One of the wonderful things about gumbo is that there only seem to be two finites: the dark, rich roux as the base, and adding okra, which ultimately thickens the end result.
Because the gumbo recipes throw back to over 100 years ago, we’ve seen recipes that feature sassafras or okra, shrimp, oysters, chicken sausage, and ham, with ingredients that rotate based on the seasons.
Some cooks argue that original gumbo recipes have tomato, some without. Which camp are you in?
So with such dark, richly flavored stew, what do you serve with gumbo?
Some people don’t prefer to serve any side dish with gumbo, but for those who like to go the extra mile, a dinner feels incomplete without gumbo side dishes.
So I have to admit that one big giant gap in my cooking is gumbo. I’ve cobbled together things that sort of look like it and kind of taste like what I’ve read, but I don’t think I’ve captured the flavor the way it is intended.
I went on a gumbo research safari to try and figure out what’s what.
Dark roux or darker roux? What goes in it? How spicy?
So without testing my gastronomic limits, I’m doing book research instead.
Gumbo is one of the most popular dishes to serve at southern family dinners, and why not? One big bowl seems to bring people together and fosters sharing and good feelings.
It’s tradition. You can use up leftovers. Win win.
If you feel the same way but don’t know what to serve with gumbo, well, then take a look at our comprehensive list of the best gumbo sides.
1. White Rice
One of the easiest and simplest gumbo sides is white rice.
Since gumbo itself has so much layered flavor, and is often quite spicy, the white rice helps to balance it out.
We talk about rice a lot on our blog, but we discovered that the trick to perfect rice is to put a towel under the lid and don’t use too much water.
2. Jackpot Biscuit-Cornbread Stuffing
This is a great potluck stuffing because you cook it in the crockpot and serve it that way too.
It stays warm and doesn’t dry out (with the lid on, of course). You can use leftover biscuits and cornbread or make pans of it ahead just to make this stuffing.
I equate this to a dump cake because it’s so easy to throw together.
A southern staple, this side dish complements the soupy and zesty gumbo.
The dense, dry texture of the bread helps absorb all the liquid from the gumbo and make the bread more delicious.
Renee’ crumbles it on top of her stews, chili, and definitely creole dishes.
Take your cornbread to the next level by adding spice or cheese to it, too!
This is our popular Jalapeno Cheddar Cornbread if you aren’t afraid of a little more kick to your dinner!
4. Green Salad
A gumbo is a relatively heavy and filling dish. For that reason, you might like a light side dish to balance out the taste.
If you’re starting with a salad, I recommend finishing it a few minutes before your gumbo is served so the flavors don’t clash.
This is where a quintessential green salad with fresh and crunchy vegetables comes in!
5. Potato Salad
A potato salad is a common side dish, and for good reason. It goes well with a number of different meals, including gumbo. In fact, potato salad, gumbo, and white rice all complement each other so well that they make the perfect combination for a hearty family dinner.
6. Crab Cakes
Not only do these make a great gumbo side dish, but they are also an ideal appetizer if you want to serve something before the gumbo.
7. Creamed Corn
A southern and typically simple gumbo side that you can never go wrong with is creamed corn.
Leave it in the slow cooker while you prepare the gumbo and when it’s dinner time, this gooey and creamy goodness will be ready to serve.
Don’t mess with the stuff in the can. It’s only good for using in things like Jiffy Corn Pudding.
Try this homemade Creamed Corn recipe from A Southern Lady Cooks for the real deal.
8. Cauliflower Rice
Gumbo can be a very heavy stew or fairly light broth, and it just depends on the recipe you use and what kind of flavor you are going for.
So, if you have the former, with a thick gravy-like roux, you may want to lighten up your meal with some Cauliflower Rice.
Ultimately, this is just finely chopped cauliflower that quickly steams either on the stove or in the microwave.
Drain off the water before seasoning or it dilutes the flavor you’ve added. Follow this recipe to make some for your low-carb loving friends.
9. Cheese Bread
If you have been wondering what to eat with gumbo and want your gumbo to take center stage, then cheese bread is your best bet.
