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Putting a Virginia spin on classic chicken gumbo with the addition of ham and oysters! Top each bowl of stew with a scoop of rice for a hearty, flavorful, and satisfying Southern meal.

Side shot of a spoon in a bowl of chicken gumbo
Table of Contents
  1. Chicken Gumbo with a Virginia Twist
  2. Ingredients
  3. How to Make Chicken Gumbo
  4. What goes with chicken gumbo?
  5. Storage
  6. Recipe Variations
  7. Tips for the Best Chicken Gumbo Recipe
  8. Virginia Chicken Gumbo with Ham and Oysters Recipe

Gumbo is a staple in creole cuisine, and is a beautiful dish that represents the coming together of several cultures — including West African, French, German, and Choctaw. This flavorful, zesty stew combines various meats or seafood in a thick sauce or gravy. Gumbo is typically seasoned with parsley and “the holy trinity” of vegetables: onion, bell pepper, and celery, as well as garlic and tomatoes (on occasion).

Chicken Gumbo with a Virginia Twist

The stew originated in Louisiana, but also dates back to colonial Virginia, where Chesapeake oysters or crab were used alongside sausage and other meats. My mom always used crab meat in her Virginia version, but I’ve used chicken, ham, and oysters here. These three ingredients are representative of our state’s culture, and also pair beautifully together in this dish. The tender chicken, smoky ham, and briny oysters provide great balance and depth of flavor. If you prefer, you can adapt this recipe to incorporate your favorite proteins, such as shrimp, crab, sausage, duck, or rabbit.

Process shot showing how to make a roux for gumbo

The Difference Between Gumbo and Jambalaya

While gumbo and jambalaya both originated in Louisiana and have similar flavor profiles, there are a couple of significant differences between these two dishes:

  • Gumbo is a hearty soup or stew inspired by the French bouillabaisse and named after the West African word for okra “guingombo.” It’s served with a small amount of rice that’s cooked in a separate pan.
  • Jambalaya is a thicker rice-based meal, in which the rice is cooked in the same pot as the meat and vegetables.
Adding holy trinity of vegetables to a pot of gumbo

The Secret Ingredient in Gumbo

Gumbo broth or gravy gets its hallmark thick, rich texture from one (or more) of three primary thickeners: okra, filé powder, and roux. In this recipe, we’re using all three of these classic gumbo ingredients!

  • Okra: the seed pods of the okra plant produce “mucilage” when heated, which has a gooey consistency and includes soluble fiber that helps to naturally thicken the stew. Fresh or frozen okra is fine — whichever you have available.
  • Filé powder: another traditional gumbo ingredient, this powder is made from the ground, dried leaves of the sassafras tree. It has a woodsy flavor reminiscent of root beer or tea, and is used as both a thickener and as a flavor enhancer in this dish.
  • Roux: a simple combination of fat (like vegetable oil, canola oil, or butter) and flour that helps to thicken the gumbo and also adds a rich flavor to the dish. In this case, we’re cooking the roux until it has a golden color, which requires about 10 minutes of stirring. Be careful not to let it burn!
Process shot showing how to make chicken gumbo

