Ridiculously Easy Vegetable Gumbo and Cooking From Your Pantry and Freezer

by on January 16, 2012
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Ridiculously Easy Vegetable Gumbo

Near the end of the first week of my KISSS healthy-eating plan, calamity struck–or at least what passes for calamity when you are trying to cook and eat healthy soups every day. I went to the pantry and found that I had no onions. No onions! Take a look at almost any of my savory recipes and you’ll see the same first step: “Saute onions in a non-stick pan.” Onions provide the flavor base on which all of my soups are built, and without onions, I definitely couldn’t cook the soup that I had planned to.

It was almost dinner time, so rather than make a trip to the store for one item, I took a look in my freezer and pantry to figure out what I could make with what I had on-hand. In the freezer I had a package of Cajun-Style Mirepoix blend (onions, green peppers, and celery) and several bags of mixed vegetables, including a gumbo blend. Using them and canned tomatoes and beans from my pantry, I managed to make an amazingly good gumbo in under a hour, and the only vegetable I had to chop was the garlic.

Having a well-stocked freezer and pantry can rescue you when you’re running short on fresh ingredients and might be tempted to reach for something processed and unhealthy. People often ask me what I keep on-hand at all times, but I’ve never really taken stock and written it down. Until now. Excluding fresh fruits and vegetables, which vary by the season, here are the basic ingredients that I always keep in my pantry and freezer. Click on “Print” if you’d like to print the lists (the photos will print also).

Canned Goods

Of course, as soon as I post this, I’ll think of other ingredients that are absolutely indispensable, and I’ll add them as they come to mind. The point is, with a well-stocked pantry and freezer, you can always whip up a meal in a hurry, no matter how bare your refrigerator is. Fresh veggies are always tastier, but frozen ones are just as nutritious (sometimes more so), usually less expensive, pre-chopped, and very quick and convenient to use.

Ridiculously Easy Vegetable Gumbo

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{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Izzy January 16, 2012 at 3:14 pm

This looks especially tasty. I love a good gumbo.

Think liquid smoke would work in place of the salt?

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2 Susan Voisin January 16, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Yes, Liquid Smoke is a good alternative to the smoked salt. Just add it to taste.

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3 Luminousvegans January 16, 2012 at 3:53 pm

The gumbo looks delicious and comforting. Thanks for letting us peek in your pantry. You are so well stocked…I need to have more frozen veggies on hand b/c I am running into the same onion-less problem tonight for a soup I want to make.

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4 caterina January 16, 2012 at 4:05 pm

What vegetables are included in the frozen vegetable gumbo mix you used?

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5 Susan Voisin January 16, 2012 at 5:03 pm

I believe it’s okra, corn, onion, celery, and green peppers. I used one package of it and one of a regular soup blend that included green beans, carrots, and potatoes among other veggies.

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6 caterina January 16, 2012 at 4:08 pm

Also, what does filé powder taste like? Is there any substitution? Because I have never heard of it and don’t think I could possibly find it where I live…

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7 Susan Voisin January 16, 2012 at 5:06 pm

It’s a really different taste so there’s no real substitute. You can just leave it out. The amount I used here was very small because it can be overpowering to people who aren’t used to it.

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8 Lynn January 16, 2012 at 4:17 pm

The fact that you can keep an open jar of peanut butter in your pantry is admirable. I can’t be trusted with that stuff – it’s just too tempting to have around!

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9 Marian Hamilton January 16, 2012 at 4:39 pm

THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU!! for posting all these lists of essentials – and providing photos too. It’s good to know what you consider essential. :)

And the gumbo recipe sounds so easy – SO GREAT to have a new recipe too, Susan – HAPPY NEW YEAR!! keep doin’ what you’re doin’ – LOVE the recipes!! xxMarian

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10 Connie Fletcher January 16, 2012 at 5:28 pm

YUMMMM!!! I love those dishes!! Where did you get those? They are lovely!!

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11 Susan Voisin January 16, 2012 at 5:31 pm

Thanks, Connie! They were made by a local potter.

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12 Connie Fletcher January 16, 2012 at 5:49 pm

Oh, well, they are really beautiful!! I used to do quite a bit of pottery. Don’t do that anymore, but I still love well done pots!!

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13 Susan Voisin January 16, 2012 at 6:12 pm

So do I. I wish I had the talent, time, and equipment to make it myself, but I have to settle for buying it when I find pottery I can afford. I lucked into these!

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14 pmm January 16, 2012 at 5:45 pm

(I actually keep grains and flours in the freezer to prevent insects from getting at them.)

You do know that they are already there? There are FDA minimums for insects and eggs etc in flours and grains…..

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15 Susan Voisin January 16, 2012 at 5:48 pm

Yes, but they don’t hatch and can’t crawl in or out of the package when they’re in the freezer. I’ve had insect infestations and they’re not pretty.

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16 Audrey January 16, 2012 at 7:33 pm

Whaaat?! That’s the freakiest thing I’ve heard in awhile! Is it safe?

