Gumbo and Warfarin

Publication Date: 
Mon, 02/01/2016
By: Alere Staff

Gumbo, a dish famous in Louisiana, is a thick, dark soup that contains a mixture of rice, vegetables, meat or seafood or sometimes both.1 The three things that you will find consistent about gumbo is that there will always be a variety of ingredients, the soup will be thickened and rice will be included.1 A bowl of gumbo can be enjoyed anywhere by anyone but as a patient on warfarin, you will wonder how it may affect your INR levels. Staying consistent in your vitamin K intake is important and, depending on the ingredients involved, it is good to look at gumbo closely.

The origin of gumbo is uncertain as it has been a part of Louisiana kitchens since before there were written records. It’s not even certain whether the dish is particularly Cajun or Creole.1 One of the first documented references of gumbo was found around 1803, when gumbo was served at a gubernatorial reception in New Orleans.2 Despite all the various possibilities, writers recognize gumbo as a dish with African American roots. Although different aspects from different cultures were eventually brought into the dish, the soup is West African in character, resembling many of the okra-based soups found in Senegal.1

Gumbos can be loosely categorized into three types: seafood gumbo, poultry and sausage gumbo and gumbo z’herpes, a meatless soup that was created for Lent.1 A gumbo does not have to fit particularly into either category and measurements do not have to be exact with ingredients changing according to what is available in the kitchen. There are even old references of gumbo being made with owl and muskrat.1,2 The constant variety available with gumbo is why you would need to stay on your toes when reviewing the ingredients of the particular soup you are enjoying. For now, we will focus on three different recipes of gumbo in regards to vitamin K content: Creole gumbo, cajun gumbo and gumbo z’herpes.

The recipe for traditional Creole gumbo is based on a number of gumbos served in New Orleans.3 The ingredients include blue crab, oysters and shrimp, all of which are considered low in vitamin K. Most gumbos will be thickened with either a dark, oil-based roux (animal fat and flour mixed together) or with okra.1 While many flours are considered low in vitamin K, okra is not. About one cup of cooked okra contains about 64 micrograms of vitamin K. Other ingredients to be aware of in Creole gumbo include celery, onion, bay leaves, garlic, tomatoes and, in particular, tomato paste which is has about 29.9 micrograms of vitamin K per cup.

Another gumbo recipe that calls for more poultry and sausage is Cajun gumbo.4 Just like in Creole gumbo, many of the meats included are considered low in vitamin K. These proteins include chicken, various sausage, ham, shrimp and crab meat. Again, the ingredient to be most aware of are the variety of pepper, celery, onions, garlic, various spices including thyme and basil and, of course, okra. While you may not get a full serving of fresh basil within your bowl of gumbo, it is still good to be aware that it is considered high in vitamin K with 414 micrograms per 3.5 ounces.

The gumbo recipe that warfarin patients must be aware of the most is the usually vegetarian gumbo z’herpes.5 While some recipes include vitamin K low ingredients like ham and onions, the main ingredients of this gumbo is all the greens. Some of these greens include: spinach, collards, mustard greens, turnip greens, watercress, chicory, parsley and green cabbage. Recipes vary, but gumbo z’herpes can include up to five of these greens that are all considered high in vitamin K.

Whether you are celebrating Mardi Gras, visiting the south or just enjoying a bowl of gumbo, remember to consider the different ingredients you are mixing together in the bowl. Luckily for warfarin patients, the rice included with gumbo, whether white or brown, is low in vitamin K.


  1. Huntsman, M. W. History of Gumbo. What’s Cooking America. 2014. Retrieved from the website:
  2. Dry, S. A Short History of Gumbo. Southern Foodways Alliance. 2015. Retrieved from the website:
  3. The Galloping Gourmet. Creole Gumbo. 2016. Retrieved from the website:
  4. Food Network Specials. Cajun Gumbo. 2016. Retrieved from the website:
  5. Lagasse, Emeril. Gumbo Z’herbes. The Essence of Emeril. 2001. Retrieved from the website: