This proper Jambalaya recipe is for one of New Orleans’ most iconic and beloved dishes! Here, a rubble of juicy plump shrimp/prawns, seared smoky sausage and tender chicken are dotted through fragrant, Creole-spiced tomato rice and tender vegetables. This easy Jambalaya is packed with big punchy Louisiana flavours and is arguably the world’s best one-pot meal!
Around the world there are many chicken and rice dishes, all delicious in their own right. But then there’s Jambalaya.
It’s chicken and rice, yes. PLUS smoked sausages. PLUS prawns (shrimp). PLUS bacon. All mixed up with rice perfectly-cooked in a Creole spiced tomato broth along with tender vegetables. It’s damned hard to argue Jambalaya isn’t one of THE most epic rice dishes in the world*.
I scoffed down many a delicious bowl of the stuff during my travels some years ago in New Orleans, spiritual home of Jambalaya in the South. These unforgettable experiences allowed me to get a proper feel for what truly makes a Jambalaya tick, and I was determined replicate the dish back at home. And finally, here is is!!
About this Jambalaya recipe
It’s generally understood that there are two types of jambalaya – Creole and Cajun. Creole Jambalaya has its roots in the New Orleans area and is cooked in a tomato-y sauce, while Cajun Jambalaya is the rustic country version that omits the tomatoes and goes for a simpler approach.
This recipe is the Creole-style Jambalaya that I am more familiar with, the kind I ate too much of during my travels in New Orleans!
Jambalaya is however yo’ mama cooked it
Like many great dishes from the South, improvising and making use of what is at hand is at the heart of this dish. So there are broad guidelines but no hard rules around what goes into a Jambalaya – for many, it’s however yo’ mama cooked it!
The “holy trinity” of bell pepper, celery and onion is fairly standard. Meat-wise, seafood, chicken, pork, sausages, cured meat, rabbit and game can all find their way into the pot.
The one ingredient that seems to be fairly constant in all Jambalaya preparations though is some kind of sausage, and preferably a smoked one. Andouille, a spicy smoked sausage native to Louisiana, is the traditional choice. Don’t worry if you can’t get andouille, I’ve figured out some excellent subs that anyone can get, read more below!
Along with the sausage, chicken and shrimp (prawns) seems to be a classic combination with Creole Jambalaya. So we’re going to stick with the tried-and-true and go for this combo!
What goes in Jambalaya
A whole lot of good stuff! When you look at the ingredients, you know you’re in for a good thing, right?? 🙂
Just a note about a few of the items:
Sausages – Andouille sausages are the traditional type used but are hard to find outside of the US. But don’t fret! There are near perfect subs – read below the photo for more information.
Bacon – while not found in most traditional recipes, some call for cooking in bacon fat which, as you might imagine, is a very tasty thing. 🙂 So I figure, why not?
Homemade Creole Spice Mix – because I’ve never been 100% happy with store bought (even the ones I’ve brought back from the States). There’s not that many spices in it anyway!
Rice – long grain white rice is best, medium and short grain are ok. Risotto, paella, brown rice, and wild rice won’t work. Jasmine and basmati rice will absolutely work but might add a non-New-Orleansy bent to the dish 😂
Andouille: The traditional Jambalaya sausage
Traditionally, the sausages used in Jambalaya are andouille sausages which are spicy, heavily smoked pork sausages. The andouille imparts smoky flavour as it cooks with the rice; this is one of the characteristics of traditional Jambalaya.
But for all those who, like me, do not live in the States and literally cannot find andouille sausages anywhere (and I have hunted wide and far), do not fret, there is still a path to a GREAT Jambalaya…..
Best substitutes for andouille sausage
The taste of your Jambalaya will still make any Southern Mama proud if you use either of these substitution options:
Smoked sausages –Kielbasa or other smoked European sausage from a Polish, German or European deli. This is the best substitute for andouille, I’d go as far as to say they’re a very close match. I get mine from Brot and Wurst (Warriewood, Sydney) and Tatra Delicatessen (Parramatta, Sydney). I always ask for the smokiest sausage they have; or
Kransky* or even chorizo, which are not very smokey, combined with SMOKED bacon and SMOKED paprika (instead of unsmoked, which the recipe calls for). Not quite as good a match, but will get you get much of the way there.
To be honest though, even if you make this with ordinary sausages, unsmoked bacon and normal paprika, you’re still going to end up with a mighty tasty dish loaded with plenty of Cajun flavours!
* These are sold at Woolworths in Australia ($8-12/kg). Though labelled as smoked, it’s not enough to add much smokey flavour into the dish.
How to make Jambalaya
Here’s how this Jambalaya recipe goes down. I always start by browning the bacon and sausage because they release flavoured fat in which everything else is seared.
Essentially, once each of the proteins are seared (which I like to do separately to ensure they get good colour on them because as I always say, colour = flavour!), Jambalaya is really just a one pot rice recipe. Everything gets tossed in and cooked in the one pot.
TOP TIP: BAKE IT!
You’ll make your Jambalaya life a whole lot less stressful by baking the rice rather than cooking it on the stove (and I’ve recently discovered Serious Eats agrees!).
Jambalaya cooked on the stove requires experience. You need to master the skill of knowing how many times you can stir the rice so it cooks evenly and stop the base from burning, but ensuring you don’t stir too often which turns the rice into a gluey mushy mess (because this activates the starch).
