Classic Louisiana gumbo recipes may vary, but are generally seafood gumbos and contain both stock and a roux. The roux is a mixture of olive oil and flour, while the stock will contain water, a seafood item such as shrimp heads, crab, and assorted vegetables like celery, garlic, bell peppers, okra, lemon, basil, bay leaves, creole seasoning and black pepper. It may also be topped with lemon slices and chopped green onions, and served with rice or as a soup.
Classic Louisiana gumbo could also contain chicken and sausage instead of shrimp and crab, though seafood ingredients are more common.
Gumbo is so embedded in Louisiana culture that the word is used to describe the way in which Louisiana is considered a melting pot. The word itself originates from the West African word for okra, which is "ki ngombo." Okra is not in all gumbo recipes, but it is used in many as a way to thicken the stew. Ground sassafras, known as file powder, is also a traditional gumbo ingredient. The roux is in all recipes as a base, as is the so-called trinity of onion, celery and bell peppers. Some restaurants and chefs add duck, turkey, or steak to gumbo, but green gumbo is made without meat for Lent.