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How About Some Gumbo, Y’all?

Get your soup on this week with this traditional gumbo recipe

It’s the time of year when cooks begin thinking of cold-weather dishes like hot gumbo over rice.

I must confess I don’t often attempt to make gumbo. That’s quite a confession because I’ve lived on the Gulf Coast longer than in my home county in Central Mississippi where gumbo isn’t as common. Chili or potato soup are the go-to dishes in Newton County this time of year. Yet, gumbo is the food of this season anywhere on the coast.

Gumbo chefs rarely follow recipes. Most gumbo gurus have been making it for years and, quite often, their concoction is a mixture passed down from grandmothers or perhaps prior generations. Most gumbo makers, whether male or female, watch their elders throw in a little of this and a little of that in such and such order. They learn to perfect the roux by recognizing just the right color. No specific amount of time or temperature gets the right color. Instead, that color is learned and stored in the mind’s eye.

Gumbo is a hodgepodge of seasonings and ingredients including the holy trinity of celery, onion and bell pepper. It is presented as a hot stew and usually served over rice. Gumbo may contain shrimp, chicken or sausage. On the Gulf Coast, shrimp is generally the meat of choice, and sausage is often added along with the shrimp.

As we embrace cool temperatures, I thought it appropriate to share a gumbo recipe. As stated above, I grew up in the central part of the state; however, my family frequently visited grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins in Jackson County. These Jackson County relatives introduced us to seafood gumbo. My senses can still recall the smell of gumbo simmering in my cousin Drunett Goff Buntyn’s kitchen in Kreole. Drunett never wrote down her recipe. However, her daughter, Barbara Buntyn Boughton, learned her method as did Drunett’s other children. Barbara’s brother Gerald is also a gumbo aficionado. They all learned how to make it and occasionally jest about whose is the best, but the consensus is Barbara’s tastes the most like Drunett’s.

Thankfully, Barbara jotted it down for the rest of us. Here’s Barb’s Gumbo. Happy eating, y’all!

Barb’s Gumbo

From the Kitchen of Barbara Buntyn Boughton


  • 2-4 cups peeled and deveined small to medium shrimp (keep cool)
  • 1 lb. crab meat
  • 1 can (16 oz) tomatoes, diced or stewed
  • 3 quarts water
  • 1-4 cups cut okra
  • 2-3 tbsp gumbo file’
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • Salt, to taste
  • Tony Chachere’s seasoning, to taste
  • Old Bay liquid crab boil, to taste
  • 1 ½ cups plain flour
  • 1 ½ cups oil
  • 1 to 2 onions, chopped
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups celery, chopped
  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper, chopped


Bring 3 quarts water and tomatoes to boil in a 12-quart pot.

To make the Roux, mix oil and plain flour together in a microwave safe bowl. Barbara uses an 8-cup Pyrex measuring bowl with a handle. The handle gets very hot! Microwave on high for 6 minutes. Stir. Continue to microwave at 1-minute intervals stirring after each. It should be a dark, reddish brown within 9-13 minutes. When desired color is reached, add chopped veggies to Roux. (This stops the browning process.) Stir well. Microwave an additional 2 to 3 minutes, stirring after each minute until onions are clear. With a ladle, add some boiling water from the 12-quart pot to the Roux. Stir well. Repeat until mixture is thin enough to pour into the pot. This keeps the Roux from lumping and splattering. Stir well.

Add okra, gumbo file’, bay leaves, seasonings to taste. Simmer until okra is done. Add more water if it is too thick. Add shrimp. Simmer 15 minutes. Add crab meat. Bring back to a boil heating thoroughly.

Notes from Barbara: Serve over rice. If you plan to refrigerate the gumbo, cool it down first. Use fresh Mississippi Gulf Coast shrimp!

How About Some Gumbo, Y’all?


Written by Nancy Jo Maples

Nancy Jo Maples is an award-winning journalist who has written about Mississippi people and places for more than 30 years. A former daily staff news reporter for the Mississippi Press, she currently writes for various media and teaches communication at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. Reach her at [email protected]


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