A Local’s Recipe: Wakulla County Gumbo

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Bowl of gumbo
Food and Recipes

When people hear “gumbo” they typically think of Louisiana instead of Florida. While the distinctive meat and seafood stew did grow out of the cajun and creole cuisines that dominate the Bayou State, gumbo is actually an important part of the culture for many communities that dot the American gulf coast, and Wakulla County is no exception.

The heart of any gumbo is a dark roux, which is simply equal parts of fat and all-purpose flour that are cooked together for flavor and to thicken the stew. The dark roux favored by gumbo enthusiast is part of what gives the dish its unique deep and nutty flavors. Gumbo can traditionally be made with any combination of proteins (anything that walks, crawls, swims, or slithers!), but this recipe celebrates the abundance of fresh, local seafood available in Wakulla County. It comes courtesy of David Moody, who is a ranger at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This gumbo is an authentic local tradition, and it’s sure to please your friends and family at your next social gathering!

Ingredient List

  • One whole Black(Gag) Grouper -or-Two Red Snapper (fillet, save head and back)
  • 3 pounds of whole medium fresh shrimp (save head, peelings, and devein)
  • 1 pound of Blue Crab claw meat (not cocktail claw)
  • 1 pound of Register’s smoked sausage
  • 3 pounds of Okra, sliced in rounds (fresh or frozen)
  • 1-16 Ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 pound of cooked long grain rice (I like Zattarans parboiled)
  • ½ Cup Peanut Oil (or lard)
  • ½ Cup Plain Flour
  • 2 Vidalia Onions diced
  • 3 ribs of Celery diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic finely minced
  • 4 Bay Leaves
  • ¼ Cup of fresh-chopped Parsley
  • 3 TBS Kitchen Bouquet
  • 3 TBS Olive Oil
  • ¼ Cup sundried shrimp-optional
  • 2 Cups of Chicken Stock- optional


  1. For the seafood stock, add the fish heads and bones, and the shrimp heads and peels to a stockpot with a gallon of water. Simmer for one hour, and then strain. If you have sundried shrimp, blend it with chicken stock and add the mixture.
  2. Slice the sausage into rounds and brown them in a skillet.
  3. Next, add tomato sauce, garlic, bay leaves, sausage, and kitchen bouquet to the stock and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. To make the roux, whisk the flour and oil together in a skillet over medium-low heat, until it begins to turn the color of dark peanut butter, approximately 20-25 minutes. It needs to be stirred constantly during this stage or else it will burn.
  5. Once the roux is the correct color, add the celery and onions to it, and sauté until they have softened and are beginning to stick to the bottom. Remove from the heat.
  6. Drizzle the okra with olive oil, and add them to a small pot with a steamer basket and enough water to cover the bottom set over high heat. Steam for 10 minutes.
  7. Add okra to simmering stock, then add 1/3 of roux, stir in for 5 minutes, and repeat until all ingredients except seafood are in. Start with one tablespoon of salt, ½ teaspoon each of black and red pepper to taste. Simmer, covered, for 45 minutes.
  8. Cook rice according to package directions.
  9. 15 minutes before you’re ready to eat, drop in 1 inch pieces of fish. 5 minutes before you are ready to eat, stir in shrimp. 2 minutes before you are ready to eat, add crab meat and parsley.
  10. Serve with rice, and a nice big glass of sweet tea!