Inspired by classic New Orleans gumbo, this Instant Pot Gumbo recipe is made with vegetarian ingredients and features fresh veggies, warm spices, and plenty of flavor! Quick and easy to make, it’s the perfect gluten free, budget-friendly meal prep recipe for every occasion. Serve it on its own or over rice or cauliflower rice.
What Is Gumbo?
A staple in Louisiana cuisine, gumbo is a warm, hearty stew commonly served over rice. There are many variations of the dish. However, it commonly contains some kind of mixture of sausage, meat, seafood, and vegetables. Although gumbo is most commonly associated with Louisiana, its exact origins are still unclear. You see, the word “gumbo” comes from the African word “gombo” which can be translated to mean okra which is a staple ingredient in the dish. However, some argue that gumbo was derived from bouillabaisse, a French fish stew.
No matter its origins, gumbo starts with a roux to which vegetables, seasonings, protein like andouille sausage and shrimp are added. Once combined and simmered, they are served over a mound of rice in order to absorb the excess liquid and served warm.
Traditional Gumbo vs. Vegan Gumbo
Clearly, traditional gumbo recipes are not vegan. However, with just a few substitutes, we were able to maintain the warm smoky flavor without any meat. Instead of meat, we opted for lentils, which are naturally high in plant-based protein and fiber. The end result is a hearty meal that’s super filling and loaded with nutrients!
What’s the Difference Between Gumbo and Jambalaya?
Commonly confused, gumbo and jambalaya are not the same things. As mentioned, gumbo is a roux-based stew full of veggies. Meanwhile, jambalaya is a stew that contains vegetables, meat like chicken breast or chicken thighs and sausage, stock, and rice. Similar in taste and texture, the easiest way to tell the two apart is by the use of rice. You see, gumbo is served over rice whereas jambalaya has rice stirred into the dish.
Simple Vegan Ingredients
Made with budget-friendly pantry staples and plenty of vegetables, this Instant Pot gumbo is so tasty you won’t even realize it’s good for you! Here’s everything you’ll need:
Note: Traditional gumbo does not include tomatoes. However, we found that including them (specifically fire-roasted varieties) helps add texture and enhances the dish’s smoky flavor without the need for meat.
- Olive Oil – Used to sauté the vegetables and add a boost of healthy omega fats.
- Veggies – A combination of red or green bell pepper, onion, celery stalks, fire-roasted tomatoes, and okra add tons of flavor along with vitamins, nutrients, and fiber to this Instant Pot gumbo.
- Flavor Enhancers – Garlic, thyme, smoked paprika, Cajun seasoning, dried oregano, cayenne pepper, Tabasco, a bay leaf, salt, and pepper combine to create a warm, hearty gumbo with lots of depth and smokey flavor but zero meat.
- Apple Cider Vinegar – The acidity will help brighten the dish and enhance the flavor.
- Red Lentils – A type of legume, lentils are naturally high in fiber and plant-based protein. We like to use red lentils for this vegan gumbo, because they tend to cook down and have a softer texture than their black or green counterparts. However, any lentils you have on hand can be used.
- Broth – We use vegetable broth to create the broth. If you aren’t following a vegan diet, chicken broth would work just as well for a vegetarian gumbo.
- Roux – Non-dairy butter and gluten free all-purpose flour are combined to create a roux to thicken the gumbo.
- Rice – Technically optional, we include cooked rice or cauliflower rice for serving.
- Toppings – We love to add chopped cilantro and sliced jalapeños on top of our gumbo as garnish for a boost of fresh flavor and a bit of heat.
How to Make Instant Pot Gumbo
Prep Tip: Roast the Okra. Technically, this step is optional but helps prevent the texture of the okra from becoming gummy and enhances its flavor. Roast fresh or thawed okra on a baking sheet in the oven until it is slightly crispy and browned around the edges.
Note: If preferred, you can skip the oven, and roast your okra in the air fryer instead!
- Sauté the Veggies. Heat your Instant Pot on SAUTE mode, and add the oil, onion, garlic, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until the veggies are soft and the garlic is fragrant. Then, stir in the thyme, paprika, Cajun or creole seasoning, oregano, and cayenne, and sauté for 1 more minute.
- Cook. Stir in the apple cider vinegar, lentils, broth, fire-roasted tomatoes, and hot sauce. Place a bay leaf on top. Cover the Instant Pot with the lid, make sure the vent is closed, select the MANUAL mode, and cook on high pressure before allowing the Instant Pot to natural release.
- Make the Roux. While the Instant Pot comes to pressure, whisk the butter and flour together in a small pot over medium heat, stirring frequently. Note: You’ll know the roux is ready when it turns a light brown color similar to butterscotch. It cooks quickly. So, keep a close eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn!
- Add the Remaining Ingredients. Remove the thyme steps from the vegan gumbo. Then, stir in the roux and roasted okra. Adjust the seasonings to taste, and keep warm. Serve over cooked rice or cauliflower rice!
If you don’t have an Instant Pot, don’t worry! You can make this Instant Pot gumbo just as easily on the stovetop as well!
- Create the Roux. Heat a dutch pan over medium heat. Add the butter and flour, and whisk together. Cook for 10-15 minutes or until light brown, stirring frequently. Be careful not to burn!
- Sauté the Vegetables. Add the onions, celery, bell pepper, and garlic to the pan, and sauté until soft and fragrant.
- Boil. Add the remaining ingredients except for the tomato sauce, salt, and pepper, and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the lentils are cooked through.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients. Stir in the tomato sauce, and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Season to taste, and serve warm. Note: Adding too much salt to the lentils while cooking can ruin the texture. So, adjust the salt content after the vegan gumbo is fully cooked.
Make a Slurry. A slurry can be used in place of the roux by whisking together 2 Tablespoons of water with 2 Tablespoons of arrowroot starch or cornstarch.
Avoid the Burn Notice. A common complaint with Instant Pot gumbo is that it triggers a burn notice on the device. To avoid this from happening, be sure the mixture is not too thick. If needed, add an additional 1 cup to 1 ½ cups of broth.
Season Appropriately. Don’t add salt to lentil gumbo BEFORE pressure cooking! Doing so can ruin the texture of the lentils causing them to become tough.
A great meal prep option, Instant Pot gumbo can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week or in the freezer for up to 6 months. When you’re ready to eat, let it thaw in the fridge overnight. Then, warm it over medium heat on the stovetop, or pop it in the microwave for a few minutes until your desired temperature is reached.
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Do you have questions, feedback, or tips about this recipe? Leave a comment below with any questions or feedback you’d like to share!