Jambalaya – a classic Southern one-pot dish with bold flavors made easy! Easy enough for a weeknight meal, yet makes a sumptuous meal when entertaining. Simply delicious!
What is Jambalaya?
This Jambalaya recipe has shrimp, sausage, and chicken. The chicken and sausage are browned to activate the Maillard reaction (caramelizing the sugars in proteins to enhance flavor) prior to adding them to the rice while the shrimp is tossed in with the rice to avoid overcooking.
Once added, all three melds together beautifully to create a series of incredible bites. The shrimp is plump and a juicy element of the sea, the sausage adds smokiness and the chicken is tender and flavorful. Along with the flavors combining beautifully, the texture variation keeps the palate engaged till the very end.
The best part is the way the flavors play off each other. You get spice, smoke and so much more. The mix is somewhat complex meaning your taste buds will never grow bored.
What is Jambalaya?
Although it originates from Louisiana, it has French and Spanish roots, the use of spices is reminiscent of what you’ll find in African and Caribbean Cuisine. For those unfamiliar with jambalaya, it is a hearty mix of meat, vegetables, and rice.
The base of the flavor-packed dish is the “holy trinity” which is a combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery. All three are sautéed until fragrant to give the jambalaya wonderful aromatics as well as nutritional value.
Jambalaya vs Gumbo
Both gumbo and jambalaya are quintessential to Southern cuisine. These two are packed with so many proteins like chicken, shrimp, and sausages. But the difference between a gumbo and a jambalaya is that gumbo is a soup or stew while jambalaya is a rice-based dish – more like Paella, or Biryani.
Jambalaya Recipe Ingredients
- Chicken Thighs – I prefer the thigh part in most of my chicken recipes because the meat is more tender, juicier, and tastier than the breast part.
- Andouille Sausage – what I like about this sausage is its distinct smoky, coarse, and sharp taste that intensifies the longer time you cook it. Resulting in more savory sausage jambalaya.
- Shrimp – get your hands on the freshest and largest shrimps you can find. They will make your shrimp jambalaya more appealing and inviting.
- Uncooked Rice – I used basmati in this rice dish. They have longer grains and less sticky than regular rice. Perfect for this easy jambalaya recipe so it won’t be mushy. 😉
- Diced Tomatoes – they are more flavorful because they are packed with tomato juice. But feel free to use canned, fresh tomatoes, or puree, they will do just fine. If you’re a fan of tomatoes, Cajun jambalaya is for you. 😉 Here’s my How to Cut Tomatoes.
- Bell Pepper – the contrasting taste of bitterness and sweetness is interestingly satisfying. Plus, it also adds nice vibrant color to this amazing chicken jambalaya.
- Celery – the aromatic and minty taste of celery stalks are very noticeable making it pretty popular among soup, stews, and salad.
- Onion – is essential when sauteing. The caramelized onion brings fantastic flavor to any dish. You might want to check How to Cut Onions here.
Spices and Seasonings
- Creole Seasoning – You’ll love the added kick of heat to this yummy Immaculatebites Jambalaya. And yes, you can make it from scratch with my Homemade Creole Seasoning recipe.
- Bay Leaves – the tea-like aroma adds another layer of flavor with its minty taste to this easy jambalaya recipe.
- Garlic – be sure to mince your garlic to fully release its nice garlicky flavor. Here’s a perfect guide on How to Mince Garlic.
- Fresh Thyme – using fresh herbs for this jambalaya is great because of its bold flavor compared to dried ones. However, you can still use dried thyme if fresh thyme is not available.
- Chicken Stock – I highly recommend using chicken stock because it’s loaded with chicken essence. But if you want everything to be organic, use water instead.
- Chicken Bouillon – it captures savory umami flavor with its concentrated chicken flavor. A nice addition to fully unleash all the wonderful chicken flavor.
- Salt and Pepper – the duo intensifies all the flavors of every dish and adds flavor balance to the overall dish. Without salt and pepper, everything will taste a little bland. Learn more about Pepper.
- Paprika – though it has a pungent taste because of its pepper origins, it also contains a hint of sweetness from bell peppers.
- White Pepper – is a milder spice that has a less complex flavor than black pepper but still gives you a kick of heat.
Andouille Sausage Substitute
- Kielbasa Sausage – if you love garlicky and spicy food, this sausage can give you that. 😉
- Smoke Beef Sausage – compared to kielbasa, this one is lightly spiced and less garlicky.
- Chinese Sausage or Chinese Chorizo – the sweet and salty taste of this sausage is the best fit for an Asian-inspired jambalaya recipe.
- Vegan Sausage – They are made from buckwheat flour, white beans, or tofu, the perfect substitute to make your jambalaya meat-free.
Basmati Rice Substitutes
- Jasmine Rice – I love Jasmine rice! It’s very fragrant and fluffy compared to regular white rice. A perfect substitute for basmati coz’ it’s also long-grain rice and doesn’t get clumpy when cooked.
- Brown Rice – since brown rice takes longer to cook, it is required to parboil it first. This one is a healthier version of rice because it’s rich in fiber and several vitamins and minerals.
- White Rice – the secret is to use less water or stock if you’re going to use white rice. Because the more liquid it absorbs, the more it’ll get stickier. 😉
Jambalaya Recipe Variation
- Seafood Overload – tired of meat? try the all seafood delight instead. Level up your easy jambalaya with seafood addition like lobster, crab, clams, mussels, and squid. Yum!
