So remember on Monday when I was complaining about how hot it is here and how I was going to be posting cool, no-cook recipes? Well, when that didn’t work for me, I decided to fight fire with fire. And so we’re getting Jambalaya.

Before I moved here, I knew that like Red Beans and Rice, Jambalaya was standard Louisiana fare, but I’d never had it. And like most Cajun and Creole comfort foods, it somehow manages to use inexpensive, standard fridge and pantry ingredients while still being unbelievably delicious. In fact, I call this my “Hey, I’m cleaning out the fridge!” meal because it uses up all those odds and ends I never got a chance to use and it’s still probably one of my family’s favorite meals! In fact, if I were a betting gal, I would say if you’ve tried our Red Beans and Rice and liked ’em, you’ll like this even better.
I adapted this recipe from my new favorite cookbook. The first time I made it nearly as directed (I cut the meat in half) and while it was delicious, it was also way too hot for us. My husband also felt like the meat-to-rice ratio was too high (go figure that Mr. Meatman thought there was too much meat, especially after I had already halved it!) The second time around, I cut back on the meat even more, but I felt that because the dish gets so much flavor from the sausage, the flavor definitely suffered.
Finally, I made two significant changes (just call me Alton Brown with all my kitchen experiments here!) First, I went back to the amount of meat I used the first time, but I processed it in my food processor so the chunks of meat weren’t so overwhelming. Not only did it help with the meat-to-rice ratio problem, but it also distributed the flavor a little more thoroughly. Secondly, instead of using Andouille sausage, I substituted a high-quality Louisiana-style smoked sausage that was more on the mild side. That way, I could control the heat with Creole or Cajun seasoning and salt instead of being at the mercy of the Andouille manufacturer and how hot they decide to make their sausage.
This is just one of those recipes that you need to make before you die. It can be served as a side dish, but really, it’s meant to be a main dish. It’s one of those rustic meals that somehow manages to be homey and yet could be served for company at the same time. Just make sure you use a really great smoked sausage (no Hillshire Farms or Johnsonville here–look for something a little more local) and you’ll be good to go.
Our Best Bites
2 1/2 c. white rice
5 c. water
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1 green pepper, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 bunch green onions, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
A lot of garlic (probably 5-6 cloves), minced
1/2 lb. high-quality smoked sausage(approximately; you can actually use a little less if you buy, say, a 14-oz. package of sausage)
1/2 lb. ham (you can also substitute leftover fauxtisserie chicken, shrimp, or other shellfish; however, you’ll also need to compensate for the smokey flavor and the salt from the ham, so be prepared with liquid smoke and salt to taste. And you’ll want it to have a distinct smokey flavor.)
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning (you could use another Cajun or Creole seasoning, but this brand is widely accessible and cheap) to taste
Combine rice and water in a medium-large saucepan and cover with lid. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low and cook 20 minutes or until rice is cooked. Remove from heat and allow to stand an additional five minutes.
While rice is cooking, finely chop sausage and ham (in your food processor if you have one)

and set aside. Melt butter over medium heat in a very large skillet. When butter is hot and bubbly, add onion, green onions, green pepper, and celery and cook until tender. Add chopped meat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes. Add tomato sauce and then add cooked rice. Now start seasoning with the Cajun seasoning. It’s hot, I won’t lie, so if you find that it’s getting spicy enough for your taste but it’s still not salty enough, leave the Cajun seasoning alone and just finish seasoning it with Kosher salt. Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring frequently. Serve and enjoy! And be sure to save some leftovers–it tastes even better the next day!

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Meet The Author

Sara Wells

Sara Wells co-founded Our Best Bites in 2008. She is the author of three Bestselling Cook Books, Best Bites: 150 Family Favorite RecipesSavoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites, and 400 Calories or Less from Our Best Bites. Sara’s work has been featured in many local and national news outlets and publications such as Parenting MagazineBetter Homes & GardensFine CookingThe Rachel Ray Show and the New York Times.

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Questions & Reviews

  1. I just wanted to saw I make this recipe without the meat, butter, oil and rice. Instead I add squash and/or eggplant and tons of veggies and love it. I know, kind of weird, but it works!

  2. Jambalya is originally from western Africa and from what this liberian lady told me it is suppose to have 2 – 3 different kinds of meat in it, or sometimes from the same animalbut different parts of the animal body. It cost a lot to make the original recipe from what I remember her telling me, so if this is a scraps will do kinda recipe…and it works! Im game on!!!

  3. Jambalya is originially from western Africa and from what this liberian lady told me it is suppose to have 2 – 3 different kinds of meat in it, or sometimes from the same animalbut different parts of the animal body. It cost a lot to make the original recipe from what I remember her telling me, so if this is a scraps will do kinda recipe…and it works! Im game on!!!

  4. Tried this one on a whim tonight and it was delicious!! A little spicy for the wee one, but everyone else loved it! 🙂

  5. I made this tonight for dinner and it tasted AWESOME, but it was kind of mushy. Any idea what I did wrong? My husband loved the flavors, too…but noted that it was all kind of “together” instead of separate like your picture.

