Jambalaya is a classic one-pot recipe filled with chicken, sausage, shrimp, and rice. Completely irresistible, this easy recipe includes all the classic flavors of true Cajun/Creole cooking like Cajun seasoning and starts with finely diced onion, bell pepper, and celery – the holy trinity of Cajun cuisine. Learn all about this representative New Orleans dish, including how it’s made below!
This is the best jambalaya recipe you will ever make – guaranteed! So delicious and so easy to make, it may appear overwhelming at first glance, but it’s actually quite easy to make once you get started. Plus, everything cooks in the same pot, making it perfect for busy weeknights.
In this version, you’ll find chopped onion, celery, and bell peppers, juicy chicken, shrimp, andouille sausage, and delicious Cajun spiced tomato rice. It practically springs from the pot with its awesome mouthwatering flavors.
Spicy, smoky, comforting, and filling, it’s hard to pass up a bowl of this New Orleans classic.
What is Jambalaya?
Originating in Louisiana with French and Spanish influence, Jambalaya is a rice dish made with meat and vegetables. 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. Typically you’ll find fewer vegetables, lots of rice, and a variety of different cooked meats.
What’s in Jambalaya
Jambalaya is a savory rice dish consisting of meat (pork, chicken, or rabbit), seafood (shrimp, crawfish, crab), various seasonings (Cajun seasoning, salt, black pepper, Italian seasoning, cayenne, crushed red pepper), vegetables (onions, celery, bell peppers, tomatoes, and sometimes, okra), chicken stock, and rice.
How to Make Jambalaya
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grab a large Pot or Dutch oven and set it over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil or butter and sear the sausage rounds on both sides for approximately 1-2 minutes. Remove the seared sausage to a clean plate and set it aside.
If you are using raw sausage (i.e. non-smoked sausage) you’ll want to cook your sausage whole, first. Once it’s cooked, you can remove them from the pan to slice.
2. Meanwhile, add the chicken to a large bowl and season with Cajun seasoning, salt, and black pepper. Set the same pot that was used to sear the sausage over medium-high heat and cook the chicken until just cooked. Remove to a clean plate and set it aside.
- You may use chopped chicken breast or chicken thighs.
3. Return the same pot back to the stovetop and set it over medium heat. Add about a tablespoon of olive oil and the minced onions, bell peppers, and celery. Cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often.
When cooking the onions, bell pepper, and celery (aka “holy trinity” or mirepoix) the goal is to cook them low and slow. This will sweeten, rather than char or brown them.
4. Add the garlic, Cajun seasoning, salt, black pepper, cayenne powder, Italian season, and red pepper flakes. Cook for an additional minute or so, stirring continuously.
This recipe is spicy. If you are sensitive to spicy foods, omit the cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes.
5. Combine the canned tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, white rice (thoroughly washed and drained), and low-sodium chicken broth. Bring to a simmer then cover and reduce heat to low.
6. Allow the rice to cook. This can be done on the stovetop or in the oven:
- Stovetop: 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.
- Oven: Transfer pot to the oven and bake for approximately 25 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked. Stirring every 5 minutes is not necessary.
7. Cook the shrimp. I like to cook the shrimp in a separate skillet. This prevents overcooking and keeps the shrimp nice and juicy.
If you prefer to cook your shrimp in the same pot as everything else, wait to add the raw shrimp until after you’ve returned the chicken and sausage and added the okra. Cover and transfer to the oven to cook for 5-10 minutes (or until shrimp is cooked through).
8. Once the rice is nearly cooked, gently stir in the shrimp, sliced okra, chicken, and sausage. Gently mix to combine. Cover and continue to cook on low (or in the oven) for an additional 5-8 minutes.
9. Remove from heat. Season to taste and serve garnished with chopped parsley, hot sauce, and chopped green onions.
What to Serve with Jambalaya?
Here are some of the most popular side dishes to serve with Jambalaya.
- Cornbread – handsdown the most popular side dish
- French bread with butter
- Corn on the cob
- Collard greens
- Green salad
- Tomato salad
- Hush puppies
- Fruit salad
- Cheddar biscuits
Frequently Asked Questions
Typically bright red from all the added seasoning, andouille sausage bursts with spicy flavor. They are delicious.
Substitute with a different variety of smoked sausage, Mexican chorizo, kielbasa, or skip the sausage completely.
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 the usual garlic powder, onion, black pepper, and Cayenne pepper.
Yes. This recipe is absolutely spicy. If you prefer a more mild dish, omit the cayenne pepper and red chili flakes. On the other hand, if you really love spicy foods, feel free to add a diced jalapeño at the same time as the holy trinity or garnish with hot sauce at the end of cooking.
