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5 Tips for Making the Best Jambalaya at Home

Nov 15, 2018

Jambalaya is a hearty, flavorful dish that’s loaded with meat, veggies, and seafood. It can be made many ways and with all kinds of different ingredients, but there are two main types of jambalaya: Creole (or red) jambalaya, is associated with the city of New Orleans and contains tomato; and Cajun (or brown) jambalaya, contains no tomato and is more common in other parts of Louisiana like the bayou. And while both iterations are delicious, the whole thing can sound a little daunting to try and make at home – especially with the long list of ingredients and spices involved! Here are a few quick tips for making a great jambalaya at home.

Choose the right meats (and rice) for maximum flavor.

The one constant in jambalaya is the sausage; andouille sausage, to be specific! This spicy smoked pork is what gives the dish its characteristic smoky flavor. Many choose to use a combination of proteins, like a mixture of chicken, smoked andouille sausage, and shrimp, which is a great option if you’re looking for more flavor!

Now for the rice! Jambalaya is traditionally made with the long-grain rice grown in Louisiana – more glutinous short-grain varieties would turn to mush in the pan as it’s cooked. Ordinary long grain can take a bit more heat in the way of cooking, and has the benefit of being cheaper too; just avoid the “easy cook” kind and make sure you have enough of it.

The “Holy Trinity” is essential.

The “holy trinity” of Cajun cooking is the aromatic mixture of onion, green bell pepper, and celery. It’s used in all kinds of Cajun dishes, but it’s especially essential in jambalaya recipes. You can also add garlic here, as garlic powder is a popular ingredient in cajun seasoning mixes (you can use either fresh garlic or the garlic powder with jambalaya).

Of course, you can always add in other vegetables (we can never say no to veggies), but be careful not to add too many – jambalaya can quickly turn into an over-complicated mess if you get a little ingredient-happy!

Don’t be afraid to load up on the seasonings and spices.

Black pepper, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, thyme, oregano, and hot sauce are the backbone of a great jambalaya. You can also add in some tomato paste or tomato powder, which creates a little sweetness. Add as much or as little hot sauce as you’d like, depending on your preference; while most jambalaya recipes are quite spicy, you may want to tone it down a bit if you aren’t used to overly spicy foods. The hot sauce really does add a clean, hot flavor that cuts through the richness of the other flavors.

Make your life a little easier by nixing all the separate spices, and use Eat Clean’s Big Easy Jambalaya Seasoning! It’s packed with onion, roasted garlic, paprika, and hints of cayenne pepper, Worcestershire, and thyme; basically all things Cajun-inspired!

Conquer the stirring conundrum.

Here’s the age-old jambalaya conundrum: if you don’t stir it at all, you’re likely to end up with a layer of blackened, burnt crud on the bottom of the pot by the time it’s done; stir it too much, on the other hand, and the rice will break and dissolve into a starchy mush. There are a ton of articles out there explaining the proper way to turn a jambalaya to prevent the bottom from burning, and while most of them overcomplicate the whole process, it’s best to not take too much of it to heart. A good general rule-of-thumb: stir gently after each ingredient addition, and turn the jambalaya at least twice during the cooking process. At the end, make sure all of the ingredients are ‘folded’ into each other and well-mixed. Just remember not to over-stir!

Add water if necessary.

Adding water at any point during the cooking process can help keep the contents of your pot from burning (so can adding oil). If you notice your pan has gone dry or is starting to, it’s a good idea to hit it with a couple tablespoons more oil or water to lubricate things well; that’s usually more than enough to do the trick. Remember, though, that a little brown at the bottom is necessary for that classic, smoky jambalaya flavor.

For more recipes and meal tips, visit our other blogs, or check out our online selection of spices and seasonings.

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