What makes this side even more special is that it is so easy and quick to prepare!
A truly southern side dish that goes well with just about anything is okra.
Coat them in batter, deep fry them, and these crunchy and delicious bites will be ready to devour with a bowl of gumbo.
We have a list of okra recipes here that you might like to peruse.
11. Corn on the Cob
This is a super simple yet classic gumbo side dish you can consider serving.
If you don’t have much time on your hands, just boil or grill corn and they will be ready!
You don’t have to boil or steam corn on the cob as long as you might think.
12. Hush Puppies
Another easy and simple side dish to prepare and serve with gumbo is cornmeal-based bites called hush puppies.
Though not popularly known as a gumbo side dish, the two go perfectly together.
Try this combination and let us know what you think!
13. Roasted Vegetables
We have discovered that it’s pretty easy to chop a few veggies together, toss them in olive oil and salt and end up with a nice side dish.
Try cubing some sweet potato, red pepper, onion, zucchini, carrots, and even a few leaves of kale together, add 2 or 3 T of oil (flavored oil if you have it) with 1 T of kosher salt.
Several turns of black pepper if you love it.
Any combination of veg generally roasts up flawlessly in a conventional oven or air fryer.
Since a gumbo is often so full of protein, sometimes a light plate of roasted vegetables is just what you need to balance the whole meal out.
14. Crab-Stuffed Deviled Eggs
If you are looking for a fancier gumbo side dish, you can consider making crab-stuffed deviled eggs.
Though they are a bit time-consuming to prepare, they will definitely be worth it since they pair so well with gumbo.
We like the creole seasoning king’s version here.
I usually make this as a side for Italian meals, because it is a pure veg side dish that tends to cut the richness of pasta and heavy sauces.
So why wouldn’t this work with gumbo, right?
Ratatouille for me is a bit different than some of the recipes you might see online because I like to keep it simple.
I use fresh tomatoes, peeled and cubed zucchini, a handful of chopped onions, plenty of salt and pepper, and dried oregano.
I cook it uncovered on medium for about 20 minutes until everything is soft but the zooks are still fork tender.
16. Cheesy Garlic Biscuits Copycat Recipe
There’s a certain popular seafood restaurant chain that features these biscuits alongside their crab, fish, shrimp, and oyster dishes.
Their buttery richness and fluffy texture just melt in the mouth. They will most certainly be a standout sidecar to the deep savory and spicy flavor of gumbo!
We’ve got the copycat recipe here, and the key is not to overbake these.
17. Savory Bread Pudding AKA Strata
If there is a match made in breakfast heaven, it’s eggs and bread. It’s no secret that french toast is my favorite breakfast food, and strata comes in a close second.
But this luscious and heavy side dish for gumbo will cut the spice and add its own heft for gumbo recipes that feature a thin broth.
Some feature more bread than egg, and some come out bordering on a souffle, but this one from Fine Cooking is just a beautiful symphony of ingredients.
18. Red Cabbage Slaw
We recommend a vinegar-based slaw so the acid cuts the richness of gumbo.
We like this Red Cabbage Slaw Recipe that uses white wine vinegar and honey, a very light combination that highlights the beautiful crunch and flavor of fresh red cabbage.
The bottom line
These were some side dishes that go oh-so-perfectly with gumbo.
Depending on how many people you are serving and your personal preference, you can choose from these options to serve at your next dinner party!
As someone who is still experimenting with cajun and creole cooking, this was a fun exploration into the wonderful foods that best accompany glorious gumbo.
As a really good finisher that is both flavorful and mild, try this instant pot rice pudding recipe.
- White rice
- Jackpot biscuit-cornbread stuffing
- Green salad
- Potato salad
- Crab cakes
- Creamed corn
- Cauliflower rice
- Cheese bread
- Corn on the cob
- Roasted vegetables
- Crab-stuffed deviled eggs
- Cheesy garlic biscuits copycat recipe
- Savory bread pudding AKA strata
- Red cabbage slaw
- Choose two to three sides on the list!
- Gather the ingredients.
- Serve and enjoy.