Mardi Gras Mambo

Fried Chicken Gumbo for Brunch

My friend Kit Wohl featured a version of this over-the-top, unconventional gumbo in her book “New Orleans Classic Celebrations.” She said Chef Gary Darling of the Taste Buds dreamed up the recipe to compete in a Tennessee Williams Festival throw down. 

As gumbo is our “cold” weather mothers’ milk and fried chicken, especially Popeyes, is a Mardi Gras standard, either or both make perfect “sense” when hosting an all-day parade brunch. Any fried chicken will work in this hearty concoction but a shortcut using Popeyes chicken tenders is my time saving preference.

  1. If using full pieces of fried chicken instead of tenderloins, remove the skin from the fried chicken and discard. Remove chicken meat from the bone and discard the bones, fat, and any tendons.
  2. Chefs and wise cooks call it their mise en place, it literally means “set in place,” and it refers to having all your ingredients prepped and ready to go before you start cooking. Onions are diced, spices are measured, and broth has been portioned. When working with roux it is particularly important to have everything prepped and organized before beginning because you cannot leave the roux unattended for even a minute. Turn on some music, secure a beverage, and keep your phone close at hand if that’s your jam. 
  3. Serve gumbo over warm rice or cool potato salad.

Fried Chicken Gumbo

Serves 18-20

4 quarts salt-free chicken stock, plus additional for thinning the final gumbo if needed

1 1/2 cups vegetable oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

2 large yellow onions, finely chopped

4 ribs celery, finely chopped 

3 green bell peppers, finely chopped

1 pound andouille sausage (I like the andouille from Wayne Jacob’s Smokehouse in Laplace, which is available for purchase at the smokehouse or online at, casing removed, sausage cut into1/4-inch half-moons

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon dried sage, rubbed

1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

16-piece box Popeyes skinless fried chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces, use either mild or spicy as desired

hot, cooked white rice or creamy potato salad for serving

1. Heat the chicken stock. Cover and keep warm.

2. In a large (8 quart) cast-iron pot or Dutch oven set over medium-low heat bring the oil to the smoking stage. Test the oil by wetting your fingers lightly with water and shaking a few droplets into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is hot enough. Begin sifting the flour into the oil while whisking constantly until the flour is dissolved into the oil and the mixture becomes the consistency of cake batter. Switch from the whisk to a flat-bottomed wooden roux spoon. Stir constantly. The roux will begin to thicken slightly and darken. The desired color is dark mahogany brown, 20-30 minutes. 

3. As the color gets to one shade lighter than where you want it to be, start adding the minced onions. Continue stirring until the onions soften, turn translucent and then start to caramelize. Add the celery and the bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are translucent and tender. The roux will continue to darken.

4. Gradually add the hot chicken stock to the roux mixture, stirring to incorporate well.

5. Add the andouille sausage, if using.

6. Add the rosemary, sage, thyme, and cayenne. Stir well and let simmer, covered, over low heat for 30 minutes

7. Add the chicken and any crumbs of batter. Simmer for at least 15 minutes. Taste the gumbo before adding additional salt or seasoning: both the andouille and the chicken tenders are packing heat and salt. 

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