Gumbo is one of the most difficult dishes to describe. That’s largely because everyone has their own way of making it.
No two recipes will ever be alike, and that’s the fun of going to places like the Big Easy because you get to taste the intricacies that very from restaurant to restaurant.
If you’re lucky enough, you know someone in Cajun Country who will happily invite you over to join the family for gumbo.
And if a trip to Louisiana just isn’t in the cards for you, you might want to give it a shot in your own kitchen.
In its most basic form, this soupy stew-like meal has 4 key elements: okra, a protein such as meat or shellfish, vegetables, and roux.
With each bite, you get a melting pot of flavors from West Africa, France, and the Choctaw Native Americans.
Gumbo is so revered in these parts of the south that it’s like a national treasure. One taste of those warming, soul-soothing flavors and you’ll be a fan for life.
Gumbo really brings people together. Wherever you’re from, whatever your background, gumbo doesn’t discriminate.
Mardi Gras will be here before you know it and if you want to host your own Mardi Gras-themed party with gumbo, then now is the time to start thinking about it.
Oh, but if you’re like us, you simply can’t put out only a vat of gumbo for your guests.
No matter how delicious that gumbo is, side dishes for gumbo need to be present for a truly festive scene or at the very least for a family dinner, to fill everyone up.
What to serve with gumbo is a very tricky line to walk indeed. Follow us to know what goes with gumbo so you can have plenty for family and friends to enjoy!
What Goes with Gumbo? 13 Sides to Compliment Your Feast
Before you plan to make gumbo for your family or host a Mardi Gras spectacular in your home, read over these side dishes for gumbo!
1. White Rice
Ok, look. We KNOW white rice isn’t some ground-breaking side dish. But we’d be doing a huge disservice to everyone and insulting Louisianans if we didn’t list white rice first.
A nice fluffy scoop of white rice dropped into your bowl of gumbo, like a mountain rising up from it with the thick sauciness of gumbo swirling around it is absolute heaven.
Of course, while it might seem simple, cooking white rice the right way can be really hard.
If you have a rice cooker or an Instant Pot, you can make short work of getting nice, fluffy white rice on the table.
If not, check out this video from Crouton Crackerjacks that show’s you how to get it perfect on the stovetop.
2. Chili Cheese Cornbread
Oh, cornbread! You are SUCH a Southern staple! If you’d prefer to branch out from white rice or have something else to serve with gumbo, cornbread will be there for you.
And while there’s nothing wrong with the original version, we love the idea of a cheesified version.
One with a little chili kick to it. After all, gumbo is zesty and full of life and a side that matches that liveliness will bode well at the table.
The naturally spongy texture of cornbread is ideal for sopping up every last bit of gumbo too.
Love cornbread too? Here are some other meals where cornbread makes a great side dish.
Make a bunch because cornbread is easy to reheat the next day.
We were thrilled to find Beth’s recipe at Budget Bytes because she shows you how to throw it together fast and super-cheap, perfect for feeding a crowd!
3. Easy Green Salad
While gumbo has okra in it and a medley of other vegetables simmered to perfection, a crisp green salad is a nice contrast.
Sometimes with those rich and bold flavors, the best thing to do is go the opposite direction and lighten things up.
We think that a great green salad makes a great side dish for gumbo.
Crunchy textures, lightly acidic flavors, and a bounty of fresh vegetables plus some croutons will always be a hit.
Plus, if you’ve got a crowd, you can put out a big bowl and let everyone serve themselves as they see fit.
Maria and Josh at Two Peas and Their Pod have just the kind of simple yet delicious green salad recipe you need!
4. Homemade Southern Hushpuppies
Hushpuppies are another Southern traditional side dish that you’ll find served with just about everything.
But these small and savory cornmeal-based balls of deliciousness are as perfect served with gumbo as they are a fish fry.
If you’ve had gumbo or hushpuppies before, just imagine them together.
We can just taste it! In fact, we’re surprised we never thought of this combination before. D
on’t buy those frozen hushpuppies though. They’re easy to make from scratch.
If you watch this video by I Heart Recipes, you’ll see exactly how easy it is to do!
5. Gumbo Potato Salad
I know we often suggest potato salad as a side for other meals. Potato salad is as varied as gumbo itself is!
But those in Louisiana will tell you that along with that mound of white rice, you need a scoop of potato salad.