    1. You know, rice is kind of tricky like baking–so much of it depends on your elevations, you know? I’m guessing (and totally tell me if I’m wrong here, haha!) that you’re at a low elevation. If your rice is coming out mushy, especially when you’re adding stuff to it, try reducing the water by 1/4 c. Make sure you’re using long-grain rice. Also, a good parboiled rice is a great choice for things like Jambalaya because it doesn’t absorb water the same way–I use Zatarain’s (because it’s readily available and cheap), but if you can’t find that, try Uncle Ben’s parboiled rice (NOT instant rice). You can also reduce the water by 1/4 c. and 1 tablespoon and then replace that tablespoon with white vinegar–that will help the rice not stick together. The other piece of advice I have is (wow, I think I need to write a whole new post on cooking rice, lol! Apparently I have a lot of advice! 🙂 ) place the rice in a 12″ skillet (rather than a saucepan or pot). Heat the pan over medium, stirring the rice constantly, for about 5-7 minutes or until the rice starts to become fragrant and toasted. Add the liquid, bring it to a boil, then cover it, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 20 minutes. Let it stand covered for 5 minutes and you’ll have perfectly cooked, flavorful rice! 🙂

      1. Thank you SO much! I will try this next time 🙂 I still enjoyed the leftovers today for lunch 🙂

    1. Oops–my mistake! Thanks for pointing it out. You should add it with the onions and other stuff.

  6. What a great recipe.. Ever since I moved to New Orleans I have become obsessed with gumbo, jambalaya, red beans and rice and cajun seasoning – you name it if its from here I love it.

  7. I’m making this tonight for our Mardi Gras dinner. My husband served his mission in Louisiana, so hopefully I don’t mess it up. Could the rice be done in a rice cooker?

    1. Yep, you could for sure do the rice in the rice cooker! In fact, make the rice now if you have time and then keep it in the fridge–it’ll help the rice from becoming too sticky or gummy.

      Where did your hubby serve? I bet he’s got LOTS of stories! 🙂

  8. It was yummy. Honestly, it wasn't anything better than the Zatarains box mix (which is very tasty!). It's nice to have the fresh veggies (but you could just add those to the mix version). My husband is from Baton Rouge and he shares my sentiments. So, if in a pinch for time, just keep some sausage on hand in the freezer and a box of Zatarains on the shelf!

  9. Yummmmm!! Is all I have to say. I am new to the whole cooking thing but I've discovered I LOVE it. And I love this site. All of your recipe's and quick and easy. My husband and I mad the Jambalaya this evening and it was wonderful. I work late and so I had my husband cut everything up before hand, broke out the electric skillet when I got home and put it all together. It was soo easy and tasty. Thank you so much for all of the fun wonderful things you come up with.

  10. Oops commented on the wrong recipe that last time.

    Anyways, I made this Jambalaya on Sunday night and I absolutely loved it. The only things I changed was that I added carrots to the recipe and omitted the ham. Everything else was as is and it turned out great! Thanks for the recipe!

  11. I made this tonight and it was yummy. It makes a TON TON TON. Enough to feed a small army. But it's a great meal to freeze, so it's all good.
    I liked the flavor, but will definitely add in some shrimp or crab next go around to help give a more authentic taste/feel.
    It's a keeper!

  12. Made This Tonight – Seriously Easy and Super Good! Even My Husband Devoured It And He's Not One To Try New Things. He Even Asked If I Could Pack Leftovers For His Lunch Tomorrow! SCORE!

  13. Ok, Kate, I'm gonna try your recipe. We've been eating the box version since we moved to LA, and I think it's time to make it fresh! Thanks for sharing! :0)

  14. First you need a huge pot. I use chicken (four breats) and sausage, but cut in bite size chunks. I use a large can of diced tomato instead of the sauce. I dust with the following spices 2-3 times depending on your heat likes. White pepper, black pepper, garlic salt, cayenne pepper and a little tony's of course. Cook meats first, add chopped green pepper (2), green onion (one bunch), yellow onion (1). Steam until tender, add diced tomato and cooked rice, (two cups uncooked). There is never left overs.


  15. I made this jambalaya for dinner last night and it was wonderful! It immediately made the 'keeper' list on our fridge. My husband loved before he even tried it! I bookmark nearly every recipe you two ladies post and have mentioned your blog on my own–thanks so much!

  16. Malesa, even if you can't find Tony Chachere's (which would surprise me because I've seen it in regular grocery stores all over the US), you can use just regular Cajun or Creole seasoning that you find in the spice section. If all else fails, I know Emeril has a Cajun seasoning mix–just google "Emeril" and "Jambalaya" and you should be able to find it! 🙂

  17. I think that looks tasty. I have no idea where I'm going to get Creole sauce though. 🙁

  18. So it's *Jam* buh-lye-uh, and not *Jum* buh-lye-uh? I've always been a *Jum* kind of gal 🙂

  19. I laughed when I saw the title of your post today and wondered what happened to the cool, no-cook dinners! lol. It's great though because we've been having some cool, rainy days here (which is totally bizzare this time of year) so Jambalaya actually sounds fantastic.

    I agree with Jennifer- so many of the jambalaya recipes I've seen turn me off because they have an ingredient list a mile long and half of them I haven't heard of. This looks easy and yummy. I like your solution of processing the meat a little to distribute it better too. I'm going to try this one (and not mess it up like I did your red beans and rice!)

  20. This looks highly do-able. Most of the jambalaya recipes I've seen have like a bajillion ingredients. I think I'll try it tomorrow!