In the heart of the bayou, Louisiana’s heritage is a vibrant blend of cultures and traditions from all over the world.
Most prevalent is the heavy French and West African influence which can be felt in almost every aspect of the region and adds to its timeless allure. The descendants of the Caribbean slaves and European colonizers who settled in the area would come to be known as Creoles, a community unique to the state with their own language, religions, and of course, food.
Notable dishes like gumbo and crawfish are a mainstay on restaurants menus, but to get a real helping of Louisiana culinary history, locals will encourage you to try the étouffée.
This rich, savory stew is named after the French word meaning “to smother,” and begins with a signature staple of bayou cooking, called a roux—a mixture of flour and fat cooked together and used as a base to thicken sauces. It’s then seasoned with Creole spices and loaded with vegetables and puréed tomatoes, which is then all poured over a bed of fluffy white rice.
While the dish has changed over time and in different kitchens, at inception it was a concoction made from staples of slave cuisine—for the most part, aside from farm scraps, it relied heavily on greens, beans, starches, and vegetables like okra which was brought to the Americas by African enslaved peoples. Eventually, the addition of regional seafood like crawfish and shrimp were added to bring the recipe from the plantations to the plates of people all over the state.
This étouffée recipe gets back to the roots of the roux using a hearty vegetable base—generally a seafood stock—and traditional spices with the addition of savory smothered mushrooms to offer an enticing plant-based taste of history and flavor in every bite.
- 3 cups white or brown rice
- 4 tablespoons salted vegan butter
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1 celery stalk, finely chopped
- 1/2 green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Sea salt, to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 8 ounces cremini, oyster, or baby portobello mushrooms, sliced
- 2 fresh green onions, sliced
In a large pot, combine the rice and 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, until rice is soft and all the water is absorbed. Set aside.
In a large saucepan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Cook until butter begins to brown and slowly begin to sprinkle in the flour, stirring to mix until smooth. Reduce the heat to simmer and stir frequently until the roux begins to thicken and turn dark brown, about 10 minutes.
Add the onion, celery, and green bell pepper to the roux and sauté over medium heat until tender, about 8-10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add in the garlic and thyme and saute for 1-2 more minutes. Pour in vegetable stock, diced tomatoes and 1/2 cup of water, stirring well.
Season mixture with Creole seasoning, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, black pepper, white pepper, dried basil, bay leaf, lemon juice, and salt. Reduce heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
In a separate pan, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Add in the mushrooms and sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.
Add cooked mushrooms to the vegetable mix and stir until coated. Remove bay leaf and season with additional salt or spices, to taste.
Serve over rice and garnish with chopped green onion.
Check out more Black American recipes made vegan here.