How to Make Roux for Gumbo

The traditional method for making a dark roux for gumbo. This deep chocolate colored gumbo roux has a rich toasted flavor that is essential for making a Louisiana gumbo base! Learn all about how to make the perfect cajun roux with my expert tips and tricks. 

Dark gumbo roux with a wooden spoon.

The traditional method of making gumbo roux is standing over the stove with near constant stirring. If you’re looking for a shortcut, try making an oven roux or even a microwave roux!

Making a good cajun gumbo sure is a labor of love, and it’s all about the roux. The roux can make or break your gumbo, so it’s best to take the time to get it to a nice dark brown color. Dark roux can be used in most gumbo recipes like chicken and andouille sausage gumbo, seafood gumbo, and gumbo z’herbes. If you’re making a gumbo, you’ll also need the holy trinity (onion, green bell pepper, and celery),  cajun seasoning and perfectly cooked white rice

Roux is essential to cajun cooking and creole cuisine as much as the holy trinity is. Darker roux is usually reserved for gumbo, whereas lighter peanut butter color roux can be used for making crawfish étouffée. Blond roux is used for soups, béchamel, and shrimp and corn bisque

Recipe Quick Notes

Lauren’s Take: To me, there is no flavor quite like the complex deep, rich, toasted nuttiness of a dark gumbo roux. 

Appearance: Gumbo roux should have the texture of fine wet sand. It should be glossy, but not overly greasy. It should be the color of chocolate. 

Time: It will take you at least an hour to make a dark gumbo roux. 

Authentic Cajun Tip

An old cajun saying is your gumbo roux should be done in the time it takes to drink two beers. While the deep chocolate color is the true indicator of a cajun roux, it’s still a fun fact!

What is a Roux

Roux is a combination of fat and flour that is used as a flavoring and/or thickening agent in cooking. 

The darker a roux gets, the more flavorful it is, but the less thickening ability it has. Lighter roux is used for making gravy, thickening soups or sauces. Darker roux can be used for brown gravy, étouffée, or stews. The darkest stage of roux is used to make gumbo

Many different fats can be used for making roux like butter, oil, schmaltz, lard, or bacon grease. 

The ratio of roux is usually one to one, but this can vary depending on your personal preference. One cup flour to one cup oil is a good place to start. I prefer more flour than oil for a less greasy final product. 

A spoon with roux showing a chocolate brown color.

Gumbo Roux Color

The best color for gumbo roux is a deep rich chocolate brown. 

As you cook a roux, the flour goes through a process called the Maillard Reaction. This chemical reaction causes the sugars and proteins of the flour to not only darken in color, but also gives it a complex deep, rich, and nutty toasted flavor. It also changes the thickening ability of the flour. The longer you cook a roux, the less thickening power it has. 

Here are the stages of gumbo roux development. (See photo below)

  1. White roux – Takes 2-3 minutes. It has the highest thickening power and is used to thicken soups, stews, or gravy. It has a mild flavor. 
  2. Blond roux – Takes 5-10 minutes. This roux has thickening power, but develops a slightly nutty flavor. It is used to make béchamel sauce for creamy pasta sauces. 
  3. Brown roux – Takes 20-30 minutes, this stage is also called a “peanut butter roux” for its lighter brown color. It has a deeper nutty flavor, and only some thickening power. Stop at this stage to make étouffée or stews.
  4. Dark brown roux – Takes 45 minutes to an hour to get roux to a chocolate color. This stage has the deepest rich flavor and is ideal for making gumbo. It has the least thickening power.

The tricky thing about getting a dark roux is that the color progression gets faster the longer it cooks. If you’re not careful, you can take your dark brown roux too dark and cause it to burn or become bitter. 

Stages of Gumbo Roux.

Ingredients & Substitutions

While a roux can be made with any fat and flour, a roux for gumbo is a little more specific. 

For the fat, you’ll want a neutral tasting oil, like vegetable oil, canola oil, or avocado oil. Don’t use olive oil since it has a noticeable flavor. While butter is perfect for making a white or blond roux, it’s not the best choice for a dark gumbo roux. The milk solids in butter tend to burn and can’t hold up to the long cooking time of a dark roux. 

If you want to get really cheffy, match your fat to the flavor of your gumbo. Use rendered duck fat for a duck gumbo, or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat) for a chicken and sausage gumbo. You can even use bacon grease, tallow, or lard. 

For flour, all purpose flour is the way to go. I haven’t tried making gumbo roux with any other kinds of flour. 

roux Labeled Ingredients.

See the recipe card below for the complete list of ingredients and measurements.

Equipment Needed

Making a gumbo roux requires a strong and sturdy pot. I prefer using an enameled cast iron dutch oven or a deep cast iron skillet. If you’re making the gumbo right after the roux, use the pot you’ll be making gumbo in. 

You will also need a good stirring utensil. I start off with a whisk to get the flour lumps out, then switch to a silicone spatula that can fully scrape the bottom of the pot when stirring. The classic choice is a wooden spoon

I store my roux in a glass mason jar or a Weck jar

How to Make Gumbo Roux

Whisking flour and oil in a skillet.

Step One: Whisk

Whisk together flour and oil very well until there are no lumps of flour remaining over medium-high heat.

Blond roux in a skillet.

Step Two: Stir

After 5 minutes, turn heat to medium-low. Continue stirring. After about 5 minutes you will have a blond roux.

Brown roux in a skillet.

Step Three: Stir Some More

Continue stirring constantly, scraping down the sides and bottom as you go. After about 25 minutes total you should have a brown roux.

Dark roux in a skillet.

Step Four: Use

After about 30-45 total minutes of stirring, you should have a dark brown roux the color of chocolate. Use in your gumbo recipe, or store for later use!

