A bowl of shrimp okra gumbo.

Shrimp Okra Gumbo

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The delicious combination of shrimp and okra makes Shrimp Okra Gumbo a unique dish. This classic Cajun recipe is thickened by smothered okra instead of traditional flour and oil roux, making it a healthier version. You can serve it as a main dish, a side dish, or a most appetizing appetizer.

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Shrimp Okra Gumbo was one of my mama’s signature dishes that her family often requested whenever we could put our feet under her table. I enjoy it so much that I can eat it three times a day.

Mama usually kept smothered okra and frozen shrimp harvested from the area in her freezer. I remember hot summer days when she’d gather fresh okra, chop it, and cook it down with other veggies. Then she’d put it in ziplock bags to freeze in anticipation of a pot of shrimp okra gumbo anytime she pleased.

Since this gumbo takes a couple of hours to prepare, to help save time, you can peel the shrimp while the okra is cooking. Even better, make the smothered okra and store it in the freezer or refrigerator until later, like my mama.

You can also purchase peeled shrimp. Now, that’s a beautiful timesaver! If you do these early preparations, you can have Shrimp Okra Gumbo on the table in half an hour.

Two Kinds Of Shrimp

Louisiana is plentiful with seafood in the Gulf coastal waters. With two shrimp seasons, spring and fall, fishermen can fill the high demands of this delicious seafood. Besides keeping restaurants and grocery stores in stock, plenty of individuals fill their freezers with the season’s harvest.

NOTE: Fresh shrimp preserve easily frozen in water with or without their heads and shells.

A silver drainer with fresh shrimp in it.

There are two kinds of shrimp found in Louisiana waters; white and brown.

The white shrimp (pictured above) are larger, sweeter, more tender, and easier to peel. They come from brackish water, a mixture of salt and freshwater from the lakes, bays, and bayous.

Brown shrimp, however, are more plentiful and have a slightly firmer shell with a more robust flavor. That’s because of the iodine-rich diet they get from salt water in the Gulf.

I talk a lot about the smothered okra in this recipe, which is the foundation of this gumbo. But the shrimp is the crowning flavor. Mmmmm! And the smell is yummy, too.

Smothering The Okra For Shrimp Okra Gumbo

Well, what can you do with fresh okra?

Okra can be prepared by frying, boiling, pickling, and smothering. That’s what we like to do here in the south. I eat it in any form, even raw, and smothering is an excellent way to use up an abundant crop.

Slime can ruin a gumbo. The first step to smothering is to cook fresh or frozen chopped okra for about an hour until the slime is gone. Adding the Cajun trinity of onions, celery, bell pepper, and a bit of garlic adds incredible flavor to the pot.

A good idea is to make a batch of this Creole Seasoning Blend Recipe to use in place of the trinity and garlic. You only need about a cup of it in this gumbo recipe. Make it ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer when needed.

Cooking the vegetables together until they caramelize is how they get smothered. You want them browned and softened, so this takes a while. Season with salt and red cayenne pepper last.

A large pot of smothered okra for gumbo.

Using smothered okra makes this dish gluten-free. That’s good for wheat-sensitive Diets.

When Should You Add The Okra To The Gumbo?

Actually, you start with smothering the okra in the pot first. Peeling and deveining the shrimp while the okra cooks help speed things along. After the shrimp are cooked, chicken broth and water are simmered to marry the flavors. Then seasoned to taste with more salt and red cayenne pepper.

A label full of shrimp okra gumbo over a pot of gumbo.

If your Shrimp Okra Gumbo isn’t dark enough to your liking, you can add a little Kitchen Bouquet browning agent. Not too much, just a little at a time, then give it a taste. Too much of it, and you’ll alter the gumbo flavor.

Traditionally, gumbo is served with a scoop or two of white rice. Also, a helping of potato salad goes exceptionally well with any gumbo, and some like it right in their bowl of gumbo. Someone like me!

More Gumbo-Related Recipes

Listed below are gumbo recipes and other dishes to serve with them.

There’s also A Roux Lesson and a recipe for making a large batch of Smothered Okra For Gumbo on the blog to help you along your merry gumbo-making way.

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A bowl of Shrimp Okra Gumbo with rice,

Shrimp Okra Gumbo

A rich-tasting shrimp gumbo seasoned and thickened with smothered okra and vegetables.

  • Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6 1x

Ingredients

Scale

Smothered Okra

  • 1 tablespoon canola or vegetable oil
  • 4 cups fresh or sliced okra or 16 ounces
  • .5 cup chopped onion
  • .25 cup chopped celery
  • .25 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1 cup chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
  • 2 garlic pods, pressed
  • .5 teaspoon salt
  • .25 teaspoons of red cayenne pepper

Gumbo

  • 2 cus smothered okra from the above recipe
  • 2 pounds fresh shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 4 cups or 32 ounces of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of water
  • Kitchen Bouquet, optional

Instructions

Smothered Okra

  1. Place a heavy pot on a burner and heat the oil.
  2. Add okra to the pot and cook on medium/low heat, occasionally stirring, being careful not to burn okra.
  3. Cook until okra is no longer slimy and browned, which takes about a half hour to an hour; add a small amount of water if okra begins to stick to the pot.
  4. Add onions, bell peppers, celery, and tomatoes, and cook for 20 minutes or more until vegetables are soft and browned some more; again, add a small amount of water if vegetables begin to stick to the pot.
  5. Stir in garlic and let simmer for a few more minutes.
  6. Season with salt and red cayenne pepper. 

Gumbo

  1. Stir shrimp into smothered okra and cook, often stirring, for 5 minutes on low heat.
  2. Add chicken broth and water and simmer on low heat for 20 minutes.
  3. Pour small amounts of water if needed to adjust the thickness of the gumbo.
  4. Taste to adjust seasoning and add kitchen bouquet as a browning agent if gumbo is not brown enough.
  5. Serve hot over cooked rice.

Notes

  • The more okra you are cooking with, the more cook time it takes to get rid of the slime.
  • Smother the okra ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator or freezer to save prep time for gumbo.
  • Pass your hand through the shrimp to make sure they are free of shells before adding them to the okra.
  • Be sure to use a mall amount of kitchen bouquet; it only takes a dab to brown, and you don’t want to use too much, or it will alter the gumbo flavor.
  • Author: Louisiana Woman
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Simmer
  • Cuisine: Cajun

Keywords: shrimp okra gumbo, okra gumbo, shrimp gumbo, smothered okra, smothered okra for gumbo.

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All great change in America begins at the dinner table.  

 Ronald Reagan

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3 Comments

  1. I made this last night! It is delicious and such a great roux free option! I wanted to try it especially because my very Cajun grandmother used to make an okra and ground meat gumbo- your recipe looked similar to what I’d imagine she did to make hers! After she passed away, I couldn’t believe no one had her recipe written down. 😢 Can’t wait to try to make this again hit sub shrimp for ground meat to see if it’s identical! I bet it will be!! Thank you so much for your amazing recipes! Your shrimp stew is another one of my faves!! 🥰

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