Gumbo z’Herbes with Cajun Tempeh Bacon

by on February 28, 2007
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Most people outside of my home state have never had this “Greens Gumbo,” but it’s an authentic Louisiana dish. Traditionally, it was made without meat to serve during Lent, but with Louisianians being the great seafood and meat lovers they are, ham and seafood eventually made their way into this naturally vegetarian soup. Well, now they’ve made their way out again!

You can use any kind of greens you want in this gumbo–the more varieties the better. I’ve heard it said that for each green that’s put into the soup, you’ll make another new friend during the coming year. So don’t hesitate to add more than the 5 (including parsley) greens I’ve used. You can never have too many friends!

I’ve paired this with my favorite tempeh dish, Cajun Tempeh Bacon, but if you prefer, you can add one of the optional protein ingredients instead. But the spicy, smoky tempeh really takes it to a new level.

Gumbo z'Herbes with Spicy Tempeh Bacon

Gumbo z’Herbes
(click for printer-friendly version)

1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat but may be omitted)
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 bay leaves
12 cups water or vegetable broth (I used water)
3 ribs celery, finely chopped
1 bell pepper, finely chopped
1/2 head cabbage, finely chopped
1 pound chopped turnip greens (I used frozen)
10 ounces spinach leaves
1 cup minced parsley, packed
8-10 ounces collard greens, trimmed and chopped (about 6 cups chopped)
1 tablespoon dried thyme leaves
1/4-1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon hot sauce (optional)
1 teaspoon liquid smoke (or to taste)
salt and black pepper to taste

Optional: 3 cups beans (great northern are good) or 1 pound smoked tofu, cubed

First, brown the flour in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. (If you avoid flour products, you may skip this ingredient entirely, but it will give the gumbo a richer, deeper flavor.) Add the flour to the hot skillet and stir constantly, scraping the bottom, until it is a uniform medium-brown, about the color of light brown sugar:

Browned Flour

Expect to spend about 10 minutes browning the flour. Be careful not to burn it! If it burns, please throw it out and start over.

When the flour is browned, remove it to a plate to cool.

Put the onions in a large soup pot, and brown them for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and bay leaves and sauté for another 2 minutes. Add the browned flour and stir well. Add the water, a little bit at a time at first, stirring well. Add all the remaining ingredients (except optional ones) and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.

Once the vegetables are tender (about 15 minutes) puree the soup using a hand blender or remove it to a blender and puree. Put it back into the pot and add any optional ingredients and continue to cook for at least 1 hour. (Longer cooking lets the flavors develop.) Just before serving, check the seasoning and add more liquid smoke, salt, hot sauce, and pepper, if needed. Serve over brown rice.

Note: Makes a huge pot, so halve it if you’re not feeding a crowd.

Cajun Tempeh Bacon
(click for printer-friendly version)

This is probably my favorite tempeh recipe. Besides going well with Gumbo z’Herbes, this makes a great TLT sandwich. If you have time, steaming the tempeh for about 15 minutes before marinating improves the flavor and the absorption of the marinade.

2 tablespoons soy sauce (reduced sodium)
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Liquid Smoke
2 tablespoons water
4 drops toasted sesame oil (optional, but good)
1-3 teaspoons Louisiana hot sauce (I used 1 tbsp. of Cajun Power, which is not as hot as Tabasco, though more flavorful)
1 teaspoon minced garlic

1 package tempeh (I used LightLife Flax tempeh), cut into 1/4-inch slices
Optional: Cajun seasoning blend

Mix all marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Place the tempeh slices in either a large ziplock bag or in a shallow baking dish. Pour the marinade over the tempeh and let it marinate for at least 15 minutes. Stir or shake the bag gently from time to time to distribute the marinade.

Drain the marinade from the tempeh and reserve it. Spray or wipe a non-stick skillet with a little canola oil and place it over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, lay the tempeh in the skillet, spoon a bit of the marinade over the top, and cook until marinade evaporates and tempeh begins to brown. Sprinkle lightly with Cajun seasoning (optional) and flip over. Sprinkle that side with seasoning and cook until lightly toasted. Serve hot.