While I do not have personal experience making this recipe with brown rice, if you choose to try it with brown rice, note that the cooking time will be longer (about 15 minutes more) and you will need additional water.
Alternatives to fresh okra include frozen okra (thaw before adding) or file powder. And although technically, it isn’t traditional to Jambalaya, I love the flavor.
No. Jambalaya is a rice dish with various meats and vegetables.
What is the “holy trinity” of Cajun cuisine?
The “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking, or simply “trinity” to some, is an aromatic mixture consisting of finely diced onion, celery, and green or red bell pepper. It is the Cajun/Creole version of a 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.
Gumbo vs Jambalaya
The easiest way to remember the difference between Jambalaya and Gumbo is that Jambalaya is, at its core, a rice dish (much like paella). Gumbo, on the other hand, is more of a soup with rice that is cooked separately and served on the side. Like Jambalaya, Gumbo contains a mix of vegetables and meat and some kind of shellfish, like shrimp or crawfish, but the overall stock is thinner, almost like a broth.
Learn more: What is Gumbo?
Creole vs. Cajun Jambalaya
When it comes to jambalaya, there are two main categories: Cajun and Creole. The main difference between the two focuses on the order in which the ingredients are cooked and whether tomatoes are used (or not).
- Creole Jambalaya “red jambalaya”– Creole Jambalaya includes tomatoes and (usually) includes shrimp. Typically, the chicken and the sausage are 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 with lots of delicious smoky and 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.
Can You Freeze Jambalaya?
Technically, yes. If you plan to freeze leftover jambalaya – shrimp and all – keep in mind that, once reheated, the shrimp will likely be quite chewy and tough and the rice will probably be extra mushy.
If you don’t mind chewy shrimp and mushy rice, be sure to bring your leftovers to room temperature (or cooler) before transferring them to freezer-safe bags, removing as much air as possible. Freeze for up to two months or so.
If you don’t like chewy shrimp and mushy rice, you may want to cook less shrimp upfront and cook new shrimp whenever you decide to defrost and reheat your leftovers. As for mushy rice, the best way to prevent this is to freeze the rice before it’s fully cooked.
Reheat frozen jambalaya one of two ways – on the stovetop or in the microwave.
On the stovetop, place the bag in a pot of hot water (not boiling water), and allow the jambalaya to slowly start to thaw. Drain the water and place the slightly thawed jambalaya in the pot with a few tablespoons of hot water or chicken broth. Cook over low heat, stirring often until warmed through.
In the microwave, transfer the jambalaya to a microwave-safe container with a few tablespoons of hot water or chicken broth. Cover with a damp paper towel. Microwave at 30-second increments, stirring between each, until warmed through.
Have you tried making this Jambalaya Recipe?
Tell me about it in the comments below! I always love to hear your thoughts. And tag me #theforkedspoon on Instagram if you’ve made any of my recipes, I always love to see what you’re cooking in the kitchen.
- 3 tablespoon 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
- 3 tablespoon Cajun seasoning - divided and adjusted to suit your own personal taste/heat preference
- 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
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne - optional
- 1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 (14 ounce) can diced/crushed tomatoes
- 2 teaspoon 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
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C).
- Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a large stockpot or Dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Add the sliced sausage and cook for approximately 1 minute per side. Remove to a clean plate and set aside.
- Add the chicken pieces to a large bowl and season with approximately 1 tablespoon of Cajun seasoning, salt, and pepper. Return the stockpot or Dutch oven (used to brown the sausage) to medium-high heat. Add 1 more tablespoon of olive oil and add the chicken. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until chicken is cooked. Transfer the chicken to a clean plate and set aside.
- To the same pot set over medium-low heat add the last tablespoon of olive oil. Add in the minced onions, bell pepper, and celery, mixing well to combine. Cook for 8-10 minutes, or until softening, stirring frequently.
- Add the minced garlic, Cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne, Italian season, and red pepper flakes. Mix well and continue to cook for an additional minute.
- Mix in the crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, white rice, and low-sodium chicken broth with the softened veggies. Mix well to combine. Bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low and cover with a tight-fitting lid
- Cook for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the rice is nearly cooked through, gently stirring every 5 minutes to prevent the rice from burning and sticking to the bottom of the pot (see note – how to cook your rice in the oven).
- As the rice cooks, add 2 tablespoons of butter and sear the shrimp for 2 minutes on each side in a large skillet set over medium-high heat.
- When the rice is nearly finished cooking, stir in the shrimp and the sliced okra, and return the chicken and sausage back to the pot. Gently mix to combine with the rice. Continue to cook on low, stirring as needed, until the shrimp is cooked, approximately 5-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat. 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.)