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The best Jambalaya recipe is fill with Creole flavor, shrimp, pork, chicken, rice and just about everything else you’ll find in your kitchen fridge and pantry. A one pot meal that will feed a crowd almost as big as New Orleans itself!
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
This southern classic comfort food dish is a hearty, flavorful one-pot meal no matter where you’re located. Aromatics such as onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic make for the perfect base while a variety of meat and spices add depth and complexity to the dish. Rounded out with a tomato based rice for the perfect vessel of maximum flavor and comfort.
Is it Cajun or Creole Jambalaya?
We’re making Creole jambalaya, as Cajun uses slightly different spices and omits the tomatoes. Both versions use similar meat and the “holy trinity” of Caribbean vegetables: onions, celery, and bell pepper.
While making authentic jambalaya would be delicious in it’s own right, try not to be concerned with the specifics. At this point, each family has their own version of jambalaya that has secret ingredients and been passed down through the generations. You’re likely to find each family in Louisiana makes it slightly different, claiming their’s to be authentic and true.
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- Meats: You can use one or a variety of meats. Anything from chicken to pork, from shrimp to crawfish, spicy like andouille or chorizo to plain sausage or kielbasa.
- Vegetables: celery, bell pepper, garlic, and onion are a must. Tomatoes and tomato paste will add a depth of flavor and create the red rice. Okra is optional but a common garden staple in the south.
- Herbs & Spices: Creole seasoning can be purchased anywhere and will be the main flavor profile to the meal. Adding fresh herbs such as basil, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and chives, help to brighten this hearty dish and really drive home it’s fresh qualities. Bay leaves are a must to round out the dish.
- Rice: Long grain white rice is the traditional choice as it cooks quickly and can soak up all the flavors we’re adding to the dish. You can use whole grain rice or wild rice as well if that’s what you prefer. It will taste a bit different though.
- Other: Butter and oil are both used to help sear the meat and release flavors during the cooking process. Chicken stock is used to deglaze the pot and cook the rice for maximum flavor. Worcestershire sauce is added for a salty, briny flavor which complements the use of seafood.
If you’re not able to get a Creole spice mix, you can make your own by combining garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, thyme, oregano, basil, rosemary, bay, cayenne, salt, and pepper.
- Start by searing your pork in a large dutch oven. You should not need any oil at this point as it will naturally release during cooking. While sauteing the pork, coat the bite sized chicken thighs in half of the dry seasoning.
- Remove the sausage with a slotted spoon. Add the butter and chicken to the Dutch oven to sear on all sides.
- Sear until golden brown.
- Remove using a slotted spoon so all drippings are left behind.
- Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper.
- Saute for about 5 minutes until tender and all drippings have coated the vegetables.
- Add the garlic. Saute 1 minute until fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste and seasonings. Stir to coat all vegetables and allow to saute 1-2 minutes.
- Rinse the rice well until water runs clear and add to the pot.
- Stir the rice until it becomes red and is incorporated, and any moisture have left.
- Pour in the chicken stock and canned tomatoes. Use a wooden spoon to stir and loosen any stuck on seasonings.
- Bring to a boil and top with fresh herbs and bay leaves.
- Add cooked meat, raw shrimp, and okra. Cover for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit covered for 20 minutes.
- Remove cover and stir.
- Top with more fresh herbs and serve.
- Dutch Oven
- Wooden Spoon
- Slotted Spoon
- Measuring Cups
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Gumbo is more of a stew where jambalaya is more of a rice dish. There is more liquid in gumbo and requires a thickener such as flour. In jambalaya the starch of the rice is going to act as a natural thickener, plus the rice will absorb the liquid. Okra is a must have in gumbo, and optional in jambalaya.
Jambalaya originated from Southern Louisiana in the European quarter of New Orleans in the 18th century. It was a combination of families trying to make Spanish rice with no saffron (substituting tomatoes) and Caribbean immigrants bringing unique spices to the city. Read more here.
If you like heat use a chorizo or andouille sausage. These are the most traditional. If you are wanting a more mild dish for kids to enjoy, use kielbasa or smoked sausage links.
Paella has saffron and not as much heat as jambalaya.
- Start with searing the sausage in the Dutch oven. The sausage rounds will release oil as they are cooked, reducing the amount of excess oil you need to introduce to the dish. The following ingredients will then get to be sautéed in a hot spice oil for more flavor.
- Use half of the spices to coat the raw chicken in before searing. This will give the spices a chance to heat up in the pot during the searing process and will add more flavor to the dish overall.
Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 5 days. To reheat, microwave individual servings or on the stovetop for larger servings. Leftovers of jambalaya can also be frozen in a vacuum sealed container for up to 3 months. To thaw, place in the refrigerator the night before and reheat as instructed above.
Jambalaya is the perfect one-pot dish on it’s own. You could serve it with cornbread or a salad. If serving to a large group of people, you could also serve with a side of skewered shrimp and not have it in the jambalaya. That would be helpful when allergies are not known.
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The Best Jambalaya Recipe
- slotted spoon
- wooden spoon
- measuring utensils
- 12 ounce andouille sausage sliced into rounds
- 1 pounds chicken thighs boneless, skinless, bite sized pieces
- 3 Tablespoons Creole Seasoning or Cajun
- 1 yellow onion chopped
- 1 green pepper chopped
- 2 ribs celery chopped
- 1 Tablespoon garlic minced
- 2 Tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 TB Worcestershire sauce
- 2 cups white rice uncooked, rinsed
- 32 ounces chicken stock
- 14.5 ounces fire roasted diced tomatoes
- 16 ounces raw shrimp deveined, no tail, 26/35
- 2 bay leaves
- 8 okra sliced
- 3 Tablespoons mix of fresh herbs oregano, rosemary, basil, thyme
- 1 Tablespoon chives chopped for garnish
- Heat the empty dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the pork rounds. Saute for 7 minutes. Oils will coat the bottom of the pot from the pork. Remove cooked pork with a slotted spoon to a plate.
- Coat the bite sized chicken thigh pieces in half of the Creole seasoning. Add the butter and chicken to the Dutch oven to sear on all sides until golden brown, about 7 minutes. Remove using a slotted spoon so all drippings are left behind.
- Add the onion, celery, and bell pepper. Saute for 7 minutes before adding the minced garlic. Saute 1 minute more.
- Add the tomato paste and remaining Creole seasoning, Italian seasoning, and red pepper flaks. Stir to coat all vegetables and allow to saute 5 minutes.
- Rinse the rice well in a fine mesh strainer until water runs clear and add to the pot. Stir the rice until it becomes red and is incorporated, and any moisture have left.
- Pour in the chicken stock, canned tomatoes, and Worcestershire sauce. Use a wooden spoon to stir and loosen any stuck on seasonings.
- Bring to a boil (about 5 minutes) and top with fresh herbs and bay leaves.
- Add cooked meat and their juices, raw shrimp, and okra. Cover for 2 minutes. Turn off heat and allow to sit covered for 20 minutes.
- Remove cover and stir. Top with more fresh herbs and serve.