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Wild Game Gumbo

venison gumbo recipe

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

God bless the Creole and Cajun cooks who gave the rest of us the notion of gumbo: A spicy, rich Mulligan stew of… whatever is handy. This gumbo is my own version, and while I may break some Louisiana laws by doing so, my gumbo has both tomato paste and okra. Sue me.

This is the dish I make when I have some old game meats lurking in the freezer. So long as they have been vacuum-sealed, there is no reason you cannot use meats that are more than a year old — they will not be as nice as younger meats, but hey, that’s what this gumbo is for.

Venison Gumbo

The critical factor in making this gumbo is time. You need to take your time searing the meats, take your time making the roux, and take your time cooking the gumbo. It might take 4 hours for some tough cuts to submit. Just drink a few beers and relax; it’ll all come out well in the end.

If you are not a hunter, your cooking time will be less. I would suggest the following combination: turkey legs and thighs, some pork shoulder, slab bacon or a ham hock, smoked sausage of some sort (andouille is perfect), and maybe some brisket.

The other key thing here is file powder, which is powdered sassafrass. It is an important flavor component here, and the file (FEE-lay) needs to be added at the end of the process. If you cannot find it, do without. But be sure to look at least before you omit.

I have no idea how many people this will serve, because I tend to eat off it all week. Like many stews, this gumbo is better the next day. And the next.

Serves 8 to 12.

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: At least 3 hours, maybe more

  • 3 to 4 pounds of venison or other game meats
  • 1 cup peanut oil, lard or bacon fat
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 large minced green peppers
  • 2 minced medium onions
  • 4 minced celery stalks
  • 6 minced cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 3 quarts game stock, chicken stock or water
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound smoked andouille sausage, cut into rings
  • 2 tablespoons file powder
  • 2 green onions and 1-2 tablespoons chopped parsley per person


  1. Combine the tomato paste with the stock in a pot and bring to a gentle simmer.
  2. In a Dutch oven or large pot, add the cup of oil to the pot, and turn the heat to medium-high. Whisk in the flour, and stir this frequently until it turns the color of chocolate. You can go as dark as dark chocolate brown, but under no circumstances can you let this roux burn. Keep in mind that this takes time, maybe 15 to 25 minutes of frequent stirring.
  3. When the roux is ready, add the peppers, onions, celery and garlic and stir to combine. Cook this, stirring often, for 6  to 8 minutes, until the veggies are soft.
  4. Meanwhile, mix all the dry spices together except the file powder.
  5. When the veggies are soft, ladle in the stock with one hand while stirring with the other. Stir in each ladle of stock before adding another. Turn the heat to high to bring the gumbo to a boil.
  6. Add half the spices, stir to combine, and add the meats. Tast and add more salt or spices if you want. Drop the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for at least 90 minutes, but probably more like 3 to 4 hours. Check the status of the meats every half-hour after 90 minutes have elapsed. When the meats are about falling off the bone, fish them out and when they cool enough to handle them, pick the meat off the bones. Return the meats to the gumbo and add the andouille. Cook for another 15 minutes or so.
  7. Add the file powder, the green onions and parsley. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes more. Serve with rice or all by itself.

More Venison Recipes

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20 responses to “Wild Game Gumbo”

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  3. brent

    This sounds very yummy. How do you think duck breast and/or goose legs would do in gumbo?

  4. Eric

    Just made this one using venison rib meat…. It is awesome! I screwed up a little adding the okra too early and couldn’t find file…. Still a winner.

  5. Paul

    What is file powder? Being a Northerner never heard of it.

    A Flatlander

  6. will

    Making the roux in the oven is a nice trick it eliminates the need to stand over your oil and flour mixture and stir. One quick whisk 30 mins in and after 60 mins total you’ve got beautiful dark reddish brown roux with no hint of bitter burnt flavor. 350 degs….

  7. Dan

    Hank, sounds like an awesome recipe, going to try it this weekend with some waterfowl andouille I made recently. Quick question: you say 3-4 lbs of meat, but later talk about taking it off the bone. Do you use 3-4 lbs of bone+meat or just meat? Going to try it with the last of last year’s goose and want to get the ratio at least sort of close :)

  8. Grant McClintock

    “The dish likely derived its name from either the Bantu word for okra (ki ngombo) or the Choctaw word for filé (kombo).” Wiki. I lived in Louisana for 15 years. I always heard that without okra it ain’t gumbo.

  9. Mike

    I do not see the okra listed of the ingredients. How much do you add and when? Thank you,going to try this recipe with venison and pheasant.

  10. Brooke

    When do you sear the meats? Along with the vegetables or do you sear the meat alone? Being from KS, I have never had gumbo before but am going to try this recipe for supper tonight, using meat from a fawn my husband shot a couple weeks ago. I hope I don’t burn it!

  11. Derek

    I think the confusion is in the initial description you say you use both tomato paste and okra. “so sue me”. And you also say you need to take your time searing the meats…

    So if you do use okra, how much to add?


  12. Dylan

    Hey Hank!
    I just got Hunt, Gather, Cook and I’m digging it! But I’m making this recipe today with some roadkill fawn, ground elk and a couple of coots (skinned). I had a few questions… First, do you brown all the meats before adding them to the roux, and would this work for the coots (I usually make veggie gumbo where this isn’t a problem…)? Also, do you think that gumbo is to overpowering of a flavor to use wild mushrooms in? They might get lost huh? Keep doing what you do!

  13. Dylan

    oh yeah, what about cocoanut oil instead of lard?

  14. Dylan

    thanks Hank! You da man…

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