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.
- Mix in the tomatoes and seasoning. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree, salt, pepper, cayenne, thyme, remaining creole seasoning, and bay leaf. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes.
- Add the broth, and simmer. Add the chicken broth and rice. Bring to a simmer for 25-30 minutes until the rice is almost, but not quite done.
- Shrimp time! Add shrimp to the jambalaya in the last 5 minutes, along with the chicken and sausage. The shrimp don't take long to cook and the chicken and sausage will reheat in the same amount of time while the rice finishes.
- Stir and serve. Lastly, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and 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
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 lb. chicken thighs cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb. Andouille sausage sliced into ¼-inch discs
- 2 Tablespoons creole seasoning divided
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 1 red pepper chopped
- 3 celery stalks diced
- 4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper optional
- 1 bunch green onions chopped (separate white and green parts)
- 1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 ½ cups long-grain white rice rinsed well (basmati or jasmine will work)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 pound uncooked shrimp peeled and deveined and tails removed
- parsley chopped, for sprinkling on top
- Heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thigh chunks and andouille sausage. Season with 1 tablespoon of the creole or cajun seasoning, and a little salt, and pepper, then cook for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon until browned. Transfer to a clean plate and set aside.
- Add remaining tablespoon of oil and saute the onion, green pepper, red pepper, celery, and white parts of the green onion. Saute for about 5-7 minutes, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan (all the flavor!), until softened.
- Add the garlic, remaining creole or cajun seasoning, remaining salt and pepper, thyme, oregano, and cayenne pepper. Saute for another minute.
- Add crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, rice, and bay leaves. Stir well.
- Bring to a simmer, then cover and cook for 25-30 minutes, stirring every five minutes until nearly done.
- Add the shrimp, cooked chicken, and sausage, back into the pot during the last 5 minutes when the rice is close to being done. The shrimp should finish cooking while the rice finishes off so it's all done at the same time.
- Garnish with chopped fresh parsley and the green parts of the chopped green onions before serving.
- 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.
More States I Have Visited in my American Eats Series
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