Kid-friendly Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo” Recipe - Sticky Fingers Cooking
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Recipe: Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo”

Recipe: Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo”

Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo”

by Erin Fletter
prep time
40 minutes
cook time
30 minutes
4-6 servings

Fun Food Story

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Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo”

Gumbo is to New Orleans what chili is to Texas. There are countless ways to make it, but one thing’s for certain: people who know gumbo are particular about their way! Gumbo started out as a dish that was filling, cheap, and satisfying—stewed (often all day long!) from scraps of meat that weren’t going to be used elsewhere and perked up with a ton of spices. When we saw Okra in stores this time last year, we got excited and made a note to be sure to write a recipe the following year that included it. When fresh okra appears in the markets, it means the weather is getting hot enough in the South to grow it. If you can’t find fresh okra, look for canned or frozen okra and use that instead. Have fun “building” these recipes with your budding chefs by layering flavors in the Spice Blend, the Dirty Rice, and the Speedy Southern Okra Gumbo. Layers of flavor = layers of fun!

Happy & Healthy Cooking,

Chef Erin, Food-Geek-in-Chief

Fun-Da-Mentals Kitchen Skills

  • chop :

    to cut something into small, rough pieces using a blade.

  • knife skills :

    Bear Claw (growl), Pinch, Plank, and Bridge (look out for trolls)

  • mash :

    to reduce food, like potatoes or bananas, to a soft, pulpy state by beating or pressure.

  • mince :

    to chop into teeny tiny pieces.

  • slice :

    to cut into thin pieces using a sawing motion with your knife.

Equipment Checklist

  • Small bowl
  • Measuring spoons
  • Cutting board + kid-safe knife
  • Can opener
  • Potato masher
  • Large skillet
  • Wooden spoon


Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo”

  • Creole Spice Mix:
  • 2 dried bay leaves (crushed—by hand is okay!)
  • 1/2 tsp mild paprika
  • 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning (or any blend of basil, thyme, and oregano)
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder (or garlic powder)
  • 1 tiny pinch cayenne pepper
  • 1 tiny pinch nutmeg
  • Gumbo:
  • 2 garlic cloves (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • 3 green onions (or 1/2 small onion)
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1 red or green bell pepper
  • 3 T butter or olive oil
  • 1 can red kidney beans
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes or 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 8 fresh okra pods (or frozen and thawed okra or 1 14-oz can okra, rinsed)
  • 1 1/2 to 2 C veggie broth
  • 1 T Creole Spice Mix (see ingredients above)
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 T vinegar
  • 1 tsp mild paprika + more, if needed for color


Southern Creole Okra “Gumbo”

measure + mix

In a small bowl, measure 1/2 teaspoon of your choice of the following spices to make 2 tablespoons of the Creole Spice Mix: 2 crushed bay leaves, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1 tiny pinch of cayenne pepper, and 1 tiny pinch of nutmeg. You’ll use 1 tablespoon of the Creole Spice Mix for the Gumbo and 1 tablespoon for the Slightly Spiced Dirty Rice (see recipe)!

mince + chop

Peel and mince 2 garlic cloves. Chop 3 green onions, 2 celery stalks, 1 bell pepper, and 2 tomatoes.

slice + mash

Slice 8 fresh okra pods. Drain and rinse 1 can of red kidney beans, then use a potato masher to break them up in a bowl! Tip: Don’t wash your okra until just before you’re ready to slice and cook it, or you’ll have a gooey mess!

sauté + add + simmer

Heat 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil in a large skillet. Add the minced garlic and chopped onion, celery, and bell pepper, then sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Next, add the chopped tomatoes, mashed beans, sliced okra, 1 1/2 to 2 cups of vegetable stock, and 1 tablespoon of the Creole Spice Mix. Bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered until it becomes thick and veggies are very soft. Simmer for at least 30 minutes and up to an hour.

add + season + taste

Add 2 teaspoons salt, 2 teaspoons sugar, and 1 tablespoon vinegar to your gumbo. Taste and adjust seasoning. Serve topped with Slightly Spiced Dirty Rice (see recipe)!

Surprise Ingredient: Okra!

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Photo by Gv Image-1/

Hi! I’m Okra!

"Hi! My name’s Okra! You may not be familiar with me yet, but I’m a popular ingredient in the cuisines of the southern US, especially gumbo. I can be a bit slimy, especially if I get too moist—wouldn’t you if it was really humid?! Cooking me with something acidic, like tomato and vinegar helps. I’m often referred to as a “lady’s finger” because of my shape. That makes me laugh!"


