Gumbo Z'Herbes

Gumbo Z'Herbes

I have a single memory of this gumbo – I was in Mississippi for my great-grandmother’s funeral.  I arrived a skinny kid with a strong Long Island accent and bronze skin – I left with a chocolate complexion, slight drawl, expert toad-catching skills, and beginnings of a pot belly.  I didn’t want to leave.

The food was abundant and all delicious, but one dish really stuck out – particularly because at age 5 I just knew that I-did-not-like-vegetables. But, the smell from that black pot was too much to resist.  And the flavor?  The greens were tender and the broth was a salty, tangy, porky elixir that lingered on the palate, but in a good way.

Many years later I got my hands on a copy of the The Picayune's Cookbook and lo and behold, there was a recipe for Gumbo Z’Herbes.  It came out really good.  I later got my hands on Madame Leah Chase's "And I Still Cook".  BINGO.  

The problem with traditional Gumbo Z’Herbes is that is exceptionally high in sodium.  In fact, the pickled meats used are so salty that no added salt is needed for the recipe.  And I am telling you, pickled pig’s feet are VERY salty.

Enter one of the new “stars” of clean eating – bone broth.  The broth is derived from slowly cooking meat bones in water, skimming and straining until you are left with a clear liquid.  Bone broth is different from stock in that it uses almost no meat – just the bones, vegetables, and spices.  It is dense, flavorful, and the perfect base for Gumbo Z’Herbes.  You can recreate the tang of pickled meat with a splash of apple cider vinegar and a little heat.

It ain’t Madame Chase’s, but it is good. And you don’t have to use pickled pigs feet.


1 bunch fresh leaf spinach (not baby)

1 bunch mustard greens

1 bunch turnip greens (not bottoms)

1 bunch collards

1 bunch Swiss chard

1 bunch kale

1/2 head cabbage

1 bunch beet tops

1 bunch green onions

2 small sweet onions, peeled and chopped

8 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tbsp. canola oil

2 cups chicken or pork bone broth (hyperlink to post), homemade or low sodium

¼ cup apple cider vinegar

Pinch salt

Pinch crushed red pepper

Black pepper to taste


1. Bring 2 cups of bone broth (hyperlink to recipe) to room temperature or warm slightly in a saucepan on the stove.

2. Using a large colander or salad spinner, thoroughly wash all of the greens.  Set on clean towels to dry.

3. Chop all of the greens into medium- mall pieces and place in a large pot.  Add one cup of water and one tablespoon of the cider vinegar.  Bring to a boil. Cover and lower to medium-low heat.

4. Heat the canola oil in a skillet to medium heat.  Add the onions and garlic, and sauté until the onions are translucent and slightly brown at the edges.  Deglaze skillet with another tablespoon of cider vinegar and a splash of the bone broth, scraping the bottom of the pan while you bring it to a boil.  Add the entire contents of the skillet and one cup of the bone broth to the greens, put the heat on low, and cover.  Cook for about 45 minutes until the greens are tender. 

5. Once the greens are deep colored and tender, add the remaining bone broth until you get a stew-like consistency.  Add a pinch of salt, crushed red pepper, and black pepper. 

Gumbo Z’Herbes can be enjoyed as a side or main dish, depending on how hungry you are.  It goes great with any kind of bread, but I prefer cornbread.