Turkey gumbo

Turkey gumbo DSC3955

Like chili, gumbo has many rules, with most folks believing that their way of making this stew is the best. As I’m not a native of Cajun country, I tend to follow my friends’ leads when making gumbo, though even amongst that group I’ll see variations.

For instance, I have one friend who eschews celery in his gumbo, though another friend swears that without it the pot will never be authentic. Though this celery-loving friend can’t abide by okra in his chicken and sausage gumbo, even though an African word for that vegetable, ki ngombo, is what some say gives gumbo its name!

Turkey gumbo | Homesick Texan

Most of my friends do concur that tomatoes have no place in gumbo, though there are still a few who believe pouring in a can of Ro-Tel certainly won’t hurt. Then there are those that believe potato salad instead of rice is the better starch to add to your bowl, an affectation that seems strange at first but after a few bites you might wonder why you haven’t been serving it this way all along.

I could go on about the endless variations, but let’s jump to why I’m here—to talk about turkey gumbo, a time-honored day-after-Thanksgiving dish in East Texas and Louisiana, of course.

As the name implies, turkey gumbo is made with turkey. First you take the carcass and boil it up with some aromatics for a fragrant broth, and then you slide into the pot your roux, along with some vegetables, chopped leftover turkey, and leftover ham. (Though if you’re not the type to serve ham along the turkey on Thanksgiving, sliced smoky sausage such as kielbasa or andouille is a terrific thing to add, as well.)

Turkey gumbo | Homesick Texan

You let this cook for an hour or so (though it only gets better the longer it stays on top of the flame; likewise, it’s also much better the next day), ladle it into bowls filled with rice, and then dig into an agreeable stew that bears little resemblance to the feast you had the day before.

And this is why I think that turkey gumbo is so popular. While there’s nothing finer than a turkey, cranberry, and dressing sandwich the day after Thanksgiving, if you’re like me and have been thinking about Thanksgiving almost non-stop for the weeks leading up to the big feast, you just might be suffering a bit of Thanksgiving-food fatigue by Friday, and are ready to move onto something else.

That said, you probably still have a refrigerator groaning with Thanksgiving odds and ends that need to be eaten. Though if you make a pot of turkey gumbo with all that remains, you’ll not only have a satisfying good meal but also a dish that makes leftovers taste like something new.

Turkey gumbo | Homesick Texan

Now I offer you a recipe, but in the spirit of all things gumbo, take this more as a guide than a directive. If you don’t like okra, don’t add it to the pot! If you want to serve this with sweet potato salad, go right ahead, I don’t think anyone will mind. After all, when it comes to gumbo no two pots are the same. Though there is one thing that most people will agree upon—when it’s chilly outside and you want something warm, gumbo is very, very good.

Turkey gumbo DSC3955
5 from 6 votes

Turkey gumbo

Cook Time 2 hours 30 minutes
Servings 8
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the turkey broth:

  • Turkey bones
  • 2 ribs celery
  • 2 carrots, peeled
  • 1 medium yellow onion, cut in half
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon peppercorns
  • 4 whole cloves

Ingredients for the gumbo:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 2 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 8 okra, stemmed and sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 cups turkey broth or chicken broth (if not making your own broth)
  • 2-3 cups chopped cooked turkey
  • 2-3 cups diced ham or sliced smoked sausage, such as kielbasa or andouille
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 4 green onions, green part only, chopped
  • Cooked rice, for serving


  1. First, to make the turkey broth place the bones in a large pot, along with the celery, carrots, onion, bay leaves, peppercorns, and cloves. Add enough water to cover the pot contents by an inch (about 12 cups), bring to a boil, and then turn the heat down to low and simmer for 1 hour.

  2. When done, strain the broth, discarding the bones and vegetables, and then remove the fat from the broth with a gravy separator. If you don’t have a separator, you can take a quart-sized plastic storage bag and pour some broth into it. Snip a bottom corner of the bag and drain the broth, stopping when you get to the fat layer that is on top. (You will probably have to remove the fat in batches).

  3. Wipe the large pot clean of any remaining debris, then return 8 cups of broth to the pot, reserving any remaining for another use. (If using pre-made broth, skip these steps.)

  4. Meanwhile, as the broth cooks you can make the roux. To make the roux, heat the oil on medium high in a cast-iron skillet. Start adding flour a little bit at a time. Stir continuously for 30-35 minutes until the roux is a dark praline brown. Remove from the heat.

  5. In another skillet, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery, and cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the okra and cook for 5 more minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds. Remove from the heat.

  6. Once the roux is done and the vegetables are done, add both to the large pot with the broth and stir until well blended with the broth. (If using store-bought broth, then you’ll add it at this time instead). Also add the turkey, ham (or sausage), parsley, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

  7. Bring to a boil then turn the heat down to low and simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, though you can let it simmer for several hours if you prefer. Taste and adjust seasonings. Stir in the green onions and then serve over rice. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 days.

Recipe Notes

If using sausage, you might consider frying it in the large pot for a few minutes until it begins to brown and crisp, before adding the broth and then continue with the recipe. It’s not necessary, but would add flavor. Also, this gumbo is good with both regular roasted turkey and smoked turkey.

  1. Hee…. I sent a link to this to my step-Daddy who hails from Lake Charles Parish, now residing in southwest Colorado with my Yankee mother 🙂 !

    I've only ever had his gumbo and I'm not sure I want to know what's in it but it is good!

    Happy Thanksgiving and thank you for another year's worth of great recipes!

