National Gumbo Day: Too hot for the kitchen? Try this grilled gumbo recipe instead

Virginia Willis
Virginia Willis’ Grilled Gumbo

It's National Gumbo Day, but in some parts of the South — particularly in Louisiana, the state from which the dish hails — it's still too hot to slave away over the stove.

Why not take your cooking outdoors? 

This take on gumbo comes from award-winning chef and cookbook author Virginia Willis. 

It involves skewering up many of the ingredients and tossing them right on the grill along with marinated chicken. It’s a delicious dish that tastes like gumbo but doesn’t take hours to cook.

If you're more of a purist and don't mind staying inside tonight, here's a more traditional seafood gumbo recipe.

Grilled gumbo

Serves: 10

Hands-on time: 50 minutes

Total time: 1 hour and 25 minutes


4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 3-inch pieces (about 2 pounds) 

1 1/2 pounds large shrimp (21/25 count), peeled and deveined

12 ounces fully cooked Andouille sausages, halved lengthwise

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes

12 ounces finger-size okra, stems trimmed

2 onions, preferably Vidalia, sliced into 1/4-inch rings

1 pint shishito peppers, or 2 poblano or green bell peppers, cored, seeded and cut into strips

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons Creole or Cajun seasoning, plus more to taste

1/4 cup ketchup, warmed

4 scallions, white and pale green parts only, chopped

Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Prepare a charcoal fire using about 6 pounds of charcoal and burn until the coals are completely covered with a thin coating of light gray ash, 20 to 30 minutes.

Spread the coals evenly over the grill bottom, position the grill rack above the coals, and heat until medium-hot (when you can hold your hand 5 inches above the grill surface for no longer than 3 or 4 seconds).

For a gas grill, turn all burners to high, close the lid, and heat until very hot, 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the chicken, shrimp, sausage, tomatoes, okra, onion and shishito peppers. Add the oil and Creole seasoning, and toss to evenly coat the ingredients.

Thread the shrimp, tomatoes and okra onto separate skewers. The chicken, onions, and shishito peppers will go directly on the grill. If using pepper strips, thread onto skewers. You could skewer and then season, but coating ahead of time ensures an even coating of spices — and messy fingers, but you can always wash your hands.

Now, it’s a matter of cooking in batches, working the grill, and trying to make sure everything is ready about the same time. However, don’t overthink this — set a second bowl beside the grill and as the items are ready, simply toss them into the bowl and cover to keep warm. 

Place the chicken pieces on the grill and cook until firm, turning once until the juices run clear when pierced with a knife and the center registers 165 degrees, about 4 minutes per side.

Meanwhile, place the onions and peppers on the grill and cook until tender and charred, about 7 minutes. Add the okra and tomatoes to the grill and cook until charred and tender, about 5 minutes.

Arrange the sausage over slightly cooler heat and cook until charred and warmed through. Towards the end of cooking when everything is nearly done, add the shrimp and cook, turning once or twice, until the shrimp is opaque, about 2 minutes per side.

Transfer the cooked ingredients to the second large bowl, removing from the skewers as needed. Top with the warm ketchup and scallions and toss to coat. Cover the mixture tightly with plastic wrap and let the vegetables steam and wilt slightly, about 3 minutes. Remove the plastic wrap. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper and Creole seasoning to your liking. Serve immediately with additional hot sauce on the side.