Cajun Jambalaya

Cajun Jambalaya

The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

Prep: 30 mins
Cook: 60 mins
Total: 90 mins
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Yield: 2 1/2 quarts
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
304 Calories
17g Fat
19g Carbs
19g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 304
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 17g 22%
Saturated Fat 5g 26%
Cholesterol 78mg 26%
Sodium 1065mg 46%
Total Carbohydrate 19g 7%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 3g
Protein 19g
Vitamin C 18mg 89%
Calcium 42mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 554mg 12%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

As a Louisiana native, I’ve eaten and made jambalaya countless ways over the years, but the classic Cajun-style jambalaya is the version that I enjoy the most! It’s the perfect crowd-pleaser and feeds many people so your effort in this dish goes a long way. And if you’re not feeding a group, jambalaya will give you plenty of leftovers to enjoy throughout the week. 

There is some prep work involved in this jambalaya like chopping veggies and browning the chicken and sausage, but once those are prepped, everything comes together pretty quickly in one pot!

The Origins of Jambalaya

Jambalaya originates from Louisiana where African and European cuisines influenced many of the state’s classic dishes like gumbo and jambalaya where rice plays a key role. Inspiration for jambalaya can be linked specifically to Spanish paella which was itself likely adapted from African rice dishes when Muslim North Africans brought rice to Spain. And while there are many variations of jambalaya throughout Louisiana these days, the most common are Cajun and Creole which are unique to a region and differ in their predominant ingredients.

The Difference Between Cajun and Creole Jambalaya

What makes a jambalaya distinctly Cajun is the use of ingredients common to the bayou parishes (what we call counties that line the low-lying banks of the Mississippi River). These communities consisted primarily of working class farmers that had access to ingredients like andouille sausage, chicken or wild game, rice, oil, and the holy trinity veggies (onions, celery, and green bell pepper). 

For communities in and around the New Orleans area that were more influenced by Spanish and French cuisine, you’ll find tomatoes, seafood, and butter in jambalaya. These ingredients are common identifiers of Creole cuisine. Creole jambalaya also has a wetter consistency (similar to a European paella) than its Cajun counterparts.

What's the Difference Between Gumbo and Jambalaya?

The difference between gumbo and jambalaya is in the role of rice. For jambalaya, rice is the base and is combined with veggies, sausage and chicken to make a fried rice-style dish. For gumbo, rice is served on the side of the main roux-based soup. Additionally, jambalaya does not require a roux while gumbo does.

Tips for Making Jambalaya

  • Use long-grain rice – For the perfect rice consistency in jambalaya, make sure to use long-grain rice since it fluffs up and separates nicely during cooking, unlike short-grain which is starchier and sticks together. 
  • Rinse rice beforehand – To remove excess starches from long-grain rice, I always suggest pre-rinsing uncooked rice before cooking until the water runs clear. 
  • Andouille sausage is ideal, but an alternate will do – Andouille delivers a smoky spice that is distinctly Louisianan, and you can find it at most large grocers like Sprouts and Walmart. However, you can swap Andouille for another smoky sausage if you choose. 
  • Serve hot sauce on the side – Since hot sauces vary in vinegar profile, most Louisianans serve hot sauce on the side so folks can add as much or as little to their liking.
  • Make Ahead - Veggies can be chopped and meats can be browned beforehand. Refrigerate ingredients until ready to assemble in the jambalaya. 

“Cajun Jambalaya is a hearty and satisfying main course that’s relatively easy to put together. Andouille sausage and seared chicken thighs are a great combo in this super flavorful dish. Jambalaya is perfect for a casual dinner party and makes an easily packable lunch the next day.” —Joan Velush

Cajun Jambalaya
A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces

  • 4 teaspoons Cajun seasoning with salt, divided, or 3 teaspoons salt-free Cajun seasoning mixed with 1 teaspoon fine salt

  • 2 teaspoons neutral oil, such as canola

  • 12 ounces andouille or smoked sausage, cut into 1/4-inch thick coins

  • 1 cup diced yellow onion

  • 1 cup diced green bell pepper

  • 1/2 cup diced celery

  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 cups long-grain white rice, rinsed until water runs clear and drained

  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth

  • 4 medium scallions, thinly sliced

  • Tabasco sauce, for serving

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients. 

    Ingredients to make cajun jambalaya

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  2. In a medium bowl, combine chicken thighs with 2 teaspoons of the Cajun seasoning (if using salt-free seasoning, add 1/2 teaspoon of the salt as well) and toss to coat. 

    A bowl of chicken thigh meat and cajun seasoning

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  3. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot on medium-high. Add the chicken and brown on all sides, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside. 

    A large dutch oven with chicken thigh pieces

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  4. Add the sausage to the pot and cook until browned and the fat renders, about 5 minutes. Transfer to the same plate as the chicken. 

    A large dutch oven with slices of sausage

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  5. Add the onion, bell pepper, and celery to the pot. Sauté over medium heat until tender and translucent, 5 to 6 minutes. 

    Onion, bell peppers, and celery cooking in a large dutch oven

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  6. Add the garlic, rice, Worcestershire, bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, chicken broth, and the remaining 2 teaspoons Cajun seasoning (if using salt-free seasoning, add the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt). Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil on high heat.

    A large dutch oven with the onion mixture, garlic, rice, Worcestershire, bay leaves, thyme, black pepper, chicken broth, and Cajun seasoning

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  7. Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rice is fully cooked and you can fluff the rice with a fork, about 30 minutes. If the rice is still too wet, cook uncovered for another 5 to 10 minutes to evaporate excess moisture. 

    cooked jambalaya in pot over burner

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

  8. Serve garnished with the scallions and the hot sauce on the side. 

    jambalaya in pot with hot sauce and sliced scallions on side

    The Spruce Eats / Diana Chistruga

How to Store

Store leftovers covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. To reheat, microwave for 60 to 90 seconds until warmed through.

Recipe Variation

For a recipe closer to Creole-style jambalaya, see this version with shrimp and tomatoes.

Are There Tomatoes in Jambalaya?

There are no tomatoes in Cajun jambalayas; however, the French-influenced Creole jambalayas include tomatoes. 

Should Jambalaya be Thick or Soupy?

Jambalaya should be similar to in consistency to fried rice in that each rice kernel is separated.