Jambalaya

4.81 from 68 votes
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Jambalaya is a hearty mix of rice with bold creole seasoning, vegetables, chicken, shrimp, and andouille sausage—a colorful one-pot recipe inspired by New Orleans cuisine.

large pot of jambalaya with shrimp and sausage over rice

A big bowl of Jambalaya celebrates the soul of Louisiana’s food scene by infusing French, Spanish, and Creole cooking. This rice-based dish includes a trifecta of proteins such as chicken breast, shrimp, and pork sausage. There’s also a pleasant smoky flavor that makes this dish unique.

Jambalaya is similar to paella, but making it requires a little more attention. There’s more pot-stirring involved, and an incredible blast of aromas hits the nose every time you lift the lid. The jumble of herbs, fiery spices, and hearty ingredients work harmoniously for a satisfying meal.

What is jambalaya?

A savory rice dish originating from Louisiana but with influences from African, Spanish, and French cuisine. Rice cooks in one pot with aromatic vegetables like bell pepper, celery, and onions. Then various proteins are added like seafood (shrimp, crawfish, crab), chicken, smoked sausage, or both.

Creole-style typically served in New Orleans has tomatoes, whereas Cajun-style in the bayou country omits it.

Recipe Resources

Rice selection

I use long-grain white rice to make jambalaya as it holds its shape better when stirred and cooks up tender and light after simmering. I typically wash rice before cooking for other recipes, but not for jambalaya. The starches on the surface of the grains lightly thicken the liquid for a creamier consistency.

Multiple protein sources

Cubes of lean chicken breast add hearty bites of protein to the dish. If desired, you can use dark meat like chicken thighs but trim off the excess fat. Spicy pork andouille sausage gives the characteristic heat, but if you can’t find any available at the store, try using hot sausage or kielbasa.

I like to use extra jumbo-sized shrimp to give a two-bite experience. This size is sold as 16/20 count per pound at markets. I prefer peeled and deveined white shrimp, but any variety works. Even prawns would be stunning.

Sear the meat

Cut the chicken into large 1-inch chunks, then lightly season with salt to prevent the meat from drying out. Sear in a single layer to brown the surface and add a flavorful crust. The thick sausage slices then sear, rendering the pork fat to add richness to the other ingredients.

Saute the vegetables and spices

A classic holy trinity of vegetables is used to make jambalaya. Diced onions, red and green bell peppers, celery, plus minced garlic. They all saute until tender, and the sweetness from the alliums is brought to the surface. The combination adds a pleasant earthy aroma and peppery taste to the rice.

pot of vegetables and with spices on top

Add the spices

To add elements of bold cajun spices, add fresh thyme, smoky and hot cayenne pepper, chili powder, and dried bay leaves. You can also add sweet or smoked paprika for a more rich red hue. Cook them in the flavorful pork fat before adding any liquid. This process is called blooming, which releases fat-soluble flavors, making their impact stronger.

Brown the rice

The white rice is lightly fried in oil which browns the exterior and adds a pleasant nutty flavor. This process drys the grain’s surface and keeps its structure intact when simmering, instead of turning mushy. I do a similar technique for cooking Mexican rice, and it adds a wonderful depth of flavor.

pouring liquid into a pot with chicken and sausage pieces

Simmer and stir

The method for cooking the rice is a little bit different than traditional steaming, where it’s not stirred. In this case, to prevent the rice from scorching on the bottom, it’s gently mixed three times. The goal is to break up any big clumps and to lift the grains off the bottom of the pan, so it doesn’t become hard or burnt.

Don’t aggressively stir, or it will break down the rice and make it very mushy. It shouldn’t be too thick like risotto because you’re not constantly agitating. However, the grains will be tender, more porridge-like, instead of dry. The process takes about 30 minutes, stirring every ten minutes.

Cook the shrimp

Shrimp are very delicate proteins that cook fast, so they get added towards the end. Cover and steam for 5 minutes with the rice to prevent overcooking. The shrimp should curl into a loose “C” shape and be opaque. Those are good indicators of doneness.

close up photo of jambalaya cooking in a pot

Serve this with

FAQ

What’s the difference between gumbo and jambalaya?

Gumbo has a soup or stew texture thickened with a dark brown roux and gumbo file powder. Jambalaya is a moistened rice dish that’s cooks similarly to pilaf. Both can be made with chicken, shrimp, andouille sausage, and vegetables like okra, bell peppers, and onions.

Should jambalaya be wet or dry?

The recipe is a creole version that uses diced tomatoes and tomato juice. It will yield a more porridge-like consistency but not soupy. Cajun jambalaya is drier, with more distinct grains without tomatoes.

Can you freeze jambalaya?

