The truth is you can use almost anything in gumbo: it’s one of those dishes that are sometimes made with whatever you have laying around in the refrigerator. It just so happens though, that many families in the gulf south keep things like onions and shrimp laying around the house. This article is going to list and discuss the 4 most common types of seafood for gumbo.
Shrimp is the most common type of seafood used in gumbo. The reason for this is because shrimp is incredibly prevalent in Louisiana, where gumbo was invented. Additionally, shrimp are available most of the year in Louisiana. One of the best reasons to use shrimp in this dish is because it’s easy to obtain rich, flavorful stock from shrimp by boiling the shells. If you boil the heads and shell of shrimp you will get an extremely shrimpy flavor that you can use to be the base of your gumbo, along with the roux.
Crab meat is also extremely prevalent in Louisana, and therefore, in gumbo. The type of crab most commonly used is blue crab, which has a texture that’s sweeter and richer than almost any other crab in the United States. Usually, meat from the body and claws is reserved and placed in the gumbo towards the end of the cooking, but sometimes, people use what they call “gumbo crabs,” which are crabs that are too small to justify boiling and eating on their own, but add a great crabby flavor to the dish. To use these small creatures, remove the top shell, crack them in half, and let them cook along with the rest of the gumbo.
Oysters are extremely common in seafood gumbo and most people will tell you they either love oysters in gumbo, or hate it (there are very few in between). When oysters are added in gumbo the texture is somewhat slimy, since, not only are oysters slimy, but if you use okra in your gumbo, that will only contribute to this texture problem. This really isn’t a problem, however, for most people because many are used to okra in gumbo. Some say that eating oysters in gumbo is the best way to taste the true flavor of oysters, and it’s true: you get to taste the oyster without the competing flavors of breading or cheese, but unlike raw oysters, these are warm, and the heat intensifies this flavor.
Crawfish is the type of seafood that is absolutely adored by anyone with access to it. Additionally, the crawfish season is limited throughout the year, and it’s a type of food that people love eating alone. Since that’s the case, it’s somewhat rare that crawfish makes its way to the gumbo pot. If you do have a lot of crawfish left over after a boil, however, and you don’t want to make any of a wonderful variety of dishes like crawfish etouffee and crawfish bisque, you can use your crawfish tails for meat in the gumbo, and use the shells for stock.