Jambalaya – This classic Southern one-pot dish boasts bold meaty flavors from chicken, sausage, shrimp, and intense Cajun spices. This protein-loaded dish is surprisingly easy, making it perfect for a weeknight meal yet lavish enough for entertaining. Everything you want for dinner is right here!
Chicken and sausage are browned to activate the Maillard reaction (a fancy word for the deliciousness when the sugars in proteins caramelize, enhancing flavor). Then add that, amazing spices, and shrimp to a big pot of rice, and you have heaven on a plate.
The best part is how the flavors play off each other. You get spicy, smokey, and so much more. The mix is complex, so your taste buds will never grow bored. 😉
What is Jambalaya?
Although it originated in Louisiana, it has French and Spanish roots, and the spices are reminiscent of African and Caribbean cuisine. For those unfamiliar with jambalaya, it is a hearty mix of meat, vegetables, and rice.
The base of this flavor-packed dish is the holy trinity, a combination of onions, bell peppers, and celery. All three are sautéed until fragrant to give incredible aromatic and nutritional value to our jambalaya.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Chicken Thighs – I prefer the thigh in most chicken recipes because the meat is tenderer, juicier, and tastier than the breast.
- Shrimp – Get your hands on the freshest and largest shrimp you can find. They will make your shrimp jambalaya more appealing.
- Andouille Sausage – This sausage is my favorite because its distinct smokey, coarse, and sharp taste intensifies the longer you cook it, resulting in more savory sausage jambalaya. You may swap it with kielbasa, smoked beef sausage, or Chinese chorizo. Want a vegetarian alternative? Vegan sausages made from buckwheat flour, white beans, or tofu will do the trick.
- Holy Trinity – The contrasting bitterness and sweetness are incredibly satisfying. Plus, the onion, bell pepper, and celery add a nice vibrant color to this fantastic jambalaya recipe.
- Spices – Creole seasoning, bay leaves, fresh thyme, and hot sauce kick up the flavor factor in my Immified version of this jambalaya recipe. And yes, it’s super easy to make your very own Homemade Creole Seasoning for the win.
- Uncooked Rice – I used basmati in this rice dish because it has a longer grain and is not as sticky as regular rice. And it’s perfect for this easy jambalaya recipe coz it doesn’t get mushy. Jasmine rice makes a good substitute. If you want to use brown rice instead, make sure that you parboil it first since it takes longer to cook.
- Crushed Tomatoes – Feel free to use canned or fresh tomatoes, or even puree; they will do fine. If using fresh tomatoes, check out my How to Cut Tomatoes guide.
How to Make Jambalaya
Cooking the Chicken and Sausage
- Season the Chicken and Shrimp – Place the chicken and shrimp in two separate bowls. Then season both with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning. Toss to coat evenly. Set them aside. (Photos 1&2)
- Saute the Chicken – Heat a heavy pot, skillet, or Dutch oven over medium heat and add about two tablespoons of oil. Place the seasoned chicken in the pan and brown on each side for 2-3 minutes; be very careful with the chicken so it doesn’t burn. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and set it aside. (Photos 3&4)
- Cook the Sausage – In the same pan, add the sausage slices and brown them for a few minutes. Remove and place next to the chicken. (Photos 5&6)
Making the Base and Adding the Rice
- Saute the Veggies – Add onions, celery, and bell pepper using the same pan and saute for 2-3 minutes. Follow with the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Continue cooking for 4-5 minutes. (Photos 7&8)
- Now the Rice – Next, stir in the crushed tomatoes and uncooked rice, followed by the chicken stock, Creole seasoning, salt, and pepper. (Photos 9-12)
- Add the Chicken – Return the cooked chicken and sausages to the pan. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to barely a simmer. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes. (Photos 13&14)
Adding the Shrimp
- It’s Time for Shrimp – After partially cooking the jambalaya for 15 minutes, add the seasoned shrimp into the pot while stirring the mixture gently. Cover with the lid and continue cooking while occasionally stirring until the shrimp is pink and cooked through – about 6-7 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the shrimp. (Photos 15&16)
- Garnish and Serve – Remove from the heat and sprinkle with green onions and parsley. Serve warm.
- Seafood Overload – Are you tired of meat? Try an 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 even spicier. Get your glass of milk ready! 😉
- Vegetarian Jambalaya – A few recipe adjustments will allow you to enjoy your jambalaya meat-free. Try oyster mushrooms and chunks of eggplant for a meaty taste and texture. Yay!
- Easier Jambalaya – An instant pot or crockpot also does a great job. Brown your chicken and sausage, saute your seasonings, then put everything but the shrimp in the pot. It takes five minutes on high, then five more minutes to naturally release pressure. Saute your shrimp until pinkly done. Then do a quick-release on the pressure, carefully remove the lid and add the shrimp. You can do the same process in a crockpot; it just takes longer.
