This bold, spicy mix of sausage, chicken and shrimp and spice makes this Midwest-version of Jambalaya recipe one of the best one pot meals ever.
How to Make Jambalaya Recipe
Jambalaya. That word alone conjures up one of my favorite classic Cajun recipes. This one pot meal includes rich spices, smoked sausage, Gulf shrimp and chicken, the ”trinity”: celery, peppers and onions, and rice, nestled in a rich chicken-shrimp broth. It’s hearty, comfort food and amazingly delicious.
But you don’t have to travel to Cajun/Creole country to experience the bold and spicy flavors of Jambalaya. In fact, even us folks here in the Midwest enjoy making this hearty stew that definitely warms the soul and tummy.
If you’re unfamiliar with this dish, Jambalaya is a mix Spanish, French and African influences. Many say that this spicy dish originated in Louisiana, which is why you will find that the main ingredients reflect this, like Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp (Gulf shrimp if you can get it), along with fresh bell peppers, chopped celery and onions.
DID YOU KNOW? Tomatoes are optional. If you are making it “Cajun-style,” you’ll make it sans tomatoes; while “Creole-style” uses either crushed or diced tomatoes in the recipe. This is also known as “Red Jambalaya.” For me, I’ve made it both ways and have listed it as such in the recipe below.
What you’ll find that this dish is very easy to make and takes minimal time to prepare. And, it easily can be adjusted to feed a small or large crowd.
All in all, I find it’s a great comfort dish to make any time of the year.
Ingredients for Jambalaya
The basic ingredients for Jambalaya are as follows:
- bell peppers
- Andouille sausage or smoked Hungarian or Polish sausage
- chicken and shrimp stock
- diced tomatoes (use for Creole version, leave out for Cajun version)
- rice – long grain rice or arborio rice
- Cajun/Creole-inspired spices, including cayenne pepper
How to Cook Jambalaya
Like a lot of down-home dishes, speeding up the process for cooking won’t give you the full depth of flavor, as you would if you took your time and allowed the spices and meat to permeate the rich broth.
That being said, if you cook this Jambalaya from scratch, it will take about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or so to make one of the best family meals this side of the Gulf.
Cajun Seasoning Mix
The heart of this Louisiana favorite stew has to be hands down the Cajun/Creole seasoning. Every family has their own special mixture but for this recipe, I tried to stay true to the classic recipe as best as I could.
You will need the following:
Some folks like to add jalapeño peppers and other spices, but I feel this seasoning mix is the best overall.
Vegetables for the “holy trinity”
Like many delicious stews, Jambalaya starts out with a base of sautéed vegetables that make up the “holy trinity.” For this, you will need chopped onions, celery and bell peppers.
Use Cooked or Uncooked Rice
The classic Jambalaya recipe uses long grain rice, although you could substitute it with short grain or arborio rice, if that’s all you have on hand.
You’ll need 1 2/3 cups uncooked long grain rice. This will give you approximately 5 cups cooked rice. If you like your Jambalaya thicker, add 1/4 cup more rice.
Keep in mind, however, when cooking with uncooked rice, you may need to add an additional cup or two more of stock throughout the cooking process. This is because rice is notorious for absorbing liquids.
Cooking Tip: You can use cooked rice, if you have it. You will need 5 cups for this recipe.
Use Raw or Roasted Meat and Sausages
Most Jambalaya recipes will include both fresh and smoked meats. I like it that way, too. But that being said, you will need to cut up your raw chicken and sausage into small chunks.
Not sure how to do it? Here is a quick video tutorial from Butcher Cuisine that shows you how simple it is to debone your chicken thighs:
Remember to carefully slice the chicken meat off the bones and slice the sausage into 1/2 inch portions.
And, be sure to save any leftover chicken bones, as you will need these for making the shrimp stock (See Below).
Cooking Tip: You can also use leftover cooked chicken quarters, if you have some. You will use the same amount of cooked meat, as you would the raw version.
Fresh or Frozen Shrimp
I’d have to be honest and say that fresh shrimp is best over frozen. Gulf shrimp is the best, if you can get it.
But not everyone has access to fresh shrimp. So if you must use frozen, then purchase unpeeled 25/30 count or medium-size shrimp. Just be aware that frozen shrimp doesn’t have the same taste and texture as fresh shrimp and it may taste blander.
For this recipe, you will need to peel, remove the tail and devein the shrimp. Here is a quick video how to do this task from Clean & Delicious:
Note also, that the shrimp is the last ingredient to go into the stew. It takes very little time to cook but adds so much flavor to the stock.
