The best roux for gumbo gets as close to burnt as possible without actually burning. Typically, this means standing and stirring a concoction of equal parts butter and flour over heat until it slowly, slowly darkens into a deep, glossy dark chocolate color. And indeed, most Instant Pot gumbo recipes have you do just that: stand next to the pot, whisking on the sauté setting, for an eternity.

Now—she said, in extreme infomercial voice—what if I told you there was an easier way? That you could have a medium-dark roux in twenty minutes, with only four minutes of whisking? 

Although the Instant Pot is actually equipped to let you know when food is close to burning but not yet burnt, it’s a feature most people avoid taking advantage of because it can seem a little risky. When it reaches a certain temperature, the Instant Pot will beep, display the word “Burn” (or in some models, “OvHt” or “Food Burn”), and turn off the heating element. But, as the product’s website says, “The burn warning does not mean your meal is ruined.” It’s a fail-safe, designed to stop the cooking before burning occurs.

By following this recipe, you’ll get a medium-dark roux in about half the time it typically takes, and to do it properly, you’ll probably have to trigger the burn warning. 

Adding onions halfway through the browning process introduces just enough moisture to allow for pressurization without preventing the roux from continuing to darken. A sprinkle of baking soda helps, too. I found that sometimes I was actually able to get through this recipe without triggering the burn notice, probably because of the high water content of the onions. Every time, the roux ended up a lovely, medium-dark brown.

Once you have your roux, you just add the rest of your vegetables, stock, chicken, sausage, and seasonings. Another ten minutes at high pressure, and you’ve got a giant pot of gumbo, ready for holiday family gatherings, playoff football, Christmas basketball, or whatever gathering you’d rather be enjoying than stirring a batch of roux.

Note: this roux method is best attempted by experienced Instant Pot users. If you are just starting out, I’ve provided the standard method.

instant pot gumbo

Photograph by Jenn Hair

Instant Pot Gumbo

½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted in the microwave*
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 onion, diced small (you must have at least 1 ½ cups onion; more is fine, less is not)
1 pinch baking soda (advanced method only)
1 green pepper, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
3 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or up to the “Max Fill” line on the interior of your IP (do not overfill)
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, trimmed of fat and cut into bite-size pieces
1 pound smoked sausage links, such as andouille
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon cayenne powder (or more to taste)
1 ½ teaspoons salt, plus more for seasoning
1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
Cooked white rice and hot sauce, for serving

Beginner’s Instant Pot Roux:

  1. Add melted butter and flour to the pot. Set the pot to sauté. Whisk constantly until the roux is a rich, dark brown, but not yet burnt. Add the onion as well as the green pepper, celery, and garlic, and continue with step 5, below.

Advanced Instant Pot Roux:

  1. Set Instant Pot to sauté on high. Once it has finished preheating, add the melted butter; when it starts to sizzle, whisk in the flour. Whisking constantly, take the roux to a caramel color, 4-6 minutes.
  2. Turn off sauté function. Add onions, stirring occasionally with a rubber spatula until they stop sizzling, about 3 minutes. This will both cool the mixture and cook the onions slightly. Do not skip this step.
  3. Add a pinch of baking soda, stir, spread the onions in an even layer over the bottom of the Instant Pot, and replace the lid. Set the Instant Pot to pressure cook on low pressure for 1 minute. If you get the “burn” notice immediately, release the pressure manually, remove the lid, and let the roux cool a little bit more before trying again. Note: you will most likely not get the Instant Pot to achieve full pressure before you get a “Burn” notice. That is fine. That is the goal, even. The Instant Pot is pressurizing before it achieves full pressure, which is all you need.
  4. Once you get the “burn” notice, manually release the pressure. Stir the onions. Not dark enough for you? Wait for the onions to stop sizzling—about 3 minutes—and pressurize again. Repeat until the roux is dark to your liking.
  5.  Add the green pepper and celery and garlic, stirring, until slightly softened, 2-3 minutes.
  6.  Add the stock, chicken, sausage, and seasonings. Stir. Replace the lid and cook on high pressure for 10 minutes. Allow pressure to come down manually for at least 20 minutes** (or all the way), then release the leftover pressure manually.
  7.  Serve with white rice and hot sauce.

*I find melting butter in the Instant Pot on the sauté setting causes it to pop and splatter and make a huge mess. So I recommend microwaving the butter before you begin making the roux.

**If you don’t let it hang out for a little bit before manually releasing the pressure, it will spew gumbo all over your kitchen. I learned this the hard way.