Lucy’s Signature Summer Seafood Gumbo

Summer gumbo from Gulf Coast restaurant impresario Lucy “LuLu” Buffett’s new cookbook

Photo: Angie Mosier

“Just about everybody who grew up on the Gulf has a story about their mother’s gumbo, or their grandmother’s,” says Lucy “LuLu” Buffett. Jimmy Buffett’s “crazy sista,” from Mobile, Alabama, is no exception. “As kids, we’d go see my grandmother once a week. She’d make all sorts of things: potato salad, cake… But there was always gumbo—and she was a great cook.”

Buffett was watching closely on those childhood visits, though she wouldn’t put what she’d learned to use until 1998, when she returned home and opened her first restaurant, LuLu’s Sunset Grill, on Weeks Bay in Fairhope, Alabama. In 2003, she moved the restaurant to Gulf Shores, and laid the groundwork for a casual-dining empire. Now, Buffett is releasing her third cookbook, the summery, eclectic Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life, out this week.

“A few years ago, I had this lightbulb moment of, wow, look at all the different cuisines along our Gulf—Mexican, Tex-Mex, Cajun, Creole, Old Florida, all the way down to Cuban,” Buffett says. Gumbo Love collects more than a hundred Third Coast recipes from Buffett’s restaurants and her family recipe box, ranging from tres leches cake and sweet-and-savory picadillo to classic shrimp remoulade and broiled oysters with lemon-garlic butter. Of course, gumbo is still the star of the show—the book includes five iterations, including the recipe she learned as a child.

“My grandmother’s old-fashioned gumbo is a crab and shrimp gumbo with tomatoes and okra—what some people call a summer gumbo,” Buffett says, owing to the seasonal seafood and fresh vegetables. “It’s still the one I make most often.”

It takes courage to make a gumbo, and you’ve got to rustle up plenty more qualities along the way to achieve a successful end result. But like any character-building exercise, your experience and wisdom deepens with every step, until you reach a profound sense of satisfaction by the end of the process.

—Lucy “LuLu” Buffett, Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life


  • Lucy’s Signature Summer Seafood Gumbo (Serves 14-16)

    • 3 lb. medium wild-caught Gulf shrimp, heads on

    • 2 lb. cooked blue crab claw meat, picked through for shells, handled carefully to keep the meat in big chunks

    • 4 large ripe tomatoes, or 1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes with their juices

    • 3/4 cup vegetable oil or bacon grease

    • 1 cup all-purpose flour

    • 2 large onions, coarsely chopped

    • 1 bunch celery, coarsely chopped, including leaves

    • 2 green bell peppers, coarsely chopped

    • 8 cups shrimp or seafood stock, heated

    • 2 to 3 tsp. sea salt, or to taste

    • 1 tbsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 2 tbsp. dried thyme

    • 4 bay leaves

    • 1 tsp. dried oregano

    • 1 tsp. dried basil

    • 2 tbsp. LuLu’s Crazy Creola Seasoning (recipe follows), or other Creole seasoning

    • 1/4 cup hot sauce

    • 2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

    • 4 blue crab bodies, if available (optional)

    • 2 1/2 lb. fresh okra, chopped into 1/4-inch pieces, or thawed frozen cut okra

    • 2 cups finely chopped green onions

    • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh parsley

    • 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

  • LuLu’s Crazy Creola Seasoning (Makes 1/2 cup)

    • 1 tbsp. sea salt

    • 2 tbsp. granulated garlic or garlic powder

    • 4 tsp. granulated onion or onion powder

    • 1/4 cup paprika

    • 1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper

    • 2 tsp. cayenne pepper

    • 2 tsp. white pepper

    • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme

    • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano


  1. For Lucy’s Signature Summer Seafood Gumbo: Peel and devein the shrimp. (If you’re making your own stock, reserve the heads and shells to make the stock.) Refrigerate the shrimp and crabmeat until ready to use.

  2. Fill a medium saucepan with water. Bring to a boil. Carefully drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and cook for 1 minute. Remove with a slotted spoon and let them cool. The skins will slip off easily. Remove the cores and coarsely chop the tomatoes over a bowl to retain as much juice as possible. Set aside. (If using canned tomatoes, chop each tomato into eighths and return them to the juice in the can.)

  3. To make the roux, in a large stockpot (about 10 quarts), heat the vegetable oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, gradually add the flour, whisking continuously, and cook, stirring and adjusting the heat as necessary to keep it from burning, until the roux is a dark mahogany color, 25 to 35 minutes. Be careful: if the roux burns, you will have to start all over again.

  4. Add the onion to the roux and stir for 2 to 3 minutes. (The onion will sizzle and steam when it hits the hot roux, so caution is advised. All seasoned gumbo cooks have roux battle scars on one or both arms.) Add the celery and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the bell pepper and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 to 3 minutes more. Add the heated stock and the tomatoes with their juices. Stir in the salt, black pepper, cayenne, thyme, bay leaves, oregano, basil, Creole seasoning, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring the gumbo to a boil and cook for 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer. Add the crab bodies (if using) and simmer, uncovered, for about 1 hour. Add the okra and bring the gumbo to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to maintain a slow simmer and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, or until the okra has lost its bright green color and cooked down like the other vegetables. If the gumbo gets too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, continue to simmer it, uncovered.

  5. Add the green onion, parsley, and lemon juice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes. Add the shrimp and crabmeat, mix well, and cook for 2 minutes. Cover and turn off the heat. Let it sit for at least 15 minutes more to cook the seafood. The gumbo will stay hot for a long time. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings; serve over cooked white rice with French bread and butter.

    *For Lulu’s Crazy Creola Seasoning
    Combine all the ingredients and store in an airtight container.

Recipe from Lucy Buffett, excerpted from her cookbook Gumbo Love: Recipes for Gulf Coast Cooking, Entertaining, and Savoring the Good Life