Try our vegan cajun gumbo made with jackfruit chicken, hearts of palm seafood, and seitan sausage. This vegan take on a meat-forward southern classic is perfect for those nostalgic for the real thing without the animal harm.
Buckle up, it’s story time
I get it, nobody wants to read anecdotes from a food blogger’s life. To be honest, I don’t think my life is interesting enough for you to know what’s going on with it in the first place. But what I will share is that every Halloween growing up, I ate gumbo.
Although I grew up in Nebraska, my neighbors were from Lafayette, Louisiana, and every Halloween they hosted a party and served gumbo to us kids to balance out all of that candy. It was the best night of the year and my first introduction to the southern staple.
My neighbor’s version included all sorts of stuff – shrimp, chicken, sausage, the holy trinity of vegetables, and tons, and tons of flavor. After several years, my neighbor and I had a falling out which meant no more gumbo for me.
I eventually became vegetarian and later vegan which solidified the idea in my brain that I’d never eat gumbo again. Then came Disneyland. To be honest, their gumbo was pretty underwhelming, but to find a vegan item at an amusement park was a miracle in it of itself so I wasn’t one to complain.
Then it hit me – what if I tried to make my own? One that reminded me of my neighbor’s meaty, seafoody gumbo. I did some research, pieced together the flavors from my memory, and came up with my own version of vegan Cajun gumbo that really hits the spot.
Look, I’m not a gumbo expert, but this recipe slaps
If you’re looking for a true authentic vegan gumbo recipe from someone who knows a lot about southern cooking, look no further than Timothy Pakron aka Mississippi Vegan. While I don’t know much, I have my memory, and I have a creative take. Instead of going vegetable-forward. We’re going the opposite direction with some meat substitutes. Since the ingredients were inspired by a Cajun-style gumbo, it only makes sense to take the Cajun approach (hence the title) with a roux and gumbo file.
I just want to quickly call out here that this recipe is by no means meant to be authentic. It’s my take and mine alone. If you like the flavors and it reminds you of meaty gumbo… Wonderful! I’ve done my job.
Ok keep talking about meat, but what are we really using instead?
In this recipe, we’re using a triple threat of meat substitutes. For the sausage, I recommend using my spicy seitan sausages, but if you don’t have time to make seitan, grab a package of spicy vegan sausages from your favorite supermarket. I think Beyond Hot Italian Sausages would work really well in this recipe as well as Tofurky Kielbasa.
Next, you’ll need some chicken. For vegan cajun gumbo, we’re going with canned young jackfruit. Young jackfruit is hands down my favorite chicken substitute in soups because it has such a nice texture and soaks up whatever flavor you cook it in. If you’re looking for more soups with jackfruit, check out our chicken noodle soup or chicken wild rice soup. They’re both out of this world.
Lastly, we need some seafood. The jury’s out as to what kind. If I recall, my neighbor’s gumbo had both crab and shrimp, but we’re not picky over here. We accomplish the texture with some hearts of palm, and the flavor with kelp granules. I get it, kelp granules are a super weird ingredient, but once you have them, you’ll be grateful they’re in your pantry. Plus you can make the #1 recipe on my site – crab salad.
And that, my friends, are the meats for vegan cajun gumbo – one meat substitute and the rest you can find in a can.
What other ingredients are in vegan Cajun gumbo?
Ok so we’ve got the seitan sausages, jackfruit, and hearts of palm. What else? Naturally, we need what’s dubbed the holy trinity of vegetables – bell peppers, onion, and celery. Which one is the Father, Son & Holy Spirit? Can’t tell you, but I’ve got a hunch that onion is the Holy Spirit since it becomes translucent once cooked.
Vegan Cajun gumbo would be incomplete without all of the spices. We’re talkin’ Creole seasoning, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, kelp granules, and fresh parsley. You’ll also need some Tobasco for an extra kick.
Lastly, you’ll need some standard soup components like vegan butter, low sodium vegetable broth, and flour. For the vegan butter, I went with a standard Earth Balance stick, but really you can use whatever you want… even olive oil. For the broth, please please go with a low sodium brand. The Creole seasoning is packed with salt already and you’ll end up with something that is almost too salty to eat. Trust me, I did it the first time.
And for the finishing touches, scallions, gumbo file, and white rice for serving. If you can’t find gumbo file, The gumbo should be thick enough already without it but it does add a nice flavor profile.
How do you make vegan Cajun gumbo?
Making vegan cajun gumbo takes a while but patience pays off in the form of a delicious meal. To make the gumbo, you’ll need a large pot or a dutch oven, a cutting board, a knife, a wooden spoon or a silicone spatula, measuring cups and spoons, a non-stick skillet or cast-iron skillet, a ladle, a slotted spoon, a fork, a small bowl, and a medium-sized pot for your rice.
