If you’re not sure what the difference is between etouffee and gumbo, you’re certainly not the only one. When it comes to these two similar but distinct dishes, it goes without saying that the Southerners of the United States — particularly those with French, Spanish, and African backgrounds — have got the technique down cold. Creating these hearty, protein-rich soups that are both soul-satisfying and delectable in flavor takes a serious amount of skill. It’s truly an art form!
Using masterful techniques, Creole chefs frequently make these dishes by simmering chunks of meat and veggies until they reach a nice, tender consistency that can be pureed into a luscious soup. Etouffee and gumbo, though they share the same basic foundation, have a lot of distinctive characteristics that are worth exploring. For instance, the French, in particular, have honed their skills in crafting delicious gumbos and infusing them with fine herbs like basil and thyme.
When it could to etouffee, the entire dish is typically centered around a scrumptious fish broth-based soup, and is often served alongside red beans and rice. If you’re currently facing the delightful dilemma of choosing between these mouthwatering, soulful dishes, don’t fret. We’re here to help! Let’s take a closer look at the main differences between etouffee and gumbo below.
What is Etouffee?
Etouffee, which is derived from the French word for "smothered," embodies the essence of a delectable vegetable stew, which is further enhanced by the richness of roux. People tend to get pretty creative when it comes to preparing this dish, which is probably why we’ve seen so many unique adaptations of etouffee from different places around the world.
Etouffee has certainly secured a prominent place in many Creole cookbooks. In New Orleans, Louisiana, it’s become an absolute staple, so if you ever find yourself taking a trip down there, make sure to stop by a local restaurant and try some! Etouffee can actually be traced back to the French Cajuns, who created this concoction by incorporating a vegetable puree as a distinctive twist to the traditional roux-based recipe.
What Can You Do With Etouffee?
One of the main reasons why etouffee is so popular is that it’s both versatile and flavorful, which essentially makes it the perfect sauce to use in Creole cuisine. You can add etouffee to beans and rice to get a classic Creole dish, or use it as a gravy for your steak or chicken dishes. Actually, we’d highly recommend using it whenever you cook with meat. Seriously — each bite you take will be bursting with a symphony of flavors.
Furthermore, etouffee makes for an incredible salad dressing. Feel free to mix it in with your greens, and relish in the divine flavor. It can also serve as an excellent base for gumbo and other Cajun soups, as etouffee is traditionally crafted with a thick roux. If you want to create the perfect etouffee, you’ll need to make sure to heat your oil, onion, bell pepper, and celery to the exact same temperature. Don’t forget to use saffron and a bit of cayenne to really infuse your etouffee with that special zing!
What is Gumbo?
There’s nothing quite like traditional, New Orleans gumbo. This thick and delicious soup has earned the title of “the mother of all Creole soups” in New Orleans, Louisiana, and for good reason. From the moment gumbo graced the culinary scene, it became an indispensable part of Creole cuisine. As most born-and-raised, southerners know, however, the beauty of gumbo lies in its versatility. Like etouffee, each cook tends to put their own spin on gumbo, generally depending on where they’re from.
You absolutely cannot go to New Orleans without trying a gumbo dish or three. Traditional gumbo is a mouthwatering concoction of tender chicken, savory andouille sausage, succulent shrimp, a simple roux made from flour and fat, and — a southern staple — okra. Gumbo is meant to be simple yet hearty. While it’s a relatively humble soup, making the perfect gumbo requires an exceptional amount of skill. Give it a try sometime! It’s pretty much guaranteed to nourish your body and soul.
What Can You Do With Gumbo?
Gumbo is a bit heartier than etouffee, so most people wouldn’t opt to use it as a salad dressing or gravy, but hey — the options are honestly endless with this versatile soup. Gumbo is usually served with rice, which makes for a simple but complete dish. You can also, of course, serve it as an appetizer or meat dish. You can also serve gumbo as a side dish if you want, but it definitely deserves to take center stage as far as Creole cuisine goes.
Gumbo also pairs exceptionally well with classic Creole side dishes, such as fried okra and cornbread. Whip up some potato salad and green beans to fill out the meal, and you’ll have made a southern dinner that’s absolutely worth calling home about. While making gumbo may seem simple enough, there are a few rules that experts say are crucial to follow when preparing this dish.
First of all, you should always brown your sausages. It’s also not recommended to add hot dogs or ballpark franks to your gumbo. It’ll taste much better with some classic andouille sausage. Just trust us on this one! Second of all, gumbo is best served over white rice with sliced scallions and hot sauce on the side. Serve it however you’d like, of course, but you heard it here first: scallions and hot sauce will give your gumbo that extra zest.
The Main Differences Between Etouffee and Gumbo
Both of these dishes are beloved, especially in the wide and unique world of southern cuisine. Etouffee and gumbo appear similar at first glance, but they’re actually quite different. Any southern chef could tell you that! Let’s take a closer look at some of the main differences between these two classic Creole dishes below. Hopefully, that will help you make a decision about which one you’re going to make for your next potluck!
While gumbo presents itself as a thick and chunky soup (brimming with hearty ingredients, of course), etouffee showcases a smooth and silky texture that glides effortlessly on the palate. The secret lies in the broth used in each dish. While gumbo tends to use a roux as a base, etouffee employs it as a thickening agent. This makes a huge difference in consistency, and definitely sets these two dishes apart.
When it comes to flavor, gumbo certainly takes the cake in terms of boldness. Both gumbo and etouffee use the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine when it comes to their veggie bases (i.e. one part onion, one part celery, and one part green bell pepper). On a base level, the flavors of these two dishes are quite similar, but gumbo has a bit more “gusto” and vibrancy to it. Etouffee is meant to be more subtle. Not as much goes into etouffee, which means you’ll likely pick up on more nuanced flavors.
If you’re trying to decide whether you’re going to make gumbo or etouffee, you may want to keep the cost of each in mind. Gumbo tends to be a pricier dish because of the assortment of meats and vegetables that go into it, while etouffee remains a more cost-effective choice, as it mainly relies on an array of spices to create its flavor palette. Needless to say, both of these southern gems will provide you with a unique culinary experience. Trying either one will be a great way to explore some serious flavor and appreciate the artistry of Southern cooking.
How Do You Make Etouffee?
In order to make a delicious and elegant etouffee, you’ll need to start by gathering your ingredients together. Etouffee ingredients include onions, bell peppers, celery, spices, and your choice of meat (usually fish or another type of seafood). Don’t forget about the spices, either! Some salt, black pepper, thyme, and cayenne should suffice. In a large skillet, heat the oil and add in the veggies. Sauté them under they’re nice and tender, then add in your fish or succulent shrimp.
Once that’s reached a nice state of tenderness, gradually add in a vegetable puree. This will lend your etouffee its signature smoothness, and create a harmonious melding of flavors. Serve it up with beans and rice, or use it as a gravy for your chicken or steak. If you need to add any additional herbs or spices after it’s done cooking, feel free to do so.
How Do You Make Gumbo?
While andouille sausage and chicken tend to be the most popular choices, you should feel free to experiment with any meat that entices your taste buds when making gumbo. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure you have the right portion of meat. Making the perfect gumbo is all about balance, after all!
Heat oil in a big pot, and start cooking up some onions, bell peppers, celery, and your choice of garlic or ginger. Introduce the meat into the sizzling mixture, and allow it to mingle with the medley of flavors. From there, pour in the stock and season generously. Allow this concoction to simmer until the meat tenderizes. Remember to serve it over white rice with sliced scallions and hot sauce!