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17 Maggie January 16, 2012 at 6:14 pm

Man, I’m soooooo jealous that your Kroger carries the Cajun mirepoix! Actually, scratch that – I think I may have been happier still believing they stopped making it, because now I know it’s out there, taunting me with its relative unnatainability!

Anyway, the gumbo looks quite good. Freezer soups are the best!

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18 moonwatcher January 16, 2012 at 7:12 pm

Hi Susan,

I loved this post–I am a big believer in stocking up the pantry. I really enjoyed the photos of your stash–the dried beans especially looked familiar to me as I keep them in hars just like that. I love looking at all the colors and textures. And we had snow here so I got a ride to the store in between storms and was overjoyed to see frozen fruit and veggies on sale–so I now have more blueberries, blackberries, peas and corn, etc.

The gumbo looks scrumptious, too. I have to say I am admiring of how this is a throw together for you, because for this northern gal, gumbo is exotic! I think you could knock me over with a feather if I found Cajun mirepoix in any freezer case here, though we may have frozen okra at at least one store. So I learned about what goes in a good Gumbo all over again–even a ridiculously easy one!

Photos are gorgeous–loved the one with the soup and the bowls and bottle of hot sauce in the background. Well, I loved all of them.

Thanks for inspiring us to remember the value–and beauty– of a well-stocked pantry. :)

xo

moonwatcher

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19 Alison January 7, 2014 at 10:44 am

I live in Canada, and haven’t been able to find Cajun Mirepoix in the freezer section either. Anyone have any suggestions?

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20 Susan Voisin January 7, 2014 at 12:07 pm

Alison, the mirepoix is just onions, celery, and green pepper. For this recipe, I suggest chopping one medium onion, 2 ribs of celery, and one large bell pepper. Use that instead of the mirepoix blend.

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21 Audrey January 16, 2012 at 7:37 pm

Do you have a brand for coconut extract that you recommend? I’ve looked online a lot and the only ones I can find either have an oil base, are fake (artificial instead of natural flavor extracts) or use funky things like propylene glycol.

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22 AmyLu January 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm

Susan,
Your spice list reminds me… I was wondering the other day how often I should replace my unused spices. I have some that are old enough to get their own drivers’ licenses, so I’m pretty sure that’s a gimme…. But where’s the cutoff? I’d be interested to know your thoughts on this!
Thanks!

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23 Kathleen January 16, 2012 at 8:10 pm

Gumbo makes me think of Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog.” :D

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24 Christy L. January 16, 2012 at 8:26 pm

That Cajun Mirepoix blend is truly a staple in my kitchen. I personally go for the Pict-Sweet brand Seasoning Blend… it’s hard to find around here. Any time I go to the grocery store, I look for it, and if they have it, I buy every single bag they have. I usually use that if the recipe that I’m making calls for at least two of the ingredients (which most of the recipes I make do. :) Thanks for the list! It’s a good one, and I may print it and use it to fill out my pantry/freezer. As someone mentioned above, I would also add liquid smoke, especially now that I’m vegan– I use it all the time. And kudos to you for being able to find canned lentils! I have not had success yet finding them!

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25 The Appetite for Reduction Project January 17, 2012 at 12:40 pm

Fab post, especially cos I always have these things hanging around the freezer. Thanks!

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26 Irina G (Fit Flexitarian) January 17, 2012 at 3:31 pm

Oh man, I am RIGHT there with you! I looooooooooooooove using things from my pantry for easy meals. Most recently I made a pink lentil & bean soup in my slow cooker and it turned out SO well. Check it out: http://fitflexitarian.com/recipe-slow-cooker-pink-lentil-bean-soup/

P.S. I am definitely making your gumbo very soon!

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27 Donna January 17, 2012 at 5:59 pm

Smoked paprika is the best! It gives that great smoky flavor to dishes that my mom used to make with ham hocks. But no meat! Baby lima beans with smoked paprika. Comfort food fer sure. Add a wedge of corn bread and those cold winter days are forgotten.

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28 Collette Osuna January 18, 2012 at 10:18 am

This gumbo looks delicious!! Perfect for cold evenings when all you wanna do is keep warm and sit under covers reading a book:)

A Blog of Life & Everything in Between!

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29 Kendra January 18, 2012 at 8:04 pm

I would just like to let you know that I’ve recently gone vegan and I have found your site to be extremely inspiring and helpful! One of the biggest problems for me has been finding ways to make complete meals and you’ve definitely opened my eyes to the possibilities.

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30 Pat January 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

keeping a stocked pantry is key to eating well. I ran into that tonight. I made my hubby “his” food, ham and scalloped potatoes, and I had nothing else to cook for myself. I have soup and salad in the frig, but I wanted something heartier tonight. I ended up microwaving a frozen chicken pasta meal, and I really was not happy with it or that I hadn’t planned better. I have to have some pantry staples so I can make up something quicly.

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31 Stephanie Horne January 19, 2012 at 9:17 am

Great pantry list! I do the same thing, especially with the food grade jars and lids. I store big ticket items in gallon jars like pinto beans, flours, cornmeal and lower ticket items in quart jars like every kind of bean, whole grain, wheat gluten, specialty flours, etc. I get my jars at Uline for a great price when I pick up my order. I always catch my friends standing in the pantry checking it out! Oh, and making that soup next week for sure!