Some eat it on the side while others pile it into their bowl of gumbo. Before you grimace though, potato salad in New Orleans isn’t made with relish or eggs.
It’s usually mashed up in the same texture as mashed potatoes.
Give it a try and let Mary from Deep South Dish give you the scoop on how to make it the authentic way!
6. Crab Cakes with Cajun Cream Sauce
Want to serve an appetizer prior to dishing out that delicious gumbo? Crab cakes are the perfect way to make any meal start off with flair.
While you might go nuts trying to make enough of these for a big crowd, if you’re having a smaller dinner party or a family dinner night, crab cakes bursting with hunks of fresh crab meat are the way to go.
With a Cajun-style sauce for dipping, it instantly gives it that Louisiana style.
And if you love adding sauces to crab cakes in general, you can check out our list of crab cake sauces for more great ideas.
Sara and Pam over at Biscuits and Burlap have a delightful recipe that you’re going to adore.
7. Fried Green Tomato Shrimp Rémoulade
Shrimp Rémoulade and fried green tomatoes are 2 distinctively Southern delights.
We’ve recommended fried green tomatoes for other side dishes here before.
And we were absolutely about to do so for side dishes for gumbo.
But we thought about the shrimp and thought it would be nice depending on the type of gumbo you make.
And THEN, we saw this incredible recipe from George at Acadiana Table and we literally drooled. You will too so get a napkin ready and go make this with your gumbo right now!
8. Slow Cooker Creamed Corn
Ah, creamed corn! So Southern, so simple, and so delicious. When thinking of what goes with gumbo, creamed corn definitely popped into our minds.
It’s easy enough to set and forget, allowing you to enjoy time out of the kitchen for a change.
If you’re having a large group over for your gumbo, making a big batch of creamed corn will be a great choice.
It’s an easy-to-love side for all ages. When you make it in the slow cooker, that spares you the hassle of cooking yet another dish.
Chunguh at Damn Delicious has a wonderful recipe that only requires 5 ingredients to really make your life easy!
9. Creole Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
Whether you want to class things up or have a hand-held app that whets the appetite, deviled eggs are a prime choice to serve with your gumbo.
Making deviled eggs the way you’ve always made them wouldn’t be a felony either.
But wouldn’t it be even more exciting to add a little more zest and spice to them?
Yes, it totally would! Add a little crab and creole seasoning and you’ve just modernized a classic.
Morgan’s recipe at Host the Toast is sure to have your guests raving for more!
10. Simple Creole Tomato Salad
Want another salad to lighten up your meal? The star of this type of salad is the tomato, in particular, Creole tomatoes.
It’s essentially fresh sliced tomatoes with onions, capers, blue cheese, and a lovely vinaigrette dressing to tie it all together.
You layer it and it looks like a beautiful tomato building if ever there were such a thing.
Apparently, it’s how they beat the heat down in New Orleans. Want to try it?
11. Carrot Souffle
We’re sure you’re raising a quizzical eyebrow at us right now, aren’t you? Hey, they have carrot cake, so why not carrot souffle?
But you must know this is actually a side dish, one you could get away with serving for a dessert, quite honestly.
And if you’re making a nice spread to go with your gumbo, your guests may very well favor it for the dessert.
Or they may simply love the way the sweet contrast goes with the savory spice of the gumbo.
Either way, take it from Lisa at Homesick Texan who has all the details on how to make this side!
12. Spinach Madeline
If you love creamed spinach, get ready for Spinach Madeline! This dish is basically a cheesier version, one that replaces the cream with a bounty of cheese.
It’s made with a roux, so traditional for Louisiana cooking. And so fitting to go with your gumbo too.
This is one side dish that will disappear fast and even have kids eating their spinach.
Erin at The Speckled Palate has a tasty recipe with step-by-step photos to guide you!
13. Louisiana Bread Pudding
And finally, while we usually tend to keep desserts separate, gumbo is a different ball game.
Especially if you’re serving a larger group. You’ll want to put this on the table and let guests serve themselves.
One warning though…it’s going to disappear fast. How could it not with all that rum and sweetness on top?
This divine recipe by Amy in the Kitchen calls for putting them in ramekins but you can easily use a casserole dish to make bigger portions for the gang.
What Goes In Gumbo?
As we mentioned earlier on, gumbo can be made many ways. In fact, if you went to any neighborhood anywhere in
Louisiana, you could pop by one house for gumbo and then go next door and have 2 completely different yet delicious gumbo experiences.