The ONLY rice made for stirring is risotto rice. It distresses me to see so many Jambalaya recipes “out there” that say to stir lots. Distresses me!!😂
So – skip the mushy rice and head straight for stress-free Jambalaya nirvana by simply popping it in the oven instead. 100% hands free, Jambalaya perfection, every single time! ~ Nagi x
Watch how to make it
Jambalaya Recipe Source: This Jambalaya recipe is a RecipeTin Family effort that evolved based on our taste. Not too tomatoey, spiced but not too spicy, and rich with smoky flavours from the sausage as well as smoked bacon (our little touch).
We sought inspiration from recipes by the chefs from two of our favourite restaurants we visited on our last trip to New Orleans: The incredible Mother’s Restaurant (recipe) and a recipe from renowned Louisiana chef Donald Link (of Herbsaint and Cochon restaurants) for Cajun style jambalaya.
We also arrived at the same conclusion as Serious Eats’ recipe that the oven method is the most foolproof way to ensure your rice is evenly cooked without scorching the bottom of the pot, or over-stirring and ending up with gluey mushy rice!
Jambalaya Recipe (easy)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 180g (6oz) bacon , preferably SMOKED, chopped
- 200g (7oz) andouille or smoked sausage , sliced 0.5cm / 1/5" thick (Note 1)
- 300g (10oz) chicken thigh , skinless boneless, cut into 2.5cm /1" pieces
- 12 prawns/shrimp , raw, large, (peeled, with or without tails)
- 4 garlic cloves , minced
- 1 tbsp (15g) butter
- 1 onion , large, cut into 1.5 cm / 0.5" pieces
- 2 celery ribs , cut into 1.5 cm / 0.5" pieces
- 2 green capsicum / bell pepper , medium, cut into 1.5 cm / 0.5" pieces
- 1.25 cups long grain rice , uncooked (Note 2)
- 2.5 cups (625ml) low-sodium chicken broth / stock (Note 3)
- 200g (6.5oz) crushed canned tomato
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 cup green onions , sliced, plus more for serving
Creole Seasoning Mix:
- 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried thyme)
- 4 tsp sweet paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (adjust spice to taste)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 180C/350F (all types).
- Heat oil in a very large skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat. (Note 4)
- Add bacon, cook for 30 seconds (to start fat melting), then add sausages. Cook until sausages are golden - about 3 minutes - then remove into bowl.
- Add chicken into the pan and cook until golden (doesn't need to cook inside), then add to bowl with bacon.
- Sear prawns in the pan for 1.5 minutes on each side, then transfer to a separate bowl (reserve until later).
- Add butter, then garlic, onion, celery and capsicum. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes or until slightly softened.
- Add rice, stir to coat grains in oil.
- Add chicken broth, tomato paste, canned tomato, thyme and Seasoning Mix.
- Stir well, then add chicken, sausages and bacon (including all liquid).
- When you see bubbles across most of the surface, stir well once more. Ensure all rice is submerged, cover with lid, and transfer to oven. (See video)
- Bake 20 minutes. Remove lid and check rice by eating a few grains (careful, very hot!) If the rice is just about done (Note 5 for the correct consistency), go to next step. If rice grains are still firm in the centre, continue to cook, checking rice every 5 mins - most ovens take about 30 mins total cooking (see Note 7).
- Add prawns/shrimp and green onions, QUICKLY (but gently!) stir through, cover with lid, and return to oven for just 3 minutes (just to heat prawns).
- Remove from oven (see video for finished consistency), stir gently to fluff, then serve, garnished with more green onions if desired.
* Found in supermarkets in Australia like Woolies, Coles. Note: Kransky in supermarkets is labelled as smoked, but they are not very smokey. But honestly, even if you make this with normal sausages, normal bacon and normal paprika, you're still going to end up with a mighty tasty dish! 🙂 2. Rice - long grain is best here for the rice texture in the finished dish. Medium and short grain rice will work ok too but the rice is a bit stickier. Recipe not suitable for: risotto, paella, brown, wild rice. Will work with jasmine and basmati but they will add a fragrance not typically associated with Jambalaya! 3. Chicken broth - Low-sodium chicken broth is used here. If using full salt chicken stock, reduce salt in spice mix to 1/4 tsp. You can also use homemade chicken stock! 4. Pot size - I use a 30 cm / 12" Chasseur cast iron pot which is 2.5 L/2.5 quart. A large dutch oven works a treat here too, or any very large skillet with a lid. 5. Correct consistency - The jambalaya should be juicy and wet, not dry and stodgy nor swimming in liquid. The rice itself should be soft but still holding its shape with a little bite, like risotto cooked a little past al dente. It should not be completely soft, mushy or gluey on the outside (notorious problem with overstirring when Jambalaya is cooked on the stove). 6. Nutrition per serving (this is a decent size bowl!) 7. Oven cooking time - The total cooking time can very quite a lot, depending on what sort of pot you use (cast iron vs regular thinner-walled pot) and your oven (fan-forced vs slower, older ovens). Cooking times can be as long as 45 minutes, but in my oven and most others, it's done in 25 - 30 mins. This is why I recommend you start checking at 20 mins, and then every 5 mins after that.
Life of Dozer
The golden glow of Dozer in the car as we do winter meal deliveries in the cover of darkness!
He loves coming for food delivery rides – all the attention and free treats at every stop! 🐶