Make-Ahead and Storage Instructions
Jambalaya is the perfect make-ahead dish. I think the flavors even improve the next day. Leftover rice has the tendency to dry out, but a splash of broth will take care of that.
Place the leftover jambalaya in an airtight container and refrigerate it. It should last at least four days in the fridge or the freezer for up to three months.
Reheating Leftover Jambalaya
- Microwave – Heat on medium power for 2-3 minutes or until heated through. Occasionally stir at 30-second intervals.
- Oven – Preheat the oven to 300/150℃, heat the leftover jambalaya in a covered oven-proof dish for 15-20 minutes, depending on the portion size.
- Stove – Reheat in a saucepan for about five minutes or until heated through
Tip: Add a splash of broth before reheating to bring back moisture.
Yes, they are very similar, but they differ in their spices. Paella uses saffron, and jambalaya recipes have a lot more heat. However, you can definitely see the Spanish influence in jambalaya.
Basmati and jasmine rice are the best kinds of rice to use in jambalaya because both are long-grain rice and don’t get mushy after cooking.
Too much liquid can make your jambalaya rice mushy because the more liquid the rice absorbs, the mushier it gets. Basmati and Jasmine rice are your rice best friends when making jambalaya because they hold together better.
What to Serve with Jambalaya
This dish is already a complete meal on its own. However, if you want to go all-out (Sunday dinner or family get-together), serve this Southern-Style Cornbread on the side or some fresh-from-the-oven Buttermilk Biscuits.
Would you love some greens to go with it? These Collard Greens are amazing, as is a bowl of this Broccoli Salad. And for the drinks, you can never go wrong with an ice-cold glass of Southern Sweet Tea or Lemonade. Oh yeah! 😍
More Rice Dishes You Can Prepare at Home
- Jollof Rice (Stovetop and Baked)
- Red Beans and Rice
- Caribbean Rice and Beans
- One-Pot Cilantro Lime Chicken and Rice
Watch How to Make It
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This blog post was first published in September 2018 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, an updated recipe, and a new video.
Chicken and Shrimp
- 1 pound (454 g) boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
- 1 pound (454 g) raw shrimp, peeled and deveined (tails on or off)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon (12 g) Creole seasoning
- ¼ cup (63 ml) cooking oil
- 12 ounce (336 g) andouille sausage, sliced into rounds
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 stalk celery, diced
- 1 large green bell pepper, seeded and diced
- 4-5 clove garlic, minced (about 1½ tablespoons)
- 2 teaspoon (2 g) thyme, minced
- 2-3 bay leaves
- 1½ cup (278 g) white rice, uncooked (short or long grain)
- 1 14-ounce can (400 g) crushed tomatoes
- 3 cup (750 ml) chicken broth, or water
- 1-2 teaspoon (4-8 g) Creole seasoning
- 1-2 teaspoon (5-10 g) hot sauce, (optional)
- 1 tablespoon (17 g) Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- sliced green onions, to garnish
- chopped parsley, to garnish
Cooking the Chicken and Sausage
- Place the chicken and shrimp in two separate bowls. Then season both with salt, pepper, and Creole seasoning. Toss to coat evenly. Set them aside.
- Heat a heavy pot, skillet, or Dutch oven over medium heat and add about two tablespoons of oil.
- Place the seasoned chicken in the pan and brown on each side for 2-3 minutes; be very careful with the chicken so it doesn't burn. Remove the cooked chicken from the pan and set it aside.
- In the same pan, add the sausage slices and brown them for a few minutes. Remove and place next to the chicken.
Making the Jambalaya
- Add onions, celery, and bell pepper using the same pan and saute for 2-3 minutes. Follow with the garlic, thyme, and bay leaf. Continue cooking for 4-5 minutes.
- Next, stir in the crushed tomatoes and uncooked rice, followed by the chicken stock, Creole seasoning, hot sauce (if using), Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper.
- After partially cooking the jambalaya for 15 minutes, add the seasoned shrimp into the pot while stirring the mixture gently.
- Cover with the lid and continue cooking while occasionally stirring until the shrimp is pink and cooked through – about 6-7 minutes, depending on the size and thickness of the shrimp.
- Remove from the heat and sprinkle with green onions and parsley. Serve warm.
Tips & Notes:
- Either jasmine or basmati rice is perfect coz they’re long-grain and don’t get clumpy when cooked.
- If you want to use brown rice instead, make sure that you parboil it first since it takes longer to cook.
- You may swap Andouille sausage with kielbasa sausage, smoked beef sausage, or Chinese chorizo.
- Try it as an all seafood delight. Level up your easy jambalaya with seafood addition like lobster, crab, clams, mussels, and squid.
- Feel free to replace the hot sauce with serrano, jalapenos, or Scotch bonnet peppers. Or omit it altogether.
- Please keep in mind that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the products used.