Green Gumbo: A Plant-Based Twist on a Louisiana Classic

December 30, 2023
Green Gumbo
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Green Gumbo just as rich, comforting, and flavorful as the original – but packed with vegetables instead of meat.

Gumbo is one of the most iconic dishes of Louisiana cuisine. This thick, stew-like dish usually contains seafood, chicken, sausage, and the “holy trinity” of onions, bell peppers, and celery. While traditional gumbos rely heavily on animal proteins, it’s easy to give this Creole classic a plant-based makeover. Enter: green gumbo, aka gumbo z’herbes. This meatless take on gumbo gets its name from the abundance of leafy greens. Green Gumbo just as rich, comforting, and flavorful as the original – but packed with vegetables instead of meat.

What is Green Gumbo?

Green gumbo, or gumbo z’herbes, is a variation of the classic Louisiana stew. As the name suggests, it contains lots of greens. Some people also call it “Vegetarian Gumbo.” Traditional gumbos are thickened with a browned roux and contain meat or seafood. Green gumbos get their thickness from pureed greens and vegetables. The flavor comes from copious amounts of garlic, herbs, and spices. Without relying on smoked meats, the vegetal broth takes on a vivid green color.

Origins and History

Gumbo z’herbes has roots in the Creole cooking traditions of New Orleans. It arose during the Lenten season as a meatless alternative. Various origin stories credit particular New Orleans restaurants or families for inventing the dish. Regardless, it has become a local specialty that embraces the region’s iconic ingredients – just in vegetarian form. The “z’herbes” of the name refers to the mélange of greens. Recipes vary, but typically include spinach, collard greens, kale, arugula, and more.

Ingredients in Green Gumbo

The beauty of green gumbo is its flexibility. As long as you include greens and bold seasoning, you can’t go wrong. Here are some standard ingredients:

Leafy Greens: spinach, collards, kale, mustard greens, turnip greens

Aromatics: onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic

Herbs and Spices: thyme, oregano, cayenne, black pepper

Thickeners: okra, filé powder

Stock: vegetable broth

Oils: olive oil, vegetable oil

Acid: lemon juice, hot sauce, vinegar

Step-by-Step Green Gumbo Recipe

This recipe makes about 6 servings of flavorful green gumbo chock-full of greens.

Ingredients:

  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp Creole seasoning
  • 1⁄4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 bunch collard greens, chopped
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 15 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 lb fresh okra, sliced (or frozen)
  • 2 cups packed spinach
  • 1⁄4 cup lemon juice
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice, for serving

Instructions:

  1. Sauté the aromatics: Heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, bell pepper and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute more.
  2. Add spices and greens: Stir in the Creole seasoning and cayenne. Add the collard greens in batches, letting them wilt down before adding more.
  3. Simmer the broth: Pour in vegetable broth and diced tomatoes. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.
  4. Cook the okra: Add the sliced okra and cook 10 minutes.
  5. Puree the greens: Scoop out half the solid ingredients and blend to a coarse puree. Return to pot.
  6. Finish and serve: Stir in spinach and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. Cook just until spinach is wilted. Serve over rice. Enjoy!

Tips:

  • Play around with the greens – try kale, arugula, turnip greens, etc.
  • For thicker gumbo, blend more of the vegetables or add filé powder.
  • Serve with hot sauce, lemon wedges, and Louisiana hot sauce on the side.
  • Make it ahead – this stew tastes even better the next day!

The Benefits of Green Gumbo

Beyond just being meatless, green gumbo z’herbes offers a few health perks:

  • Nutrient-dense greens – Dark leafy greens provide vitamins A, C, K, iron, calcium, and more. The abundance of greens packs this gumbo full of nutrients.
  • Vegetable focus – With greens, onions, celery, bell peppers, and okra, this bayou stew delivers a serious veggie boost.
  • Fresh herbs and spices – For big flavor without excess sodium, green gumbo relies on herbs like thyme and spices like cayenne.
  • Tomatoes and lemon juice– The acidity from tomatoes and lemon brighten up the greens and provide vitamin C.
  • No roux – Traditional gumbos start with a roux, which requires a ton of oil. Green gumbo gets thickness from pureed veggies instead.

So next time you’re craving comfort food, give green gumbo a try! It’s a fresh take on a Louisiana classic.

Frequently Asked Questions About Green Gumbo

1. What kind of rice is best with green gumbo?

White long-grain rice or jasmine rice works well – the mild flavor lets the gumbo shine. Serve it plain or try brown rice for a fiber boost.

2. Can I use frozen greens?

Absolutely! Frozen chopped greens like spinach, kale, and collards are perfect for green gumbo. Just thaw them first.

3. Is okra necessary for green gumbo?

Not at all! Okra lends thickness and its signature slippery texture, but if you don’t have it, you can use more greens instead.

4. What protein can I add to green gumbo?

For a heartier gumbo, try adding diced extra-firm tofu, seitan, or vegan sausage. You can also garnish bowls with sliced avocado.

5. How spicy should green gumbo be?

That’s up to you! Add cayenne and hot sauce to your desired level of heat. Start with less and adjust to taste.

6. Can I prepare green gumbo ahead of time?

Definitely – the flavors only improve with time. Let it cool completely before refrigerating for up to 4 days. Reheat gently before serving.

7. What drink pairs well with green gumbo?

A crisp lager or pilsner complements the flavors nicely. Or sip on a bright, herbal gin and tonic.

Put a Plant-Based Spin on Louisiana Cuisine

Green gumbo z’herbes breathes fresh life into a classic bayou stew. Packed with leafy greens, aromatics, and Creole spice, it captures the rich local flavor – no meat required. This hearty one-pot meal comes together easily and makes for delicious leftovers too. Next time you’re craving gumbo, ditch the roux and try this vegetal spin.

Article Categories:
Recipe · Pure Veg

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