It just aint Gumbo without
DA ROUX!  (pronounced "ROO")
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1/2 cups each flour and oil,
heavy skillet

 In a pot of 3 to 5 ducks, I consider equal parts 1/2 cup flour and 1/2 cup oil to be a "light" roux.
1 cup of each is a very "heavy" roux and will make it almost gravy like in consistency.
I myself split the difference,  but you should try 1/2 cup of each to start out with.

Real Cajuns frown on a heavy roux, saying gumbo is supposed to be thin, not heavy like gravy.
It tastes great to me both ways but I like it in the middle myself.

1. Chop up several handfulls of onion, celery, and bell peppers and set aside in large bowl.

Its best cooked in heavy skillet that holds heat, preferably seasoned iron.

2. Put skillet on heat and trun to medium high and let skillet warm a bit.
Add oil, then wait for oil to begin moving around, much like frying oil.
Now add flour, it will sizzle, begin stirring it and stir through the lumps until
it is smooth.

3. It may have already begun to turn in color slightly, simply keep sitrring it,
not too fast, just to keep the flour that is touching the skillet moving and
taking turns. Cover the whole skillet bottom with your strokes, dont leave portions of the
skillet bottom unmoved or it will burn in those places.

4. If you see smoke begin to appear, it it too hot, turn it down and move skillet to no heat
and keep stirring until it cools then return to heat when there is only a little smoke.

5. Flour will continue to darken, and at some point, it will undergo a transformation
in which the flour gains a sort of grainy consistency, moving from a paste to more of
sand in oil look  sort of....

6. Keep stirring, after this happens, the roux cooks much faster, and you must watch it
to not let it burn. By now, it is gaing a dark brown color, and you may stop here if you wish.
The longer it cooks, the stronger it will be. Dont try to cook it to Ya Ya if this is your first try.
Ya Ya is for REAL cajuns and you may not like the taste anyway.

7. Cook it to deep brown, when it has arrived at this, add your vegetables to the roux and stir it.

8.Once it calms down,  spoon the mixture into the pot and stir it in......

I began cooling my roux by adding a big can of tomato sauce instead of veggies to it some yeargs ago.
It probably isnt true cajun, but it adds a smokey tomato flavor to the gumbo that is excellent.

Thats all there is to it!
You are on your way to ROUX MASTER!!!!!!!

If you have never cooked roux before, then you better read this below first.....

More than anything else, it's the roux that gives gumbo its particular character. It was probably used simply because it is so inexpensive to make, while offering a very unique flavor on many levels depending on cooking time.
Some people will tell you that roux is roux, others are almost ritualistic about cooking it certain ways.
Who really knows.....
One thing is certain, newcomers are perplexed by roux, it is simple yet  hard at the same time.....

Making roux is something of an art.
No I take that back--- It IS an Art...

You could describe it simply by saying,
"Put equal parts oil and flour in skillet, turn up heat, stir it until flour gets nice and brown"

However that is easier said than done...

It may take some practice to get good results. Flour and oil are CHEAP! Use an  inexpensive oil, and simply make a few batches of roux to get the "feel" of making it. You can discard them, or save them in the freezer. If you burn it, so what?
Toss it out and start over.
DO NOT use a roux that you know is burnt, it will taste awful and you will waste your  ducks.

Why Roux Is So Difficult For Beginners To Make Correctly   (if it really is)

"ROUX" is nothing more than equal parts more or less of oil and flour, mixed together in an open skillet, and cooked until the flour browns to varying degrees of browns and deep reds.....
Roux tastes completely different at different stages of it's cooking.
Flour after all,  is only powdered seed, roux brings out the nutty characteristics of flour,
bringing to the surface a powerful and very unique flavor that cannot be duplicated.

Roux is ROUX, and dat is DAT......