  2. Lisa Fain

    Liz–If he's from Lake Charles Parish, I bet he makes a wonderful gumbo! And a very happy Thanksgiving to you, too!

  3. I use Alton Brown's method and make my roux in the oven. A lot less stirring that way and it comes out perfect every time. You can check it out on Foodnetwork's web site under his shrimp gumbo recipe.

  4. Lisa Fain

    Wes–I've done it that way, too! Thanks for the reminder.

  5. Carol Evans

    I am a Louisiana girl and this sounds pretty spot on, a red bell pepper adds a little sweetness. also a important tip, before adding okra, sauté in a hot black skillet stirring until all slime is gone, then you will not have slimy gumbo.

  6. Lisa Fain

    Carol–Thanks for the okra tip! And I love the addition of the red bell pepper–the color would be pretty, too.

  7. Good idea, Lisa! I think it's best to have a plan for what to do with leftover meat. Soup is just the thing after the big feast!

  8. Lisa Fain

    Celeste–Soup's especially good this time of year!

  9. I swore I wasn't going to brave the grocery store the next two days, but now I've suddenly decided that the mac and cheese below is absolutely necessary for Thanksgiving. I hope I survive the lines…

  10. This looks amazing! I wasn't going to cook a turkey this year, but you may have convinced me otherwise. Yum!

  11. Lisa Fain

    Kate–Enjoy your turkey!

  12. Lisa, I love celery, cold and uncooked. I hate it cooked, but I see its importance in adding flavour. I add it when required, I just cut it large enough to easily pluck out prior to serving. I cannot wait to try this gumbo. Canada has Thanksgiving in Oct. so my next opportunity for turkey is Christmas. One recommendation, add an extra turkey neck or two in with the turkey when you boil it. They really add to the flavour, you can use the meat in the gumbo or roast the necks later for a separate meal.

  13. BBQChick

    I've always used okra AND file' in mine. That's a great looking roux Lisa. And to go off topic, we now have Blue Bell up in Northwest Indiana 🙂

  14. Lisa Fain

    Diek–A turkey neck is terrific in stock. I use it in my gravy, too.

  15. Lisa Fain

    BBQChick–A friend of mine is a big fan of the two together, as well! And that's excellent news about Blue Bell!

  16. purplerangerfood

    First, your recipe doesn't look all that different from my dad's recipe for turkey/chicken gumbo. But as you said, the recipe is more a guideline than something that has to be Strictly Followed To The Letter.

    I had never thought of putting gumbo on anything other than rice until I read this entry. But if you're using the gumbo as a way to deal with the leftover turkey, how about taking it one step further and serving it over leftover mashed potatoes or dressing? Or, considering this year's unusual conjunction of Thanksgiving and Hannukah (which I have seen dubbed "Thanksgivukkah" more than a few times), how about serving it over potato pancakes?

  17. mbhebert

    I thought the only reason we had turkey was so we could make turkey gumbo. Apparently, some people just like turkey. Go figure. (Mine is + bell pepper and -carrots, and I always use a Cajun injected turkey, b/c it makes AWESOME gravy, which goes in the gumbo. Otherwise, that's pretty close to mine.)

  18. Thank you for this post. My mom was from south Louisiana and this recipe is pretty spot on. Never heard of putting Worcestershire sauce in gumbo but I may try it. Although your roux is lovely, my mom taught me to cook the roux until it was the color of coffee grounds (Community coffee at that!)…just a minute shy of burnt.
    It is customary to serve with rice, potato salad and garlic bread on the side. Everyone can choose what to eat with their gumbo. Some cajuns put a boiled egg in their bowl with rice and gumbo. I tried it and loved it.
    Again, thank you for this post. I am loving the memories of learning the art of gumbo making at my mom's side.

  19. You've really sent me somewhere I needed to go with this one. I was already planning a nice pot pie with my leftover turkey but wasn't quite sure what kind of pot pie it would be. I think I'll make a cajun pot pie now. Turkey, tasso, a nice dark brown roux gravy all in a flaky crust made from bacon drippings; add in some potatoes and the trinity to complete the picture. Thank you for the inspiration!

  20. SeattleDee

    Now I'm torn between this turkey gumbo and my usual turkey enchiladas… guess I'll just have to make them both. I'm not quite ready yet to pair either with potato salad.


    Such a vibrant gumbo with big flavors! I am all for this – great post!

  22. Samba00

    Hey Lisa,
    Made this last night and it's another winner. Tonight, I'm taking the left over stock from last night and the rest of the turkey and making a version of your chipotle chicken recipe (which is a recipe I make often).

  23. Rocky Mountain Woman

    I can't wait to try this – I froze my turkey carcass and some of the meat so I could play around this weekend and this looks like it'll be just perfect!

  24. Lisa Fain

    Purpleranger–Interesting ideas!

    mbhebert–I can imagine how good the Cajun spices would be in a gravy!

    Mary C–I once dated a Cajun who was very fond of boiled eggs in his gumbo. I never quite took to it myself, though!

  25. Lisa Fain

    Kristen–That Cajun pot pie sounds fantastic!

    Samba00–So pleased you liked it!

    Rocky Mountain Woman–Enjoy!

  26. Fourbrowngirls

    Do I add one whole egg per bowl or chopp the boiled eggs up??

    • Lisa Fain

      Fourbrowngirls–People leave the eggs whole. Though I’d add it to bowls rather than the pot since it’s not to everyone’s preference!

  27. Charlotte

    Do I add the sassafras file to the broth or to the roux?? And about how much??

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