I have a hobby of trying to recreate all the good foods I’ve eaten, and it took me quite some time to develop this jambalaya recipe.
I don’t usually eat rice because it can be too carby for me, but every now and then I will cook up a pot of this Creole rice for my cheat day meal. If you haven’t tasted it before, you are in for a treat! To make it easier for you to picture, imagine a fusion between the flavor of Louisiana gumbo and the appearance of Italian risotto, and there you have it: jambalaya.
What Is The Difference Between Jambalaya And Paella?
What Is Jambalaya?
Jambalaya is a popular rice dish that originated in Louisiana. To make the dish, start off by sautéing the ‘holy trinity’: onions, celery, and bell peppers. Once the vegetables are softened, add the meat- usually smoked or andouille sausages, and brown them. Then long grain white rice, ripe or canned tomatoes, and broth will be added to the pot. Everything is simmered for about an hour or until the rice is cooked.
If you’re a rice lover, you’ll probably know this cooking method is pretty common when it comes to making a rice stew or soup. Speaking of which, I have this simple and healthy chicken and rice soup recipe that you might want to check out. You’re welcome, fellow rice lover. 😉
Now then, you might be wondering why I call this recipe Creole-style. The reason is simple- there are 2 types of jambalaya: Creole and Cajun. The 2 versions are basically the same, except for some minor details.
The first difference would be the tomatoes. Apparently in Cajun cuisine, it is not common to put tomatoes into your jambalaya. So if you’re planning to go to the state of Louisiana to seek a tomatoey jambalaya, go to New Orleans or the neighbouring areas.
Another thing that differentiates Creole and Cajun jambalaya is the cooking process. In Creole cooking, you will sauté the holy trinity, add tomatoes, broth, rice, and simmer everything until the rice is almost cooked. At this point you will add the shrimps and cook until both rice and shrimps are done.
Meanwhile, to make the Cajun jambalaya, the vegetables are simmered for an hour or until completely tender. The rice is added last and cooked in the soup for half an hour or until cooked. In other words, Cajun jambalaya takes longer to make.
Now, you might be wondering why I said jambalaya is a fusion between a gumbo and risotto. Well first of all, the rice is toasted in oil, and then cooked in broth; initially it may look like risotto. Secondly, the ingredients you need to make jambalaya are pretty similar to gumbo’s, except for thickeners. Since you’re cooking the rice in the broth, it will absorb all of the liquid and the starch from the rice will thicken the broth slightly. That being said, for today’s recipe, I am going to put okra in my jambalaya, just because. 😉
Jambalaya Vs. Paella: What Are The Differences?
Among a variety of famous rice dishes, jambalaya often gets mistaken for paella. So what is paella and why do people keep failing to tell the difference between the two rice dishes?
Paella is one of Spain’s iconic national dishes. Traditionally, paella is made by heating up olive oil to sauté the vegetables, meat such as chicken or rabbit, and a mixture of beans, before adding short or round grain rice, saffron or turmeric, and just enough water to cook the rice. All of the ingredients are cooked in the same giant pan that will later be the serving plate. If you’re concerned about where to get a giant pan or how it will fit your kitchen stove, don’t worry about it because you can use a normal-sized pan to cook paella at home. Nowadays it is hard to find one of those giant pans easily anyway.
So, appearance-wise, paella looks like a giant pan of yellow fried rice because of the saffron and turmeric. Paella is also a lot drier compared to jambalaya because it doesn’t require as much liquid. But really, the one thing that instantly distinguishes paella from other rice dishes is the pan that it is cooked in.
As for why some people cannot tell the difference between jambalaya and paella, I would have to guess that they have never tasted the two dishes before. If you’re one of those who haven’t tasted jambalaya or paella, let’s fix that today!
What Ingredients Go Into Jambalaya?
You know those recipes that require so many ingredients but are, in fact, so easy to make? This is one of them. Let’s take a look at what you’ll need:
- The fat: I’m using canola oil, but you can choose whatever type of fat you want.
- Spices: Cajun seasoning, dried thyme, oregano, and cayenne powder. You can add red pepper flakes too, if you want extra heat.
- The protein: chicken, sausages, seafood, etc. It is more common to use andouille sausages to make jambalaya, but regular smoked sausages will work just fine.
- The ‘holy trinity’: onions, bell peppers, and celery. It wouldn’t be Cajun cooking without the holy trinity!
- The liquid: chicken broth. Some people even add white wine or beer to help intensify the flavor of the dish. I haven’t tried this so if any of you guys have, please let me know how it turned out for you!
- Obviously, the rice: traditionally you would have to use long grain white rice, but I guess short grain or any white rice variety will work as well.
- The following ingredients are optional, but highly recommended as they will give your rice stew a lot more flavor: garlic, okra, tomatoes, hot sauce, and Worcestershire sauce.
- Finally, salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste.
For recipes with a long list of ingredients like this, I suggest you guys prepare everything in small bowls before cooking. That way you won’t get messed up and forget any of the items. It will probably take half of your kitchen counter space to put out everything, but it will help with the cooking process.
Easy Jambalaya Recipe
- 3 tbsp canola oil divided
- 10 oz smoked sausage cut into 1” pieces
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced into 1” chunks
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 celery stalks chopped
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 1 red bell pepper diced
- 4 garlic cloves crushed and minced
- 14 oz can tomatoes crushed
- 2 tbsp Cajun seasoning divided
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
- 1 cup chopped okra
- 1 1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice
- 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 lb raw shrimp peeled and deveined
- 1 tsp salt or to taste
- 1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper or to taste
- Chopped green onions and chopped parsley to garnish
How to make
- Season the sausage and chicken with a pinch of salt and half of the Cajun seasoning.
- In a large pot, heat up 1 tablespoon of canola oil over medium heat. Add sausage to the pot and cook until browned. Once cooked, remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside.
- Add the remaining oil to the pot. Add the chicken and sear until browned. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Preserve the oil in the pot.
- Add onions, celery, and bell peppers; cook until softened. Add garlic and stir around for a minute or until fragrant.
- Add crushed tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, hot pepper sauce, and all of the spices: salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, dried thyme, oregano, and the rest of Cajun seasoning.
- Add the chicken and sausage back in the pot, along with okra. Stir and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add chicken broth and rice to the pot and bring it to a boil. Once it starts boiling, turn the heat down to medium-low. Cover and let it simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the rice is cooked, stirring every 5 minutes.
- Add shrimp, stir gently, cover and let simmer for 5 minutes or until the shrimp are cooked.
- Taste and check for seasoning. Remove from the heat. Sprinkle over spring onions and parsley, and serve.