Jambalaya truly reflects a cultural heritage carried into the New World, nurtured and melded into its own special blend – hundreds of years ago, displaced French Canadians settled into the Louisiana area and adapted this dish to their new surroundings. A lovely melange of vegetables, earthy sausage and chicken are in this version, as well as just the right amount of spice to be interesting.
I’m a Northerner by birth, and when I make this dish, I do just like the Cajuns did so many centuries ago – I make it with the best, most available and cost-effective ingredients I can find where I live. If you’re feeling flush or live in an area where andouille and seafood is plentiful, by all means, load it up. I can attest, though, chicken and smoked sausage is perfectly legitimate and perfectly delicious in a Jambalaya.
Made with this roux base, Jambalaya is a world-class dish, and should rank right up there with the many other great rice dishes of the world. If you prefer the simpler red Jambalaya, instructions are below, as well, and you can get dinner on the table in a jiffy. (It’s a bit healthier, too.) Make Jambalaya in a Dutch oven over a campfire and you’ll be blown away, but it’s still excellent done inside.
Jambalaya, by its self is a reason for a party – a hearty one pot meal, this serves twelve, and it could hardly be less expensive. This recipe is not “hot” (not all Cajun food is) but if using Andouille, it perks it up a bit. If you’d like yours hotter, well, that’s what hot sauce is for. The recipe can easily be cut in half or increased, see below.
When I make this for “picky” kids, I often use the food processor to chop the vegetables quite finely – I call this “stealth” vegetables. The onions, celery and pepper almost disappear into the rice, and I’ve noticed that many children seem much happier eating a lot of vegetables if they don’t realize they’re doing so.
A quick plug, here, for another recipe. If you’re a fan of the great Louisiana cuisines, you might want to try out my Red Beans and Rice! A good fresh Cajun blend makes all the difference in Jambalaya.
Jambalaya, serves 12
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 2 chicken breasts, no skin, no bone, 1 1/4″ cubes – try to be fairly precise – if too small, the chicken will be too dry, and if too large, it may not be quite done
- 1/2 pound smoked sausage or andouille, cut diagonally on a slant, 1/4 to 3/8″ slices
- 4 medium onions, diced
- 4 stalks celery, diced
- 3 green peppers, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 cups long-grain rice (best if a converted or Uncle Ben’s type rice is not used)
- 6 cups chicken broth (if using canned tomato, the juice may be substituted for some of the broth)
- 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning, more if desired (try using the Cajun blend)
- a little salt and pepper if desired; (many Cajun seasonings already have both)
- 3 green onions, sliced, 3/8 to 1/2 inch
- 2 tomatoes, small dice
- about 1/4 cup Roux (perhaps just a bit more) or 1/4 cup Paprika (grocery store paprika is best.)
If using Roux, you’re making a “Cajan Jambalaya,” so start your roux (see recipe) although if it is your first time making a dark roux, you may want to make it ahead and just concentrate on it, rather than multitasking. Roux takes 30 to 35 minutes. Roux can be made in larger quantities and the extra and stored in the fridge in a little canning jar, where it will keep indefinitely. If you wish to make just for this recipe, use 1/4 cup oil and 1/4 cup flour; it will measure slightly more than 1/4 but it’s fine.
If you’re not using roux, you’ll be making a “Red Jambalaya” or a “Tomato Based Jambalaya” so proceed, and make the appropriate substitutions (they are listed below the recipe along with other variations such as seafood):
For all variations:
Heat oil in pan over medium to medium high heat and cook sausage until fat is mostly rendered and the sausage is lightly browned. Remove and place on a plate. Season chicken with salt and pepper and brown (but do not cook through) in the same pan. Remove and add to the same plate as sausage, but keep separate. You’ll add it back in when you turn the rice (which is when it will cook through) but the sausage goes in earlier, so don’t mix it together.
Add onions and celery to the pan and saute until nearly tender, add green pepper and garlic, and cook for a minute or two longer until the garlic is fragrant and the green pepper starting to soften.
Note: if you just want to go for it, saute the meats, then dump in the vegetables – it won’t be as “pretty” but works, and we often do this when camping.
Prepare green onion and tomatoes, add to the plate with the chicken (put them on the same plate so they can be added in one fell swoop.)
Return sausage to the pot, add Cajun seasoning, roux (or Paprika) and broth, bring to a boil. Add rice and return to a boil. Cover with lid and turn down to a simmer. After 10 minutes, working very quickly, remove the lid and add in the chicken, green onion and tomatoes, along with any accumulated juices.
Quickly turn the rice once from top to bottom, If it is a large pan, this may take two or three “scoops.” This is easiest done with a spatula. Do not worry about “mixing” in all the chicken, tomatoes and onions and getting them evenly incorporated. The longer the lid is off, the more heat is lost and the more you mess with the rice, the more chance there is that it will become gummy and/or starchy. The point, here, is to get the rice from the bottom of the pan to the upper portions.
Return the lid, again, as quickly as possible, and simmer an additional 15 minutes until rice is done.
Let sit for about two to three minutes with the lid on, then remove lid and fluff with a fork. Do not let it sit longer and steam or the freshly added vegetables and some of the meats/seafood will over cook.
