Jambalaya is a classic one-pot recipe filled chicken, sausage, shrimp, and rice. Easy to prepare and completely irresistible, this Jambalaya Recipe includes all the classic flavors of true Cajun/Creole cooking including cajun seasoning and starts with finely diced onion, bell pepper, and celery- the Holy Trinity of Cajun Cooking. Learn all about this representative New Orleans dish, including how to make Jambalaya, below!
The Best Jambalaya Recipe
Jambalaya is a special kind of comfort food. At least if you ask me.
Unlike many cold-weather classics that sometimes fall flat, this easy and delicious Jambalaya recipe practically bursts from the pot with mouthwatering flavors. Filled with the holy trinity of Cajun/Creole cooking (onion, celery, and bell peppers), juicy chicken, shrimp, andouille sausage, and delicious Cajun-seasoned tomato rice, it’s easy to fall in love with this amazing New Orleans classic.
What is Jambalaya?
Originating in Louisiana with French and Spanish influence, Jambalaya is typically made with meat and vegetables mixed with rice. Traditional recipes almost always have some kind of smoked sausage (such as andouille sausage), in addition to one or two other meats. The vegetables, a mixture known as the “holy trinity”, usually consist of onion, celery, and green bell pepper. And while this “holy trinity” of vegetables is added to Jambalaya, traditional Jambalaya recipes are not usually vegetable-heavy. In other words, traditionally one would have found a pot with far more meat and rice than veggies.
Authentic Jambalaya Recipe Ingredients
- Andouille sausage
- “Holy Trinity” of Cajun/Creole cooking (onion, celery, bell pepper)
- Cajun seasoning
- Salt + Pepper
- Cayenne pepper
- Italian seasoning
- Red pepper flakes
- Worcestershire sauce
- White rice
- Chicken broth or chicken stock
- Parsley + Green onions
The list…isn’t short. I know. However, the ingredients (at least for the most part) are pretty simple. If you can’t find something or prefer to skip an ingredient altogether, no problem!
What is andouille sausage? What’s a good substitution?
Typically bright red from all the added seasoning, andouille sausage bursts with delicious spicy goodness. It is amazing. If you’re not a fan, feel free to substitute with a different smoked sausage variety, Mexican chorizo, kielbasa, or skip completely.
I only have Creole seasoning, can I use this in place of Cajun seasoning?
Yes. Cajun seasoning and Creole seasoning are very similar to each other. The primary difference between the two is that Creole seasoning typically contains additional paprika, sweet basil, celery seed, oregano, and white pepper in addition to garlic powder, onion, black pepper, and Cayenne pepper.
Is this Jambalaya spicy?
Yes. This recipe is absolutely on the spicier side. If you prefer a more mild dish, simply omit any additional cayenne pepper or chili flakes. On the other hand, if you really love spicy foods, feel free to add a diced jalapeno with the holy trinity or garnish with hot sauce at the end of cooking.
What is the “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking?
The “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking, or “holy trinity” or simply “trinity” to some, is an aromatic mixture consisting of finely diced onion, celery, and green or red bell pepper. It is, essentially, the Cajun/Creole version of mirepoix, or soffrito.
- Soffrito (also known as mirepoix)- a simple base made from finely diced vegetables (the mix of vegetables will vary by country and cuisine) that are cooked in butter or oil, low and slow as to sweeten the ingredients rather than caramelize them.
- “holy trinity”– a Cajun mirepoix of onions, celery, and bell pepper.
What type of rice is best for jambalaya?
Use any type of long-grain white rice. This includes regular long-grain white rice, basmati, or jasmine rice. Do not use enriched rice or minute rice, or any type of short-grain white rice.
I can’t find okra, now what?
Technically, okra isn’t traditional to jambalaya recipes. However, I love the flavor. You may also add frozen okta, just be sure to thaw before adding. Of course, you may also leave it out or replace it with file powder.
How to make Jambalaya
1. Pick your sausage.
Depending on the sausage you purchase will determine if you should cook the sausage first whole and separate from the chicken, or, if you can pre-slice and sauté with the chicken. I purchased Cajun sausage that wasn’t smoked (and therefore raw) so it needed to be cooked whole first to prevent it from falling apart while cooking. If you use smoked sausage, simply slice and cook with the chicken.
2. Brown the meat.
Add olive oil or vegetable oil to a large stockpot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sausage (if you are using smoked sausage) and chopped chicken pieces. Sprinkle with a heaping tablespoon of Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper, to season. Cook for approximately 6-8 minutes, stirring as needed to evenly cook the chicken and prevent burning. Transfer the chicken and sausage to a clean plate and set aside.
- You may use chopped chicken breast or chicken thighs.
3. Cook the “holy trinity” low and slow.
To the same pot over medium heat add the last tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the minced onions, bell pepper, and celery, mixing well to combine. Sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. We want to cook the vegetables to sweeten, rather than char or brown them.
Add the minced garlic, Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne, Italian season, and red pepper flakes. Sauté for an additional minute.
- If you are sensitive to spicy foods, omit the cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes.
4. Cook the Rice.
Add the crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, (thoroughly washed and drained) white rice, and low-sodium chicken broth to the pot. Stir well to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked through.
- To prevent the rice from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot, stir every 5 minutes or so.
5. Add the shrimp and okra (optional).
Once the rice is fully cooked, stir in the shrimp and the sliced okra, mixing well to combine. Continue to cook on low, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked, approximately 5 minutes. Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot and season with additional salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning, to taste. Remove from heat.
