"This gumbo dish is another story of migration and change. It starts in Senegal and then moves on to South Carolina and Louisiana before coming up to Harlem. The roux is at the heart of every good gumbo, and ours uses dried shrimp, which is a touch of Senegal. The shrimp gives it an oceany umami flavor that you wouldn't traditionally get in a Southern gumbo or a Louisiana gumbo. Louisiana comes out in the richness of the roux as you add spices. But unlike Louisiana gumbo, this dish is more about the soup than the rice, so we pour it on top of the rice like you would in South Carolina."
- Chef JJ Johnson
We love to share experiences in the kitchen that explore history, culture, and migration. We've made dozens of meaningful dishes and incorporated materials covering various topics to pair with them. They're all examples of amazing food with a story to tell. However, I must say, this Afro-Asian-American seafood gumbo is something special.
Maybe you've had shrimp and sausage gumbo before while dining out or even gotten creative with your own homemade gumbo. Well, I strongly encourage you to drop what you're doing, grab your planner, and pencil this dish in.
This seafood gumbo is easy to make, it's perfectly seasoned using a homemade gumbo spice mix, and by borrowing components of some traditional gumbo recipes, it honors the contributions of several regions while creating an entirely unique experience for home cooks and anyone interested in learning through food.
It's thoughtful, creative, and absolutely delicious - one of the best dishes we've ever made. Grab a free printable recipe for pre-readers and up at the bottom.
If you like this seafood gumbo, you should try Chef JJ's jollof rice, braised oxtail, and Mother Africa sauce, as well as vegetarian gumbo, sambusas, Australian barbecue prawns and pork & shrimp shumai.
Learn more about cooking with kids.
Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Amazon links are not affiliate links. You can read my full affiliate disclosure.
Between Harlem and Heaven Cookbook
This Afro-Asian-American Gumbo recipe comes from Between Harlem and Heaven: Afro-Asian-American Cooking for Big Nights, Weeknights, and Every Day by JJ Johnson, Alexander Smalls, and Veronica Chambers.
In Between Harlem and Heaven, JJ Johnson shares the experiences that serve as the inspiration behind his dishes and the process he uses to fuel the endless creativity found in his work:
I've cooked in Ghana and Israel, down South and in Singapore. I grew up in an African diaspora household and I have this formal culinary education. So I look to create dishes that express who I am at a really high level. You take a bite and you have sweet and tangy and crunchy and sour - ingredients you may recognize on a menu but haven't had together like this before.
I start with the question "How can I make this fun?" So I put the oxtail meat that I grew up eating in a dumpling wrapper. Then I serve the oxtail dumplings in a bowl with a beautiful green apple curry. I'm like a DJ who loves the mash-up: egg rolls filled with barbecue brisket and edamame, udon noodles with goat meat and West African peanut sauce, roast fish with hominy stew and homemade kimchi. Flavors upon flavors upon flavors.- JJ Johnson
In his latest cookbook, The Simple Art of Rice: Recipes from Around the World for the Heart of Your Table, Chef JJ explores the role of rice throughout history and across cultures.
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What is Seafood Gumbo?
A traditional gumbo is a thick stew that is made with a roux and typically served over rice. Seafood gumbo may include shrimp, oysters, and/or crab. This Afro-Asian-American seafood gumbo recipe includes fresh shrimp, dried shrimp, and crab, as well as Chinese chicken sausage.
What is a Roux?
As described in the handy Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion:
Another mixture of flour and fat, roux is the basis of a béchamel sauce and is also used to thicken soups and other foods. It is made by heating fat and whisking in flour. After cooking out the raw taste of the flour, liquid is whisked in. A white roux is cooked for 2 to 3 minutes over medium heat. It is usually made with butter, although a mixture of butter and olive oil or all olive oil can be used. For some dishes, the roux is cooked to a pale tan. This blond roux has a toasted taste. Brown roux, cooked until dark and nutty in taste, is made with butter, drippings, or lard, and is one of the foundations of Cajun and Creole cuisine. The darker a roux, however, the less thickening power it has.- Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Companion
For the perfect Afro-Asian-American seafood gumbo, Chef JJ makes a rich, chocolate-colored roux.
Learn more about mother sauces.
Where Did Gumbo Originate?
The name gumbo comes from the West African word for okra and, as described above, the roux has roots in French cuisine. There are many different interpretations of gumbo and opinions on what constitutes a proper gumbo.
