Jambalaya: Laissez les Bons Temps Rouler


When I first moved to Louisiana I was often asked where I lived. A kind but accurate coworker stated “in her car — but she gets her mail in New Orleans.” I was working on a grant project that took me to most every corner of the state, and I learned the food preferences across the region.

If you are a Cajun from the Acadian region, then you prefer a brown jambalaya with its rich, developed flavor. If you are from New Orleans, then perhaps the creole or red jambalaya might be preferable with its bright tomato flavor. I like them both and cook a hybrid.

New Orleans is famous for many things and the Holy Trinity is one of them, perhaps an influence of the French presence in south Louisiana since it’s similar to their mirepoix. The Holy Trinity is a mixture of onion, pepper and celery. The locals say get your trinity and then add whatever the recipe calls for.

This is a big recipe, good for a crowd of 10 at least. When I make it, I share the joy with my neighbors. It’s far too much for my little household and it’s a fun thank-you to my community. So far no one has turned me down on the offer to deliver.


1 pound raw shrimp with shells (medium to large size, not gumbo shrimp, which are too tiny)
2 boneless chicken breasts or thighs
1 pound smoked sausage (andouille preferred)
Cajun seasoning (onion powder, garlic powder, thyme, oregano, paprika, cayenne: details below)
3 cups diced onions
2 cups diced green bell peppers or mix of green, red and yellow
2 cups diced celery
6 cloves diced garlic
16-ounce can of whole tomatoes (optional)
3 or 4 bay leaves
7 to 8 cups shrimp or chicken stock
2 cups white rice (or brown if that’s preferred, use more stock)
Chopped green onions for garnish

Peel the shrimp and place peels into a small stock pot. Add trimmings from vegetables and enough liquid to get at least 8 cups of stock. Add more veggies if you’d like. Bring to a boil and simmer.

Cut shrimp into bite-size pieces and set aside in the refrigerator. Slice sausage into half rounds and brown, preferably in a cast iron skillet. Remove to large stock pot.

Make the Cajun seasoning: 2 teaspoons each onion powder, garlic powder, smoked paprika, regular paprika, cayenne, dried oregano, plus 3 teaspoons dried thyme. Whisk seasoning mix with about 2/3 cup flour. Cut chicken into bite-size pieces and dredge in the seasoned flour.

Brown chicken with a bit of regular oil in the same pan that was used to brown the sausage. Use only enough oil to saute — try not to use too much. When chicken is browned and nearly done, transfer into stock pot with the sausage.

Using the same pan, saute onions, peppers, celery and garlic until wilted, 6–10 minutes depending on the size of your pan, stirring gently and frequently. Meanwhile, if you are using tomatoes, drain them and add juice to stock. Break up tomatoes and add to the stock pot with the sausage and chicken.

When vegetables are wilted, place them into the stock pot with the sausage and chicken. Strain the stock liquid from the shrimp peels into a separate container. Add at least 7 cups of liquid to the stock pot. I like my jambalaya moist, so adjust according to your taste.

Simmer for about 15 minutes. Add shrimp and simmer for another 15 minutes. Then add the rice and simmer covered until rice is done. Add liquid as needed and stir gently. Serve with sliced green onions on top.

Notes—Sausage: Andouille is traditionally pork that is smoked first, then made into sausage and smoked again. It’s always a good idea to taste the sausage at the front end of the recipe. If it’s not smoky enough for your taste you can add a dash of Liquid Smoke to the stock. Likewise, taste for heat. If it’s not spicy enough dial up the cayenne — if it’s too spicy dial it down. I’ve used chicken andouille as well as pork. Just taste it to get a feel for the smoke and heat. Shrimp: Unfortunately, it is next to impossible to get head-on shrimp here that is affordable but if you find it add the heads into that stock. I mostly buy white shrimp, which look like my favorite brown shrimp in Louisiana. You can skip making the shrimp stock and use chicken stock instead but the flavor of your jambalaya will suffer, as will your reputation.

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