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Etouffee vs Gumbo: How are they Different?

Lisa Price
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by Lisa Price

It is with no doubt that the southerners of the United States are the gumbo and etouffee masters. Whether French, Spanish, African, or other heritages, the Creole people have perfected the art of making a delicious, soul-satisfying, protein-rich soup.

They cook down chunks of meat and vegetables until they are soft enough to be pureed into the soup.

On the other hand, the French are known for:

  1. Their fine herbs (basil and thyme) based gumbos which are very delicious.
  2. Fantastic red etouffee.
  3. A fish broth-based soup often served with red beans and rice.

Perhaps you want to prepare these meals for your family but you don’t know the differences. This blog contains all you need to know before starting out in the kitchen.

Read through the article to learn how they compare, get to know your liking and which one is better and easier to prepare.

Difference Between Etouffee and Gumbo

On first appearances, the two soups are similar in many ways, but each has unique qualities that set it apart. So take a closer look at these two special southern dishes.

Consistency: The key difference between gumbo and etouffee is in their consistency. While gumbo is a thick and chunky soup, etouffee is smooth and silky.

The reason for this lies in the broth in each casserole. In gumbo, the stock gets used as the base for soup, and in etouffee, it acts as a thickening agent. As a result, the latter soup is smooth and silky, and gumbo is a thicker and chunkier soup.

Protein: While gumbo is a protein-rich dish, etouffee does not have as much protein. Indeed, etouffee is much more of a vegetable-based dish than a protein-rich soup.

Flavors: Another difference between gumbo and etouffee is in their tastes. Whereas gumbo is a very flavorful dish, etouffee is more subtle.

Costs: The final difference between gumbo and etouffee is in their prices. While gumbo is a costly dish, etouffee is inexpensive. The main reason being the former soup uses a variety of meats and vegetables as ingredients, whereas the latter soup uses a variety of spices to make the soup.

Etouffee vs Gumbo Comparison Table

Protein contentLess proteins since it is mostly from vegetables.Rich in proteins
TextureSmooth and silkyThick and chunky soup
FlavorSubtle flavorFlavorful dish
AccessibilityAffordable to commonersVery expensive

Can you Substitute Etouffee for Gumbo?

Well, the answer to this question is somewhat complicated. It varies from person to person. Your preferences are different from someone else’s. For some, gumbo is a classic dish, whereas, for others, etouffee is the more preferred sauce.

So when it comes to substituting one for the other, it depends on what you’re looking for.

If you are looking for something milder that will go down easier, then it’s a great idea to substitute your regular gumbo for etouffee.

However, the one thing that no one can deny is these soups are delicious. Both are very good and are excellent when served with red beans and rice.

What is Etouffee?


Etouffee, another word for “smothered” in French, is a vegetable stew made with roux. The recipe differs from cook to cook and region to region. You can find etouffee in almost any Creole cookbook.

It was first made in New Orleans, Louisiana, by French Cajuns and used a vegetable puree instead of the roux. Today, etouffee is synonymous with Creole cuisine.

How to Use Etouffee

Etouffee is a versatile sauce, and you can use it in various dishes. Take a look at what you can do with this sauce.

Add it to beans and rice for a Creole dish that is very easy to make and popular in New Orleans.

Etouffee can be gravy for steaks, chicken, and other meats.

It can be a dressing for salads.

It can also be used as a base on gumbo and other Cajun soups that you can typically make with a thick roux.

Oil, onion, bell pepper, salt, black pepper, and thyme are some of the ingredients in etouffee. You should also include saffron or other spices like cayenne, paprika, or other similar things.

The first step in preparing an etouffee is to make the roux. Mix the oil, onion, and bell pepper and cook until the onion is tender.

Your vegetable oil, onion, and bell pepper should be at the same temperature. If not, your roux will be hard, and your etouffee will be thick.

What is Gumbo?


Gumbo is a thick meat and vegetable soup that most people enjoy when served with rice. It is very popular in New Orleans and many other places in the United States.

