Sweet Potato, Okra, and Chickpea Gumbo

By Rip Esselstyn

Recipe by Fat Free Vegan: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com 

Peanut butter is the secret ingredient here; it really elevates the gumbo to something special. Leave it out only if you absolutely have to avoid the approximately 1.3 grams of fat it provides. To deepen the flavor without making a roux, I cook the onions until they begin to caramelize. A pinch of baking soda speeds up this process.



  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large green pepper, chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic clove, chopped
  • 8 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans diced tomatoes (fire-roasted preferred)
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 14-16 ounces sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
  • 16 ounces okra, trimmed and sliced
  • 1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce (I use a favorite hot sauce that isn’t as spicy as Tabasco)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (smoked or regular)
  • 2 teaspoons thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke flavoring
  • 1 tablespoon natural peanut butter



  1. Heat a large pot. Add the onions and a pinch of baking soda (optional but speeds browning). Cook, stirring, until onions brown, adding water by the teaspoon if needed to prevent sticking.
  2. Add the pepper, celery, and garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
  3. Add the water or vegetable broth and tomatoes, stirring to combine.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients except the liquid smoke and peanut butter.
  5. Simmer, uncovered, until sweet potatoes are tender and just close to falling apart, at least an hour to give flavors a chance to mingle.
  6. Just before serving, stir in the liquid smoke and peanut butter (it helps if you mix the peanut butter with a couple tablespoons of the hot broth first).
  7. Remove bay leaves and serve over rice.


Rip Esselstyn is a mission-driven man. As a swimmer at the University of Texas at Austin, he was a three time All-American. As a professional athlete, he was one of the premier triathletes in the world for more than a decade. As a firefighter for the Austin (TX) Fire Department, he helped people and saved lives. As a friend to other firefighters, he transformed the way Austin’s Engine 2 ate to save firefighters’ health. Now, as the author of The Engine 2 Diet, he is teaching people the irrefutable connection between what they put in their mouths and their ability to reach their ideal weight and their ideal health. Recently, he has teamed up with Whole Foods Market as a Healthy Eating Partner to raise awareness for Whole Foods Market team members, customers, and all of America about the benefits of eating a Plant Strong diet composed of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds.

Rip comes from a family steeped in medicine. His great-grandfather, George Crile, co-founded the world-renowned Cleveland Clinic, where his father, Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, Jr., was chief of the breast cancer task force and completed one of the most extensive studies ever conducted on the relationship between the heart and diet–proving that a plant-based diet can stop, prevent, and even reverse heart disease.  

Rip serves on the Board of Directors for The Wellness Foundation, EarthSave’s Meals For Health Program, and the AllergyKids Foundation.

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