Ingredients

Here’s a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need to make a big pot of this traditional chicken gumbo recipe. As always, the specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Salted butter: used in conjunction with flour to make the roux.
  • All-purpose flour: to make the roux and thicken the broth.
  • Onions, green bell pepper, and celery: The Holy Trinity of vegetables that traditionally flavors gumbo.
  • Garlic: for more savory flavor.
  • Chicken broth: the liquid base of the gumbo. Store-bought or homemade broth will both work well.
  • Petite diced tomatoes: make sure that you get a big 28-ounce can, not the smaller can.
  • Thyme, oregano, bay leaf, paprika, and cayenne: classic Cajun seasonings that add great flavor to the stew. Use more cayenne for a spicier gumbo!
  • Chicken: you’ll need cooked, shredded chicken for this recipe. I often use a store-bought rotisserie chicken for a shortcut, but you can also cook your own chicken at home.
  • Ham: use leftover ham from a holiday meal, or purchase a ham steak or diced ham at the grocery store.
  • Oysters: a pint of fresh oysters in their liquor goes straight into the pot. I always get our Virginia oysters at a local country market. If you can’t find them near you, try an equal amount of sausage (such as andouille or kielbasa), crab, shrimp, or just add extra ham and chicken to the stew.
  • Okra: use fresh if you can find it, or sub with frozen cut okra when necessary.
  • Green onions and fresh parsley: add more bright, fresh flavor to the stew towards the end of cooking.
  • Filé powder: dried, ground sassafras leaves. Find this on the spice aisle of most grocery stores, or order it online. It’s an important thickener and flavor enhancer.
  • Kosher salt: to enhance the other flavors in the gumbo.
  • Cooked rice: for serving.
File powder for gumbo

How to Make Chicken Gumbo

This relatively easy chicken gumbo recipe is made with a golden roux, which only takes about 10 minutes to cook (rather than a traditional chocolate color roux, which can easily take an hour or more). The full step-by-step instructions are provided in the printable recipe box at the bottom of this post, but here’s the quick summary:

  1. Make the roux.
  2. Saute the veggies.
  3. Whisk in the broth, and then the tomatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat, stir in the seasoning, and simmer for 30 minutes.
  5. Add the chicken, ham, oysters, and okra. Cook for about 10 more minutes.
  6. Stir in the green onions, parsley, and file powder.
  7. Ladle into bowls and serve with warm rice!
Square overhead image of Virginia chicken gumbo with ham and oysters in a white bowl

What goes with chicken gumbo?

Serve the healthy chicken gumbo recipe with fluffy white rice, and any of these other delicious sides:

Side shot of two bowls of chicken gumbo with ham and oysters on a dinner table with cornbread

Storage

Gumbo is a great make-ahead meal, so it’s convenient for busy weeknights, suitable for entertaining, or even a nice option to reheat for lunches. Allow cooked gumbo to cool to room temperature. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Reheat the chicken gumbo in a pot over low heat just until warmed through. You can also warm individual portions in the microwave for 1-2 minutes.

Overhead image of two bowls of chicken gumbo with ham and oysters on a table with a side of cornbread

Recipe Variations

  • Use other proteins in equal weights — for instance, swap out the chicken for about 1 lb. of shrimp, replace the ham with andouille sausage, kielbasa, or other smoked sausage, or swap out the oysters and use crab instead.
  • If you can’t find fresh okra, sliced frozen okra is a good substitute.
  • Add more cayenne (or serve the bowls with a side of hot sauce) to kick up the heat!
  • Stir in a dash of Worcestershire sauce for great umami flavor.
Rice on top of chicken gumbo in a white bowl

Tips for the Best Chicken Gumbo Recipe

  • Okra and filé powder are both traditionally used as thickeners along with the roux in gumbo. You can omit one of these ingredients, but I do not recommend omitting both (or the texture and flavor of your gumbo will not be right).
  • Keep a close eye on the roux, stirring almost constantly while it cooks. Roux can burn quickly, and if that happens you’ll have to start over.
  • Use the meat from a rotisserie chicken for a shortcut. Leftover chicken or turkey from a previous meal is also a great way to eliminate prep work. If you prefer to cook your own chicken at home, you can boil about 1 lb. of raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs for 15-18 minutes, or until cooked through. Shred or dice the meat into bite-size pieces and use in the recipe as instructed.
Overhead shot of gold spoon in a bowl of Virginia chicken gumbo with ham

More Creole Recipes to Try

Square overhead image of Virginia chicken gumbo with ham and oysters in a white bowl

Virginia Chicken Gumbo with Ham and Oysters

5 from 2 votes
Prep: 15 minutes
Cook: 1 hour 5 minutes
Total: 1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 8 people
Calories 179 kcal
Putting a Virginia spin on classic chicken gumbo with the addition of ham and oysters for a hearty, flavorful, and satisfying Southern meal!