Expert Tips for Making Gumbo Roux

  • DON’T BURN IT! Perhaps the most important rule of making roux is don’t burn it.  A burnt roux will taste bitter and will have flecks of black speckled throughout (see photo below). There is no coming back from a burnt roux so you’ll have to start all over again.
  • Keep stirring. The best way to prevent your roux from burning is to keep stirring, and stirring, and stirring, and don’t stop. Don’t walk away, don’t take a bathroom break. Make sure to scrape down the sides and bottom of the pot evenly.
  • Keep the heat low. You’ll be tempted to crank the heat up to speed up the process, but don’t (especially if you’re an inexperienced roux maker.) This will increase the chance of burning your roux. 
  • Be gentle. Hot roux is like hot lava – it will burn you! Stir roux gently to avoid it splashing out of the pot and onto your skin. 
  • Don’t break it! Roux can “break” where the fat and oil separates causing a greasy mess. This can happen when the temperature changes to quickly, so make sure to never add any cold ingredients (like the cajun holy trinity or chicken broth) to a hot roux. 
  • Bonus tip! If you’re making the roux for later, remove it promptly from the pot. Roux will continue cooking in a hot pot. (See photo below) Once it gets to the right color, transfer the roux to a different heat safe container to cool. Letting it sit in the hot pot may cause it to get too dark (and bitter) and maybe even burn. 

Traditional roux making sound a little too intense for you? Go the easier route and make an Oven Roux or a Microwave Roux. You can even buy pre-made roux in a jar!

Burnt roux on parchment paper.
Black specks of burnt roux.
Dark roux and darker roux after sitting 5 minutes.
Roux will darken in a hot pan even off heat, so make sure to remove it from the hot pan promptly.

Storage & make ahead

Storage: Store gumbo roux in an airtight jar at room temperature for 2-3 days or in the refrigerator for up to 6 months. 

Freeze: Store roux in a freezer safe jar for up to 1 year. 

Reheat: Allow roux to come to room temperature for an hour before you use it. Option to pour off the layer of oil at the top or stir it back into the roux. To use a roux that has been frozen, allow it to defrost on the counter or in the refrigerator overnight. 

Dripping roux into a spoon.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you freeze roux?

Yes! Roux can be frozen to store for later. Allow roux to cool completely and add it to a freezer safe jar or container. Freeze for up to a year. 

What is a gumbo roux made of?

A gumbo roux is made from fat and flour. The most popular fat option for gumbo roux is a neutral oil like vegetable oil, canola oil, or avocado oil. You can also use rendered animal fat like schmaltz, bacon grease, or tallow. 

Do you use butter or oil for a gumbo roux?

While it’s not impossible to make a gumbo roux with butter, I don’t recommend it. Butter contains milk solids which will burn during the long cooking process of making a dark roux. You can use clarified butter to get around this. The best option is a neutral tasting oil like vegetable oil, canola oil, or avocado oil.

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Gumbo roux in a skillet.

Gumbo Roux Recipe

The traditional way of making gumbo roux, or gumbo base, on the stove. This dark roux has a roasted nutty flavor and makes a deep rich and flavorful gumbo.
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Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Course Ingredient
Cuisine Cajun
Servings 10 servings
Calories 250 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 ¼ cup flour
  • 1 cup neutral oil vegetable oil or avocado oil

Instructions
 

  • MIX: Add oil to a large deep cast iron skillet or dutch oven. Heat over medium-high heat. Whisk in flour until there are no lumps. Flour will bubble and foam at first. Continue to stir.
  • STIR: After about 5 Minutes, turn the heat to medium-low. Stir constantly for 30-45 minutes until the roux is a deep chocolate brown color. *Make sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the pot as you stir. *Do not leave the roux unattended or stop stirring, it can burn quickly.
  • USE: If you are using the roux to make gumbo now, proceed with the gumbo recipe as usual.
  • STORE: If you will be storing the roux for later use, remove it from the hot pan, as the residual heat will continue to darken the roux. Allow the roux to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container.

Notes

  • See photos above for the perfect chocolate roux color. 
  • This makes 1 ¼ cup of roux, enough roux for a 10 serving gumbo.
    Double or triple it to make a larger batch to store for later. If making a larger batch, cooking times will be longer.
  • If you need a gumbo recipe, try Chicken and Sausage Gumbo.
  • The ratio for roux is usually 1:1, but I prefer slightly more flour to make the gumbo a little less oily. 1:1 will also work!
  • Store gumbo roux at room temperature for 2-3 days, in the refrigerator for up to 6 months, or in the freezer for up to a year.
  • To use a pre made roux, allow it to come to room temperature. 
Tips:
  • Don’t walk away from the roux. It can burn very easily. 
  • Keep stirring near constantly to help prevent burning. 
  • Stir gently to prevent splashes and burning yourself. 
  • Keep the heat on the lower side to prevent burning. 
  • Never add cold ingredients to a hot roux, or it can break.

Nutrition

Calories: 250kcalCarbohydrates: 12gProtein: 2gFat: 22gSaturated Fat: 3gPolyunsaturated Fat: 13gMonounsaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0.1gSodium: 0.3mgPotassium: 17mgFiber: 0.4gSugar: 0.04gCalcium: 2mgIron: 1mg
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Meet Lauren

I’m the blogger, recipe developer, food photographer, and otherwise food obsessed gal behind Lauren From Scratch. I was born and raised in New Orleans and lived in South Louisiana most of my life. Growing up around Cajun country has instilled a love of food that runs deep in my bones. I am passionate about food and teaching you how to make mouth-watering Louisiana inspired dishes in your own kitchen!


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