Jambalaya is a classic spicy New Orleans dish loaded with sausage, chicken, and shrimp. This hearty and meaty dish is made in one pot with rice, the holy trinity of vegetables, Cajun spices, hot sauce, and tomato broth. This dish is so flavorful and comforting, you can enjoy it any time of the year.
WHAT IS JAMBALAYA
What a wonderful dish is this Jambalaya, so full of flavor! It’s a meaty and flavorful rice dish cooked in one pot with vegetables and spicy Cajun seasonings. It originated in the New Orleans region long ago but the exact origins of creation are a little hazy.
Most common belief is that the Spanish settlers were trying to recreate paella with locally available ingredients. There is also some influence from African, Caribbean, and French cuisines seen in the ingredients because all those cultures were settling the area at the time.
Even though meats and seafood change from household to household, from restaurant to restaurant, the most common meat to include in jambalaya is andouille sausage, chicken, and shrimp. Andouille sausage is the staple in Creole and Cajun cooking and you should definitely use this sausage for a more authentic flavor. It is a spicy sausage so if you cannot tolerate the spicy, use another smoked sausage that is less spicy or not at all.
Every jambalaya has the holy trinity of onion, celery, and bell peppers. After that, you decide on the meats like sausage, chicken, and shrimp. Don’t forget the long grain white rice, Cajun seasoning, and hot sauce. Authentic jambalaya is full of flavor and spice so try not to skimp on that unless you really can’t handle spicy foods.
CAJUN JAMBALAYA VS CREOLE JAMBALAYA
There are two most common types of jambalaya, Creole and Cajun. While both are very similar, there are a couple of notable distinctions. The main differences are in the use of tomatoes and the order in which to cook the ingredients.
Creole – this jambalaya includes tomatoes and starts by cooking vegetables first, then adding meat and cooking them together. Then, you would add rice, tomatoes, broth, and seasoning. Everything is stewed together until rice is fully cooked.
Cajun – this style is also known as brown jambalaya because of the lack of tomatoes and the brown tint from searing meat first. When you let the sausage and chicken brown and caramelize first, it will add more flavor into the whole dish and give it a little brown tint. You just have to make sure not to crowd the meat pieces so it browns, or sear it in batches.
Personally, I like the combination of both styles because the meat browning process does add a lot of flavor to the dish. I also love the addition of tomatoes to bring all the flavors together.
Jambalaya vs Gumbo
If you’re wondering about the difference between jambalaya and gumbo, I’m here to help too. Gumbo is actually soup while jambalaya is more of a stew/casserole. In jambalaya, rice will be cooked right along all other ingredients and in gumbo, rice is cooked and often served separately.
HOW TO MAKE IT
Sear – Preheat a Dutch oven that’s large enough for the jambalaya over medium heat and add some oil. Add sliced sausage and sear it until it’s brown. You can add chicken right to the sausage or take the sausage out and cook the chicken alone. (You will need to add the sausage back once chicken is browned.)
Holy trinity – once the meat is browned, add in the diced onion, bell peppers, and celery and mix it together. Let it cook together until vegetables are softened.
Rice – add rice and mix it in. Cook it all together for a couple more minutes.
Stock, tomatoes, and seasoning – pour in stock, crushed tomatoes, Cajun seasoning, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and salt. Mix everything together and bring to simmer over medium-high heat. Once it starts to simmer, lower the heat to low, cover and cook just until rice is tender.
Hot sauce – add a couple of dashes of hot sauce, mix it in well and taste. This is where you decide is you want to add a little more heat or not. If you like it spicy, add a little more hot sauce. NOTE: andouille sausage is spicy, so when you bite into it, you will feel it!
Shrimp – mix raw shrimp into the jambalaya, cover with a lid and cook for about 5-6 minutes. (Large shrimp will take a little longer and small shrimp will take a little less.)
Serve – garnish with a little bit of fresh parsley and serve your delicious dish!
MORE SPICY OR LESS SPICY
You can easily control how spicy your jambalaya will be by using different kinds of sausage and the amount of hot sauce.
Andouille sausage does have a kick to it but it’s also the authentic sausage to use in Cajun cooking. If you can’t handle much spice though, feel free to substitute another smoked sausage that is not spicy.
Hot sauce is another authentic touch to this classic dish but you can easily regulate how spicy the final result will be. Use more or less hot sauce depending on your personal tolerance. Or, you can omit the hot sauce all together if you don’t want the extra spice.
STORING AND REHEATING INSTRUCTIONS
Make sure to store any leftovers in the refrigerator. You can use the same pot it was cooked in or transfer it into another air-tight food storage container. Make sure to cool jambalaya to room temperature before refrigerating. Properly stored, it will be good for up to 4 days.
Jambalaya is good reheated too. Rice will be softer because it tends to absorb a lot of liquid but the flavors will still be there. You can reheat individual portions in the microwave or reheat the whole pot on the stove, over medium-low heat. When reheating on the stove, cover the pot with the lid and stir from time to time. If the rice absorbed too much liquid, you can add a little more chicken stock while reheating.
SOME MORE RECIPES TO TRY
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- 2 tbsp canola oil
- 1 lb chicken thigh or breast meat
- 12-14 oz andouille sausage
- 1 yellow onion
- 2 bell peppers
- 2 celery ribs
- 1 cup uncooked long grain white rice
- 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 2 tsp Cajun seasoning
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp salt more or less to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-4 dashes hot sauce
- 1 lb raw shrimp
- fresh parsley for garnish
- Preheat a Dutch oven that’s large enough for the jambalaya over medium heat and add some oil.
- Add sliced sausage and sear it until it’s brown. You can add chicken right to the sausage or take the sausage out and cook the chicken alone. (You will need to add the sausage back once chicken is browned.)
- Once the meat is browned, add in the diced onion, bell peppers, and celery and mix it together. Let it cook together until vegetables are softened.
- Mix in uncooked rice and let it cook for a couple of minutes.
- Pour in stock and crushed tomatoes. Mix well and add the Cajun seasoning, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, and salt. Mix everything together and bring to simmer over medium-high heat.
- Once it starts to simmer, lower the heat to low, cover with a lid, and cook just until rice is tender. (Leave a little crack for the steam to escape.)
- Add a couple of dashes of hot sauce, mix it in well and taste to decide if you need more hot sauce. (NOTE: andouille sausage is spicy, so when you bite into it, you will feel it!)
- Stir in raw shrimp into the jambalaya, cover with a lid, and cook for about 5-6 minutes. (Large shrimp will take a little longer and small shrimp will take a little less.)
- Garnish with a little bit of fresh parsley right before servings.