Seafood File Gumbo

Seafood File Gumbo

When I was a young man I worked and lived in Louisiana just southeast of New Orleans in Houma past the Intercoastal Canal.  It changed my life and the way I cook.  The people were friendly, spoke in an odd language (using words like fais do do and coo-yôn), liked to party and had all kinds of festivals, i.e. The Crawfish Festival in Chalmette, Lagniappe on the Bayou in Chauvin, The Shrimp Festival in Delcambre, and, of course, Mardi Gras in New Orleans. The scenery was beautiful and the food was wonderfully unique using predominantly local foods, i.e. seafood, beef, pork, alligator, various game birds and meat and lots of cayenne pepper and Tabasco Sauce with names like gumbos, crawfish pie, blackened fish, and jambalaya.  At times it was hard to believe I was still in the United States.  Regardless, I fell in love with Louisiana and her food. This is my recipe for Seafood File Gumbo that I have worked on for years. I won’t tell you this is the best Seafood File Gumbo you will ever eat because Cajun cooks are very proud people.  Each one of them thinks s/he makes the very best Seafood File Gumbo. What I will tell you is that everyone I have ever served this Seafood File Gumbo (including native Louisianans, oil field workers, restaurant chefs, friends and my children) has asked for more and most wanted the recipe. In fact, every time I make this recipe and word gets out about it I get requests to come over for dinner. I hope you like it and am pretty confident you will. 🙂 Oh and by the way, that is one VERY large oyster in this bowl of gumbo. Just call me a fortunate son. 😀

Cooking Time: 1 hr 45 minutes; Serves 10 Main Servings


  • 1-1/2 lb 26-30 count Shrimp, peeled
  • 1 pt Lump Crab
  • 1 pt Oysters with juice
  • 6 qts Shrimp Stock
  • 28 oz can Diced Tomatoes
  • 2 cups chopped Celery (2 large or 3 small stalks)
  • 2 cups chopped Bell Pepper (1 large pepper)
  • 2 cups chopped Onion (1 large onion)
  • 2 cups sliced Okra
  • 1-1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 1/2 tsp Allspice
  • 1 tsp Dried oregano
  • 1 tsp Dried Thyme
  • 1/2 tsp White Pepper
  • 2 Tbsp Tabasco Sauce
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper 
  • 3 Bay Leaves crushed
  • 1-1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup Canola, Vegetable or Peanut Oil
  • 1 cup All Purpose Flour
  • 2 tsp File (ground sassafrass leaves)

Cooking Instructions

Start with making a brown roux by pouring 1 cup oil into a heavy bottom large skillet and adding 1 cup flour.  Whisk well until smooth and creamy.  Now you have a decision to make.  You can either go through the arduous task of slowly cooking the roux on your stove top on medium heat, stirring constantly for 45 – 60 minutes, until you get the desired color and doneness.  Alternatively, you can put the skillet in a 400 F preheated oven and forget about it for 75 minutes, my preferred method.

Once the roux is done put the roux in a large heavy bottomed Dutch oven, at least 8 quarts, and heat over medium heat.  Add onions, bell peppers, celery and okra and cook over medium heat until softened, approximately 5 – 8 minutes.  Add shrimp stock and stir to avoid lumping.  Add diced tomatoes, garlic, Tabasco sauce, and all seasonings except the file.  Bring to a slow boil and let simmer 20 minutes.

Add lump crab and shrimp, reduce heat to low.  The shrimp will cook quickly, approximately 2 minutes.  Add the file and stir to incorporate.  Remove from heat.  Add oysters and allow time to warm.

Put 1/3 cup of rice in bowl.  Pour gumbo over the rice.  Serve & enjoy.

Seafood File Gumbo

NOTES:  A couple of points need to be made about seafood gumbo.  First, cast iron is perfect for making brown roux because of its even heat displacement and heat retention.  Second, file is ground sassafras leaves.  If you don’t like it don’t use it.  Third, the shrimp stock is critical for appropriate, rich flavor.  It’s easy to make and store in your freezer.  If you don’t have any shrimp stock on hand, you can substitute chicken stock but it will affect the flavor of your gumbo.  Otherwise, buy 2 lbs 26 – 30 shrimp with the heads still attached, as opposed to 1-1/2 lbs.  Peel and devein the shrimp keeping the heads and shells.  Place the heads and shells in 8 cups of water and bring to a slow boil.  Boil 30 – 45 minutes and strain reserving the stock for the gumbo.  You can make the stock while the roux is cooking in your oven.  Water will simply not work to give you the depth of flavor that you find with a good seafood gumbo like this one.  Last, spiciness is personal to everyone.  If you don’t like a lot of heat, reduce the cayenne pepper to 1 tsp.

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