  • Okra is believed to have originated in Africa, and its name is derived from an African language!
  • Egyptians first cultivated the plant, and it spread through North Africa, the Middle East, Europe, and Asia. Okra first came to the United States in the early 1700s with the slave trade. 
  • Okra is considered the “world traveler” of vegetables! That’s because it’s used in recipes and dishes around the world. 
  • Southern soldiers used to drink a coffee substitute made from dried and ground okra seeds during the Civil War. 


  • An okra plant can grow as tall as 6½ feet high! They produce edible pods that are long and thin and come to a point at the end. Their shape gave them the nickname “ladies’ fingers.” They look more like witches’ fingers! 
  • If you cut a cross-section of an okra pod, you’ll see that the seeds are arranged in a pattern that looks like a flower. Because it has seeds, okra is technically a fruit! But in the kitchen, it is considered a vegetable.  
  • Okra comes in two varieties: red and green! When you cook red okra, it turns green.
  • Okra plants produce beautiful white flowers with dark purple centers. 

How to Pick, Buy, & Eat

  • Okra thrives in warm, temperate weather and can tolerate high heat and drought. 
  • The parts of the okra plant you can eat are its green pods, seeds, and leaves!
  • Okra can be pickled, canned, stewed, grilled, fried, pan-seared, and roasted.
  • Okra contains soluble fiber, which, when cooked, results in a gelatinous goo that cooks use to thicken dishes.
  • Okra seeds are pressed and processed into oil used for cooking.
  • Old or mature okra is used to make paper and rope!   
  • When buying okra fresh, choose medium-small pods as they’re more tender and less stringy.
  • Okra can be steeped in water overnight to make a delicious tea!
  • Don’t wash your okra until just before you’re ready to cook it, or you might end up with a gooey mess! 


  • Fiber! Okra has lots of fiber to help keep our intestines clean and digestion running smoothly!
  • B-Vitamins! B vitamins help the body use the food we’ve eaten for energy! 
  • Antioxidants! Okra has high levels of these nutrients that support our immune system, keep us from getting sick, help us stay strong, and help us grow!


What is Gumbo?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska
  • Gumbo is perhaps the most famous dish of Louisiana. Essentially, gumbo is a stew made of stock with a mix of fish, meat, poultry, or sausage along with vegetables and tons of spices. It may or may not have tomatoes. It always includes the "trinity:" onions, bell pepper, and celery, which are the base for the stew. Typical varieties of gumbo include crawfish and shrimp or sausage and chicken. However, versions with oysters, ham, beef, duck sausage, and vegetables-only also exist. Gumbo was likely first created from food scraps—a filling, comforting, and cheap dish pulled together from leftovers. You can thicken gumbo with okra or with filé powder (dried and ground sassafras leaves). Or, use a roux made of flour and butter or oil to thicken the gumbo. In the New Orleans variety of gumbo, make a dark roux using bacon fat or oil rather than butter, which would burn by the time it darkened. In any case, a gumbo should be thick and should always be served with rice. We're using okra to thicken ours!

Let's Learn About New Orleans!

Photo by Andriy Blokhin/
  • New Orleans is a city-parish in Louisiana and is the state's most populous city. 
  • France built New Orleans before Louisiana became a US territory in 1803 when then-President Thomas Jefferson purchased it from France. Guess how much he paid for it? Only 15 million dollars! 
  • French settlers used the term "Creole" to distinguish people born in Louisiana from those born in countries like Spain and France, from which many early inhabitants came. 
  • In 1796, in New Orleans, the first opera was performed in the US.
  • Jazz music was born in New Orleans! Experts can't decide if it appeared in the late 19th century or the early 20th century, but they know it quickly gained popularity throughout the world.
  • The Lake Pontchartrain Causeway, the longest bridge over a body of water worldwide, is located in New Orleans! 
  • Creole cuisine comes from New Orleans—famous dishes are jambalaya, gumbo, étouffée, and King Cake! It's a tradition for Mardi Gras partygoers to eat King Cake, baked with a small plastic baby inside. The person who has the slice with the baby is expected to host the party the following year.

Lettuce Joke Around

What state does okra come from? 


Lettuce Joke Around

What type of water can grow award-winning okra? 


Lettuce Joke Around

How do you make okra laugh? 

You pickle it!

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