Spicy and hearty, this vegan chicken gumbo will satisfy your craving for Cajun food with no added fat. This is one of those dishes that improves with age, so consider making it a day ahead of serving.
A couple of weeks ago, my husband suggested I make our normal chicken soup with soy curls, but I was in the mood for much spicier food. So I compromised and made a vegan “chicken” gumbo using soy curls and frozen vegetables. It came out so good that I took a photo of it and posted it to Instagram, with the question, “Can you find gumbo and mirepoix frozen vegetable mixes where you live?”
As I was afraid, most people outside the South and Southwest don’t have access to these particular frozen vegetable blends. So I got to work chopping, weighing, and measuring fresh vegetables to approximate the amounts of frozen I had used, so that I could post a recipe everyone could use.
It wasn’t easy, and in the end I wound up using frozen versions of corn and okra because most people seem to be able to find those separately. In the end, my mostly-fresh version of vegan chicken gumbo came out tasting pretty much the same as my frozen version, though the chopping adds a good bit of preparation time. On the plus side, the fresh bell peppers look much prettier than the ones in the frozen mix.
Making a Fat-Free Roux
To make an authentic gumbo, you need to use a roux. Roux provides flavor and thickness to gumbo, but normally it’s made by cooking flour in fat. But you can get a similar rich, smoky flavor by browning the flour in a skillet without all the fat and calories of a traditional roux.
It takes a little patience to brown flour for roux, and the hardest part is knowing when to stop before it’s burned. So I made a video in which I actually speak (surprise!) to guide you through the process:
About Those Mushrooms
You’ll probably be surprised to see dried mushrooms in gumbo, but I love the chewy texture they add. I bought a huge bag of mixed dried mushrooms from Amazon (thanks for the tip, Christine), and I’ve been adding them to a lot of things. For this gumbo, I didn’t even soak them first, just rinsed them well and let them soften in the gumbo.
Of course, you could also use any dried mushrooms, or fresh mushrooms, or just leave them out completely if you don’t like mushrooms. It shouldn’t affect the outcome of the gumbo. If you use fresh, I suggest using about 4 ounces.
I loooooove soy curls as a meat substitute. I buy them in bulk online and keep them in the freezer for meals such as this. You may notice that I added them dry rather than re-hydrated. I like the way they pick up the flavor from the gumbo as they cook when they start off dry.
But if you don’t like soy curls, I suggest using cooked chickpeas instead. I think 2 cans or 3-4 cups of cooked chickpeas would work. (Until I discovered soy curls, I always made gumbo with chickpeas.)
You could also add other vegan proteins to this gumbo, if you use them. Packaged or homemade vegan sausage would be delicious.
Vegan Chicken Gumbo in the Instant Pot
I know someone’s going to ask me about making this in the Instant Pot. I prefer the flavor of the gumbo when it has a chance to simmer uncovered (and it’s also amazingly better the next day.) But if you want to try it in the IP, I suggest using the sauté mode to do the first step, cooking the onion, peppers, celery, and garlic, and then cooking it at high pressure for about 10 minutes. I would also decrease the water from 4 cups to 3 and add more at the end if necessary. Perform a quick release.
More Vegan Cajun and Creole Recipes
You can find more of my low-fat, vegan Louisiana-style recipes in my Louisiana Recipes archive. Some of my favorites are
Vegan "Chicken" Gumbo with Soy Curls
- 1/4 cup flour (I used white whole wheat, but brown rice flour may be used)
- 2 medium onions chopped
- 1 green bell pepper chopped
- 1 red bell pepper chopped
- 2 ribs celery chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 2 cups water
- 1 tablespoon thyme leaves
- 1 tablespoon oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper (use more for spicier gumbo)
- 1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
- 1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon red pepper or cayenne (use more for spicier gumbo)
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base (or 3 servings of bouillon of choice)
- 4 - 5 cups water
- 12 ounces sliced okra fresh or frozen
- 1 cup corn kernels fresh or frozen
- 2 cups soy curls (4 ounces)
- 1/2 ounce dried mixed mushrooms rinsed well and drained
- smoked salt to taste
- Heat a completely dry skillet over medium-high heat and add flour to the pan. Stir it and spread it over the surface of the pan. Stir it often, moving it around the pan so it browns evenly. Watch it closely and once it begins to smoke, stir it constantly and reduce the heat. Cook until it is nicely browned but not burned. Important: If it burns, throw it out and start again. It should take 8 - 10 minutes.
- Once it is browned, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool while you begin to prepare the gumbo. When you're ready to add it to the gumbo, whisk in 2 cups of water.
- Heat a 4-6 quart Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the onion, peppers, and celery and saute until soft, about 3-5 minutes. Add water by the tablespoon if they begin to stick. Add the garlic and saute for another minute.
- If you haven't already, whisk 2 cups of water into the browned flour. Add it to the vegetables. Add all the seasonings, soy sauce, bouillon, and 4 more cups of water. Stir in the okra, corn, soy curls, and mushrooms. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add extra water if it looks a little dry.
- Check seasonings and add more to taste. Season to taste with smoked salt. Remove the bay leaves, ladle into a bowl, and serve with a scoop of rice.
Easy Variation with Frozen Vegetable Blends
- You can substitute 1 12-ounce package of Cajun-style Mirepoix mix for the onions, peppers, and celery, and use 2 12-ounce packages of Gumbo blend vegetables instead of the okra and corn. This variation only works if you use both frozen vegetable blends.
Nutritional info is approximate.
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