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{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

1 SusanV August 1, 2009 at 10:44 am

Comments that were posted before the blog was moved to Wordpress:

Tracy said…

That soup looks delicious and really packs the greens in!

7:45 AM, March 01, 2007
Mikaela said…

Oh, that looks great! I have a bunch of preserved greens from our CSA in the freezer (beet, carrot, chard, kale) and this sounds like a great way to use some up. Yummy! 🙂

10:30 AM, March 01, 2007
bee ( said…

truly fabulous. i esp. want to try the tempeh recipe.

– bee

11:14 AM, March 01, 2007
Melody said…

Looks delicious.. and very healthy.

2:41 PM, March 01, 2007
Courtney said…

Yum, Susan, this soup looks great! Thans for another great recipe!


4:33 PM, March 01, 2007
Don’t Get Mad Get Vegan! said…

this sounds amazing and just what i’ve been craving lately…spicy and loaded with greens. yum!

and i think you may have just given me the one more reason i was looking for to replace my now broken immersion blender. 😉

5:27 PM, March 01, 2007
Candi said…

I love the variety you show us with these recipes! I love the spicy and healthy sound of this one!!

6:40 PM, March 01, 2007
kennyboy said…

I am SO making this Gumbo.

And thanks a million for posting that picture of that browned flour. There are a few recipes that I make all the time, like vegan brown gravy, that require you to brown the flour and I was never sure just how long to do it, and if it would really turn brown.

I’ve probably been stopping too early in the past because I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it as brown as you show in your pic. I was always afraid of burning it. So thanks for showing what it is supposed to look like. Now I know what the goal is.

8:12 AM, March 02, 2007
SusanV said…

Thanks, everyone! I just wanted to add that this recipe makes a HUGE pot. It looks like we’ll be having this for lunch for at least a week. So, please halve it if you’re not cooking for a crowd.

Bee, I hope you’ll try the tempeh, but I have to warn you, it’s addictive! My husband actually went out and bought another package of tempeh so that I can make it again this weekend.

8:57 AM, March 02, 2007
Veg-a-Nut said…

Your tempeh bacon sound delicious. I will keep this recipe for sure.

9:24 AM, March 02, 2007
Brooke said…

I totally need to try some cajun tempeh bacon now!

2:08 PM, March 02, 2007
Vanessa said…

Thank you for telling us that you use frozen turnip greens. I’d love to use the real ones but they tend to come attached to actual turnips, which I have a hard time using before they go soft.

1:11 PM, March 05, 2007
Miriam said…

I just made the tempeh bacon and it was so delicious. I put it over greens with a mustard vinagrette and now I have leftovers to make that TLT you mentioned. I am going to make this all the time.

8:15 PM, March 19, 2007
Alexandra said…

I made the tempeh bacon last night. How easy, how healthy and how good! I have tried cooking tempeh off and on for the last 20 years, always hoping the latest recipe would deliver something wonderful. Finally I found a recipe that I will make over and over again. My husband loved it too, and said, it reminded him of the way I used to cook! Not sure what he meant, but at least I can bring back those memories with this recipe. Thank You Susan.

7:55 AM, April 04, 2007
Anonymous said…

Love this tempeh recipe..very easy and so much better/healthier/cheaper then prepackaged tempeh bacon..Thank you!
We put the tempeh in fried green tomato po’boys!

10:38 PM, September 27, 2007
Lily Rae said…

I made the Gumbo Z’Herbes and it was delicious. I should have heeded your advice though – there are only 2 of us and I made a full recipe… I ended up freezing some and giving some away it made so much!
I followed the recipe as written except I did increase the amount of greens to thicken it up a bit. I also used all frozen greens – they were cheaper and easier to find. I also increased the amount of liquid smoke (to a little shy of a tablespoon). Also, for whatever reason, it did not take 10 minutes for my flour to brown, definately don’t walk away from the stove, and stir stir stir!
Thanks for the recipe!

