The heady aroma of fresh greens (collards, spinach, chard, and kale, to name a few) simmering on a stovetop is heavenly. And with just one bowl of this roux-infused Gumbo Z’herbes, you’re praying for a second helping.
As in most culinary cultures, religion has an impact on the dishes of South Louisiana with gumbo z’herbes being an example. In the predominantly Catholic region of Acadiana, meat is consumed sparingly during the Lenten season leading up to Easter and this “gumbo of herbs” has become an alternative usually served on Good Friday. The African callaloo and the French potage aux herbes are similar dishes rooted in religious origin.
Over the years, gumbo z’herbes has become a tasty addition to every good Louisiana cook’s gumbo repertoire since it is a smart way to turn inexpensive root vegetable greens into a delicious dish. These days, it is just as common to see a long-simmering pot of z’herbes in the fall made with smoked andouille, salt pork, and tasso for a heartier fare.
Many great Louisiana cooks–my friend Marcelle Bienvenu being at the top of the list–have their own unique way of making gumbo z’herbes. And although recipes vary, it should always be a variety of smothered bitter greens (odd number of greens for good luck) along with a roux base adding that unmistakable gumbo depth of flavor.
My wife Roxanne and I have been experimenting lately with Swiss chard and it has become a vital part of our gumbo z’herbes pot. We have fallen in love with it for two reasons. First, it is healthy. Research shows that chard leaves are chock full of antioxidants with an acidic property that actually lowers blood sugar. And just as importantly, chard is full of flavor and when cooked down in this green gumbo, the bitterness melts away into a mellow sweetness.
If done right, with this vegetarian gumbo you’ll never miss the meat.
- 1 bunch fresh spinach leaves
- 1 bunch fresh kale
- 1 bunch fresh Swiss chard
- 1 bunch fresh collard greens
- 1 bunch fresh mustard greens
- 2 cups fresh green leaf lettuce
- 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 cup diced green bell pepper
- 1 cup chopped red bell pepper
- 1 cup diced celery
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic
- 6 cups vegetable stock
- 4 tablespoons dark roux, such as Rox's Roux
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Acadiana Table Cajun Seasoning Blend, see recipe here
- 6 cups cooked Louisiana long-grain white rice, such as Supreme
- 1 cup diced green onion tops
- Filé powder
- Wash dirt from the greens and trim the leafy greens from any hard stems. Chop greens into large pieces and place in a large, cast-iron pot with a heavy lid. Add all the other vegetables and herbs and cover with vegetable stock. When the pot begins to boil, add the roux, lower the heat to simmer and cover. Stir occasionally and cook for about 1 hour until the greens wilt and the flavors meld together.
- Add salt, black pepper and Cajun seasoning to taste and serve over cooked white rice with a sprinkling of diced green onions and a light dusting of filé powder.
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Denise Bishop says
I LOVE this – my mom used to make Gumbo Z’Herbes every Easter Saturday. I’m looking forward to renewing the tradition on Saturday with this recipe.
George Graham says
Hey Denise – Thanks for commenting. And thanks for carrying on the family traditions that define our Louisiana food culture. All the best.
Bob White says
I make a similar version, but with smoked turkey wings simmered in the gumbo to give a mild smoky flavor. At the end, separate the turkey meat from the skin and bones and stir in the delicate meat.
Von Magee says
I first tasted this dish in Mandeville back in 1985. My father-in-law was Leonce Durand from St, Martinville. (need I say more). A true Cajun and excellent cook. They lived in Mandeville (where I met my wife) and every day at 5pm was a culinary adventure at their home. Will never forget the first time they served this dish (they called it Gumbo Zab). Absolutely blown away. Thanks for sharing this recipe and renewing some special memories!
George Graham says
Hey Von- Great to hear from you, and I am glad to hear you have a Cajun connection to Gumbo Z’herbes. This dish has Creole roots in New Orleans but is very popular across South Louisiana. I know some Durand families in St. Martinville (Paul is a banker, and Allan is an attorney and both now live in Lafayette). Be sure to make this recipe and let us know if it lives up to the memories. All the best.
judi pautz says
Thank you for yet again, another delicious recipe. I use them and recommend them to everyone. (Only 1 thing, PLEASE don’t tell people that ‘gombo aux herbes’ rhymes with ‘lab’ …It is unfortunate enough that people skip the middle word, AUX, without them mispronouncing the last word. Actually, it (if one MUST compare to English phonetics) would rhyme with or sound like ‘airb’. Merci bien .
George Graham says
Hey Judi- I appreciate the French lesson and will defer to your expertise on the language. That said, my reporting states that “Many folks in Louisiana pronounce this delicious dish “gumbo zab,” which rhymes with “lab.” Right or wrong, there’s no denying that here in Louisiana, we speak our own language. All the best.