Ingredients
  

  • ¼ cup salted butter
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup finely diced onion
  • ½ cup finely diced green bell pepper
  • ½ cup finely diced celery
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (28 ounce) can petite diced tomatoes with their juices (not drained)
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper, or more, to taste
  • 2 cups cooked, shredded chicken (about 8-9 ounces)
  • 8 ounces diced ham
  • 1 pint oysters with their liquor
  • 1 cup cut okra
  • 2 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 teaspoons filé powder
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • For serving: 4 cups cooked long-grain white rice

Instructions

  • Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Sprinkle flour over top; cook, stirring constantly, until dark caramel colored, about 10 minutes. Be careful not to let the roux burn.
    Process shot showing how to make a roux for gumbo
  • Add onion, bell pepper, and celery, increase the heat to medium or medium-high, and stir until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic; cook for 1 more minute.
    Adding holy trinity of vegetables to a pot of gumbo
  • Whisk in the chicken broth. Increase the heat to high and whisk until smooth.
    Process shot showing how to make chicken gumbo
  • Add the diced tomatoes (with their juices), whisk, and bring to a boil.
    Adding diced tomatoes to a Dutch oven
  • Reduce heat to low and stir in the thyme, oregano, bay leaf, paprika, and cayenne pepper. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Add the shredded chicken, ham, oysters, and okra to the pot. Return to a simmer and cook for 10 more minutes. Remove bay leaf.
    Adding oysters to a Dutch oven
  • Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the green onions, parsley, and filé powder. Taste and season with salt and more cayenne, if necessary. Serve with warm rice.
    File powder for gumbo

Notes

  • Okra and filé powder are both traditionally used as thickeners along with the roux in gumbo. You can omit one of these ingredients, but I do not recommend omitting both (or the texture and flavor of your gumbo will not be right).
  • Keep a close eye on the roux, stirring almost constantly while it cooks. Roux can burn quickly, and if that happens you’ll have to start over.
  • Use the meat from a rotisserie chicken for a shortcut. Leftover chicken or turkey from a previous meal is also a great way to eliminate prep work. If you prefer to cook your own chicken at home, you can boil about 1 lb. of raw, boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs for 15-18 minutes, or until cooked through. Shred or dice the meat into bite-size pieces and use in the recipe as instructed.
  • Use other proteins in equal weights — for instance, swap out the chicken for about 1 lb. of shrimp, replace the ham with andouille sausage, kielbasa, or other smoked sausage, or swap out the oysters and use crab instead.
  • If you can’t find fresh okra, sliced frozen okra is a good substitute.
  • Add more cayenne (or serve the bowls with a side of hot sauce) to kick up the heat!
  • Stir in a dash of Worcestershire sauce for great umami flavor.

Nutrition

Serving: 1/8 of the gumbo recipe (not including rice)Calories: 179kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 18gFat: 9gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0.2gCholesterol: 65mgSodium: 1032mgPotassium: 413mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 869IUVitamin C: 23mgCalcium: 70mgIron: 2mg
Keyword: chicken gumbo, chicken gumbo recipe, chicken gumbo soup
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American, Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan
blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

Read More

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Comments

  1. virginia says:

    5 stars
    i loved this and spiced it up a bit- used shrimp but the ads that are glommed onto your recipes are really obnoxious! 7 just for cremation, more for makeup and lots of others! just letting you know-

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      Thank you for letting us know! We will look into it and appreciate you being here and trying out our recipes!

  2. Liz H says:

    5 stars
    Truth is, I had all the ingredients, so I was hoping this recipe would be good.
    I know, it’s not winter, but it’s a cool summer day, and this tasted so yummy!
    I’ll have a lot of leftovers as this pot can feed 4 or 5 easy! Thank you for sharing this twist on a family favorite.

    1. The Seasoned Mom says:

      There’s never a bad time for this recipe! We’re so glad you tried it out and enjoyed it, Liz!