Creole Seafood Jambalaya

Once you know how to make jambalaya, you can personalize to your family's tastes.

Creole Seafood Jambalaya
Active Time:
1 hrs 20 mins
Total Time:
1 hrs 45 mins
6 to 8

There are plenty of opinions on what makes a good jambalaya, but we think this Creole seafood jambalaya is definitely a contender.

In addition to the classic components of sausage, rice, and chicken cooked in bacon fat to ramp up the smoky flavor, it includes a generous portion of shrimp to add a coastal vibe.

What Is a Jambalaya?

Originating in southern Louisiana in the 1800s, jambalaya is a stewy, one-pot dish that contains white rice cooked with proteins like sausage, pork, chicken, or seafood. It’s all flavored with a base of aromatic vegetables (Creole cooking’s "trinity" combination of onion, bell pepper, and celery) and spices, typically garlic, chile pepper, paprika. 

What's the Difference Between Gumbo and Jambalaya?

While both are a mainstay of Creole and Cajun cuisine, gumbo and jambalaya are two very different dishes. Both include rice, but in jambalaya, the rice is cooked with the rest of the ingredients, and gumbo is served with rice that’s been cooked separately.

A stew that can be thick or brothy, gumbo starts with a roux, which is a mixture of fat and flour that thickens the liquid, and also often includes either gumbo file or okra to further thicken the stew.

Jambalaya, meanwhile, includes just enough liquid to cook the rice, and usually includes some sort of smoked meat, such as bacon or sausage. 

The Main Difference Between Creole and Cajun Jambalaya

The biggest difference between Creole and Cajun jambalaya is that Creole jambalaya contains tomatoes, typically canned, crushed, or diced tomatoes. For this reason Creole jambalaya is also called red jambalaya, while Cajun jambalaya is referred to as brown jambalaya.

How To Make Jambalaya

Jambalaya follows a specific formula. Once you know the process, you can improvise with your favorite meats and other ingredients.

Step 1: Brown the meat in oil. Some recipes call for the meat to be removed and added back in later.

Step 2: In the drippings, sauté the aromatic vegetables and seasonings together, then sauté the rice and seasonings for a few minutes. Add a liquid, such as broth, and, if you’re making Creole jambalaya, the canned tomatoes, and simmer.

cooking jambalaya

Step 3: If you’re using seafood, add it towards the end of the rice cooking time, turn off the pot, and let it sit until the seafood and rice are cooked through.

What To Serve With Jambalaya

With protein, carbs, and vegetables, jambalaya is a feast unto itself. But a side dish like cornbread or biscuits would be a nice complement (and a good vehicle for sopping up extra sauce). A fresh green salad or corn on the cob would also make a nice counterpart to this rich, hearty dish.

How To Store Leftover Jambalaya

To store leftover jambalaya, let it cool until it is no longer piping-hot, and transfer it to a lidded container. Store it in the refrigerator for three to four days, and make sure to heat it until it’s simmering before eating.

In the freezer, jambalaya will keep for up to three months without a noticeable decline in quality. Thaw it overnight in the fridge before heating and serving.

Editorial contributions by Jessica Harlan.


  • 1/2 lb. bacon, diced 

  • 1 lb. fresh pork sausage, casings removed

  • 1/2 lb. andouille sausage, diced

  • 3 Tbsp. lard

  • 4 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch cubes

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 large onion, diced

  • 1 bell pepper, diced

  • 3 celery ribs, diced

  • 3 garlic cloves, minced

  • 2 cups converted white rice

  • 1 tsp. dried thyme

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. pimentón de la Vera or smoked paprika

  • 1 tsp. ground red pepper

  • 1 Tbsp. celery salt

  • 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

  • 2 cups basic chicken stock

  • 1 1/2 pounds raw Louisiana white shrimp or other wild American shrimp, peeled and deveined

  • 1 bunch green onions, chopped


  1. Cook bacon, sausage, and chicken:

    Heat a large Dutch oven over high heat until hot, and then reduce heat to medium. (This will allow the heat to be uniform all over, preventing those little hot spots that are likely to burn.) Cook bacon, sausages, and lard in the hot pot, stirring slowly with a long wooden spoon, for 10 minutes.

    cooking meat for jambalaya

    Season chicken thighs with kosher salt and black pepper. Add the chicken to pot, and cook, stirring often, 5 minutes or until chicken is brown.

    cooking chicken with meat in dutch oven
  2. Add the Holy Trinity:

    Increase heat to medium-high. Add onion to pot, and cook about 15 minutes or until soft. Add bell pepper, celery, and garlic, and cook 5 minutes. Continue stirring occasionally so everything in the pot cooks evenly.

    cooking bell pepper, onion, and celery to meat in dutch oven
  3. Add spice, and begin to simmer:

    Add rice, thyme, bay leaves, pimentón, red pepper, and celery salt to pot, and cook, stirring often, 3 minutes.

    lots of spices and rice added dutch oven with meat

    Increase heat to high, and add tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover pot, and simmer 15 minutes.

    cooking jambalaya with bay leaf
  4. Add seafood, and cook until rice is fluffy:

    After the rice has simmered for 15 minutes, fold in the shrimp and green onions.

    adding shrimp and green onions to jambalaya mixture in dutch oven

    Turn off the heat, and let everything continue to cook in the hot covered pot 10 more minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the jambalaya, and serve.

    finish pot of Creole Seafood Jambalaya
Additional reporting by
Jessica Harlan
photo of a white woman with mid-length brunette hair

Jessica Harlan is an Atlanta-based food writer and recipe developer for Southern Living. The author of nine cookbooks, she's written about food for nearly 30 years.

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