Gumbo-inspired spicy chicken stew with okra and Old Bay


Growing up, gumbo came out of a can, but that didn't mean I loved it any less (thank you, Campbell's). I've always had a fascination with cajun and creole food (which are not the same), but was not aware of their history and roots in the African Slave trade. The name "Gumbo" is widely recognized as originating from the word "ki ngombo," meaning okra in the Central Bantu dialect of West Africa. Many slaves taken from West Africa arrived in colonial Louisiana and are thought to have created the earliest versions of gumbo, okra stews eaten with rice.


  • 3 T olive oil
  • 3 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 4 stalks of celery, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 2 tsp old bay seasoning
  • 1 tsp cayenne (reduce to 1/2 if spice sensitive)
  • 1 tsp white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 T chopped parsley
  • 1 28-oz can whole tomatoes in tomato puree
  • 4 C chicken broth
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 C frozen chopped okra
  • 3 C cooked white rice
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped scallions/parsley
  • hot sauce of your choice


Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat 2 T olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Fry the chicken thighs in the dutch oven until browned on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Set aside.

Without draining off the fat, add the onions, bell pepper, celery, garlic to the dutch oven. Season with salt and pepper. Saute until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the herbs and spices to the pot: old bay, cayenne, white pepper, smoked paprika, thyme, bay leaves, and parsley. Stir to combine. Fry the spices and allow to become fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the can of tomatoes, squishing the tomatoes in your hands as you add them to the pot. Add the chicken broth, lemon zest, and stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Bring the mixture to a boil.

Meanwhile, remove the skin from the chicken thighs. Set aside. Return the chicken thighs back to the boiling mixture in the dutch oven.After the stew has come to a boil, reduce it to a simmer. Allow to simmer until the chicken is tender and falling off the bone, about 45 mins.

In the meantime, chop the chicken skin into small strips, about 1/4 inch thick. Crisp the chicken skin in a small skillet over low heat with 1 T remaining olive oil, about 10 mins. Remove from the pan and drain.

Once the chicken is tender, remove from the pot. Shred chicken meat into large chunks and remove bones. Return chicken to the pot and skim off any fat. Add in frozen okra and allow to simmer for 10-15 more minutes. To serve, spoon the stew into shallow bowls with rice. Top with lemon juice, parsley, scallions, crispy chicken skin, and hot sauce if desired.

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