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Celebrate Fat Tuesday Right with Some Homemade Jambalaya!

A pot of jambalaya, sitting on a brightly colored table next to some fresh scallions.
Aimee Lee Studios/Shutterstock

Fat Tuesday is fast approaching, which means you’ll soon have an excuse to indulge in all the foods you love most. Jambalaya is a Mardi Gras must-have, and if you’ve never tried it, now’s your chance!

The streets of New Orleans are full of history, and the recipes neatly etched in family cookbooks have been passed down from generation to generation. They provide decades of creole and Cajun cuisine full of soul and passion.

Here’s how you can whip up a batch of jambalaya that’s sure to have everyone coming back for seconds (and thirds).

What Is Jambalaya?

In the French Quarter, people are passionate about their jambalaya. While each family has a different (and possibly secret) recipe, most include similar ingredients.

This stew-like dish combines vegetables often referred to as “the holy trinity”: onion, celery, and bell pepper. Andouille sausage and chicken also make their way into the pot along with stock and rice.

Depending on the recipe, shrimp might be added, along with seasoning to marry the flavors.

One very important detail to discuss, of course, is the difference between Cajun and creole jambalaya.

Cajun versus Creole

Jambalaya recipes fall under one of two categories: Cajun or creole. What sets the two apart are tomatoes and the order in which the ingredients are cooked.

The major differences are:

  • Cajun: Tomatoes aren’t used, but this tasty stew is flavorful as can be. First, you cook the meat, followed by the onion, celery, and peppers, and then the stock and rice. Once you add the stock, the browned bits provide a smoky flavor and dark hue. You mix just a few times before you add the other ingredients, like cooked shrimp, toward the end. Season to perfection, and you’ve got yourself a dish that will make everything else taste mediocre.
  • Creole: Often called “red” jambalaya because tomatoes are used. You also begin this recipe by cooking the holy trinity and meat together. Then, you add the tomatoes, stock, and rice to the pot and bring it to a boil.

You can easily spot a Cajun or creole jambalaya by the color: Cajun has a brownish hue, and creole is red.

How Is It Different from Gumbo?

While Jambalaya and gumbo might call for a lot of the same ingredients, you cook them very differently. One of the main differences is the rice. You serve gumbo on or with rice, but it’s actually part of jambalaya.

Gumbo’s also typically made with a dark roux to thicken it and includes okra.

Jambalaya Recipes

Ready to give jambalaya a try? Remember, each recipe has its own secrets and ingredients—no two are alike. What they do have in common, however, are the delicious flavors and aroma in every bite.

Give one (or both) of these a shot:

  • Comforting One-Pot Jambalaya: Enjoy this delicious meal filled with Louisiana flavors adored by so many. This creole recipe also offers perfect wine pairings and even a few great side options.

Get the Recipe: Cafe Delites

A serving of New Orleans Jambalaya on a plate.
Confetti and Bliss
  • New Orleans Jambalaya: You can customize this recipe until it’s exactly what you want it to be! Even better, the author provides the recipe for a homemade cajun spice blend you can add. This is a bit of a different take on this classic, but it will still be adored by all!

Get the Recipe: Confetti and Bliss

  • Jambalaya with Okra: As we mentioned previously, okra typically doesn’t belong in jambalaya—it’s a gumbo ingredient. Other unique additions to this recipe are the red and yellow bell peppers, which typically change the flavor profile of an authentic jambalaya. While it’s very different from a genuine jambalaya, this recipe offers vibrant colors and flavors you’ll enjoy.

Get the Recipe: Gimme Some Oven

Emilee Unterkoefler Emilee Unterkoefler
Emilee Unterkoefler is a freelance food writer, hiking enthusiast, and mama with over ten years of experience working in the food industry. Read Full Bio »
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