Okra Gumbo

Time 2 hours
Yields Serves 6
Matzoh balls serve as the starch in Michael Twitty's okra gumbo, featured in his "KosherSoul" food memoir.
(Photos by Andrea D’Agosto, Prop Styling by Jennifer Sacks / For The Times)
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This okra gumbo puts a vegetable-forward spin on the classic Southern dish. With the addition of matzoh balls (see Matzoh Balls recipe), it makes a perfect plate for Passover Seders.

Food historian Marcie Cohen Ferris serves as the inspiration behind these combined recipes. Her 2010 book “Matzoh Ball Gumbo” explores the food traditions of Southern Jews, including the influence of Black Southerners and Black women in particular. Not so much a fusion as an homage of flavors, this matzoh ball gumbo helps preserve those little-known food stories from the Deep South, and highlights the culinary traditions that extend across the African and Jewish diasporas. You can compare it to soup and dumplings from Jamaica, or omo tuo from Ghana. Make the matzoh balls first so they have time to rest while you prepare the gumbo.

The gumbo recipe calls for potato starch instead of flour, which requires additional stirring, but thickens into a nutty, golden-brown roux. Chicken broth and diced tomatoes lend the finished gumbo their umami, with a Creole spice blend that brings a subtle yet lingering heat.

Michael Twitty’s second book “Koshersoul” explores the links between Black and Jewish culinary traditions with conversations, personal essays and recipes, including a matzoh ball gumbo.

April 11, 2024

From Michael Twitty’s “Koshersoul” food memoir, this recipe for matzoh balls is perfect for Passover Seders.

April 11, 2024

Creole Seasoning
Okra Gumbo

For the Creole seasoning: Mix all ingredients thoroughly; store in a cool, dry place. Keeps for six months.


Make the gumbo: Bring the broth to a boil and set aside on low heat. Add 3 tablespoons canola oil to a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onion, bell peppers, celery, and garlic; stir and cook until the onion softens and becomes translucent, approximately 5 minutes.


Add tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, until the paste has darkened in color. Remove the vegetables and set aside in a bowl. Add the remaining ⅓ cup canola oil to the same pot and heat over medium heat for about 30 seconds. Next, make a roux by whisking in the potato starch, stirring constantly until it gently browns and has a slightly nutty aroma, approximately 15 minutes. You want it to be a dark blond or caramel color without burning it. Reduce the heat as necessary.


Maintaining the reduced heat, add 1 cup of the broth. The roux will sizzle a bit, so be careful. Whisk the mixture until smooth. Add the cooked vegetables and tomatoes. Stir the mixture until combined. Add an additional cup of vegetable broth. Stir in the okra, the thyme, and the Creole Seasoning. Finally, add the remaining 4 cups of broth. Cover and continue to simmer for 1½ hours, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasonings, if necessary.

If making Matzoh Ball Gumbo, dish up two to three matzoh balls per bowl, garnish with scallions and serve hot.

From “Koshersoul: The Faith and Food Journey of an African American Jew” (HarperCollins) by Michael Twitty.