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32 Antigone January 25, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Hi!
I am in love with your blog!!! I can’t wait to try this recipe! I live 40 minutes outside of New Orleans so Gumbo is in my blood. The only thing I’m probably going to do differently is make a Roux with EVOO and whole wheat flour. Only because my Louisiana roots won’t allow me to make a Gumbo without it! It won’t be fat free but it’ll be good fat…

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33 Almiel February 1, 2012 at 11:56 am

This recipe saved me last night when I didn’t know what to make! I used half a bag of frozen gumbo, half a bag of frozen turnip greens with turnip pieces, leftover black-eyed peas (instead of your beans), and then your spices. I added a cup of ditalini (small tubular pasta) to make it more filling. Soooo good! I too am a proponent of frozen veggies. I always have diced onions and broccoli florets at the minimum. I also started making my own freezer-jars of diced tomatoes, and I used my last one for this! http://www.ehow.com/how_8154784_freeze-diced-tomatoes.html (I use the Ball plastic “jars”.

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34 Conz February 9, 2012 at 2:48 pm

Got this simmering now, smells gorgeous!

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35 Lonestarteacher February 14, 2012 at 9:10 pm

This gumbo is amazing!

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36 Bonnie January 11, 2013 at 5:01 pm

This is so helpful. Thank you for posting this. I love your recipes.

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37 Rugrat Chow! January 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

LOVE the bowls you served your soup in!! Where did you buy the glass jars which hold your lentils. The taller ones look like canning jars … !!! I’m impressed with how neat and organized your pantry looks :)

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38 Susan Voisin January 11, 2013 at 7:28 pm

Thanks! The taller ones are canning jars. The shorter ones came from a dollar store like Fred’s, I think. The bowls were made by a local artist, Robert Pickenpaugh.

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39 Clea January 11, 2013 at 7:24 pm

I am kind of obsessed with my stove top pressure cooker right now and love your PC recipes. How long would you cook this in a PC do you think? Could I just throw the veggie blends in frozen?

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40 Char January 11, 2013 at 7:34 pm

Love this recipe! can’t wait to try it – so glad to see your cupboards…. I have no one to share all this great food and ideas with so really appreciate your website.

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41 Deedee Linklater January 11, 2013 at 11:54 pm

We eat no onions, ever. My husband is allergic. I no longer tolerate them.
You get used to not having the sulfurous undertaste. Certain types of Indian food use no onions or garlic at all.

One thing for sure, you have no body odor when you abstain from onions and garlic, and that goes for your breath, too.

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42 Patb January 12, 2013 at 12:55 am

Another good to have ingredient is fresh cilantro. I have found a good way of keeping fresh cilantro or parsley for a while in the fridge, is to put the bunch with stems down in a cup or jar of water then put a plastic produce bag over the whole thing. Some recommend first trimming the stems a little but I never bother. This really does work.

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43 Annetta February 27, 2013 at 3:46 am

Just what are some easy to make low carb recipes?
10 pts for best answer!?

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44 Christina March 2, 2013 at 10:01 pm

Susan,
I am jumping into vegan fat-free cooking as a life-style change. I am type II diabetic, and am following Dr. Neal Barnard’s diet for reversing diabetes. I came across your blog while looking for vegan alternatives to fats in cooking. How wonderful to find the information you provide. I look forward to reading your recipes and tips. I feel like a kid in a candy store, I just want to make all of it now!
Cheers!

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45 Tammy April 6, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Somtimes I make twice as many onions when caramelizing them and freeze half. This has saved me many times since I have young children. I made your figgy bars and they were a hit. Awesome recipe.

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46 Gloria September 9, 2013 at 10:24 am

What is the self life for Miso and red and green curry paste?

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47 Susan Voisin September 9, 2013 at 10:38 am

Both last for months in the refrigerator. I’ve had curry paste dry out, but I’ve never had miso go bad. Just keep it tightly covered.

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48 Kayla December 16, 2013 at 8:36 am

Thank YOU SO MUCH for FINALLY posting a list of your pantry ingredients. Finally, I won’t be so lost when I go shopping. I’m new to veganism and having been raised where we relied heavily on meats and eggs (my parents were born and raised in Louisiana), I have been LOST trying to create anything that wasn’t simply “raw” or frozen plant based patties. Thank you, THANK YOU for this list!! It’s a great guideline!! Thanks!!

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49 Kayla December 16, 2013 at 8:46 am

I meant FINALLY as in I FINALLY found a vegan who did it. Not as like it took you forever. I have been searching for a list for about a month or so now! LOL!

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50 Tami@NutmegNotebook January 7, 2014 at 12:39 pm

This is a wonderful and informative post. I love seeing what’s in someone else’s pantry and grocery cart.

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51 Leslie Friedman May 8, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Thank you for this pantry list. I’ve just started eating a plant-based diet, and it’s sort of like the range anxiety I had when I started driving an EV-I live in fear of being hungry and not having food in the cupboard to eat!!! I know, it’s silly. But this helps.

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