The Only Reason Southerners Will Ever Use Canned Gumbo

It’s probably not what you think.

Gumbo Sloppy Joes
Photo: Getty Images/rudisill

We've always been big fans of using store-bought and quick-fix shortcuts in the kitchen whenever the need strikes. Work smarter, not harder, as many would say when it comes to occasions like busy weeknights or big-batch cooking. Yet, there are just some dishes that many Southerners refuse to compromise on. Biscuits, for example. If you heard a pop, it doesn't count. Canned biscuits have their own moments, but we don't consider them anywhere near the same thing as the real thing.

Another such classic Southern dish that tends to get people riled up is perhaps the most iconic regional recipe of all time: gumbo. Beyond people having very different ways to make the soulful Louisiana stew—okra or no okra, tomatoes or no tomatoes, shrimp or chicken—that they will fight about forever and ever, something that every Southerner can agree on is that you do not use canned gumbo. It's homemade or bust, even if there are time-cutting tricks and store-bought ingredients used.

All arguments about how to make gumbo properly aside—a vicious battle we don't prefer to be involved in—Southerners have found another reason to buy canned gumbo at the grocery store, and it's definitely not to be put in a bowl and cradled by a piece of skillet cornbread. Canned gumbo has long been used to create Sloppy Joes in the most Southern way possible, and many grandmothers are nodding their heads right now.

While canned Sloppy Joe sauce is out there, Southerners prefer the regional tweak that canned gumbo offers. In fact, taste-wise, it's like a souped-up version of canned Sloppy Joe sauce. Pun intended. At the base, it contains many of the same ingredients such as tomatoes, carrots, bell peppers, and garlic. However, canned gumbo goes even further with way more seasonings (never a bad thing in a Southern crowd) and rice, which has always been a popular addition to Sloppy Joes to help with heartiness. Basically, it's Sloppy Joe sauce on overdrive, and that's exactly the mindset Dolly taught us to live with. More is more.

If you don't believe us, Campbell Soup Company, which has its own canned Chicken Gumbo, has a recipe titled Gumbo Sloppy Joe's on its website. Since the canned stuff doesn't contain much chicken, it's still considered appropriate to use ground beef. To try the method out for yourself, start per usual by browning ground beef and onions. Incorporate one can of gumbo. Add a tablespoon of yellow mustard and more seasonings if preferred. Serve over hamburger buns or Texas toast. In less than half an hour, you can have a classic family meal with a Cajun twist on the table.

As long as canned gumbo isn't being eaten out of a bowl, many Southerners are happy.

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