A lot of thought goes into side dishes for Gumbo. Like in many other families, I grew up eating this dish at dinner parties and family reunions, but I never paid attention to the care that had been taken in making sure everything fit together.
Today there are so many variations on the market that it’s almost impossible to know what to serve with Gumbo. However, there are a few tricks that can help you decide what the best side dishes for this delicious meal are.
The history of this dish is quite complicated and mixes many culinary traditions. You’ll need to know what your Gumbo variation is and adapt accordingly.
So let’s jump right in and have a look at the most popular variations, appropriate side dishes and appetizers, and some menu ideas!
What Gumbo Are You Serving?
This is the main question you should ask when looking for an appropriate side dish. Your Gumbo dinner simply will not be complete without the right one. Let’s have a look at what flavor you should expect from each Gumbo recipe.
The Authentic Recipe
Created in New Orleans, Louisiana, Gumbo is loved by almost everyone there. The original New Orleans recipe includes dark roux, vegetables, chicken, sausage, and shrimp.
This stew is often prepared for big occasions, and you really should cook a big pot as it will go fast!
The roux is made with flour and oils and mixed until brown. It will help you obtain a thick stew later. The roux can be done several days in advance, so the rest of the recipe is even easier! Chop up all of your chosen vegetables, cook the meat, and that’s it!
While Jambalaya is a rice dish similar to paella, this Gumbo meal is best accompanied by white rice.
The stew includes some culinary practices of France, Spain, Italy, and Germany, and the flavors can vary greatly depending on the ingredients used.
The Most Common Variation of Gumbo
The most common variation of Gumbo can include any combination of the following: chicken, shrimp, turkey, crab, duck, beef, pork, ham and sausage.
It can be pretty much customized as you like best. It depends on your taste and if you want to have a more or less heavy meal.
Moreover, the vegetables used in the stew can change too!
You can add tomatoes and celery, green bell pepper, onions, green onions, parsley, and garlic in the quantity you prefer. In some cases, okra is added to thicken the stew even more.
As long as the mix is thickened and flavored by the roux, you can call your stew a Gumbo! I have it on good authority from a New Orleans-born chef that celery, onions, and green bell pepper are as essential as the roux.
Cajun and Creole Gumbo recipes are some of the most common variations if you are looking at increasing the flavor of your stew.
Moreover, if you are following a plant-based diet, there is no need to renounce Gumbo! Gumbo z’herbes is entirely made of veggies, and no meat is included in the recipe.
What Goes with Gumbo? – Let’s Get to Know
There is a bit of confusion on what the perfect side dish for Gumbo should be.
While originally this dish is served with white rice, today there are so many variations on the original recipe that it can be tough to pick a side dish that won’t ruin the taste of your meal.
Let’s have a look at the best side dishes to serve, depending on which recipe you are following for your Gumbo meal.
Seafood Gumbo Side Dishes
The seafood Gumbo combines crabmeat, shrimp, and sausage. It can be cooked over rice and has a tangy and spicy flavor. This Spanish-inspired Gumbo is one of the most popular recipes for dinner parties.
This dish goes perfectly well with rice.
But what is the best rice for Gumbo?
New variations of the dish use basmati rice (perfect if you have added okra to your Gumbo), arborio, and wild rice.
However, if you like to stick to tradition, long white or brown rice will work best, as this was the original accompaniment of the New Orleans Gumbo.
Alternatively, if you prefer to serve the rice separately from the Gumbo stew, you can create a side dish by following a New Orleans Dirty Rice recipe. It can take up to one hour to cook, but it can be prepared in large quantities and eaten as a main dish the day after your dinner party — incredibly tasty and perfect if you don’t feel like following your diet today!
Chicken Gumbo Side Dish
This is the easiest Gumbo recipe to make, and it does not take as long as the others to cook. You can cook it on weekdays, and it works really well as a quick meal after work.
That’s how I prepare it, at least!
Moreover, this dish uses fewer ingredients that other Gumbo recipes, and so it’s lighter and contains fewer calories. It uses both roux and okra as thickeners, which give them a more Oriental taste.
This dish is best accompanied by a potato salad. Gumbo and potato salad is one of the most popular combinations, and it is loved by kids and adults alike.
If you want a piping hot dish to warm you up in the winter that’s also easy to make, try this one. It can take up to an hour, but you can reheat the potato salad and have it as a side dish for a few days.
Potato salad recipes vary greatly depending on what your preferences are. During summer, I prefer to have a cold potato salad with my Gumbo instead.
Chicken and Sausage Gumbo Side Dishes
This is basically just a more luxurious version of the above recipe. You can make it fairly quickly, but the sausages are for those that want an extra flair to their Gumbo! This recipe uses both okra and roux as a thickener, making it a filling but not heavy meal.
I found it quite tricky to pinpoint a side dish for this recipe as it’s way more satiating than the Chicken Gumbo, and there simply isn’t enough room in one’s stomach afterwards. Another challenge was trying to find an accompaniment that would enhance its flavor.
I eventually came across the Paleo Indian Spiced Okra salad. It can be made in just 20 minutes, and it’s especially great if you’re trying to cut out some refined carbs from your diet.
It is easy to make, and you won’t need any more ingredients than the ones used for the Gumbo.
Shrimp and Crab Gumbo Side Dishes
This Gumbo recipe includes seafood that you can easily find in supermarkets. The seafood will cook quickly, and you can pair it with a nice bottle of white wine.
It works really well as a meal for two, especially during summer evenings. Moreover, seafood of any kind can be tossed in. It will only add extra flavor!
This Spanish-inspired recipe can be quickly accompanied by long white rice for a traditional meal, but if you are looking to change the taste a little, garlic bread can do the trick. Best part is, it takes just a few minutes to prepare!
Cajun Gumbo Side Dishes
If you’ve made any of these recipes and added Cajun to the mix and you love potatoes, the perfect side dish will be Cajun Oven Baked Potato Wedges.
They do take an hour to cook, but they are easy to make. It will also enhance the flavor of your spiced Gumbo without having to add too much seasoning.
Gumbo Z’Herbes Side Dishes
If you are looking for Gumbo menu ideas that can satisfy the taste of your vegetarian friends, the answer is Gumbo Z’Herbes!
It is one of the easiest and healthiest recipes to cook and includes only vegetables in the list of ingredients. Don’t forget to use vegetable stock instead of a meat-based one!
You can often serve it with white rice, but this can make your vegetarian Gumbo look slightly dull. Why not spice it up with a vegan Okra, Corn, and Tomato salad? It makes for a light and colorful everyday meal.
Finding appetizers to serve with Gumbo can be hard. But don’t overthink it — there’s no need to go too far from traditional recipes to create something tasty!
Rice fritters or Cajun cheese balls with a refreshing dip will do the trick. If you prefer something heavier, Cajun Chicken nuggets are relatively easy to make, as are mini fish cakes.
While Gumbo is a favorite of many, everybody has their own variation. This can make it especially hard to decide what to serve with Gumbo.
The good news is that you’re now more equipped and informed to spice up your dinner with something a little bit more adventurous than white rice. Just think of all the possibilities!
What is your favorite Gumbo recipe? What do you usually serve with it? Let us know by leaving a comment below.