- Always thaw your shrimp (and okra if using) before adding to the cooked rice. This will help eliminate the extra water (from thawing) to be released into the pot, turning your perfectly cooked rice into a soggy mess.
6. Garnish and serve.
Serve warm garnished with chopped parsley and green onion if desired. Refrigerate leftovers in a sealed container for up to 4 days.
RELATED: Slow Cooker Jambalaya Stew
Now, depending on who you ask this recipe may or may not be considered “authentic”. Actually, just kidding, it’s not 100% authentic because I included okra which is typically reserved for gumbo, but I’ll get to that in a sec. Anyway, while researching Jambalaya and learning all these fun and fantastic facts for you guys, I learned that there are actually two primary methods for making this magical one-pot meal.
- Creole Jambalaya “red jambalaya”– Creole Jambalaya includes tomatoes and (usually) includes shrimp. Typically, the chicken and the sausage is added to the pot and cooked together with the “holy trinity”.
- Cajun Jambalaya “brown jambalaya”– unlike Creole Jambalaya, this version does not contain tomatoes. The meat is browned in the pot first, leaving bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pot, giving this version a deep brown color and lots of delicious added caramelized flavoring.
This jambalaya recipe is a mix of the two. I’ve added tomatoes (Creole) but browned the meat (Cajun). I decided to take the best of both and mix them into one.
RELATED: Easy Dirty Rice Recipe (Cajun Rice)
What is the Difference Between Jambalaya and Gumbo?
This is a really fantastic question. Although quite similar, there are several major differences between Jambalaya and Gumbo.
The easiest way to remember the difference between Jambalaya and Gumbo is that Jambalaya is, at its core, a rice dish (much like paella). Of course, it also has protein, vegetables, and sometimes tomatoes, which combine with rice and chicken stock, simmer together and make one big happy pot of spicy rice.
Gumbo, on the other hand, is more of a soup. Like Jambalaya, Gumbo contains a mix of vegetables and meat and some kind of shellfish, but the overall stock is thinner, almost like a broth. In addition, the rice is cooked separately and added when served.
Which actually brings me to my next question…
What is the Difference Between Jambalaya and Paella?
After visiting Spain a million years ago I fell in love with their signature rice dish, Paella. It wasn’t until I started learning about Jambalaya, however, that I ever even considered a connection between Spanish and New Orleans cuisine, let alone Jambalaya and Paella. So what’s the difference?
There are several differences between Jambalaya and Paella.
- Paella uses short-grain Spanish rice while Jambalaya uses long-grain rice.
- The primary seasoning in Paella is saffron.
- Paella is cooked in a wide, flat pan which causes the rice to crisp around the edges. Jambalaya is cooked in a large pot or Dutch oven.
- Traditional Paella is cooked on a fire, where Jambalaya is cooked on the stove.
Am I totally blowing your mind yet? Or am I the only one fascinated by all this food history?
What to Serve with Jambalaya?
Jambalaya is one of the very best stand-alone meals. With so much bold and delicious flavor, it has everything you need all in one pot.
If you’re looking for something to serve with this delicious main dish, my advice would be to keep it simple. No strong or overpowering flavors. Honey cornbread or warm French bread would be fantastic options in addition to a light salad.
You may also want to serve it with a fruit salad.
Since jambalaya is typically quite spicy, I definitely suggest pairing with a drink or cocktail that is cool and refreshing. An ice-cold Mojito or Gin and Tonic (or even a beer) would be my top picks.
More Rice Recipes,
If you try cooking this Easy Jambalaya Recipe, please leave me a comment and let me know! I always love to hear your thoughts.
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- 3 tbsp olive oil - divided
- 1 pound Andouille sausage - (or any smoked sausage)
- 1.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken breasts or thighs - chopped into 1-inch cubes
- 2 medium yellow onions - diced
- 1 green bell pepper - seeded and diced
- 1 red bell pepper - seeded and diced
- 3 stalks celery - diced
- 6 cloves garlic - minced
- 3 tbsp Cajun seasoning - divided and adjusted to suit your own personal taste/heat preference
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne - optional
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 14 ounces (1 can) diced/crushed tomatoes
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1.5 cups uncooked long-grain white rice
- 2.75 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 cup okra - thinly sliced (or 1 tsp file powder)
- 1 pound raw shrimp - peeled and deveined
- fresh chopped parsley - to garnish
- chopped green onion - to garnish
- Brown the meat. Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sausage, chicken pieces, and 1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper and sauté for 6-8 minutes. Stir occasionally to cook evenly and prevent burning. Transfer the chicken and sausage to a clean plate and set aside.
- The "holy trinity". To the same pot over medium-low heat add the last tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the minced onions, bell pepper, and celery, mixing well to combine. Sauté for 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the minced garlic, Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne, Italian season, and red pepper flakes. and sauté for an additional minute.
- Rice. Add the crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, white rice, and low-sodium chicken broth to the pot. Sit well to combine. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked through, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent the rice from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Add the shrimp and okra (optional). Stir in the shrimp and the sliced okra, mixing well to combine. Continue to cook on low, stirring frequently, until the shrimp are cooked, approximately 5 minutes. Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot and season with additional salt, pepper, and Cajun seasoning, if desired. Remove from heat.
- Garnish. Serve warm garnished with chopped parsley and green onion if desired. Refrigerate leftovers in a sealed container for up to 4 days. Enjoy!
(Nutrition information provided is an estimate and will vary based on cooking methods and specific brands of ingredients used.)