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Jambalaya is Louisiana comfort food at it’s absolute best! Made with a rich tomato sauce, spiced to creole perfection, with chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage, as well as vegetables and rice. It’s so hearty, full of soul, and perfect as a quick & easy weeknight dinner to feed your hungry family!
It’s Louisiana Week on House of Nash Eats and we are making some of the best foods and flavors that the Pelican State is known for. This easy jambalaya recipe was an absolute favorite for my family when I was recipe testing and one they have been asking me to make again!
If you are new here, I have an ongoing series that I like to call “American Eats” where I’m exploring the best known foods of each state, one state at a time. Be sure to follow along and check out the recipes I have made from YOUR state! Or leave me a comment and let me know what I should cover when I get there.
Louisiana has a rich food tradition that was influenced by its history as a melting pot of French, African, American and French-Canadian cultures that are reflected in its Creole and Cajun cuisine. The capitol city of Louisiana is Baton Rouge, although the largest city in the state is New Orleans, which is known for its colonial-era French Quarter, raucous Mardi Gras festival, and jazz.
Food from Louisiana is rich and diverse thanks to its incredible culture. They make everything! Sweet beignets, po’ boy sandwiches, gumbo, and étouffée. The list goes on and on! It was brutal to narrow down what I wanted to make and share for the blog this week.
Jambalaya has to be one of my favorite weeknight meals! It is loaded with plenty of protein from chicken, andouille sausage, and shrimp, fiber and nutrition from veggies, AND rice, as well as absolutely bursting with amazing creole flavor!
This Jambalaya recipe is really easy! It’s all made in one pot in under an hour. Perfect for busy families during the week. There’s less to clean in the end, and this jambalaya recipe doesn’t skimp on flavor. It is a little spicy, but the cayenne and red pepper flakes are optional, especially if you have little ones! My heat-sensitive kids (9 and 6) handled it just fine.
- Chicken: I used chicken thighs, and cut them into 1-inch pieces, removing the bones. Thighs add a lot more flavor and are more tender than chicken breasts. But you can use chicken breasts if that’s what you have on hand to use up.
- Andouille sausage: Andouille is a strong-flavored sausage that is essential for jambalaya. Chorizo, kielbasa, or spicy Italian sausage will work too, in a pinch, although they will each impart a slightly different flavor and aren’t as authentic to real Louisiana-style cajun or creole Jambalaya.
- Shrimp: Adds even MORE protein! These are mixed in right at the end so they’re not over-cooked.
- The Holy Trinity: Onion (I used a yellow onion), peppers (both green and red in this case), and celery, of course. I also added chopped green onions for some extra flavor and freshness and because I just love them!
- Garlic: Again, adding an extra boost of flavor. You can definitely tell if the garlic is missing from this dish!
- Tomatoes: Both crushed tomatoes and tomato paste. I wanted the tomato flavor to taste really rich!
- Cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes: These are optional but the kick of heat is so delicious! I definitely recommend adding both.
- Herbs: Thyme and oregano gives a nod to creole foods Italian influences.
- Creole seasoning: A blend of (usually) onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, basil, thyme, black pepper, white pepper, cayenne pepper, paprika, and salt. You can buy store-bought, or try making your own!
- Chicken stock: Stock adds flavor and helps the rice to cook properly so that it becomes nice and soft, and the jambalaya isn’t too dry.
- Rice: White rice is what you’ll need here. Any long grain white rice will work, but basmati or jasmine are both great as well. Just make sure you rinse it well as you can’t rinse the rice after it’s added to the jambalaya.
How to Make Jambalaya
- Brown the meat. Brown the chicken meat and andouille sausage with 1 tablespoon of creole seasoning, salt, and pepper in about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large dutch oven or other heavy duty pot over medium-high heat until cooked. This will take about 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
- Sauté the holy trinity and season. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil and saute the onion, green pepper, and celery for about 8-10 minutes, along with white parts of green onions, and garlic until the vegetables have softened and the onion is turning translucent.
3. Mix in the tomatoes and seasoning. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, creole seasoning, and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
4. Add the broth, red pepper flakes, and simmer. Add the chicken broth and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid is reduced by 1/3.
5. Boil and add the rice. Increase the heat for a bit to bring the jambalaya back to a boil. Add the rice and reduce the heat to medium. Cook for 15-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until rice is done. If the rice isn’t quite done and the bottom of the pot is looking dry, add an extra 1/4 cup of water.
6. Shrimp time! Add shrimp to the jambalaya in the last 5 minutes, and then add the chicken and sausage back to the pot. The shrimp don’t take long to cook and the chicken and sausage will reheat in the same amount of time.
7. Stir and serve. Lastly, stir in remaining green onions. You’re ready to serve!
What kind of sausage should I use?