However, cooking roux is something of an art, because the amount of heat you use, the amount of time it takes to cook it,
and type of oil used, and the amount of flour will completely change the nature of its flavor and cooking characteristics.
It is very simple, but amazingly complex.
Roux that appears in the skillet to look just like the last batch, will taste different.
It will be GOOD, but different.
It is almost impossible to cook roux the same consistently, and I dont know why you would want to do that in the first place.
The longer you cook roux, the more powerful its flavor. Sea food is better with a roux that is light, or tan colored,
and not cooked too long.
Dark meats, such as duck,  favor a deeper roux, dark brown to deep red (chocolate).
You can cook a roux until it is so dark that it is almost black, which is called Ya Ya, and is great in gumbo, but hard to do.

Here is a list of the different cooking stages of roux and the colors they will attain.


Type or Name
Color of Roux
Cooking Time
*Blanc or White
3 - 5 Minutes
Light Tan, Khaki
5 - 7 Minutes
Cafe au Lait
15 - 20 Minutes
30 - 40 Minutes
Ya Ya 
Semi Sweet Chocolate
45 - 50 Minutes

These cook times are achieved at  medium to medium high heat,
BUT they are not the only way to cook a roux,
and not necessarily what your times will be.
Paul Prudome, the famous cajun chef, is well known for cooking a roux in minutes,  if not seconds.
He gets his oil VERY hot.
He also smokes his oil in the process, which many veteran roux makers frown on, citing an additional
burnt flavor in the roux that is not enjoyable to some, and unacceptable using some oils.

Simply put, you have to be GOOD with a skillet to get away with this,  and I wouldnt recommend it.

Also, stopping a roux from cooking like this is hard and even dangerous. Roux is extremely hot oil,
and if it splashes on you, it will burn the CRAP out of you.
Take some advice from the already scarred, DONT stir roux and splash it around!
Stir it firmly but gently, having none leave the skillet.
ONE little speck on your  hand and you will know why I say this!!!!!

The way YOU should do it

The other end of the spectrum, cooking it with a lower oil temperature, and taking as much as an hour to cook it, is the way most people cook a roux. This is how you should start in your experiments with roux.

Roux is VERY touchy, or it will BURN quite easily. The darker it gets, the easier it is to burn.  When I say burn, what I mean is that you allow the flour to stay in direct contact with the bottom of the skillet long enough to quickly burn it to black in a thin layer, and it only takes a few seconds for this to happen at high  heat. If you do this, that thin layer of black flour breaks up in your roux as you stir it, causing it to have black specks in it from the burnt flour. In brand new light roux, they are easy to see. As roux darkens in the process they get harder to see, but easier to make happen by accident. If you see this, then it is burnt, throw it out...... The flour is supposed to be cooked by the heat in the oil, NOT the heat directly from the pan bottom.
So you must stir it constantly, and I mean CONSTANTLY on anything but low heat, to keep this from happening.


As you cook the roux, you will see brown patches of flour as it cooks against the skillet. Sometime even deep brown.
Sometimes even dark brown......if you dont stir it absolutely constantly.
This is NOT burned. This is how it cooks, but if they turn BLACK, and you see a little smoke, then you burnt it.
HOWEVER seeing smoke as you cook roux is common, and you may want to pull it off to the side for a few minutes and keep stirring it until it calms down a bit.
It's a fine line, and only cooking on low heat can prevent difficulty.
This unfortunately takes a lot of time, and as you get better, you push the heat, and push the flour,
push it for time with higher heat and more stir strokes.
The secret is DO NOT STOP STIRRING IT....
A wooden spoon is the best for this job, but you can also use a metal spatula or a whisk.
Plastic spatulas melt when you try to use them.... It's HOT stuff!!!!

Today it takes me about 25 minutes to cook a roux to deep red (chocolate).
This temperature is where I am comfortable at.
(Medium high)
You can start out taking longer, in fact I would suggest it, until you get the hang of it..


