Its almost Fat Tuesday, but you can celebrate in a low-fat way.

Mardi Gras (French for "fat Tuesday") is the day before Ash Wednesday, and an occasion for a New Orleans-style party.

Traditional Louisiana gumbos can be revamped into healthful meals full of disease-fighting ingredients. Special seasonings and cooking techniques eliminate the high levels of fat and calories while preserving the rich taste and smoky flavor.

Although not technically a gumbo, the classic New Orleans dish of red beans and rice is a close relative.

The following version calls for a small amount of meat and chicken stock, but eliminating the meat and using vegetable broth will make Red Bean Gumbo a meatless dish appropriate for Lenten meals.

Red Bean Gumbo

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Makes 8 servings.


  • 1 lb. dried red kidney beans (about 2 cups), picked over and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1/2 cup chopped green bell pepper
  • 4 oz. chopped turkey ham
  • 1 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. ground red pepper, or to taste
  • 1 tsp. salt, or to taste (optional)
  • 8 cups fat-free, reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups hot cooked rice (see Note)
  • fil powder, to accompany gumbo (optional)
  • a few drops of hot sauce, or to taste (optional)


  1. About one hour before preparing the gumbo: In large container or pot, cover beans with boiling hot water to at least 2 inches. Cover and let stand until beans have swelled to at least twice their size and have absorbed most of water, about 1 hour. Drain beans, discarding soaking liquid.
  2. In a large, heavy pot, heat oil until hot. Add onion and garlic and gently saut until onion is translucent and garlic is soft, taking care they do not brown. Add celery and bell pepper and saut 1 to 2 minutes more, stirring frequently. Add ham and lightly saut.
  3. Mix in herbs, seasonings, broth and beans. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  4. Note: Although white rice is the traditional accompaniment, for extra nutrition, use brown rice.

Nutritional Information Per Serving:
303 calories,
4 g. total fat (less than 1 g. saturated fat),
50 g. carbohydrate,
17 g. protein,
11 g. dietary fiber,
742 mg. sodium

Diabetic Exchanges: 3-1/2 Bread/Starch, 2 Medium-Fat Meat