Jambalaya! This classic southern recipe is brimming with three proteins including tender shrimp, chicken and sausage, and it’s cooked with hearty rice and a colorful array of nutritious vegetables. And it’s all seasoned with flavorful cajun spices.
It’s delicious comfort food fit for serving any day of the year!
What is Jambalaya?
Jambalaya is a famous New Orleans dish with Spanish, French and African influence (inspiration coming from dishes such as paella, jollof and jambalai). It’s a one pan homestyle dinner with a rich history.
Most commonly it consists of andouille sausage, chicken or pork, and seafood such as shrimp or crawfish. Then also included is a sofrito blend of vegetables (bell pepper, onion, and celery) and white rice. And everything cooks together making it an easy and flavorful recipe.
You may be wondering, what is the difference between jambalaya and gumbo? The two dishes are very similar but a main distinction is that with gumbo it is served over rice while with jambalaya the rice is mixed right in and cooked with everything else. Gumbo is more stew-like and it usually takes hours of simmering whereas jambalaya can cook in under an hour and is drier.
You can’t go wrong with either but today it’s all about the jambalaya! Isn’t it just fun to say? I mean it would have to taste good with a name like that!
- Olive oil – this helps brown the sausage. Vegetable oil works great here too.
- Andouille sausage – I like to use cajun style sausage but most types of smoked sausage will work fine here.
- Yellow onion, bell pepper, celery, and garlic – these fresh vegetables build of the crucial first layer of flavor of the dish, don’t skip them.
- Canned crushed tomatoes – this adds a very lightly sweet flavor and gives it that classic tomatoey base. Canned petite diced tomatoes would work too.
- Low-sodium chicken broth – want to make it even better? Use a homemade chicken stock, I like to keep some stashed in the freezer. Also don’t toss those rotisserie chicken bones, make that same chicken stock with it (I usually go the crockpot route).
- Paprika, thyme, oregano and cayenne pepper – to keep the list shorter I stick with these four spices but you can also add cumin and chili powder if desired for more flavor.
- White rice – just stick with standard long grain white rice for this recipe. If you swap to a different kind amounts of liquid needed and cook times could vary.
- Orka – this is optional as it’s not a typical ingredient in jambalaya. I usually add it for an extra vegetable for nutrition, and a pop of bright color.
- Shrimp – I recommend using large or extra large shrimp in this recipe. Medium will work too but it will cook quicker.
- Cooked chicken – I like to use cooked rotisserie chicken to keep this recipe easy. It saves a step plus if you begin with using diced sauteed chicken breast it can end up overcooked by the time the rice is done anyway.
- Green onions and fresh parsley – this finishing touch adds a lot of fresh flavor and a nice pop of color. If you don’t want to buy both you can use one or the other.
How to Make Jambalaya:
- Brown sausage, set aside: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, tossing occasionally until browned, about 5 – 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, leave oil in pan.
- Saute veggies: Add onion, bell pepper, and celery to pot. Saute 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
- Add liquids, seasonings, raw rice and cooked sausage: Pour in chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, paprika thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cooked sausage and rice.
- Boil then simmer mixture: Bring mixture to a light boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low heat, cover and simmer until rice is almost fully tender, about 20 – 25 minutes. Stir in a little extra broth as needed.
- Add shrimp and okra: Stir in shrimp and okra, cover and continue to cook until shrimp have cooked through, about 4 – 5 minutes.
- Finish with cooked chicken and fresh greens: Stir in chicken, green onions and parsley.
How to Adjust Spicy Cajun Flavor?
If you aren’t a fan of spicy food you can still enjoy a mild jambalaya by making a few modifications. Don’t use cajun smoked sausage, go for a more mild type then omit the cayenne pepper.
If you like it really spicy you can also add in 1 or 2 seeded diced jalapeños or a can a diced hot green chilies. Or of course just up the cayenne pepper and keep it simple.
