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.
Table of Contents
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.
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.
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.
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.
Serve this with
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.
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.
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.
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.
Pin this recipe to save for laterPin This
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
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.
Tried this recipe?
Tag me on Instagram. I'd love to see how it turns out!