People who lived in New Orleans called gumbo “the mother of all Creole soups.” They believe that New Orleans is the home of gumbo. The first recorded recipe for gumbo dates back to 1903.

Ever since its inception, gumbo has been a staple of Creole cuisine. However, the ingredients in gumbo vary from cook to cook and region to region. As a result, gumbo can be very salty or very sweet.

In the city of New Orleans, they say that the best gumbo needs to include chicken, andouille sausage, shrimp, okra, and a roux of flour and fat.

How to Use Gumbo

The southerners have found different uses for this delicious gumbo dish, and they include:

Gumbo is a great addition to your menu for a buffet or potluck.

It can also be served as an appetizer.

You usually serve gumbo with rice which makes it a complete dish.

It is a versatile dish that you can serve as a meat dish.

Gumbo Ingredients

Sausage, andouille, and chicken are the most popular ingredients used to make gumbo; however, you can use any meat.

How to Prepare

To create a delicious gumbo:

  1. Start with the right size of meat.
  2. Heat the oil in a large pot and add onions, bell peppers, and garlic or ginger.
  3. Add in the meat and then add in the stock and seasonings.

Let this cook until the meat is tender.

Further Considerations

Keep the following points in mind the next time you’re choosing which dish to have for dinner.

Similarities Between Gumbo and Etouffee

The two dishes have some similarities as well as some differences. Here are some similarities between the two southern dishes.

Roux: Both of the dishes use a roux. Gumbo’s roux is usually darker and thicker than an etouffee roux.

Stock: In both dishes, the stock is the most important ingredient. The difference is that the stock in gumbo is made from the meat, while in etouffee, it’s a mix of onion and pepper.

Gravy: In both dishes, the gravy is a mix of meat and vegetables. The difference is that gumbo gravy is thicker and has more ingredients than etouffee gravy.

How to Make a Roux?

A roux is a type of thickener and a binder. The flour is mixed with the fat (oil or lard) and cooked until the flour turns into a paste. You don’t need to cook the roux for a long time. The longer the roux stays in the hot oil, the darker and thicker it becomes.

Place the oil in a pan and heat it to make a roux. Then, add in the flour and mix it around in the pan to ensure no lumps. As you stir it, the roux becomes darker and thicker.

When and How to Use Gumbo or Etouffee in Different Recipe Scenarios

Gumbo and Etouffee are versatile dishes that you can add to almost any type of food. These two dishes are not to be served as a main dish but as a side dish. It would be best not to serve gumbo or etouffee as a main dish:

  • Serve with rice
  • Serve with bread
  • Serve with pasta

You can pair etouffee with oysters, and it is known as a first course in some dishes.

Southerners are known for celebrating Thanksgiving with gumbo. The traditional gumbo recipe includes the following ingredients:

A roux. The roux in a gumbo is usually a darker color and thicker than an etouffee roux.

A stock. The stock in gumbo is from meat.

Okra, tomatoes, and celery.

Thanksgiving is the American holiday that celebrates the first harvest in the new country. The traditional Thanksgiving feast includes a gumbo.

Why do they prefer Gumbo over Etouffee During Thanksgiving?

The origin of the name gumbo derives from the Ghanian word “Gumbahwah,” which means a thick soup. The Americans who started living in Louisiana in the 1720s began eating a similar soup to Gumbahwah.

They later began using “gumbo” to describe the thicker soup.

Time to Enjoy the Southern Dish!

Etouffee and gumbo are dishes that you can enjoy at almost any time of the year. Even though people who live in the southeast or the south say that they prefer gumbo, people in the north are more likely to enjoy etouffee.

In the blog above, we have given you a recipe for gumbo and an etouffee recipe. You can follow the steps on how to prepare these meals and the ingredients you need.

Ultimately, you now have all the info you need to enjoy these dishes. Make sure that you try and enjoy them. Cheers!

About Lisa Price
Lisa Price
Lisa is Food Champ's resident fitness enthusiast and nutrition expert. She holds a nutrition degree in her home state of Florida and works for a large health system to ensure sound nutrition and dietetics information is passed on to all members.
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