The traditional jambalaya sausage is the andouille sausage. It’s a spicy red sausage, loaded with flavor and seasoning. However, it can sometimes be tricky to track down andouille sausage at the local grocery stores, although it’s becoming more and more readily available and I found it at every supermarket I went to.
If you run into trouble locating some though, I’d suggest substituting a strong flavored sausage like Mexican or Spanish chorizo, a German or Polish sausage like kielbasa, and in a pinch, even a spicy Italian sausage will do! If you’re feeling adventurous, you can try to make your own andouille sausage. If you don’t want to mess with the casings, just make them into small meatballs before browning them in the pan.
What’s the difference between creole and cajun?
There are two main kinds of food found in Louisiana: Creole and cajun. They both originate in Louisiana. Cajun food was brought over by the French and is more like meaty country-style cooking found along the bayous in places like Lafayette. You could say that it’s French-Southern fusion! Jambalaya’s origins are cajun, but it can have a creole twist too!
Creole food was created in the city of New Orleans, and is known for it’s rich, tomato sauces as well as the addition of seafood like shrimp. It is French as well, but also has African, and Native American roots, along with other European influences like Italian, German, Spanish, and also Caribbean. It truly represents the melting pot of New Orleans!
How is creole jambalaya different from cajun jambalaya?
When it comes to jambalaya, there are also two kinds: Creole and cajun, of course! The Creole like this recipe is a red, tomato-based jambalaya with shrimp along with chicken and sausage. Chicken and sausage are added to the pot and cooked along with the “holy trinity” of cajun cooking. The Holy Trinity is onion, bell pepper, and celery.
Cajun is a brown jambalaya with no tomatoes. The meat is browned first in the bottom of the pot, before adding in the “holy trinity” vegetables and stock. The bits of meat that stick to the bottom is what gives Cajun Jambalaya it’s brown color.
Jambalaya vs. Gumbo: What’s the difference?
The main difference between jambalaya and gumbo is that jambalaya is a rice dish, similar to paella, while gumbo is more like a soup or stew, served separately over rice. Gumbo also uses other unique ingredients like okra, which is not typically found in Jambalaya.
Storage & Freezing
Jambalaya keeps well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat it thoroughly before consuming the leftovers. This easy jambalaya recipe can also be frozen in an airtight container like a ziplock bag for up to 3 months. Thaw before reheating.
More Cajun & Creole-inspired recipes you will love:
- Grilled Cajun Chicken Dry Rub Seasoning
- Shrimp Étouffée
- Grilled Cajun Chicken Sandwiches
- Southern Hush Puppies
- Grilled Cajun Chicken Salad with Creamy Cajun Dressing
- 2-3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 lb. chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb. Andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch discs
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 1 bunch green onions, chopped (separate white and green parts)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 (15-ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 whole bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons creole seasoning
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed well (basmati or jasmine will work)
- 1 pound uncooked shrimp, peeled and deveined and tails removed
- parsley, chopped, for sprinkling on top
- Brown meat with 1 tablespoon of creole seasoning, salt, and pepper in 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until cooked. About 6-8 minutes. Transfer to a clean plate.
- Add remaining tablespoon of oil and saute the onion, green pepper, and celery for about 8-10 minutes. Add garlic, creole or cajun seasoning, salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, Italian seasoning. Saute for another minute.
- Add crushed tomatoes, rice, and chicken broth. Stir well, bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring every five minutes until nearly done. Add shrimp, cook on low for 5 minutes until shrimp are cooked.
- Add chicken and sausage back to the pot. Garnish with parsley and onions.
- Add onions, green pepper, celery, white parts of green onions, and garlic. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, creole seasoning, and bay leaf. Cook and stir for 2 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 45 minutes to 1 hour until the liquid is reduced by 1/3.
- Increase heat and bring back to a boil. Add rice and reduce heat to medium. Cook for 15-25 minutes, stirring occasionally until rice is done. If the rice isn't quite done and the bottom of the pot is looking dry, add 1/4 cup of water.
- Add shrimp in last 5 minutes. Add chicken and sausage back to the pot.
- Stir in remaining green onions.
- If you can't find Andouille sausage, sometimes called cajun sausage, kielbasa or Mexican chorizo are decent alternatives that are widely available.
- Will keep in fridge for 4 days.
Curious about foods from other states in my American Eats series? Check them out below!
Alabama • Alaska • Arizona • Arkansas • California • Colorado • Connecticut • Delaware • Florida • Georgia • Hawaii • Idaho • Illinois • Indiana • Iowa • Kansas • Kentucky • Louisiana • Maine • Maryland • Oregon • Puerto Rico • South Carolina • South Dakota • Texas