Can I Use Smoked Turkey Sausage?
Yes definitely. Just keep in mind it doesn’t brown quite as well as the standard beef/pork sausage.
Can I Use a Store Bought Cajun Seasoning?
Yes. But note that you can’t adjust heat to taste if you use a pre-mixed cajun seasoning. Omit the paprika and cayenne pepper then start with 2 tsp cajun seasoning and add more to taste.
Can I Use Pre-Cooked Shrimp?
Yes that would be fine but since it’s already cooked you wouldn’t want to add it until the end when you add the pre-cooked chicken (and just let it warm through if cold). No one want’s rubbery overcooked shrimp.
Can I Use Uncooked Chicken?
Yes raw diced chicken (1 pound) will work here if you cook it at the beginning before everything else (cook separately from sausage). I only recommend using chicken thighs if going this route (not breasts!) because if you continue to cook with the rice and everything else chicken breast meat will definitely get overcooked and dry.
Tips for the Best Jambalaya:
- Allow the sausage to brown on the exterior. This adds a lot of flavor.
- Don’t be skimpy with the spices. These give the dish that authentic flavor. You can even add more to taste (or add additional spices like chili powder and cumin).
- Use frozen and freshly thawed shrimp (unless you have access for fresh caught). The shrimp at the meat/seafood counter could have been sitting there for days and it’s previously frozen anyway, old seafood (obviously) never tastes good.
- Adjust the amount of broth used as needed. Every pot allows steam to escape a little differently, if you use a snug fitting lid 3 to 3 1/2 cups should be enough but add more as needed so the rice isn’t dry and undercooked.
- Use seasoned chicken from bone-in cooked chicken such as a rotisserie chicken. It has better flavor then boneless.
More Delicious Southern Style Recipes to Try:
- Creamy Cajun Chicken Pasta
- Oven Fried Chicken
- Red Beans and Rice
- Sheet Pan Cajun Chicken and Veggies
- Shrimp Boil Skillet
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- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 13 oz. andouille sausage, sliced into 1/4-inch thick rounds
- 1 medium yellow onion, (1 3/4 cups)
- 2 medium bell peppers, seeded and chopped (2 1/2 cups, preferably 1 red and 1 yellow)
- 3 celery ribs, chopped (1 cup)
- 4 garlic cloves, minced (1 1/2 Tbsp)
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth, plus more as needed
- 1 (14.5 oz) can crushed tomatoes*
- 1 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, less or more to taste**
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice
- 1 lb. large or extra large shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 1 1/2 cups sliced okra, fresh or frozen, thawed (optional)
- 2 cups shredded cooked chicken (I use rotisserie chicken)
- 1/3 cup chopped green onions
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish if desired
- Preheat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook, tossing occasionally until browned, about 5 - 6 minutes. Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain, leave oil in pan.
- Add onion, bell pepper, and celery to pot. Saute 6 minutes. Add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
- Pour in chicken broth, crushed tomatoes, paprika, thyme, oregano, cayenne pepper and season with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in cooked sausage and rice.
- Bring mixture to a light boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low heat, cover and simmer until rice is almost fully tender, about 20 - 25 minutes. Stir in a little extra broth as needed.
- Stir in shrimp and okra, cover and continue to cook until shrimp have cooked through, about 4 - 5 minutes.
- Stir in chicken, green onions and parsley. Serve immediately garnishing each serving with more parsley if desired.
- *1 (14.5 oz) can petite diced tomatoes can be substituted.
- **This is a spicy dish both from the cayenne pepper and the sausage. If you don't like spicy food you can omit the cayenne pepper and use a different type of smoked sausage.
- **For more heat you can also add a chopped jalapeno in when sautéing peppers or add a can of hot diced green chilis in when adding crushed tomatoes.
- For another layer of flavor you can also add in cumin or chili powder to taste, or serve with lemon wedges for spritzing.
- Recipe inspired by Southern Living