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Pirate Alley Gumbo 🏴‍☠️

Ahoy matey! No need to walk the plank today 'cause we're cooking up the Seven Seas of gumbos, Pirate Alley! Named for the famous passage near Saint Louis Cathedral and Jackson Square, this scrumptious gumbo is a standout due to the rare addition of white fish! I've taste-tested this one with lifelong New Orleanians and they've ALL given it an enthusiastic three thumbs up! (Wait, where'd that third thumb come from?)

NOTE: The alley in the recipe title has been known variously as Pirate Alley, Pirates Alley (Google Maps and New Orleans' 911 system calls it this), Pirate's Alley, and Pirates' Alley. I go with Pirate Alley because it is grammatically superior to Pirates Alley and I think it has the most literary ring to it. Also when the name of the passage was changed in 1964 from Orleans Alley South the street signs said "Pirate Alley." How 'bout them pirates? Er, apples? 🍎 🍏 🍎

From "The Infinite Feast: How to Host the Ones You Love—Recipes from the Big Easy . . . and Beyond" by Brian Theis, 2020 Click here for more on my best-selling cookbook!

Pirate Alley Gumbo

Makes 12 servings

2 tablespoons plus 1/4 cup canola oil

1 pound fresh okra, ends trimmed, cut in 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 large onion, chopped

3 ribs celery, chopped

1 green bell pepper, chopped

5 cloves garlic, minced

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

3 cups chicken broth (with salt)

1 (28 ounces) can crushed tomatoes

1 (15 ounces) can diced tomatoes

2 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 pounds firm white fish: cod, bass, grouper or snapper, cut in 3/4-inch cubes

1/2 pound lump crabmeat, cleaned

1 teaspoon gumbo filé

Cooked rice for serving

In Dutch oven or large pot, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add okra, cook, stirring occasionally till bright green, about 4 minutes. Transfer to plate, set okra aside. Wipe out pot thoroughly.

Make the roux: to Dutch oven, over medium heat, add 1/4 cup oil. When oil is hot add flour. Whisk constantly for about 15 minutes till you have a peanut butter-colored roux.

Add the trinity of onion, celery, bell pepper plus garlic, cook till softened about 4 minutes. Stir in thyme, cook 1 minute more. Add broth, deglaze pan. Add all tomatoes, bay leaves, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cayenne. Stir to combine, bring to a simmer, partially cover.

Simmer gently till thickened and reduced by about half, 50 to 60 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add fish, crabmeat, cooked okra. Simmer till fish is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Do not boil.

Remove bay leaves, stir in filè and serve over hot rice. 🏴‍☠️


In 1958's King Creole, in perhaps his most accomplished movie performance ever, Elvis (Danny Fisher) is chased through Pirate Alley by his nemesis, Maxie's, henchman.

Have a bowl of gumbo, Maxie!

🏴‍☠️ 🏴‍☠️ 🏴‍☠️

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