However, there is one thing everyone can agree on. As Leah Chase, the Queen of Creole Cuisine once stated:
Food builds big bridges. If you can eat with someone, you can learn from them, and when you learn from someone, you can make big changes. We changed the course of America in this restaurant over bowls of gumbo. We can talk to each other and relate to each other when we eat together.- Leah Chase
Leah Chase played a pivotal role in supporting the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s by hosting mixed-race groups in the legendary Dooky Chase's Restaurant, providing a gathering place for those who wished to discuss strategy, an act that was illegal at that time.
Learn more about the history of gumbo.
Mix It Up
Mix it up like a DJ! See how we create a unique gumbo dish to enjoy at home with Between Harlem and Heaven.
What is in the Gumbo Spice Mix?
This homemade gumbo spice mix adds the perfect amount of flavor to the roux. Oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, onion powder, red chile flakes, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and sugar (stevia for us) all coordinate to create a rich, balanced dish.
Afro-Asian-American Seafood Gumbo
- butter - this gumbo recipe calls for salted butter
- oil - we like avocado oil but you can use any vegetable oil you have on hand
- flour - we prefer to bake with all-purpose einkorn. Einkorn is an ancient grain that is easy to work with, tastes great, and is a healthy option
- red bell pepper
- tomatoes - grape tomatoes are ideal for this gumbo
- dried shrimp - don't skip out on the dried shrimp. It's an essential ingredient for this gumbo and as Chef JJ states it really adds to the flavor of the dish
- gumbo spice mix - this homemade gumbo spice mix includes oregano, thyme, bay leaf, garlic powder, onion powder, red chile flakes, cayenne, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and stevia. You can also use sugar in place of the stevia blend. We'll show you how to make it below
- tomato paste
- chicken stock
- okra - fresh is best but you may also find okra pre-cut into rounds in the freezer section of your local market
- lemon juice
- Worcestershire sauce
- Chinese chicken sausage - we actually used a locally available chicken sausage but we'd love to try the Chinese chicken sausage in the future
- lump crabmeat
- fresh shrimp - this recipe calls for fresh Gulf shrimp for the perfect seafood gumbo, but you can use what is accessible to you
- Jasmine rice - this gumbo recipe is ready to eat when served over cooked Jasmine rice
- prep bowls
- child-friendly knife
- butcher block
- measuring spoons
- kitchen scale
- Dutch oven
- wooden spoon
- entrée bowls
- serving bowl
1. Prep the Vegetables, Shrimp, and Sausage
Wash your hands with soap and water. Throw your apron on if the mood strikes you and grab your knives and cutting boards.
Mince the onion, garlic, celery, and red bell pepper. Halve the tomatoes. Place everything into a prep bowl and set aside.
Cut the okra into rounds as needed. Peel and devein the shrimp as needed. Cut the chicken sausage into pieces. Set everything aside and wash your hands.
2. Make the Gumbo Spice Mix
To make the gumbo spice mix, use measuring spoons to combine:
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon powdered bay leaf
- 1 ½ tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon red chile flakes (we used Kashmiri chillies)
- ½ teaspoon ground cayenne
- 2 tablespoon sugar or stevia
- 2 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
This will give you ⅔ of a cup of spice mix. The recipe calls for ¾ of a cup of gumbo spice mix. Feel free to adjust the measurements of each spice or you can do what Kaia did and just be a little heavy-handed when measuring each one.
Set aside for later.
3. Start the Roux
Turn the stove to medium heat. Add the butter and oil to a Dutch oven. Use a kitchen scale to measure the flour. When the butter starts to bubble, add the flour to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to stir continuously for about 10 minutes in order to develop a rich, chocolate-colored roux.
Take your time and let the roux do its thing. If your roux looks like the above image, keep going - you're almost there. But don't take your eyes off it. Chef JJ says your "roux can go from a complex nutty color and aroma to burnt beyond repair in a matter of minutes."
4. Add the Onion, Garlic, Celery, Bell Pepper, & Tomatoes
Once the roux reaches the desired color, add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and tomatoes. Use the wooden spoon to combine the roux and the vegetables. Lower the heat a bit and cook for 10 minutes.
5. Add the Dried Shrimp, Gumbo Spice Mix, & Tomato Paste
Add the dried shrimp and gumbo spice mix to the pot. Use a measuring spoon to add the tomato paste. Use the wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Cook for 5 minutes.
6. Slowly Add the Chicken Stock
Slowly add the chicken stock and use a whisk or your spoon to stir until it's all combined.
7. Add the Remaining Ingredients
Add the okra, sausage, crab meat, and shrimp to the Dutch oven. Use measuring spoons to add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce.
