Kamala Harris’ Chef Shares Her Famous Vegan Gumbo Recipe

|Updated May 2, 2022
Instagram / @blackberrysoulrene

Chef Rene Johnson is no stranger to making show-stopping vegan meals for political powerhouses. She’s been cooking for some of the world’s dignitaries for over two decades, including Vice President Kamala Harris, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Governor of California Gavin Newsom, and others.

Johnson is known for serving up healthy southern-inspired comfort food made vegan – such as collard greens, sweet potato waffles, old-fashioned grits, butter beans, cobblers, and decadent pies. All without any animal products, including eggs or dairy.

“I want everyone to know going vegan isn’t as hard as you think it is. Take baby steps on your vegan journey. Going vegan doesn’t mean no flavor,” Johnson says. “Vegan and soul food are a dynamic combination.”

She loves preparing healthier vegan soul food dishes inspired by cooking in her grandmother Katherine's kitchen. Make her big bowl of vegan gumbo and share it with your loved ones.

Kitchen Needs

  • 1 Super large pot
  • 1 Chopping board
  • 1 Cutting knives
  • 1 medium-size pan

The Big Ol’ Pot Gumbo Made Vegan

Serves 8


  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 medium bell pepper chopped
  • 1 whole bunch of celery (including leaves) chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon-- Chopped garlic
  • 1 leek stalk thinly sliced
  • 1 bulb fennel chopped
  • 4 to 5 sticks of fresh oregano

For the Seasoning Mix

  • 6 whole bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon granulated onion
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons gumbo file

For the Roux

  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic

For the Stock

  • 5 1/2 cups of water
  • 1 vegan chicken bouillon

For the Cajun

  • 1 can of kidney beans, discard liquid
  • 1 lb. mock fried tofu shrimp
  • 1 lb. impossible Italian sausage sliced

For the Fried Mock Tofu Shrimp

  • 1 container of firm tofu- Liquid removed (Remove liquid from tofu by placing a heavy item on it for 1 hour. Once the liquid is removed slice in ½ inch sticks.)


  1. In a large stockpot, add 5 1/2 cups of water, then add vegan bouillon, add salt, granulated onion and garlic salt, and bay leaves. Boil for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat, add vegan links, cook for about 10 mins till you see the color of the oil change and the links start to brown. Add onions, bell pepper, and celery, leeks, fennel, garlic cook till tender. – I absolutely love this combination, I always eat a plate of it.
  3. Transfer links, veggie mixture, and kidney beans to a large stockpot and continue to cook while you make your soup.
  4. Next, make your soup: Roux is usually made with 50/50 oil and flour. Heat 3/4 cups of oil in a heavy skillet on high for about 5 minutes until it begins to smoke, gradually add flour, continue to stir until plants brown, (stir constantly) for about 2 to 4 minutes (feel free to use a timer if you need) Roux should be about the color of dark honey, maybe a bit brighter, but not much.
  5. Then add salt, pepper, smoked paprika, chili powder, cumin, and gumbo and continue stirring for 1 to 2 minutes.
  6. Then add the roux mixture to a large stockpot. Bring to boil for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes more.
  7. Next slice tofu in ½ inch sliced, sprinkle olive over, salt, pepper, granulated garlic, and paprika over them. Place seasoned tofu in corneal fully covered set on a dry plate for 10 minutes to make sure they are well coated.
  8. Pour 1 cup canola oil into a medium-size skillet, and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, drop coated tofu in oil fry till golden brown for 5 to 7 minutes.
  9. Remove from heat set aside. Serve alongside a scoop of rice topped with fresh scallions.

Important: Taste your gumbo for salt preference and then you are ready to eat.


Calories 664 | Total Fat 40.8g | Saturated Fat 9.4g | Sodium 927mg | Total Carbohydrates 45.8g | Dietary Fiber 10.6g | Total Sugars 1.8g | Protein 30.2g | Vitamin D 0mcg | Calcium 254mg | Iron 8.5mg | Potassium 682mg |