These two irresistible New Orleans dishes are very different and often get mistaken, so let’s keep it simple and learn the main differences between the two!
Having lived in New Orleans since 2000 and married someone who was born and raised here, making a good gumbo and a real Etouffée was practically a requirement.
What is the Main Difference Between Gumbo and Etouffée
The main differences between gumbo and etouffée are found in the flavors, the proteins added, the consistency of the liquid, and the color of the roux. Specifically:
1. Flavor differences
While both use what we call the “holy trinity” in New Orleans of onions, celery, and bell peppers plus garlic and similar seasonings of paprika and cayenne, etouffée is a tomato-based recipe, and gumbo is not.
2. Proteins added
Classic Etouffée uses seafood proteins such as shrimp or crawfish while gumbo is versatile and can include chicken, seafood, and sausages (like andouille) and often a mix of all.
3. Roux Color
The most integral part of these dishes and the starter of it all is responsible for both flavor and texture. Gumbo has a dark, copper-brown roux that takes longer to achieve while Etouffée is a lighter brown color, just long enough to cook the flour in the oil.
4. Consistency & thickness
Gumbo is a rich dark brown in color and has a soup-like consistency while Etouffée is red in color and is thicker in texture, almost like a gravy.
Watch this quick video where I share more about the differences and you can visually see the difference in consistency and roux color between gumbo and etouffée!
What is Gumbo
Gumbo is a rich stew full of Louisiana flavors and spices. It starts by making a roux, a thick flour and oil base that’s cooked slowly until it achieves a dark brown copper-like color.
Once the roux is ready, then a mix of vegetables is added: the trinity (onions, celery, and peppers) plus seasonings. Gumbo is versatile in that it can be made with chicken, chicken & sausage (typically andouille), seafood, or chicken and seafood.
Gumbo is always served with rice, which is usually scooped on top, and is a filling and hearty meal.
What is Etouffée
Etouffée is a thick tomato-based dish that also starts with a roux. It’s a French word that means smothered which makes sense since it’s served over rice as in, the etouffée smothers the rice.
Like gumbo, etouffée also starts with a roux, but this one is lighter in color, just cooked long enough to build a thick base and the flour to cook in the fat (either oil or fat). It also includes the trinity of vegetables (onions, celery, and peppers) and seasonings.
Etouffée is typically made with shrimp or crawfish, something locals make when in season, ladled over a generous base of cooked white rice.