Etouffee vs. Gumbo – What Are The Key Differences

Do you like Creole or Cajun food? If you have had it before, you probably tried gumbo or etouffee. If you have not had these dishes, then get ready to learn more about them!

Stay tuned as we discuss the differences between etouffee and gumbo. These dishes might look similar, but they are not the same.

What Is Etouffee?

Etouffee is a dish from the Creole and Cajun cuisine of Louisiana in the United States. The dish contains shellfish served over rice after using the smothering cooking method. This cooking involves cooking the seafood over low heat and with a small amount of liquid.

The word etouffee comes from the French word to smother or suffocate. The ingredients in this dish include shellfish cooked with a light roux and served over rice. The most common shellfish is shrimp or crab, but there is a crawfish version.

While the roux is usually white or blonde and has a nutty flavor, the Creole version with crawfish has tomatoes. A blonde roux is prepared over a few minutes, while a brown roux takes a longer time and caramelizes a bit, giving that final nutty aroma and flavor. The dish appeared for the first time in the 1920s, while the crawfish etouffee seems to come from the 1950s.

As for other ingredients, etouffee often contains seafood stock, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, vegetables like onions and peppers, and seasoning. In some cases, the dish has a bit of hot sauce that adds some heat too. The total cook time is about three hours for all the flavors to release and the sauce to thicken.

These days, you might also see variations of etouffee for those that do not eat seafood. While not a popular idea, you can find this dish made with chicken or pork. However, the basis of the meal is to use shellfish.

For the most part, etouffee is a very healthy dish since it does not contain excess calories. However, be mindful that when making the roux, you must use quite a bit of fat. Sometimes the dish can be high in sodium depending on the seasonings used to prepare the meal.

Nutrition Facts

One cup serving of shrimp etouffee (227 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 241 calories
  • 8.99 g protein
  • 14 g fat
  • 21 g carbohydrate
  • 2.04 g fiber
  • 3 g sugar
  • 59 mg calcium
  • 1.09 mg iron
  • 960 mg sodium
  • 15 mg vitamin C
  • 1000 IU vitamin A
  • 49.9 mg cholesterol

Is Etouffee Healthy?

At face value, etouffee is a very healthy and nutritious dish. You will be obtaining lean proteins, vegetables, and a healthy source of carbohydrates. Most of the nutrient content, however, depends on the preparation methods.

Since it contains shellfish, etouffee is high in specific nutrients. For one, you will obtain a lot of omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids are known to be anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and help prevent chronic illnesses, such as heart disease and neurological diseases.

Having protein throughout the day is essential. Shellfish is a lean protein source, which means it is lower in cholesterol and highly bioavailable. If you add fish to the mix, your etouffee is also higher in protein and contains more vitamins and minerals.

It is important to note that etouffee contains a roux, which you prepare using butter and flour. For the most part, etouffee has a lighter consistency, and you can use less butter. Keep in mind that this ingredient adds calories and fat to your dish.

This dish is also high in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. When eating etouffee, you will obtain vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and some iron. The red peppers, tomatoes, and onions are healthy vegetables that can make your dish more complete.

The nutrient content of your etouffee also depends on how you serve it. For the most part, the meal comes with white rice, but you can make it a healthier one, such as brown rice. This type of rice gives you fiber and is absorbed more slowly.

As with most things that contain shellfish, etouffee might not be suitable for those with food allergies. The star of this dish is the shrimp or crawfish, which are common allergens for many. If you think you have an allergy or are prone to allergic reactions, check with your health care provider first.

Generally, etouffee is a good option for a hearty and healthy meal. Be careful with canned products and how much sodium you add to your dish. Sometimes frozen and canned ingredients contain high amounts of sodium to help preserve the food.

What Is Gumbo?

Gumbo is a popular stew in the state of Louisiana in the United States. It contains shellfish or meat that you cook slowly to achieve the right consistency. As with etouffee, gumbo gets its unique flavor from a combination of spices and roux.

The dish contains the “holy trinity” of Creole cuisine, made of celery, bell peppers, and onions. It might also have okra or filé powder or ground sassafras leaves. Gumbo comes from the African, Native American, Spanish, and French influences of the region.

Creole gumbo has a dark roux and shellfish and tomatoes, which give it a darker red color. Cajun gumbo does not contain tomatoes and has shellfish or poultry. In most cases, sausage and ham are also added to gumbo.

The first step in cooking gumbo is creating the stock and roux, then the vegetables, and finally, the meat. The dish has to simmer for at least three hours, but the shellfish and spices come towards the end of the process. Like etouffee, you serve gumbo over white rice.

Gumbo is very popular across the United States, and many variations of the dish exist. In some, there is no meat, while others contain duck, oysters, and crab. The seasoning can also include parsley, bay leaf, thyme, salt, and pepper.