- Red Jambalaya – simply omit the roux and add in 1/4 cup paprika instead. This option is less expensive and a bit lighter on the fat.
- Tomato based: Some use canned tomatoes and substitute part of the juice for some of the stock.
- Shrimp or seafood: Shrimp/seafood should be added as the rice is turned. 15 minutes is sufficient time for most to cook through.
Let’s talk about how to save money/time on this recipe:
- Use a coupon matching site! One of my favorites in my area is Pocket Your Dollars, but every store has a group of enthusiastic Coupon Matchers. Do not discount the savings! I check their site every week, even if I don’t “need” to go to the store and often find bargains I can’t pass up.
- Follow my 12 Strategies – You’ll see them on the upper drop down menu of every page and how I apply them, below.
- Don’t get discouraged if your prices don’t match mine! Keep shopping at the best prices and your fridge/freezer and pantry will be stocked with sales priced ingredients.
- Read below for additional tips as well as throughout the recipe, for saving time and managing food.
- Roux: As mentioned above, roux can be made in larger quantities and stored in the fridge.
- Vegetables: I almost always use a food processor for the vegetables, just roughly chop them first. I find that generally the smaller the dice, the more likely the kids I serve will eat the dish. The bell peppers can be very expensive out of season, but they really are key for this dish. I sometimes cut it back to one, or look for them on sale, and when I see them, I’ll make this. Celery 40 cents, Bell Peppers (3) $1.50, Onion 66 cents, Green Onion Free, Garlic 10 cents. Tomato 60 cents. Total: $3.26
- Chicken: I never buy full price chicken – it goes on sale too often. Some sales are better than others, but usually every few weeks it will drop to 99 cents a pound, and I stock up then. I prefer bone in breasts over boneless (see Bone-In Chicken Breasts, How to Deal with in a Frugal Manner) but I’ll buy either bone in or boneless at this price. I portion the chicken in Ziploc bags, a breast per person for meals and freeze. If breasts are super large, I’ll trim them down to about six ounces and make tenders for the kids or use the bits for stir fry. Half a pound, 50 cents.
- Smoked Sausage: Brand named sausage goes on sale regularly, often at the same time the producer issues coupons. Watch your coupon sites. I normally pay 50 cents to a dollar for a package of smoked sausage, and the “fancier” ones are aggressively marketed and sometimes free.Regular sales price is $2.50 in our area, so I’ll use that as the count. Meat total: $1.25.
- Rice: I almost always use regular rice, not instant, and not the flavored packets. I do look for sales and match with coupons. Often free with the right coupon and sale, if I can’t get it that way, I’ll check different areas of the store for a larger bag. About 30 cents.
- Chicken Stock: If you read me regularly, I make my own with scraps of vegetables and bones – here’s the basic recipe I use for Best Turkey or Chicken Stock - it’s not particular and though it simmers for a long time, the burner is barely on – I just count it as free.
- Cajun Seasoning: I mix up my own, see Spice, Herb & Flavor Substitutes. Cost is about 5 cents.
- Flour: Cost about 5 cents.
- Olive Oil: I have a little strategy for buying olive oil – using coupons and sales to lower the price, so click on the link. I think it’s important to use olive oil as opposed to many others – the health benefits outweigh a bit more extra cost, and it can be had at a very reasonable price. I also like the fact that Olive oil contains no hidden trans fats like Canola or Vegetable oil. Cost for this recipe: 24 cents.
- Roux – Some people cook the roux right in the dish – I have a hard time controlling it perfectly, and do mine in a different pan. I usually double it, and put half in the fridge for next time – it will keep, literally for months in a tightly closed jar in the back.
Per Serving: 454 Calories; 15g Fat (29.7% calories from fat); 19g Protein; 60g Carbohydrate; 3g Dietary Fiber; 37mg Cholesterol; 573mg Sodium. Exchanges: 3 1/2 Grain(Starch); 2 Lean Meat; 1 1/2 Vegetable; 2 1/2 Fat; 0 Other Carbohydrates.
Figures are given using the roux; the healthier version would be to use the tomato or paprika option, and if desired sausage may be omitted.
Put Your Own Spin on it:
There are no hard and fast rules on what you put in Jambalaya or how much of each ingredient. Vary this and make your own traditional family recipe. This is not hot or spicy, but pass the hot sauce for those who like it that way. If you do like spicy food, you could up the seasoning a bit, but Creole and/or Cajun cooking is not necessarily traditionally spicy.
Rules of Thumb:
- 1 cup of rice feeds three people.
- One cup of rice to one cup of onion, 1/2 cup of celery and 1/2 cup of green pepper.
- One cup of raw rice to 1 1/2 cup of liquid.
- Over season to compensate for the rice.
- Cook a total of 25 minutes, turning after 10.
- Serving size is about 1 3/4 cup.
My Pay Off:
An easy one pot meal that everyone seems to like, and usually has leftovers. It’s simple, fun and great party food, or a great dish to cook and serve early in the week and then bring it out a few days later.
I do sometimes freeze a serving or two for lunches; they tend to get a little mushy, but still taste great.
Recipe originally made April 2012 for $6.86, remade March 2014 for $5.60.