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How to Make Jambalaya

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The first word that comes to mind when thinking of Louisiana cuisine is mouth-watering. A mix of West African, French, and Spanish influences give Louisiana cuisine the flavorful, savory trademark it has, and it’s no surprise that everyone from the South of the United States to South America rave about their meals. If you’re looking for flavor, this cuisine has no shortage. One of the most common dishes from this side of the world is jambalaya.

Jambalaya is a traditional one-pot dish that consists mainly of vegetables, one or more meat/seafood, a smoked meat (usually sausage) and rice. It’s a comfort food that’ll give you a homey feeling whenever you smell it, and you’ll be sure to have no shortage of guests when you master this simple jambalaya recipe. If you’re one who’s obsessed with different spices, the jambalaya is a dish that won’t leave you hanging. From its meats to its rice, the jambalaya will leave you satisfied.

There are two kinds of jambalaya: the Creole jambalaya and Cajun jambalaya. For this easy jambalaya recipe, we’ll be following the Creole version and using chicken and sausage as our main meats. However, we’ll also be using a Cajun seasoning so it doesn’t lose the Louisiana trademark.

What is Usually in Jambalaya?

Like any good dish, the perfect jambalaya recipe will vary from kitchen to kitchen. One of the best markers of any food is its cultural impact, and that includes all the little minute changes made in each family’s home! Jambalaya is one dish that allows room for variety. That’s another reason why the jambalaya is such a beloved meal — anyone can make it their own and add a personal flavor. If you’re someone who wants a spicier jambalaya, you can add more chili powder. Want a smokier jambalaya? Make sure you get the andouille that’s smoked twice. However, if you want to make a classic jambalaya, you’ll need four key components:

  • Chicken or pork for the meat
  • Sausage, usually andouille, chorizo or smoked sausage
  • Seafoods, preferably shrimp or crawfish
  • Rice

Add in a few spices and Cajun seasoning, and you have yourself a traditional jambalaya. The main difference between the two kinds – Cajun jambalaya and Creole jambalaya, is the presence of one ingredient: tomatoes.

What is the Difference Between a Gumbo and Jambalaya?

Jambalaya and gumbo are very similar, which is why people tend to confuse them. Both a gumbo and jambalaya are classic Louisiana dishes with mixed Creole and Cajun roots. They’re both rich in spices and contain one or more meat and seafood. The main difference? The way rice is prepared. With gumbo, you’re serving the vegetables, meats, and seafood with rice that’s already cooked, while jambalaya is a one-pot dish, so everything — including rice, is cooked in one pot at the same time.

Do You Cook the Rice First for the Jambalaya?

You don’t need to cook the rice first when making a jambalaya. A jambalaya is a one-pot dish, so you’re essentially cooking all the ingredients at once. This saves you some prep time and cooking time, as well.

Do I Need to Use Chicken Breasts for Jambalaya?

If you want to use thighs instead of breasts, then by all means, go ahead! Just make sure you’re using boneless, skinless chicken thighs for this jambalaya recipe. And dark meat takes longer to cook than white meat, so make sure your chicken is tender.

What's the Best Sausage for Jambalaya?

The preferred sausage for any jambalaya recipe is what’s called andouille. Andouille can be found in different Creole dishes, and it’s marked by its smoky flavor and spices. It’s usually smoked twice and tastes incredible.

If Andouille sausage isn’t available, you can recreate it with ground pork and the usual spices: ½ teaspoon of liquid smoke, cayenne, chili powder, dried oregano, paprika, and cumin. All of the spices are to taste, but you can’t go wrong with adding more flavor — that is the cornerstone of a jambalaya after all — as long as you don’t over do it.

What Rice Should I Use?

You’ll notice that in this jambalaya recipe, we specify the rice to be long grain and white. That’s because we don’t want our rice to get mush, or to clump together. Another thing about rice: make sure you rinse it thoroughly, lest you want the starches to make the rice clump (or sometimes gummy), which won’t do well mixed with the other ingredients in this jambalaya recipe. Put your rice in a strainer or a rice washer and rinse thoroughly. You can check out our guide to the best rice washers here.

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 chopped onion
  • Green bell pepper
  • Red bell pepper
  • Celery
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 lb. medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • ½ teaspoon Dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb. boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
  • 1 (15-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 6 oz. andouille sausage, diced
  • Tomato paste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 c. long grain white rice
  • 2 tsp. Cajun seasoning
Serves 4
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

Instructions

  1. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
  2. Add your onions, green bell pepper, red bell pepper, cayenne pepper, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Cook this until soft for about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in the chicken breasts or chicken thighs.
  4. Season again with salt, pepper, and oregano.
  5. Wait for the chicken to turn golden for another 5 minutes, then add your andouille sausage, tomato paste, and garlic.
  6. Stirring occasionally, cook until fragrant for one minute.
  7. Stir in chicken broth along with your crushed tomatoes, long grain white rice, and Cajun seasoning. Reduce heat to medium low, then cover your large pot with a tight-fitting lid.
  8. Cook for about 20 minutes until rice is tender and the liquid is absorbed.
  9. Mix in the shrimp and cook for 3 to 5 minutes until it becomes pink.
  10. Mix in your green onions. You’re ready to serve!

This Creole jambalaya recipe includes 576kcal, 46g carbohydrates, 43g of protein, 22g of fat, 5g saturated fat, 183mg cholesterol, 4g of fiber and 5g of sugar.

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Hui Yin

Hui Yin moved from Hong Kong 🇭🇰 to the USA 🇺🇸 when she was just 8 years old. Now in her late 20's she enjoys writing and taking long walks in the park to burn off the copious amounts of rice she eats for dinner.

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