Prior to making the vegan cajun gumbo, you should’ve already made a half-batch of seitan sausages. If not, head over there and git err dunn. After you’ve got your sausages, chop an onion and four garlic cloves and add to a large pot with the vegan butter. Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent – about five minutes – and then add the red and yellow bell peppers and the celery. Continue cooking for an additional five or so minutes.
Turn the heat to low and add the flour and a splash or two of low sodium vegetable broth, stirring continuously until the flour is combined forming a roux. Cook the roux for about forty-five minutes scraping the bottom almost consistently to ensure the bottom does not burn. Once the flour reaches a light shade of brown, it’s ready to go.
Next, you’ll add the remaining low sodium vegetable broth, bay leaves, Creole seasoning, fresh parsley, smoked paprika, cayenne, kelp granules, Tabasco sauce, and jackfruit. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes.
While the soup continues to cook, break out a non-stick pan or a cast-iron skillet. Slice your seitan sausages and add to the pan to brown on each side for four to five minutes. Remove and set aside. Next, carefully slice and add the hearts of palm to the pan – I prefer to do this step two hearts at a time so I have plenty of space to flip – and cook for a few minutes on each side until browned. Set those aside too.
Now would be a great time to start cooking your rice. The ratio is 2:1. Don’t get too complicated with it… just cook some dang rice. After the gumbo has simmered for 30 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the jackfruit pieces and use a fork to break them apart.
Next, it’s time to finish the gumbo. Turn the heat off and add the hearts of palm, the seitan sausage, and the forked jackfruit back to the soup. Stir to combine and lastly add the scallions and gumbo file. Continue to stir ensuring the file is evenly distributed. Serve the vegan Cajun gumbo with white rice, more parsley and more scallions.
Sub it out
This recipe calls for a lot of specialty ingredients. While I don’t recommend deviating too far from this recipe as-written below are a few suggestions of things you can try.
Use half no chicken broth: Instead of full veggie broth, use half no chicken broth. I wouldn’t recommend going full no chicken unless the broth you’re using is low sodium though.
Use cauliflower rice: If you’re carb-watching, use cauliflower rice instead of regular white rice.
It’s soup season
If you like my vegan Cajun gumbo and want to try some of my other soup recipes, you might like…
In this segment, I suggest a song for you to listen to while you make vegan Cajun gumbo! You can even stream it right here in your browser. Today’s recipe jam is Tension by All Your Sisters.
If you try this recipe, I want to hear about it! Feel free to post your creations to Instagram or Facebook and tag Hell Yes It’s Vegan or #hellyesitsvegan. I look forward to seeing what you make!
Vegan Cajun Gumbo
- 3 Tbsp vegan butter, I used Earth Balance
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- ½ yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 4 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 cup white flour
- 8-10 cups low sodium vegetable broth, (Actually important! Please make sure it's low sodium or your gumbo will be very salty.)
- 1 can jackfruit in brine or water, drained
- 2 Tbsp Tabasco hot sauce
- ¼ cup fresh parsley
- 2 ½ Tbsp creole seasoning, (The kind with salt)
- 2 tsp kelp granules
- 2 tsp cayenne
- 1 ½ tsp smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 can hearts of palm
- 4 spicy seitan sausage links, (Or substitute Beyond Meat Hot Italian Sausages or Tofurky Kielbasa)
- 3 scallions, sliced
- 2 Tbsp gumbo file
- 5 cups cooked white rice, (1 ⅔ cup uncooked rice)
- more scallions and parsley for garnish
- In a large pot, add vegan butter and chopped onion and garlic. Sauté for about five minutes until onions are translucent and then add the bell peppers and celery. Sauté for an additional five minutes.
- Add the flour and a splash or two of broth so you're able to hydrate the flour. Turn the heat to low and make a roux, stirring consistently for about 45 minutes to ensure it does not burn. The mixture will eventually turn brown-ish.
- Add the remaining broth, jackfruit, Tabasco, parsley, creole, kelp, cayenne, paprika, and bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, break out a skillet and carefully brown the hearts of palm gently on each side. If they stick to the pan feel free to add a little olive oil to loosen them up. Add to a plate and set aside. In the same skillet, brown the sausage and set aside.
- If you haven't made your rice yet, now is a good time to start.
- After 30 minutes, use a slotted spoon to remove the jackfruit from the gumbo. Let the jackfruit cool slightly and then break it apart with a fork.
- Return to the gumbo and turn the heat off. Add the jackfruit back along with the hearts of palm, and the seitan sausage. Stir until combined. Add the file and the scallions to the gumbo and stir again until evenly combined.
- Let the gumbo sit for 5 minutes to thicken. Serve with white rice and enjoy!