Forget chili or chowder: There’s no crisp-weather dish that sparks more controversy than a bowl of gumbo. Gumbo is defined as “a spicy chicken or seafood soup thickened typically with okra or rice,” but the dish is so hyperregional that plenty of versions may eschew chicken, seafood, okra, rice, or even all four. (The only thing that really does hold true is that gumbo’s composed of three parts: a thickening agent, the stock, and the protein and vegetables in the stock.) In the spirit of regional appreciation and culinary discovery, we’ve done lots of sifting and sorting to pair you up with your best gumbo match.
Image from Simply Recipes

If You’re an Okra Hater

Yes, the word gumbo is derived from a West African word for okra. Yes, plenty of people will fiercely defend the belief that gumbo must contain okra, a natural thickener. But really, you don’t have to get past okra’s slimy texture to enjoy a bowl of gumbo. Consider this excellent turkey rendition from James Beard Award–winning chef Chris Shepherd; it gets its body from a roux made with canola and olive oils.
Recipe and photo from Epicurious

If You’re Gluten-Free

Unlike popular Cajun versions, Creole gumbos often don’t begin with the mix of flour and fat known as a roux. Instead, they’re thickened using okra and tomatoes, which not only add body to the dish, but also piquant, sweet notes.
Recipe and photo from Saveur

If You’re a Serious Culinary Hobbyist

Do you stock a spice cabinet that rivals your closet? Are you that cook who’s always ordering heritage meats off the Internet? Then turn to a Cajun version of gumbo that stars a whole duck and utilizes filé powder—dried, ground sassafras tree leaves with a fruity, herbaceous flavor—as a key thickening agent.
Recipe and photo from Food52

If You’re a Carnivore Through and Through
Load up on the meat with the classic Cajun gumbo combination of chicken and andouille, a spicy-hot pork sausage that’s smoked and seasoned with garlic, pepper, onions, wine, and spices.
Recipe from CHOW

If You’re More About Soups Than Stews

For mildly nutty flavor and thinner consistency, begin with a recipe that calls for a modest amount of roux, and brown it to a peanut butter color. The result will be a soupier gumbo.
Recipe and photo from Wannabe TV Chef

If You Prefer Dark, Thick Stews

Cacao nibs, well-done toast, stouts and porters: Should you count any of these among your favorite things, then take the time to make a generous amount of thick, dark, chocolate-hued roux, like the one in this turkey and andouille gumbo, which will add a rib-sticking quality and layers of depth to your bowl.
Recipe and photo from Saveur

If You’re a Seafood Snob
New Orleans chef John Besh, a self-proclaimed “seafood gumbo snob,” swears by this recipe for gumbo, which is chock-full of shrimp, oysters, crabmeat, and quartered fresh blue crabs. The ingredients’ll cost you a pretty penny at the fishmonger, but you won’t be disappointed by the results.
Recipe from John Besh

If You’re a Seafood Hater

Maybe you can’t get access to fresh fruits de mer. Or perhaps you simply hate the taste of seafood. Either way, you won’t be vilified in gumbo culture, as there are plenty of meat-based gumbos flavored with everything from duck to squirrel to alligator to rabbit. Or you can just stick to something you don’t have to hunt yourself, like chicken.
Recipe and photo from Serious Eats

If You’re a Vegan or Vegetarian
There are meatless options, even in the heart of Cajun country. Gumbo z’herbes is a style of vegetable gumbo that’s often made without meat, seafood, or dairy products.
Recipe from CHOW

If You Want to Try Something Totally Different
For the gumbo aficionado who’s looking to sample uncharted territory, try a regional Cajun variation that’s one of Chef Paul Prudhomme’s favorites: shrimp and eggs gumbo.

Recipe from Roux the Day

Susannah Chen is a San Francisco–based freelance writer. When she’s not cooking or writing, she’s on the hunt to find the world’s best chilaquiles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.
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