How to Make Jambalaya

Jambalaya is a Cajun classic, and has roots down in the French-Canadian immigrants to Louisiana. Mixed with spices and influence from the Caribbean and American South, jambalaya is a versatile, tasty dish that screams of New Orleans, and is easily customized to fit any party, dinner, or taste bud.



  • 3 Tablespoons olive oil (canola, vegetable oil, or butter will work in a pinch)
  • 1 yellow or white onion
  • 2-3 stalks of celery
  • 2-3 bell peppers of various colors (at least 1 should be green)
  • 1-2 jalapeno, Serrano, or other hot peppers (adjust to taste)
  • 4-5 cloves garlic
  • 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 14-oz can crushed red tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups uncooked rice (white or brown)
  • Spices, including salt, pepper, thyme, cayenne, paprika, bay leaf, crushed red pepper, lemon, Tabasco sauce, etc.)

Meats (Choose 2-3):

  • 1-2 pounds skinless chicken thighs or breasts (boneless)
  • 1-2 lb andouille sausage and/or chorizo (can substitute other smoked sausages)
  • 1-2 lb smoked ham
  • 1-2 lb shrimp, deveined[1]


  1. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 1
    Pre-cut the meat into bite-sized chunks and peel and devein any shrimp. Jambalaya takes a ton of ingredients, puts them in the same big pot, and lets the flavors meld and blend into something amazing. To pull it off, however, takes good kitchen timing and pre-planning. Instead of rushing to chop things and add them as they cook, get in the habit of preparing the big things ahead of time. Jambalaya can use any combination of meats you like, as long as they are pre-cut:
    • Chicken should be cut in slightly large than bite-size pieces
    • Sausage should be cut into round discs, roughly 1/4-1/2 inch thick.
    • Smoked ham should be cut into bite-sized cubes.
    • Shrimp should be thawed, peeled, and deveined.[2]
  2. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 2
    Chop the yellow onion, 2-3 stalks of celery, and green pepper into small cubes. Onions, celery, and green pepper form the "Holy Trinity" of Cajun food, and these three aromatic ingredients are at the base of almost every Cajun dish. While you can adjust the ratios however you see fit, most Cajun cooks end up with roughly two parts onion and one part celery and bell pepper. Chop them into pieces no bigger than a half inch.[3]
    • The Holy Trinity can be adjusted to taste, usually adding more onion instead of celery or pepper. More onions usually lead to a richer dish.
    • In a pinch, shallots can be substituted for onions and red and yellow peppers for green. This usually leads to a slightly sweeter Jambalaya.[4]
  3. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 3
    Heat up 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat until shimmering. Make sure you have a nice large sauce pot, preferably with a thick-bottom.You don't want the oil to start smoking, just shimmering lightly, as if a quiet lake is being disturbed by a light breeze.
  4. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 4
    Add the chopped vegetables, a quick pinch (1/2 teaspoon) of salt, and stir well. Salt should be added in small doses while you cook, as it helps unlock the natural flavors of your ingredients as you're cooking.
    • You want these vegetables to cook until the onions are slightly see through, or "translucent." That said, you should move to the next step while they heat up to stay on time.[5]
  5. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 5
    Mince any desired jalapenos and garlic and add to your Holy Trinity. Now that your base is completed, you can start making it your own. Chop up 1-2 jalapeno peppers and 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on taste. Cut them up about half as large as the vegetables above, and toss them into the hot oil to cook for 1-2 minutes.
    • Try to time your additions so that the onions, peppers, and celery finish cooking (remember -- translucent) at the same time as the finely chopped garlic and peppers.
    • The seeds of jalapenos are the hottest part, so you can scrape a few of them out if you're worried about it being too hot.[6]
  6. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 6
    Toss the meat in (EXCEPT the shrimp), add a pinch of salt, and stir. Toss in everything but the prawns and let them cook until they are almost finished. Use the chicken as your marker, as it takes longer than the rest and it is easiest to see when it is finished cooking (no more pink flesh). This should take roughly 5-7 minutes, depending on how small you cut the meat.[7]
    • If you have raw, unsmoked sausage, you might consider partially cooking it first. When it is still a little pink, remove it and cook the Holy Trinity in the remaining sausage fat, then add the meat back in with the chicken.
    • If things are sticking, add an extra 1/2 tablespoon of oil, let it heat for 10 seconds or so, then add in the meat.
  7. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 7
    Heat up your 3-4 cups of broth or stock while the meats finish cooking. You can add it cold, but this literally halts the cooking process until the pot can get back up to heat. It is best to preheat your broth first.
  8. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 8
    Add the stock, can of crushed tomatoes, and stir until the liquid is simmering. A simmer is when the bubbles are constantly breaking the surface of the liquid. If you preheated the stock, this should happen quickly. Use your wooden spoon to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom when the liquid hits -- these give the jambalaya it's appealingly dark, rich color.
  9. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 9
    Lower the heat to medium-low and add your spices, stirring well. This is where you really can make the jambalaya your own, customizing it to your taste buds and preferences. The following spices can all be mixed and matched in any quantities you want, but the basics illustrated here are a good place to start. If you're really lost, try purchasing a Cajun or Creole spice blend from your local supermarket instead:
    • 1/2 teaspoon black, white, red, and/or cayenne pepper (heavier on the cayenne)
    • 1 bay leaf
    • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
    • 1 teaspoon thyme and/or Oregano
    • 1/2 teaspoon cracked red pepper flakes
    • A pinch more salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon garlic and/or onion powder[8]
  10. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 10
    Add the rice, cover the pot, and simmer for a half hour, stirring occasionally. Check the rice starting at 20-25 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the rice on the bottom from burning. As it cooks, the rice should absorb all of the liquid, leaving you with a big, creamy, and flavorful rice dish. If the rice isn't cooked completely and the water is all gone, add another 1/2 cup or so to finish cooking.
    • Try not to remove the lid for long, as this releases the steam needed to cook the rice. Give it a quick stir every 3-4 minutes and then get the lid right back on.[9]
  11. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 11
    Add the shrimp once the rice is almost done, covering the pot again to cook the prawns. As the rice is getting done, stir in the shrimp and let them cook until they are pink throughout and completely cooked. Use this time to test the spices as well, adding a dash of salt and some seasoning if you desire it.
  12. Image titled Make Jambalaya Step 12
    Garnish with hot sauce, green onions, and/or parsley and serve hot. Most Cajun dishes will come with all three options on the table. Some people even love a bright, acidic punch of a lemon slice. Of course, this is all up to your personal preference, but know that these ingredients will certainly up the "authentic" factor of your dish.[10]


  • If time is a constraint for cooking, a crock pot cooker can be used in place of a large skillet. Simply add all of the ingredients in a crock pot and heat on "low". After 6 hours the jambalaya will be ready to serve.


  • Peppers as well as Tabasco will make the jambalaya spicy. If you are pregnant or medically unable to handle spicy foods, you may not want to eat jambalaya.
  • Take caution that the temperature of the jambalaya may. be hot when it ready to be served.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring cups
  • Measuring spoons
  • Knife and cutting board
  • Large skillet

Article Info

Categories: Soups