5 Upgrades To Make Box Jambalaya Mix Taste Homemade

Creole Seafood Jambalaya
Photo: Alison Miksch

While boxed mixes may have fallen out of fashion much like the pantyhose that were in vogue during the boxed mix heyday, there are certain situations even we, Southern Living, purveyor of homemade pie crust and barbecue sauce recipes, make exceptions for. Those situations include when you have come home from a particularly exhausting, inbox disaster-filled day at work far later than you expected. Tempted to eat a salad plate of Oreos and call it a day, you still have a small flickering light of hope that you can do better for yourself.

And that is when box jambalaya is there for you. Just add sausage, chicken, shrimp, or heck, even tofu (we are not here to judge), and in less time than it will take you to finally decide which episode of The Golden Girls you want to stream on Hulu, it all comes together.

In fact, we're such a fan of Zatarain's Jambalaya Mix, that we'll even make it on much less stressful nights. That's where we implement these five handy tricks to making it look and taste homemade.

Browned Sausage

Before you mix in your andouille or kielbasa into the pot, in a separate skillet, really brown up your sausage pieces until they get good and crispy on the outside. This will make sure they're less mushy and lend a more complex smoky flavor to the entire dish.

Perfect Shrimp

There's nothing worse than spending good hard-earned money on shrimp and then finding they have the same texture as pencil erasers. For perfect shrimp, fight against your fears of undercooking, and add in your shrimp no more than five minutes before you plan on serving the jambalaya. They will continue to cook in the heat of the pot even after you turn off the heat, so err on the side of less time than more.

Extra Veggies

From mushrooms to sliced squash, the addition of veggies not only helps your proteins go farther if you don't have a lot on hand, but it also adds different textures and shapes that make your jambalaya more visually interesting and flavorful. Try celery, peppers, garlic, peas, okra, and even green beans for extra flavor or crunch.

Fresh Herbs

Adding a sprinkle of fresh chopped oregano, thyme, or parsley adds color and a bit of brightness that really punches up the flavor, which is especially nice and unexpected for a box meal.

Bright Garnish

A scattering of scallion slices does wonders for enchiladas or rice bowls. The same principle applies here even if you're not going to take an Instagram-worthy photo of it.

More Add-In Ideas

Once you've learned these tricks for great homemade taste, you may be inspired to come up with your own version. A quick Internet search provides a lot of ideas for upgrading your box rice dinner. You'll find tips for adding a can of diced tomatoes with chiles or chicken broth to replace some or all of the cooking liquid. Make it creamy with a sprinkle of cheese stirred in. Or use ham instead of sausage. Think of this box as the canvas for an easy meal, and see what you come up with.

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