Something that helps beginners

Anytime you see a recipe call for roux, it will call for equal parts oil and flour.
At these proportions, roux gets "dry" half way through the process in a transformation that takes place in the flour,
and immediately gets hard as heck to stir and keep from burning.
So to remedy this, you can add more oil in the beginning, to make the mixture "wetter" as you cook it.
You cannot add after it is hot, makes a mess.
SO if you wish, to start your first roux, use 1.5 times as much oil as flour.
Then you can just dip it off the final end gumbo.
It wont effect the flavor in a way you can detect, only a real master would know the difference,
and its minimal anyway....(perhaps slightly nuttier but not much if at all)
Most Chefs would say there is NO difference, just more oil.
Later you will probably go to equal proportions as it tightens up the time a bit.

Roux oils and further complicating this task......

I used to tell people that what kind of oil you use for this task doesnt really matter taste wise, even though I knew full well
that it matters quite a bit to the gumbo fanatics. Roux is hard as hell to make for the beginner, so I usually recommend an oil that is difficult to burn, such as vegetable oil. It still makes great roux, (and I use it a lot) and it's easier to do than with others. If you see your  oil starting to smoke, pull it off to the side and keep stirring as it cools a bit and then return to heat,  but turn it down a little.

Other oils that have much lower flash points, also have very distinctive flavors,  that they add to the roux and then gumbo.
Bacon fat with a little lard is the old fashioned way, and it certainly makes for a great tasting roux.

Then there is olive oil, peanut oil, and all the others, that all have their own
distinct flavors and verying degrees of difficulty to use.

Then there is crawfish fat, which is hands down, if you can get it,
one of the most outstanding and flavorful oils you can use to make roux.
But BOY is it ever touchy.....
You  have not lived until you have eaten Crawfish Etoufee.

So different oils will take different kinds of heat. They ALL  work on low heat,
which is good for the beginner, but it takes forever to cook the roux.
Changing the oil for the base roux alone can produce dozens of taste variations in the final gumbo.
My favorite for ducks simply because its easy to get and very tasty is Olive Oil.

Olive Oil is touchy as well, you gotta watch it.... it will go off on you.....
(smoke very easily it's too hot turn it down)

Once a roux has made it to the desired color you wish, you have to stop the cooking process or it will burn if you dont keep stirring it. Some people just pour the hot roux right into the boiling pot of water. I used to do this as well, but it makes a
NUCLEAR ball of steam when you do that, which is laden with oil and flour, that has a super strong odor, and sticks to everything in your house, and I mean EVERYTHING.  You can cook  gumbo outside and remove this problem, and I often do this.

But if you want to do it the civilized way, before you start the roux, cut yourself a nice size bowl of onion, bell pepes and celery in chunks. When the roux arrives, you toss the veggies in and stir like crazy. This serves to cool the roux, but not TOO much, as well as releases the oils from the veggies producing an aroma in your  kitchen that is unrivaled in pleasantness to a cook.
Once it calms on down, you can then spoon it over into the pot of water and stir it up.....

NOW...... As if this wasn't deep  enough already....

SOMETIMES.... and I have no IDEA why this happens..... sometimes when you put your roux into the pot of water,
the oil will immediately separate from  the roux, and rush to the top of the pot, creating a dark colored but clear oil in bubbles that hold a lot of the flour. The oil doesnt emulsify into the pot.
The roux will not mix properly into the stock, you can stir it until next week, but it just wont mix.........

If this happens, your gumbo will NOT taste as good as it could. This is called the "roux separating" and I have never had anyone to tell me why this happens sometimes, but it does. It is a mystery to me, and to a lot of others, why it will sometimes do this. (I'm sure there is a good explanation)  But if this happens, you can continue on, (I usually do). Just wanted to tell you that a good roux will fuse right into the stock and not produce bubbles of oil immediately on the surface that hold the flour......
Now as to how to prevent the occasional roux separation, I havent a clue....
This is the most anxious moment of cooking gumbo....
Is it gonna separate?????
AAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!   Not this time!!!!!!!

About Gumbo  How  To Make Roux  Ingredients  Layering Gumbo  Making Stock  Recipes