Yes, cool the jambalaya completely and store it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to 3 months. I recommend separating them into smaller portions, and flattening them so they defrost quicker. Break up, cover, and reheat in the microwave on high in 15 to 30-second intervals, occasionally stirring until hot.

close up of spoon scooping food out of a big pot

If using brown rice instead of white rice

Brown rice may need a longer time to cook. The hard outer bran causes the liquid to take longer to absorb and cook the starches. If, after the first 30 minutes, the moisture evaporates and the grains are still very chewy, add ¼ cup of water, gently stir, cover, and cook to allow the rice to absorb the extra moisture. Repeat if needed.

Jambalaya

Jambalaya is an appetizing mix of bold creole spices, long grain rice, vegetables, shrimp, chicken, and andouille sausage.
4.81 from 68 votes
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 20 minutes
Servings 8 servings
Course Entree
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts, 1" cubes
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 12 ounces andouille sausage, 4 pieces, ½" thick slices
  • 2 cups yellow onion, ¼" dice
  • 1 cup red bell pepper, ¼" dice
  • 1 cup green bell pepper, ¼" dice
  • 1 cup celery, ¼" dice
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 2 teaspoons chopped thyme, or 1 teaspoon dried
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon chili powder
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 cups long grain white rice
  • 1 ½ cups diced canned tomatoes, reserve 1 cup of liquid
  • 3 cups unsalted chicken stock, or broth
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 pound shrimp, 16/20 count, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon sliced green onions

Instructions 

  • Season the Chicken – In a medium bowl, combine the cubed chicken and ½ teaspoon of salt.
  • Cook the Chicken – Heat a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the vegetable oil. Spread the chicken into a single layer. Sear for 2 minutes, then stir and cook another 2 minutes until no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Cook the Sausage – Add the slices to the pot in a single layer and sear for 2 minutes. Stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Transfer to the same bowl as the chicken.
  • Saute the Vegetables – Reduce the heat to medium. Add onions, red and green bell pepper, celery, and garlic. Stir and cook for 3 minutes.
  • Add the Spices – Add 1 ½ teaspoon kosher salt, thyme, black pepper, chili powder, cayenne pepper powder, and bay leaves. Stir and cook until vegetables are softened, 3 minutes.
  • Brown the Rice – Add the rice. Stir and cook to lightly brown, 3 minutes.
  • Simmer – Add the diced tomatoes, chicken, and sausage, stir to combine. Add 1 cup reserved tomato juice, chicken stock, and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer—cover and cook for 10 minutes.
    Gently stir to scrape the bottom, cover, and cook for 10 minutes. Stir, cover, and cook for an additional 10 minutes.
  • Add the Shrimp – Stir the pot and place the shrimp in a single layer on top—cover and cook for 5 minutes.
  • Serve – Season with salt, pepper, or chili spices to taste. Garnish with green onions. Serve hot.

Recipe Video

YouTube video

Equipment

Notes

  • Storing: Cool completely and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
  • Freezing: Containers or bags can be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • Reheating: Cover and microwave on high setting in 30-second intervals until warmed through.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 8 servings
Calories 497kcal (25%)Carbohydrates 52g (17%)Protein 29g (58%)Fat 19g (29%)Saturated Fat 6g (30%)Cholesterol 72mg (24%)Sodium 1189mg (50%)Potassium 905mg (26%)Fiber 4g (16%)Sugar 4g (4%)Vitamin A 785IU (16%)Vitamin C 49.7mg (60%)Calcium 299mg (30%)Iron 8.4mg (47%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Julie- I think it could but you may need longer cooking time so use the package directions to help guide you. Don’t add the shrimp until the very end after the rice is tender.

  1. Utamu says

    This was awesome! It made more than enough food for left overs. I just signed up for the app and I am Loving that too!

  2. JJ says

    Jessica, this is an OUTSTANDING recipe. I’ve only made Jambalaya once before, and disliked the clump of pasty, overdone rice mush that is common for the dish, and thought I’d try cooking it in three ‘stages’: rice, meats, veggies, staying with every ingredient and measurement shown in your recipe. I also needed to “make-it-now-and re-heat/serve-later”, so I let the rice, meats, veggies chill overnight in separate bowls, and waited to mix it all together just before serving. Here are more details, if interested…

    I cooked the long grain rice in my rice cooker, using the juice from the diced tomatoes, the W. sauce, and enough chicken broth to bring it to the prescribed mark in the cooker to make a dry, fluffy rice. The salt was VERY lacking, but by serving time, wasn’t a problem. I set to cutting veggies and measuring the herbs/spices into bowls.
    Cooking the chicken was straight forward, with salt. I kept the liquid and added the andouille sausage (I peeled the paper-thin casing first and sliced the sausages very thin). When it was cooked as prescribed, I drained the fat and continued cooking the sausage to blacken it just a bit to add more dimension.