And, speaking of stock, this recipe needs some shrimp stock. To make this, you will need 2 cups of water and the tails and shrimp shells, along with your chicken bone (they add more depth and flavor to the broth). Boil everything in a small to medium size saucepan for about 10 minutes then use a fine sieve to strain the broth.
To Assemble the Jambalaya
As mentioned above, this is a one-pot stew, so you will start by sautéing the vegetables, adding the Cajun seasoning, chopped meat (not shrimp, yet), the broths (chicken and shrimp) and the rice in a Dutch oven. Cook through for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. Make sure there’s plenty of liquid. If not, you can add a cup or so more of chicken stock.
The shrimp is the last to go into the stew. This you’ll add when you are about 10 minutes from finishing up your cooking.
Your Jambalaya is almost ready. To add a bit of freshness that will also bring out the deep, rich flavors of the broth, meat and seafood, drizzle over the top a tablespoon of fresh squeezed lemon juice. Stir well and serve hot. Enjoy!
Jambalaya Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is the difference between Gumbo and Jambalaya?
Gumbo is considered more of a soup versus Jambalaya is more of a thick meat and rice dish with minimal broth.
Do you cook rice before adding to Jambalaya?
You can cook rice before adding to Jambalaya, although the traditional way is to add the rice directly to the pot and allowing the rice to cook in the broth.
Is Jambalaya Creole or Cajun?
The simple answer is both. That being said, the Creole version uses tomatoes and this is known as “red jambalaya.” The Cajun version does not.
What is usually in Jambalaya?
Jambalaya is a mix of several influences: Spanish, French and African, which is why you will find that the main ingredients reflect this. The most common ingredients that you will find in authentic Jambalaya is the following: Andouille sausage, chicken and/or shrimp (Gulf shrimp if you can get it), along with fresh bell peppers, chopped celery and onions, as well as a regional spice mix in a tasty broth.
Can you make Jambalaya ahead of time?
Yes, you can make Jambalaya a day or two ahead of time. However, if you want to include shrimp into the dish, it’s recommended to add this on the day that you will be heating it up to be served.
Can you freeze Jambalaya?
You can freeze Jambalaya but you will need to store it in an airtight, freezer-safe container and for no longer than 3 to 6 months. To reconstitute the Jambalaya (if it seems drier than before), all you have to do is add enough chicken broth to your likeness.
Love this Jambalaya Recipe? Then give these family favorite Southern Recipes a try:
- Country Baking Powder Skillet Biscuits
- Breaded Fried Chicken
- Southern Collard Greens
- Fried Green Tomatoes
For the Meat
- 2 chicken quarters skinned, deboned, cut into small chunks
- 3 links Andouille sausage* sliced into 1/2 inch chunks
For the Seafood
- 1 lb fresh raw shrimp** peeled, tail removed, deveined
For the Creole Seasoning
- 1 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning
- 1 tsp Spanish paprika
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp oregano
For the Vegetables and Rice
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup bell peppers diced
- 1 cup celery chopped
- 2 cups onions chopped
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 cup diced tomatoes use for Creole version, leave out for Cajun version
- 1 2/3 cups long grain rice***
- 6 cups chicken stock (more if needed)
- 1 cup shrimp stock
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
For the Meat
- Remove the skin and debone your raw chicken. Save the chicken bonesand debone chicken. Save the chicken bones and place in a saucepan to be cooked with the shrimp tails and empty shells. Set aside.
- Slice the smoked sausage into 1/2 inch chunks. Set aside.
For the Seafood
- Peel, remove tail and devein the shrimp. Place in a bowl on ice or place in the refrigerator until needed. Retain the discarded shells and tails.
- In a small saucepan place the shrimp tails and empty shrimp shells with the chicken bones and boil in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes. Set aside.
For the Creole Seasoning
- Assemble the spices for the Creole seasoning and place in a bowl. Set aside.
For the Vegetables and Rice
- Sauté the vegetables, garlic and spices in a large dutch oven with 4 tbsp of olive oil until fragrant and softened, approximately 5-7 minutes or so.
- Add the rice. Stir around with the vegetable mixture about a 1 minute before adding the chicken and shrimp broth.
- Next, add the cooked chicken and sausage.
- Then add the diced tomatoes. Stir well.
- Don't completely cover the dutch oven, but allow for some steam to release and cook the Jambalaya for 45 minutes on a simmer. Be sure to check it periodically and add additional stock if needed.
- After the 45 minutes, check the rice for doneness, then add the raw shrimp. Cook for a final 10 minutes until the shrimp is pink and opaque.
- Be sure to taste your Jambalaya for spiciness and add more salt and pepper, as needed.
- Drizzle the lemon juice over the top of the Jambalaya just before serving. Stir well.
- Serve and Enjoy!