- Chili Peppers – spice it up! I suggest using Serrano, Jalapenos, or Scotch Bonnet Peppers to make your mouthwatering jambalaya spicy. Water is for the weak! Ready your glass of milk! 😉
- Vegan Jambalaya – with few recipe adjustments, you can now enjoy guilt-free and vegan jambalaya. Yay!
- Instant Pot Jambalaya – reduce cooking time by 30 minutes with the instant pot. Try it here.
- Crockpot Jambalaya – if you want to make it ahead to eat for later, this one fits the bill. Click here for the recipe.
Storing Leftover Jambalaya
- Place the leftover jambalaya in an airtight container.
- Refrigerated – can be stored for up to 4 days.
- Freezer – can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Note: It’s possible to freeze leftover jambalaya, however, I really don’t recommend storing them in the freezer. Because the rice will get mushy and the shrimp will get chewy after freezing.
Tip: If you really want to freeze the leftover, the best thing to do is to remove all the shrimps before freezing. Place the leftover in a ziplock bag and make sure to get as much air out as possible. If available, use a vacuum sealer.
- Microwave – Heat on medium power for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Occasionally stir at 30 secs intervals.
- Oven – at the preheated oven, heat the leftover at 300 degrees F for about 15-20 minutes depending on the portion size.
- Stove – on medium heat, reheat for 5 minutes or until heated through.
Tip: Add a splash or broth before reheating to bring back moisture.
Yes, they are very similar but they differ in spices used. Paella uses saffron which you cannot find in jambalaya recipes. Also, jambalaya is a little spicy, and paella is not.
Basmati and Jasmine rice are the best rice to use in jambalaya. Because both are long-grain rice and they don’t get mushy after cooking.
Too much liquid can make your jambalaya rice mushy. Because the more liquid they absorb, the mushier they get. Basmati and Jasmine rice are your rice best friends when it comes to making jambalaya because they have low chances of getting mushy.
More Rice Dishes You Can Prepare at Home
- Jollof Rice and Chicken
- Red Beans and Rice
- Jamaican Rice and Peas
- One Pot Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice
- Caribbean Style Fried Rice
How to Make the Best Jambalaya
Cooking the Chicken
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wash and dry the chicken – wash chicken thighs, wipe with a paper towel.
- Season – sprinkle both sides with a generous amount of Creole seasoning blend. Or you may use salt and pepper or your favorite spice mix
- Add oil to the pan – add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet or Dutch oven or oven safe pot/pan
- Brown chicken – on both sides for about 3 minutes each, be very careful with the chicken, it shouldn’t burn. (Photo 1)
- Remove from the pan and set aside.
- Remove excess oil from the pan – and leave approximately about 2-3 tablespoons of oil.
- Slightly fry the sausage and set aside. (Photo 2)
Adding the Rice
- Saute – add onions, thyme, garlic, celery, bell pepper, paprika, white pepper, bouillon, and sauté until soft but not golden, about 2-3 minutes then add rice, stir for another 2minutes. (Photos 3-4)
- Add tomatoes, chicken, sausage, and shrimp – gently add tomatoes, chicken stock, and salt. Place chicken, sausage, and shrimp on the bed of rice. Bring to a boil. (Photo 5)
- Place in the oven – and cook for about 30 -35 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. (Photo 6)
- Serve – remove let it cool and serve.
Watch How to Make It
This blog post was first published in September 2018 and has been updated with additional tips and a video.
- 2½-3 pound or (1134-1360 g) chicken thighs about 5 pcs
- 1-2 teaspoons (4-8 g) Creole Seasoning
- 1 teaspoon (5 g) salt and pepper to taste
- 8 ounce or (268 g) Andouille sausage sliced thick
- 1 medium onion
- 2 teaspoons (10 g) garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons (2 g) thyme fresh
- 1 stalk celery diced
- 1 whole bell pepper diced
- 2 teaspoons (4 g) paprika
- 1 teaspoon (2 g) white pepper
- ½-1 teaspoon chicken bouillon
- 2 pieces bay leaves
- 2 cup or (370 g) uncooked rice (I used Basmati in this recipe)
- 8 ounces tomatoes diced
- 2½-3 cups or (590-710 mL) chicken stock or water
- 8 ounces shrimp (extra large) peeled and deveined
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Wash chicken thighs, wipe with a paper towel.
- Sprinkle both sides with generous amount of creole seasoning blend. Or you may use salt and pepper or favorite spice mix
- Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to the skillet or Dutch oven or oven safe pot/pan
- Brown chicken on both sides for about 3 minutes each, be very careful with the chicken, it shouldn’t burn.
- Remove from the pan and set aside
- Remove excess oil from pan and leave approximately about 2-3 tablespoons oil.
- Add onions, thyme, garlic, celery, bell pepper, paprika, white pepper ,bouillon, and sauté until soft but not golden, about 2-3 minutes then add rice, stir for another 2minutes.
- Gently add tomatoes ,Chicken stock, and salt . Place chicken, sausage and shrimp on the bed of rice .Bring to a boil.
- Place in the oven and cook for about 30 -35 minutes until chicken is fully cooked
- Remove let it cool and serve.
Tips & Notes:
- Jasmine rice is a perfect substitute for basmati coz’ it’s also long-grain rice and doesn’t get clumpy when cooked.
- Tired of meat? try the all seafood delight instead. Level up your easy jambalaya with seafood addition like lobster, crab, clams, mussels, and squid.
- It’s possible to freeze leftover jambalaya, however, I really don’t recommend storing them in the freezer. Because the rice will get mushy and the shrimp will get chewy after freezing.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on products used.