    As suggested in another online recipe, I put the fat from the sausage back to the pan (plus some olive oil) and added the cut veggies, all at once. I cooked them until slightly crunchy; about 8-10 minutes, tossing often. It was only then that I added the bowl of herbs/spices into the just-cooked veggies, gently tossing them in, then took the pan off the heat, covered, and allowed it to cool.

    I stored the veggie mix, rice and meat mixes in three different containers overnight. To serve, I reheated each in separate pans/bowls and when each was good and warm, only then, put them all together into a large pot, and stirred gently. I noticed that the juice from the warm veggie mix very quickly softened the rice, so I took two cooking spoons together into the pot and ‘fluffed’ the mass (it was like serving salad from a bowl) until everything was good and hot. And it helped keep the rice separated, not clumped.

    It came out great…the rice was moist (not pasty) but best of all was the amount of flavor and the wonderful aromas that came from all the ingredients.

    It’s definitely a keeper, and it’ll be handy the next time I have a few more people over for lunch or dinner. Thanks!

    • Eve says

      I think you (or anyone who reads this) should probably just try making it as intended. The rice is meant to be flavoured by cooking it with all of the other ingredients. The rice absorbs the flavour of the chicken stock, vegetables, and spices as it cooks. Otherwise the rice is just absorbing water and loses most of its ability to take in more flavours. The rice does not get pasty if it’s made correctly with the right amount of liquid for the right amount of time.

  3. Zac says

    This is a great one skillet meal. I don’t care for peppers very much so I cut that in half and happened to have some asparagus on hand so I threw it in. I also didn’t have Andouille but had some kielbasa. Nothing a little more cayenne couldn’t fix. The tomato was not overpowering and the rest was very balanced and thank goodness for Uncle Ben’s rice.
    Love it and will definitely be a regular in my house.

  4. Eve says

    Phenomenal recipe! I think it’s the best one available. The only change I made was to leave the salt out of your cajun seasoning recipe (also phenomenal!) so I could add it separately and better control the saltiness of the recipe. I did end up sprinkling a bit more of the spice mix onto the leftovers and I think that it made a lovely topping for it.

    By the way, you have the spelling as “jamalaya” in the title tag of this page if you would like to fix that for searchability or whatever! I just thought you might like to know! Thanks very much for the recipe.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Thank you for your feedback, Eve! Great suggestions for seasoning. Thrilled to hear that you enjoyed the jambalaya! Will make the fix too.

  5. Julie Ho says

    Question – my rice came out mushy , I cooked it exactly as your recipe. What can I do for less mushy rice ? It was yummy tho !

    • Jessica Gavin says

      What brand and type of rice did you use? You could reduce the amount of chicken stock to prevent the grains from being so mushy.

  6. Joe says

    One of my favorite dishes to create, always looking for recipes to improve it. This one looks like a winner, totally agree with you about large shrimp. I want to try your spice profile, sounds so so good. The one sinful thing I do is add carrots, something they would never ever do in NOLA. My daughter insisted I try it years ago and have been doing it every since.

  7. Pamela C Harriman says

    Jessica:
    I made your Jambalaya today for my husband’s 83rd birthday, it was EXCELLENT, and I followed the recipe exactly as written; except I washed my rice. After we finished dinner, I was reading the recipe again and noticed in the comments that you mentioned not washing the rice. I’m in such a habit of washing my basmati rice that I did it out of habit, and you said it would have been creamier if left unwashed, lesson learned.

    Oh, I have a question for you, and I’d need to know the answer because I might be making more work for myself than I need to be. Question is: if a recipe calls for 1 cup of rice, do I need to measure it on a scale to make sure it’s exact? Or can I assume that 1 cup means 1 cup and I don’t need to weigh it? I began doing this when making pasta because sometimes a recipe will say, “use 1/2 have the box of pasta” and I wanted to be precise. If you could let me know the answer to this question, I’d appreciate it.

    Thanks Jessica.
    Pamela

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Measuring ingredients on a scale always helps with consistency in recipes. However, I typically just measure by volume for dried rice since the granules are very small and compact compared to different shapes of noodles.

  8. Jan Tossman says

    Hi Jessica! This sounds like a delicious interpretation of Jambalaya. But I’m a little confused. In the top part of the site you say to brown rice for 30 minutes and stir three times gently. But in the recipe, you say to stir it in for 3 minutes. Could you please explain before I attempt this recipe? Thanks so much!!!

    • Jessica Gavin says

      Hi Jan- The science tip section is for using brown rice instead of white rice. The 30 minutes is for checking on the doneness of the brown rice variety. Toasting or browning the rice in the recipe instructions for 3 minutes should be followed.

  9. Brian says

    I had a question when doing the rice do you use dry rice out the package or cook it separately? I noticed a lot of comments about mushy rice