Give it a stir. Turn the heat to low and let the gumbo simmer for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Turn off the stove when finished.
8. Serve Over Jasmine Rice
Add salt and pepper as needed and serve over the cooked Jasmine rice. Sit back and watch as the gumbo quickly disappears.
Free Seafood Gumbo Recipe for Pre-Readers and Up
Grab your free printable recipe cards above. Kids can gather ingredients using the ingredient list, gather their equipment with the tools list, and prepare the meal using the step-by-step recipe cards, with assistance as needed.
The cards are easy to use, include pictures, and encourage confidence and independence in the kitchen. They also make an excellent addition to your Montessori continent boxes.
Montessori Continent Boxes
Explore every continent with these solid maple hardwood boxes.
Zones of the Ocean
Want to learn more about where your crab and shrimp come from? This Zones of the Ocean puzzle by Mirus Toys encourages exploration of the layers of the ocean as well as plant and animal life.
Puzzle inserts, plant and animal tokens, and wooden labels assist with the development of concentration and fine motor skills. This attractive wooden puzzle includes a control chart and varying size puzzle pieces for self-correction.
Where are your seafood gumbo ingredients coming from? Don't pass up the opportunity to eat and learn together.
Afro-Asian-American Seafood Gumbo
- 4 tablespoon salted butter
- ¼ cup avocado oil
- ½ cup all-purpose einkorn flour
- 1 cup onion minced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- ¼ cup celery minced
- ½ cup red bell pepper minced
- ½ cup grape tomatoes halved
- ½ cup whole dried shrimp
- ¾ cup gumbo spice mix
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup okra cut into rounds
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- 2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- ½ cup Chinese chicken sausage
- ½ cup lump crabmeat
- 1 cup whole shrimp
- kosher salt
- black pepper
- 4 cups Jasmine rice cooked
- Wash your hands with soap and water. Mince the onion, garlic, celery, and red bell pepper. Halve the tomatoes. Place everything into a prep bowl and set aside. Cut the okra into rounds as needed. Peel and devein the shrimp as needed. Cut the chicken sausage into pieces. Set everything aside and wash your hands.
- To make the gumbo spice mix, use measuring spoons to combine: 1 tablespoon dried oregano, 1 tablespoon dried thyme, 1 teaspoon powdered bay leaf, 1 ½ tablespoon garlic powder, 1 tablespoon onion powder, ½ teaspoon red chile flakes, ½ teaspoon ground cayenne, 2 tablespoon sugar or stevia, 2 tablespoon smoked paprika, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, ½ teaspoon black pepper. This will give you about ⅔ of a cup of spice mix. The recipe calls for ¾ of a cup of gumbo spice mix. Feel free to adjust the measurements of each spice or just be a little heavy-handed when measuring each one. Set aside for later.
- Start the roux: Turn the stove to medium heat. Add the butter and oil to a Dutch oven. Use a kitchen scale to measure the flour. When the butter starts to bubble, add the flour to the pot. Use a wooden spoon to stir continuously for about 10 minutes in order to develop a rich, chocolate-colored roux. Take your time and let the roux do its thing. If your roux looks like the above image, keep going - you're almost there. But don't take your eyes off it.
- Once the roux reaches the desired color, add the onion, garlic, celery, bell pepper, and tomatoes. Use the wooden spoon to combine the roux and the vegetables. Lower the heat a bit and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the dried shrimp and gumbo spice mix to the pot. Use a measuring spoon to add the tomato paste. Use the wooden spoon to combine the ingredients. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Slowly add the chicken stock and use a whisk or your spoon to stir until it's all combined.
- Add the okra, sausage, crab meat, and shrimp to the Dutch oven. Use measuring spoons to add the lemon juice and Worcestershire sauce. Give it a stir. Turn the heat to low and let the gumbo simmer for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Turn off the stove when finished.
- Add salt and pepper as needed and serve over the cooked Jasmine rice. Sit back and watch as the gumbo quickly disappears.
- The gumbo spice mix can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week
- Don't leave food sitting out at room temperature for extended periods
- Gently rub produce under cold running water. Scrub firm produce with a clean vegetable brush under running water
- Wash knives and cutting boards after touching seafood
- Never leave cooking food unattended
- Always have good ventilation when using a gas stove
- See more guidelines at USDA.gov.
- Full Lesson Info and Pictures at: https://happyhomeschooladventures.com/seafood-gumbo
Estimated nutrition information is provided as a courtesy and is not guaranteed.