Peanut butter is the secret ingredient here; it really elevates the gumbo to something special. Leave it out only if you absolutely have to avoid the approximately 1.3 grams of fat it provides. To deepen the flavor without making a roux, I cook the onions until they begin to caramelize. A pinch of baking soda speeds up this process.
14-16ouncessweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
16ouncesokra, trimmed and sliced
1/4teaspooncayenne pepper(or to taste)
1teaspoonTabasco or other hot pepper sauce(I use a favorite hot sauce that isn’t as spicy as Tabasco)
1teaspoonpaprika(smoked or regular)
1/2teaspoonliquid smoke flavoring
1tablespoonnatural peanut butter
Heat a large pot. Add the onions and a pinch of baking soda (optional but speeds browning). Cook, stirring, until onions brown, adding water by the teaspoon if needed to prevent sticking.
Add the pepper, celery, and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
Add 7 cups water or vegetable broth and tomatoes, stirring to combine. Then add all the remaining ingredients except the liquid smoke and peanut butter. Simmer uncovered until sweet potatoes are tender and just close to falling apart, at least an hour to give flavors a chance to mingle, adding extra water or broth if needed.
Just before serving, stir in the liquid smoke and peanut butter (it helps if you mix the peanut butter with a couple tablespoons of the hot broth first). Remove bay leaves and serve over rice.