My Cajun French friend Sydney has given me a hard time for YEARS for making jambalaya the wrong way. I mean… give a girl from California a few years to explore her own jambalaya journey. Since moving to New Orleans I’ve made my jambalaya recipe the Creole way, with tomatoes. The result is a delicious rice dish with hints of paella and a firm reflection of the many different cultural influences in New Orleans.
This year I ventured into Cajun Jambalaya, a rice, chicken and sausage pot without tomatoes, flavored deeply by the fats within the meat. I was floored. I won’t say that I was making jambalaya the wrong way for years before but I will say I was making it the…. less good way. The meat and herb flavors in this Cajun jambalaya take center stage without being toppled by acidic tomatoes.
This pot is my new comfort food and it’s absolutely imperative to have a pot on the stove every night of deep Mardi Gras.
Jambalaya has its roots in Cajun cooking. It’s a one-pot meal traditionally made by dumping all of the ingredients into the one big pot you own and bringing it to a boil before covering for a long slow simmer. We won’t stray too far from those traditions.
Here’s what you’ll need to make this Cajun Jambalaya recipe:
• Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (the bones and the skin will create essential fat and flavor)
• Andouille sausage (If you can’t get Andouille sausage, a kielbasa sausage will give you the smoky flavor this dish needs. Andouille is seasoned with filé powder and heat spice. Amp up the spice if you’re using kielbasa.)
• yellow onion, green bell pepper, and celery – also known as the holy trinity.
• olive oil, salt, and fresh cracked black pepper
• thyme, oregano, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper
• chicken broth
• hot sauce (I like Crystal or Louisiana Hot Saucebrand)
• white rice – my preference is a medium grain rice. Feel free to use a short grain, long grain rice, brown rice, or jasmine rice.
• fresh parsley and scallions for serving
This dish is best cooked in a cast iron or dutch oven.
What is the difference between Cajun and Creole jambalaya?
Short answer: TOMATOES.
Cajun cooking is born from the French Acadian people who settled in the prairies and wetlands of Louisiana. Their cooking is very much based on what they had access to in the land around them. Creole cooking is best associated with the ethnically diverse port city of New Orleans. With access to different ingredients fresh off the boats, Creole food evolved beyond its Cajun influence.
Cajun Jambalaya is sometimes referred to as “brown” jambalaya as opposed to its tomato-infused cousin, Creole “red” jambalaya.
I think most people who don’t live down south know jambalaya and as the tomato paste tinted rice dish with chicken and shrimp. That was certainly true for me. This Cajun jambalaya recipe takes us back to its roots, with an updated cooking technique to draw out the a deep smoky flavor.
Which jambalaya is better – Cajun or Creole? You decide (except there is a correct answer and the correct answer is Cajun Jambalaya).
Here’s a recipe for an easy and affordable red jamby: Julia and Roger’s Creole Jambalaya
Serve with salad, and finish with a slice of buttered cornbread with honey for dessert.Print
A classic Cajun Jambalaya perfect to feed a crowd or feel your soul any time of year.
- 1 ½ pounds bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
- Sea salt, fresh cracked black pepper, sweet paprika
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound Cajun andouille sausage, sliced into ½-inch coins
- 1 medium yellow onion (225 grams), finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper (140 grams), finely diced
- 2 celery stalks (85 grams), finely diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, minced (1 teaspoon if using dried thyme)
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper, plus more to taste
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoons Louisiana Hot Sauce (or Crystal or Tabasco)
- ½ teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste
- 2 cups medium grain rice
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 4–6 scallions, sliced for garnish
- Season the chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and paprika and allow to rest at room temperature for 20 minutes.
- Place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
- In a Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot with a lid, heat oil on the stovetop over medium heat. When oil is hot, add the chicken, skin side down. We’ll cook the chicken in two batches so don’t feel the need to overcrowd the pan. Cook until browned (about 5 minutes) and flip to brown on the other side (another 5 minutes). Remove the chicken to a plate and cook the remaining chicken. Set aside.
- Add the andouille to the pan and cook until browned (about 6 minutes) stirring occasionally. If brown bits have accumulated on the bottom of the pan, that’s great – that’s flavor. Remove the sausage from the pan and place into a small bowl. Add the onions, peppers, and celery and cook until softened, 8-10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, thyme, and oregano and cook for another 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the garlic powder, cayenne, bay leaves and hot sauce and stir to combine.
- Stir in the rice and return the sausage and any juices to the pan. Stir and brown slightly, about 3 minutes. Nestle in the chicken pieces and any juices that have accumulated on the plate. Add the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Stir, cover, and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Give the jambalaya a stir. Replace the lid and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Before serving. Remove the chicken from the pan, discard the skin and bones, shred chicken and add back to the pan. Serve warm.