So, what goes in gumbo? Aside from the 4 crucial ingredients that gumbo must have (okra, a protein such as meat or shellfish, vegetables, and roux), you may find it in the following varieties:
Seafood gumbo usually has shrimp though you’ll also see crab meat and sausage thrown in too.
While other meats might be present, chicken gumbo has lots of chicken in it.
The hybrid of gumbo and jambalaya is another one that you might find. It typically has a little bit of everything in it including chicken, sausage, shrimp, and vegetables.
Check out our list of jambalaya sides for some good pairing ideas with this one.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Remember the chicken gumbo from above? Yeah, just add sausage, preferably andouille.
Turkey and Sausage Gumbo
After Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner when you are growing tired of coming up with new ways to use that leftover turkey, make gumbo!
Just grab some andouille sausages to perk it up. You’ll be thrilled with the results!
Getting Your Gumbo Just Right
We mentioned those 4 crucial ingredients, but we wanted to delve a little further into those so you can get the authenticity right.
– It needs the ‘Holy Trinity’
This refers to the vegetables. Celery, onions, and bell peppers are cooked down and used to make gumbo. You really can’t make gumbo without them.
– You need to thicken it
Gumbo is thickened by either okra or in some cases, filé powder, which is just dried, ground up sassafras leaves. As it’s easier to find okra outside of Louisiana, you might just go with that.
– You can make a meatless version
Vegetarians and vegans can have gumbo too. There’s a meatless style called z’herbes which uses slow-cooked greens.
– Practice making roux right
Roux is used in much of the cooking from Louisiana. If you’ve never made roux before you might not know what to do.
It’s basically flour and melted fat blended together on the stovetop. Bacon drippings, lard, or butter are the most common fats.
There are different types of roux for different types of Cajun and Creole cookery. For gumbo, you want the dark roux.
Still lost? This video by Denay can help you master roux for your gumbo. Whatever you do though, please don’t buy store bought roux!
– Don’t add tomatoes
They say if you add tomatoes, you’ll make a Louisianan cry. Tomatoes don’t belong in gumbo so keep them out.
– Use Cajun sausage
While you’re free to use a chicken, turkey, or even meatless variety of sausage to suit your dietary needs, you should always make sure it has a Cajun flavor to it. Doing so will ensure your gumbo tastes authentic.
– The jury is out on all the meats
Some true Cajuns will get upset if you mix chicken and sausage with seafood in your gumbo.
They think chicken and sausage go together and that seafood gumbo should be left as a seafood delight.
Others just don’t care and mix freely. But if you’re hosting anyone from Louisiana at your gumbo party, you might want to keep the meats separated.
– Try the potato salad in the gumbo
With the potato salad we mentioned above, plenty of Louisianans put it right in the bowl with the gumbo.
Let them. And try it yourself too. But if it seems too weird, you can eat it on the side. To each their own!
Choose Your Gumbo sides Based on Your Gumbo Style
Our final gumbo tip for you has to do with the gumbo style you make and the side dishes for gumbo that you choose.
For just about everyone reading this, you’re definitely going to want the white rice with any type of gumbo. Talk about a great way to dress up your rice!
Potato salad also goes quite well with any version.
But from there, it can get muddled. If you’re serving seafood gumbo, you might find crabs cakes sides, or grilled shrimp or fried green tomatoes are a perfect opener.
That’s not to say that you can’t serve them with any other type of gumbo though. We say to go for it!
Also, if you’re hosting a big gumbo shindig, if you know you have guests that are vegetarian or vegan, it might be a kind thing to amp up the sides you serve that are free of meats or even make a small serving of the meatless gumbo for them to enjoy.
You certainly don’t want to see them eating just rice and salad, do you?
Salads will go with all of these though so serve them freely. All in all, each of these sides will play beautifully with just about any style of gumbo you create.
Make sure you’ve got good bowls the are wide enough to contain a moat of gumbo around your mound of rice and you’ll be on your way to gumbo success!
What to Serve with Gumbo
- White Rice
- Chili Cheese Cornbread
- Green Salad
- Potato Salad
- Crab Cakes
- Shrimp Rémoulade
- Creamed Corn
- Deviled Eggs
- Creole Tomato Salad
- Carrot Souffle
- Spinach Madeline
- Choose your desired Gumbo side dish recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create a tasty Gumbo side to complete your meal!