A po’boy sandwich stuffed with deep-fried oysters and dressed in melted butter and chopped pickles. A hearty bowl of crayfish étouffée served over a bed of steaming hot rice. A plate of humble-looking boiled seafood that had been simmered in spices for hours. When I visited New Orleans during Mardi Gras a few years ago, I was overwhelmed by the sheer amount of delicious food I had to choose from.
But the aromatic and sometimes flamingly hot jambalaya was an obvious choice. The epitome of Cajun cuisine, it perfectly blends tangy, umami-rich, and smoky flavors into one filling meal.
When I came home, I wanted to try making my own version—so I consulted my friend Elizabeth, a Tulane alum who’s eaten her fair share of jambalaya at K Paul’s, a popular establishment among New Orleans locals. As she recommended cooking it in “a massive stew pot,” I decided to reach for our favorite Dutch oven, the 5.5-quart from Staub, because it can retain heat well and cook evenly.
What sets the foundation of jambalaya—or any classic cajun dish—is the holy trinity of bell pepper, onion, and celery. This is the Cajun adaptation of the French mirepoix, but without the carrots. The ratio is key: equal parts of each. Once you get the trio right, you’re halfway to a delicious Cajun dish.
Ready to finish it? Here’s my simple recipe for Dutch oven jambalaya.
How to make jambalaya in a Dutch Oven
What you’ll need
- 2 tbsp kosher salt (reserve 1 tbsp for step 3)
- 2 tbsp ground black pepper (reserve 1 tbsp for step 3)
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 2 tsp old bay seasoning
- 2 tsp cayenne pepper powder
- 2 tsp paprika powder
- 1 cup onion, chopped (we used one yellow onion)
- 1 cup bell peppers, chopped (we used one and a half green bell peppers)
- 1 cup celery, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 lb medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
- 8 oz andouille sausage, sliced
- 1 tbsp neutral vegetable oil
- 1 jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (optional)
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 15 oz canned crushed tomatoes
- 1 cup uncooked long grain rice (we used jasmine rice)
- 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken stock
- 2 green onions, thinly sliced, for garnish
Step 1: Mix the seasoning
Combine the spices in a small bowl to make the seasoning. Adjust the spiciness to taste. Set aside.
Step 2: Prepare the vegetables and garnish
Finely dice the onions, bell peppers, and celery into a uniform size. The more uniform they look, the more evenly they’ll cook. Set aside. Mince two cloves of garlic and set aside in a separate bowl. Then thinly slice two stalks of green onions, set aside for garnish.
Step 3: Prepare the meat and seafood
Cut the chicken thighs into 1-inch pieces. In a bowl, salt the chicken with a half tablespoon of kosher salt and a half tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper. Cover the bowl and store it in the fridge. Devein the shrimp and sprinkle with a half tablespoon of kosher salt and a half tablespoon of black pepper. Cut the sausages into small wedges, then set aside.
Step 4: Sauté the sausages
Over high heat, add two tablespoons of a neutral vegetable oil (we used canola oil) in the Dutch oven and wait for it to get very hot. Sauté the sausage pieces until brown spots start to appear and the exterior becomes lightly crisped. Remove the sausage pieces from the Dutch oven.
Step 5: Sauté the vegetables
While the pot is still hot, add the chopped bell peppers, onions, and celery, then sauté until tender. It’ll take about five to eight minutes depending on how hot your stove gets. Add minced garlic and stir. You can also add chopped jalapeño in this step.
Step 6: Sauté the chicken and sausage
Add the chicken pieces and sauté until the exterior turns white, about 5 minutes. Mix in the cooked sausage wedges.
Step 7: Season the dish
Over medium heat, stir in two tablespoons tomato paste and the seasoning until combined. Then pour the crushed tomatoes into the Dutch oven. Stir the mix until the color turns light brown.
Step 8: Cook the rice
Add the cup of long grain rice and stir the mix until each grain is coated with the sauce. Pour the chicken stock over the mixture. Cook over high heat until the mixture starts to boil, then immediately switch to low heat. Cover the pot with a lid and let simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 9: Cook the shrimp
Open the lid, stir the mix and add the deveined shrimp. Let the mix cook for another 10 to 20 minutes without the lid until the rice is cooked through.
Step 10: Serve the dish
Remove the pot from the stovetop. Cover and let rest for about 10 minutes. Salt or add extra spices to taste. Then, serve and garnish with spring onions.
If you like paella in the summer, you’ll absolutely fall in love with this jambalaya dish in the winter—in fact, they’re distant cousins as immigrants from Spain and France established their own communities in Louisiana two hundred or so years ago. If you’re celebrating Mardi Gras or simply craving Louisiana food, you’ll want to give this recipe a try.