Jambalaya is a classic Louisiana rice dish, packed with lots of wonderful flavors. With chicken, shrimp, andouille sausage and plenty colorful veg, this Creole jambalaya is a flavorful, comforting meal.
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You would maybe think that as someone who lived in Spain and has tried paella in pretty much all it's forms there (such as fideua and arroz negro, black rice paella), I might be drawn to similar dishes elsewhere.
However somehow, I was relatively late in discovering jambalaya. But I have tried to make up for it since, as this dish is so packed with flavor. It comes in many forms, and no doubt some prefer certain combinations more than others, just as with mine here.
As with many things in Louisiana cooking, there are Creole and Cajun versions of this dish, on top of the usual variation by chef. As I mentioned when I shared crawfish etouffee, Creole is a little more French-influenced and uses ingredients that were less native to the area, but that you could get in New Orleans.
Cajun, meanwhile, is rooted in the countryside so uses mainly local ingredients. In the case of jambalaya, and some other dishes, one of the most noticeable differences is that the Creole version uses tomatoes, while the Cajun version does not.
In fact, the Creole version is sometimes called "red jambalaya" because of the tomato.
Ingredients in Creole jambalaya
As mentioned, you'll find a number of variations both in ingredients and method. I have gone for a relatively traditional combination in both (apart from the pepper, but I'll come to that).
The base of the dish is the 'holy trinity' of onion, celery and pepper. Typically you would have at least some green pepper in there, but personally I'm not a huge fan and so instead went for a mix of red and orange, but use whatever you have and/or prefer.
Top tip: don't rush the veggies
You need to cook the onion, celery and pepper before you add other ingredients to soften them and bring out their natural sweetness. This can take a few minutes, so be patient. If you rush with too high heat, you may burn them, or if add other ingredients too soon, they won't have developed their flavor.
The proteins I have used are Andouille sausage, chicken and shrimp. The chicken is best browned at the start, then removed and added back later. Only add the shrimp right at the end as otherwise they will overcook.
Andouille is a classic Southern smoked and spiced sausage that adds lots of flavor to the dish. You brown it at the start and leave it in to infuse flavor (and it doesn't overcook). If it's not available locally, then you can use another smoked sausage and maybe add a little more cayenne as you cook.
After cooking down your sausage and vegetables, you add the aromatics: thyme, oregano, paprika and tomato paste. Then add your liquids which here are tomatoes and chicken stock.
Once the liquids are simmering, add your rice - long grain is best as you want the grains to separate rather than clump together. Short grain rice tends to be a more starchy and sticky. Then, let it simmer and the rice absorb the liquid and cook.
Some people finish it off in the oven to help it cook evenly and not stick to the bottom, but personally I don't feel a great need to put the oven on for this. If you have a good heavy-based pan, such as the Le Creuset Enameled Cast-Iron Round Braiser I used and keep over a moderate-low heat, it should be fine.
Colorful, flavorful and with a delicious mix of rice, vegetables and proteins, this Creole jambalaya is a one pot meal that you'll be wanting to make again and again. Because who can say no to delicious comfort food?
Looking to try more Creole and Cajun dishes? Try these:
- Shrimp Creole
- Crawfish etouffee
- Plus get more ideas to celebrate with Mardi Gras food around the world.
- You'll also find many other seafood recipes in the archives, with plenty to inspire!
I make this in my 30cm/3.5 quart cast iron braiser which works well (affiliate link).
- ½ lb chicken breast or thighs
- 6 oz smoked andouille sausage or other spicy smoked sausage if not available
- ½ onion
- 1 pepper I used ½ red, ½ yellow but any combination of colors works
- 1 rib celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil approx
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon paprika
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper or more, to taste
- ½ teaspoon tomato paste tomato puree
- 1 cup rice approximately (Basmati works well)
- 1 bay leaf
- 14 oz crushed tomatoes (14 oz is 1 can) or finely chopped
- 2 cups chicken stock (may need slightly less)
- 6 oz raw shrimp prawns (or slightly more if you like)
- Dice the chicken into roughly bite-sized pieces and slice the sausage. Dice the onions, peppers and celery, all relatively small. Finley chop or crush the garlic.
- Warm the oil in a wide, heavy based dish then add the chicken and brown all over. Once cooked through, remove from the pan and set aside. (If you prefer, you can briefly cook the shrimp now too and set those aside, but it also works to add at the end and cook in the rice and last of the liquid). Add the Andouille sausage and brown lightly all over, a couple minutes.
- Once the sausage is gently browned, add the onion, pepper and celery. Cook, stirring now and then, for a couple minutes then add the garlic. Cook until all of the vegetables are softened, around 5 minutes or so.
- Add the thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two then add the crushed tomatoes and stock. Bring to a simmer then add the rice and bay leaf. Reduce the heat and leave approximately 20 minutes until the rice is just cooked, stirring now and then.
- Add the shrimp when the rice is almost cooked, pressing them under the rice mixture to help them cook through, and add back the chicken. Turn them over if needed and once the shrimp are cooked through, serve.
See some of my favorite cooking tools and ingredients in the Caroline's Cooking Amazon store.
This post was first shared in January 2018 and has been updated, primarily with new photos and added video.
Enjoy some more comfort food ideas:
- Cheesesteak Pizza from Cindy's Recipes and Writings.
- Chicken Cordon Bleu from Family Around the Table.
- Chicken Zoodle Soup from Everyday Eileen.
- Crock Pot Turkey Breast and Gravy from Cookaholic Wife.
- General Tso's Chicken from Palatable Pastime.