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Sat, 11 May, 2024

Jambalaya: even the name of the dish is tasty! My version with chicken, sausage and prawns is made far from New Orleans but truly and deliciously Creole.


Rice with things

Rice dishes are gorgeous all over the world. From Indonesian nasi goreng and Chinese fried rice, Korean bibimbap and Indian biryani, through Middle Eastern pilau and tahchin, Italian risotto, Spanish paella and arroz negro, we can go all the way across the ocean to Mexican rice and jambalaya.

With all respect, all those dishes can go under the umbrella of ‘rice with things’, as infamously slung at Jamie Oliver, and I think it is one of my absolutely favourite kinds of dish.

Cooking methods vary, with Italian risottos possibly the most annoyingly laborious. But generally speaking, it’s easier to cook rice with things than perfect rice on its own (unless you own a rice cooker). Why? No idea, perhaps rice is companionable and gets cooked happier in company? And who can blame it?

chicken sausage and prawn jambalaya

Origin of jambalaya

What happens when you mix paella with jollof rice and add sausage made of tripe? Jambalaya! The origins of the dish are certainly a combo of Spanish, West African and French. Those influences melted and merged around Louisiana, producing roughly two types of jambalaya: Creole and Cajun.

The main difference is the presence (Creole) or absence (Cajun) of tomatoes in the pot, because the seasoning is similar. Cajun spice tends to be a little more peppery and Creole – herby, but even purists don’t insist on a hard line. So mine leans towards Creole, which incidentally is considered slightly posher. It figures. I'm a snob.

creole style jambalaya

Essential ingredients

Jambalaya base is the Creole ‘holy trinity’ of finely chopped celery, pepper and onion. It is the equivalent of Spanish sofrito or French mirepoix, the vegetable base for sauce or casserole.

creole holy trinity

Then in go the tomatoes or none, the seasoning blend, bay leaves and hot sauce and rice, of course. White rice is common but as my preference is always for brown, this is what I’m using. The only difference is in cooking time: almost twice as long.

The meats and seafood contents vary, with prawns, chicken, bacon appearing often, but one ingredient is non-negotiable for purists: French in origin andouille sausage.

meats for jambalaya

It is a peculiar product and I don’t believe modern day andouille sausages sold in US really are pig intestine filled with tripe, if only because it sounds pretty off-putting to a modern American taste. But that’s what the traditional sausage was, and in France it still is. And I can say, having tried it, it’s really much nicer than it sounds.

But alas! neither the French nor Louisiana version is easily available in UK, so the closest substitute will be any continental smoked pork sausage, like chorizo or Polish kielbasa. Both my main recipe sources, Serious Eats and The Guardian suggest that.

jambalaya with brown rice

How to cook jambalaya

And then we’re off, and it is really easy once all the fine chopping is done.

To get the right amount of liquid, drain the tomatoes into a jug leaving only solid chunks on the sieve. Tomato juice can now be topped with stock to make up half a litre needed for 200g/1 cup of well-rinsed rice.

draining tomatoes

You can use boneless chicken thighs but bone means flavour, so I prefer to brown them whole, let them cool and then cut the meat off the bones.

cooking meats

In the meantime we’re building flavours in an ovenproof pan, cast iron or similar, by browning sausage, then adding the celery, onion et al and cooking for a while to soften.

building flavours for jambalaya

All the spices will go in next, to toast and become fragrant, followed by everything else including the liquid, except rice which will go in when the pot contents are simmering.

cooking jambalaya

Stir it once and transfer to the oven, covered tightly with a lid. For brown rice it will take about an hour and a half to cook, and for white basmati – about 45 minutes.

When the rice is tender and the liquid absorbed, gently stir in the prawns and give them five minutes more oven time, and that’s that. Let your jambalaya rest for a few minutes out of the oven before serving and enjoying.

adding prawns to jambalaya

More Creole recipes

The best and the easiest pulled pork with smoked paprika rub, seared and flambéed on the hob followed by slow braising in the oven. Perfect for amazing tacos, sandwiches and pasta or rice topping.

Easy chicken Creole with chicken breast chunks and homemade Creole seasoning; best served with rice or plain tortilla chips.

Prawn étouffée for two served with plain rice is my signature special main dish these days. Easy sauce base and roux, and homemade Creole seasoning recipe included.

More Southern rice recipes

Charleston red rice is a wonderful dish of oven baked rice with bacon and tomato purée, flavoured with Cajun seasoning. A descendant of West African jollof rice, this dish is older than the United States!

Easy dirty rice with minced pork and homemade Creole seasoning, a bomb of flavours and a healthy main course ready in about 40 minutes.

Pink Mexican rice, arroz rojo, is easy and incredibly tasty. Spicy restaurant style Mexican rice is cooked like pilaf, with tomato and onion puree for the colour, chillies for the heat and diced potato and carrot for the texture.

oven baked jambalaya


Servings: 2-4Time: 3 hours


  • 200g (1 cup) basmati brown rice
  • 1 x 400g (14 oz) tin peeled whole tomatoes
  • about 300ml (1½ cups) chicken stock, more or less as needed
  • 2 chicken thighs
  • salt and black pepper
  • 150g (5 oz) smoked pork sausage, ideally andouille or chaurice
  • 1 shallot
  • 1 small green or yellow pepper
  • 2 celery ribs
  • 4 medium garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp white peppercorns
  • ½ tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp granulated garlic
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 1 tsp Tabasco sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 150g (5 oz) peeled raw prawns
  • finely chopped coriander (optional)


1. Rinse the rice in cold water several times until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside on a sieve.

2. Decant the tin of tomatoes into a measuring jug. Scoop the whole tomatoes out with your fingers, squeeze out excess juice into the jug and crush the tomatoes into pieces into a separate small bowl.

3. Top the tomato juice in the jug with chicken stock up to 500ml/2 cups. Set aside.

4. Pull the skin off the chicken thighs but leave the bone in. Season with salt and pepper.

5. Slice the sausage into thin rounds. Peel the shallot, core the pepper, trim the celery and chop them all into small dice. Peel and finely chop the garlic.

6. Grind the peppercorns with the other dry spices in a pestle and mortar with a pinch of salt. Preheat the oven to 160C/325F/gas 3.

7. Heat the oil in an ovenproof casserole dish, preferably cast iron. Add the chicken thighs and brown on all sides over medium-high heat, for about 6 minutes. Remove onto a chopping board to cool.

8. Add the sausage into the pan and cook until browned, stirring frequently. Add the shallot, pepper, celery and garlic and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes. In the meantime cut the chicken off the bone and chop into bite-sized pieces.

9. Add all the spices to the pot and cook for a minute to toast. Add the tomato ketchup, Tabasco, crushed tomatoes, tomato juice and stock, chicken, bay leaves and thyme sprigs, and bring to a simmer.

10. Stir in the rice and let it come back to a simmer. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 hour 20 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender.

11. Stir in the prawns and the coriander, if using, and return to oven for 5 more minutes. When out, let the jambalaya rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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Hello! I'm Anna Gaze, the Cuisine Fiend. Welcome to my recipe collection.

I have lots of recipes for you to choose from: healthy or indulgent, easy or more challenging, quick or involved - but always tasty.


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