1:29 PM, October 26, 2007
Andaliman said…

You might try this tempe’s recipe

6:03 PM, December 02, 2007
mustardseed said…

Hey Susan!

Can I replace the agave with raw sugar? I really don’t have and can’t afford agave, but I do have blackstrap molasses, corn syrup and raw sugar.

Oh and will the marinade be good for grilled tofu? I’m all about grilled tofu now!

9:47 AM, May 29, 2008
moonwatcher said…

Hi Susan,

i made the tempeh cajun bacon with my Cajun Power seasonings, and we had TLT sandwiches with local fresh tomatoes and lettuce from my garden for my son’s birthday dinner. Also Karina’s vegan peach ice cream and your fabulous brownies for dessert. . thanks for another fun and festive meal! xo

6:28 PM, August 18, 2008
Donna said…

Hi Susan,
I would really like to try this recipe but have a few questions. If I do not have agave nectar, what substituion may I use. And also, what flavor of the Cajun Power do you use are there are quite a few to pick from. Thank you for your time, as I so look forward to making these.

10:46 AM, September 07, 2008
SusanV said…

Donna, I would suggest maple syrup in place of the agave, but if you don’t have that, any liquid sweetener will do. The Cajun Power I use is the Spicy Garlic Pepper Sauce, currently found on this page.

11:23 AM, September 07, 2008
OpenID lerdo said…

Thanks for sharing your Cajun Tempeh Bacon recipe. I’ve been looking for something to do with the package of tempeh sitting in my fridge, and I think this will be perfect — especially since I have a hankering for a sandwich. 🙂

9:41 AM, October 16, 2008


2 Lady Amalthea December 27, 2010 at 4:23 pm

I’ve just gotten hooked on Cajun Spice Mix and both these dishes look wonderful, especially with a blizzard raging outside!

How is tempeh to work with? I’ve always stuck to tofu…


3 Kim March 7, 2011 at 11:20 am

I don’t care for liquid smoke, but I’ll bet smoked paprika would be awesome in this soup. It’s on the rotation for this week.


4 Rachel S. March 16, 2012 at 10:37 pm

I was wondering if you have ever tried baking the tempeh bacon? I was thinking about baking it, perhaps in a toaster oven, although it obviously wouldn’t be the same kind of crispy.


5 Susan Voisin March 16, 2012 at 10:40 pm

No, I haven’t tried baking it. It seems like it would take longer and use more energy than cooking it in the stove.


6 Nancy Coffin August 16, 2012 at 10:21 pm

The tempeh is beautiful and looks delicious!


7 Esther J April 17, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Since making your cajun bacon a couple of weeks ago to use up some tempeh in the fridge, I had been eyeing this gumbo recipe. Finally, I broke down and made it last night.

Very good! Besides making half the recipe as suggested and using smoked paprika instead of the liquid smoke, I upped the hot sauce and added half a seeded jalapeno to give it a little more kick (I like spicy). Also, after it was done cooking, I stirred in 3T of red wine vinegar, which gave it a tartness that I liked.

Just what I needed. Thanks much, ma’m!



8 Sally May 24, 2016 at 7:12 pm

Hi Susan – I have been trying to up the protein intake, so used this cajun tempeh bacon as written – but mixed into about 3 cups of mashed garbanza beans. Fabulous.
We used the flavored beans to make a sort of loose bean pattie – somewhere between refried beans and hash browns – LOL – and served with pancakes. I didn’t add anything else … Yum. Then tonight I used the leftovers in a stir fry – topped with store bought gluten free stir fry sauce – and the bacon flavored beans were great that way as well. I was afraid the flavored beans might be too much but they weren’t – it was an interesting background to the other flavors.

Thanks again for all you do to inspire us!


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