correct spices, this dish will taste just as great even without any meat or meat substitute.
Vegan Chorizo Sausage and Squash Gumbo
- 300 g chorizo sausage sliced
- 300 g vegan chicken strips
- 1 litre vegetable stock
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 6 cloves of garlic minced
- 1 onion diced
- 1 green bell pepper ¼ inch dice
- 1 red bell pepper ¼ inch dice
- 1 cup green onions ¼ inch dice
- ½ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup coconut oil
- 100 g karela
- 200 g okra ¼ inch dice
- 200 g squash 1 inch dice
- 1 red chili minced
- 1 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- ½ cup fresh parsley
- 1 tsp Cajun mix spice
Make sure you have the vegetables ready to go before starting the roux.
Melt the coconut oil on medium heat until all the chunks are fully dissolved.
Decrease the heat to medium low.
Add the flour and stir continuously. It should take 20-30 minutes to reach a dark tan colour.
Keep stirring with a whisk until the desired darkness has been achieved -- the darker the roux, the deeper the flavour.
Once you have made your roux, add the holy trinity ingredients; onions, peppers, celery, and a pinch of salt. Mix into the roux and sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes.
Once the onions have become translucent, add the minced garlic. And cook for a further 2 minutes.
Add the diced squash and karela. Cook for 5 minutes or until the squash has softened.
Add the vegetable stock, making sure you pour it slowly into the pot while stirring continuously to ensure you don’t create any lumps from the roux. Add the okra, canned tomatoes and bring to a boil.
Once the gumbo has come to a boil, add the sausages and chicken strips and season with salt, pepper and the remaining spices. Cook for a further 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes. You can’t over cook a gumbo! The longer you cook gumbo, the more intense the flavor.
While waiting for the gumbo to finish cooking, cook 2 cups of rice.
Serve the gumbo over freshly cooked rice and garnish with sliced spring onions and parsley.
STEP ONE – WASH AND PREP INGREDIENTS
Make sure you have the vegetables ready to go before starting the roux as you won’t be able to leave the roux on the stove top without constantly stirring it.
STEP TWO – EQUAL PARTS FAT AND FLOUR
Melt the coconut oil on medium heat until all the chunks have fully dissolved. You can use grapeseed oil or vegetable oil as well, if you prefer.
STEP THREE – ADD FLOUR
Lower the heat to medium low. Add the flour, stirring continuously. It should take 20-30 minutes for the flour to turn a lovely dark tan color. As a general rule, the darker the roux, the deeper the flavor. The lighter the roux is, the better the thickening power. So depending on how you like your gumbo, cook the roux for as long as you like based on what kind of texture you wish to achieve.
STEP FOUR – ADD HOLY TRINITY
Once you have made your roux, add the holy trinity ingredients; onions, peppers, celery, and a pinch of salt. Mix into the roux and sweat the vegetables for 5 minutes. Add a pinch of salt to help draw out the water and flavor from the vegetables. Cook until the onions are translucent.
STEP FIVE – GARLIC
Once the onions have become translucent, add the minced garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes. The reason why we’re adding the garlic now as opposed to adding it with the holy trinity vegetables is because garlic has a really low smoke point and burns very easily.
STEP SIX – SQUASH AND KARELA
Add the diced squash and karela. Cook for 5 minutes or until the squash has softened a little.
STEP SEVEN – ADD STOCK AND OKRA
Add the vegetable stock, making sure you pour it slowly into the pot while stirring continuously to ensure you don’t create any lumps from the roux. I used stock cubes dissolved in hot water. At this point you can add the okra and canned tomatoes and bring to a boil. The longer you cook okra the less “slimy” it gets. The “slime” from the okra will cook into the gumbo and mix with the roux, helping it create that thick gumbo consistency that we want.
STEP EIGHT – ADD SAUSAGES AND CHICKEN STRIPS
Once the gumbo has come to a boil, add the sausages and chicken strips and season with salt, pepper and the remaining spices. Don’t forget the bay leaves. Most Gumbo recipes call for one bay leaf but I find two really makes a notable difference. Cook for a further 30 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes. You can’t over cook a gumbo! The longer you cook gumbo, the more intense the flavor becomes.
STEP NINE – SERVE WITH RICE
Serve the gumbo over freshly cooked rice and garnish with sliced spring onions and parsley. Alternatively, you can serve it with toast. I find thicker gumbos go nicely with toast while thinner gumbos pair better with rice.
Aside from making the roux which undoubtedly takes a bit of time and effort, this gumbo dish is just a matter of adding ingredients into a big pot and waiting until all the flavours develop and come together. If you’re someone who feels a bit unsure about okra, you can definitely leave it out. I would then suggest taking a bit more time to make a good and flavourful roux. You can even play around with the amount of roux you wish to make. Depending on how thick you’d like your gumbo to be, try using ⅓ cup flour and ⅓ cup oil, or even more depending on what consistency you’d like to achieve. If you find that your gumbo is turning out a tad thick, simply add a little more stock. The bottom line is that you can’t over cook gumbo! Traditional gumbos can sit on a stove top for half a day. The one thing I would change about this recipe is the amount of garlic and chili I added, as I like my dishes spicy especially in these cold winter months.
Jen Miller is a former electrical engineer and product specialist with more than 20 years of product design and testing experience. She has designed more than 200 products for Fortune 500 companies, in fields ranging from home appliances to sports gear and outdoor equipment. She founded Jen Reviews to share her knowledge and critical eye for what makes consumers tick, and adopts a strict no-BS approach to help the reader filter through the maze of products and marketing hype out there. She writes regularly and has been featured on Forbes, Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post, Tiny Buddha and MindBodyGreen.