The Search For True Cajun Jambalaya
One of the quintessential recipes of Louisiana cuisine is Cajun Jambalaya. A deceptively simple yet flavor-complex rice dish with various types of meats (seafood, sausage, etc) depending on the person preparing the dish.
We’ve made it time and time again over the 20+ years we have been married. While we always made a pretty good pot of it, it was usually fast and loose without much rhyme or reason to it.
Up the road from us is one of our favorite restaurants. We hit it at least twice a month, usually ordering the exact same thing. While the entree is always delicious it is the cajun jambalaya that I look forward to. And every single time it tastes the same and is amazing in its execution.
So, of course, as a recipe blog without a jambalaya recipe it was time to get to work.
We started trying other restaurant’s recipes, most were creole but all left us a little disappointed. Most ranged from “yeah, that’s ok” to “meh … boring”. Some were relying on blasting the heat where some tasted like spanish rice.
None of them impressed us. Since the one place we fawned over wasn’t giving up their recipe (yeah, I asked) we got to work. Leigh and I cooked Jambalaya over and over again until we found the flavor we were looking for.
And we did, and are very happy to share it. No lie, the last time we cooked it I had some leftover from the restaurant and tossed it in lieu of what we had come up with. We exceeded our expectations with this recipe.
What’s the difference between Creole and Cajun?
In a nutshell, Creole food typically contains tomatoes and Cajun does not. This is why you will see different coloring in various jambalayas from restaurant to restaurant, recipe to recipe.
One is not in any way better than the other, it just depends on a person’s particular tastes.
With that said, I prefer the cajun style of cooking, especially when it comes to Jambalaya. Its taste cannot be confused by anything and screams Louisiana. And this is what I am looking for in ‘cajun’ comfort food.
Why Our Cajun Jambalaya?
What we really enjoy about this recipe is that the dish is not as ‘soupy’ as some other jambalayas. You can eat it with a fork. If you need a spoon to clean your bowl of jambalaya … well. Not a fan.
Our jambalaya uses an authentic mix of andouille sausage and pork. You can, of course, use other types of meat. Some people like shrimp or chicken as well. This is up to you.
We decided to keep it authentic because we find that it has the flavor and textures of an incredibly good jambalaya. I say keep it pure if you’re just starting out and then explore if you’re so inclined.
How To Prepare Cajun Jambalaya
The best way to prepare the cajun jambalaya is to do the prep work upfront. Once you have this in place, the dish comes together pretty darn quick, and pretty darn easy.
Dice the onion, celery, and green bell pepper into very small pieces: the smaller the better. You want these vegetables to basically become part of the flavoring of the dish.
Cutting them small will allow them to break down better and to avoid large chunks in your finished dish.
Cut the andouille sausage into thin rounds. Cut the pork into small pieces as well, removing any large pieces of fat and connective tissue. When you’re taking a bite of the jambalaya, you want to be able to get a bit of everything, not just one giant piece of meat.
In a small bowl combine the garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and black pepper. Sprinkle the seasoning over the pork butt pieces and toss to coat evenly.
Using a pot or dutch oven over medium high heat, add the olive oil and allow to heat.
Add the seasoned pork, sear until brown on all sides. When browning allow it to sit for a bit to get some caramelization on the meat. After browning, approximately 7 minutes, remove and set aside.
Add sausage to the pot and brown, approximately 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Add onions, celery, and bell pepper (holy trinity) to the pot and reduce the heat to medium. Allow to cook for approximately 7 minutes, wilting and softening up the vegetables. Stir occasionally, scraping the bits of pork and sausage free from the bottom of the pan. That’s some of the good flavor there.
Add the garlic and tomato paste and allow to cook for about 2 more minutes, stirring occasionally.
When ready, the vegetables should be soft and the color should be darker from the bits and juice from the pork and sausage.
Add the pork and sausage, chicken stock, Kitchen Bouquet, seasoning salt, thyme, oregano, and Old Bay to the pot and bring to a boil.
Add the rice and return to a boil. Cover and reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
Remove cover and quickly turn the rice. Cover and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender and the chicken stock has absorbed.
Remove from the heat and serve. Garnish with green onion or parsley.
We love this recipe!! The truth of it is we set out to get as close to the best tasting jambalaya we’ve ever had and actually surpassed it. We tried so many and really put this recipe to the test.
If you want to go full-out Bourbon Street, offer up some dessert with this killer Bread Pudding with Bourbon Sauce. Another New Orleans classic. This thing, again, is one we attacked with vigor and knocked out of the park!
A note about ingredients. We did learn that the overall flavor is really ruled by what kind of sausage you use. We tried smoked sausage, we tried various andouilles, we even tried a butcher shop’s sausage. We were amazed at how much the flavor changed from sausage to sausage.
So, if there is a favorite sausage you like, go with that. If you’re not sure which to use, we recommend the following:
We are not getting paid or in any other way getting something from this, we’re just sharing what we have found.
We hope that you try this recipe and we’re fairly confident that it will blow your socks off. As for us, when we go back to our favorite restaurant, I can get their gumbo now instead of the jambalaya. It’s good.
Of course, our shrimp and sausage gumbo is pretty delicious, too 😕.
Cajun Jambalaya Recipe
Cajun Jambalaya Recipe
The Holy Trinity – Equal parts Bell Pepper, Onion, and Celery (standard base for most cajun and creole cooking)
- 1 Bell Pepper Finely diced
- 1 Large Onion Finely diced
- 4 Celery stalks Finely diced
- 1 lb Andouille sausage sliced
- 1 lb Pork diced into small pieces
Seasonings for pork
- 1/2 tsp Garlic salt
- 1/2 tsp Onion powder
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp Black pepper
Spices and other ingredients needed
- 2 cups Long Grain Rice
- 3.5 cups Chicken stock
- 2 tbsp Olive oil or vegetable oil
- 1 tbsp Kitchen Bouquet
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- 1 tbsp Seasoning salt
- 3 Garlic cloves finely diced, approximately 2 tsp.
- 1/2 tsp Oregano
- 1/2 tsp Thyme
- 1/2 tsp Old Bay seasoning
- 1/2 cup Green onions chopped, optional
- 1/4 cup Parsley chopped, optional
- Dice onions, celery, and bell pepper into small pieces. Set aside.
- Cut andouille into thin rounds. Set aside.
- Cut pork into very small pieces, removing fat and any connective tissue. Set aside.
- In a small bowl combine the garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and black pepper.
- Heat oil in large pot or dutch oven.
- Sprinkle the pork seasoning over the meat and toss to coat evenly.
- Add the pork and brown for approximetly 7 minutes. Set aside
- Add andouille sausage to pot and brown for approximately 5 minutes. Set aside.
- Add onions, celery, and bell pepper to pot. Reduce heat to medium and cook for approximately 7 minutes, stirring and scraping bottom of pan to release bits of pork and sausage from bottom of pot.
- Add the chopped garlic and tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the pork and sausage, chicken stock, Kitchen Bouquet, seasoning salt, thyme, oregano, and Old Bay to the pot and bring to a boil.
- Add the rice and return to a boil.
- Cover and reduce to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
- Remove cover and quickly turn the rice.
- Cover and cook for an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the rice is tender and the chicken stock has absorbed.
- Remove from the heat and serve.
- Garnish with green onion or parsley (optional).