While you might find a blend of Creole and Cajun gumbo, they were originally very different. The dish might have a side of bread and sometimes some potato salad on the side. Gumbo remains a staple across Louisiana, particularly during Mardi Gras season.

Nutrition Facts

One cup of gumbo (244 g) has the following nutritional content (*):

  • 200 calories
  • 20.8 g protein
  • 8.96 g fat
  • 9.81 g carbohydrate
  • 2.2 g fiber
  • 4.46 g sugar
  • 65.9 mg calcium
  • 1.34 mg iron
  • 454 mg potassium
  • 1060 mg sodium
  • 12 mg vitamin C
  • 26.8 µg vitamin A
  • 80.5 mg cholesterol

Is Gumbo Healthy?

Gumbo can be a healthy meal, but it depends on what ingredients it has and how you cook it. You can create a more nutritious meal by choosing a leaner protein and using less sodium. Remember that gumbo also requires a roux, which adds fat to the dish.

For the most part, gumbo is high in vitamins and minerals. This dish is a good source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, and more. These nutrients play a key role in many bodily processes, including nerve conduction, eyesight, bone strength, and more.

Since gumbo usually has shellfish, it is also a good source of omega-3 fatty acids. As we mentioned with etouffee, these essential fatty acids play a role in preventing illnesses and inflammation. Shellfish is also a lean source of protein with very little cholesterol.

It is important to note that gumbo can also contain ham or sausage. These two types of meat are not particularly healthy and often provide excess sodium to the meal. For the most part, sausage and ham are also highly processed and contain nitrates, which are not good for you.

Depending on the type of gumbo you are making, it can have more fiber. Tomatoes, bell peppers, celery, and onions are great sources of fiber. You can get a good amount of your daily dose of fiber by eating this food and have a healthy gut too.

You should also keep in mind that gumbo contains shellfish and some individuals are sensitive or have an allergy to it. If you think this is not a safe meal for you, try making a chicken or sausage gumbo instead. The recipe for this meal is often revised to fit the needs of whoever is making it.

For the most part, you can count on gumbo to be a filling and healthy meal. The real issue comes from the sausage or ham and other ingredients that add sodium to it. It is important to keep things low on sodium.

What Are The Key Differences Between Etouffee and Gumbo?

The first difference to keep in mind between etouffee and gumbo is the protein in them. Etouffee is made almost exclusively with shellfish or crawfish. Gumbo can contain shellfish, but it almost always contains sausage, ham, and sometimes chicken.

Although at first glance they look the same, their consistency is very different. Etouffee is a thick and dense dish. Gumbo is often referred to as a stew, but the consistency is much more like a soup.

While they share a lot of flavors from Southern cuisine, they have distinct differences. Etouffee has a lighter roux, which makes it a bit more nutty and sweet. Gumbo is highly aromatic, bold, and a bit smokey.

As you know by now, both dishes contain a roux, but it is not the same one. The roux in etouffee is almost always a light one that you can make in five minutes. With gumbo, the roux is made for almost half an hour and it is always dark.

In terms of ingredients, the dishes are also different. Etouffee focuses on highlighting the shellfish, with only a few other ingredients, like onions, peppers, or tomatoes. Gumbo contains many more ingredients, including shellfish, sausage, ham, bell peppers, celery, onions, and more.

A final difference between these two dishes is the thickener they use. Etouffee gets its texture from butter and flour. In gumbo, the thickening effect comes from filé powder or okra.

Main DifferencesEtouffeeGumbo 
ProteinShellfishShellfish, sausage, ham, and chicken
FlavorSweet and nuttyComplex, smoky, and aromatic
VegetableOnions, peppers, and tomatoesOnions, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and herbs
Sodium per cup960 mg1060 mg
Calories per cup241 calories200 calories

Is Etouffee or Gumbo Healthier?

At first, these two dishes seem to be virtually the same. However, there are some key differences to take into account. For the most part, they can be a lean and filling meal, but etouffee might be the right choice.

Since it is made solely using shellfish, etouffee saves you calories and cholesterol from other meat and protein sources. Shrimp tends to be low in calories, high in protein, and high in omega-3 fatty acids. The dish is also slightly lower in sodium.

Because gumbo has sausage and ham, it has more sodium and cholesterol too. It can be a good option if you are serving more people or if you have to stay away from shellfish. Either dish is a good option when you want a heartwarming dish with little fat and calories.


If you are not familiar with Cajun and Creole cuisines, you might have made the mistake of confusing these two dishes. However, this is not true anymore, as you know exactly what etouffee and gumbo are and how they differ. Enjoy each dish and its unique flavors!

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*image by myviewpoint/depositphotos

*image by bhofack2/depositphotos

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