Cooking a jambalaya involved many attempts before I finally mastered it. I think the first five jambalayas I made were total disasters. Well, not totally. But, they surely didn’t quite make it on the list of “good-looking” and “brown” jambalayas!
The first one I made came out “white,” and tasted good, but not like a jambalaya. It was more like a mixture of seasoned rice and meat. That was about 13 years ago, though.
Now, I can basically cook a jambalaya with my eyes closed! It’s really so easy, if you have the right set of instructions. This is why I’m sharing this recipe – I don’t want you to fail as many times as I did, if I can help it!
If you’ve had trouble like I did with your jambalayas, or if you’ve never cooked one, I’m here to help.
The problem I’ve had in the past was making it DARK brown like it’s supposed to be. Some people have mentioned using “Kitchen Bouquet” in their jambalayas to make it brown, but that is NOT the solution to a true Cajun jambalaya! No shortcuts and no cheats. Some people also add liquid smoke. We don’t.
Sure, you can buy a boxed version from your favorite brand for a quick fix. No harm in that. But if you want the secrets to cooking one from scratch, here it is…
After talking with one of my husband’s cousins, I asked her how they got their jambalaya so brown and delicious. She proceeded to explain that the secret is in the meat. While I was told in the past that you need to get your seasonings very brown, the whole truth is that you need to start with the meat, and get it so brown that it’s almost black. Thanks to those Acadian Cajuns, I got it!
Editor’s note: This post was originally published in May 2017, and has been updated with new photos and information for accuracy and comprehensiveness.
So, let’s get started!
How to Cook a Jambalaya from Scratch:
The printable recipe page is listed below; but first, I will guide you step-by-step with photos. Don’t be scared! It’s easier than you think, and it’s not rocket science! You got this!
First, dice roast into bite-size cubes.
Get your large pot ready with a tablespoon of coconut oil, and heat to medium-high. Throw in your meat, and season with Cajun seasoning, enough to coat the meat.
Also, please note that every time I add a new layer of food (i.e. meat, onions, bell pepper, excluding the sausage), I always season it accordingly with Cajun seasoning. This will insure that your food is being seasoned enough throughout the process.
The meat should sizzle when it hits the pot.
This next step is one of the most important. You will want to keep sizzling the meat until it forms a brown sediment (griade) at the bottom of the pot.
Once the meat has created a good browning at bottom of the pot, add about 1 cup of water. Don’t worry, we will cook this water out. You want to add enough water to be able to scrape the griade off the bottom, but not too much so that it doesn’t take too long to cook back out again.
Repeat this process (browning and adding water) a few times until you form a very dark-brown griade at the bottom of the pot. Each time, you will need to add water and let it cook out completely, brown the bottom, and then add more water to scrape off the bottom. This process can be repeated up to 5 times. You will be looking for a golden brown sauce that is formed when adding the water.
After cooking the water out for a final time, you are ready to add the rest of your ingredients.
Start by adding more oil (about 1 tBsp) to the pot and scrape the griade off the bottom
If you haven’t already, dice your sausage and add to the pot. This is my favorite turkey sausage.
This is beef sausage. *When using two different types of sausage, I like to cut them into different shapes. I quarter the turkey sausage, and half the beef sausage.
Add the onions and bell pepper.
This next step is also extremely important. Continue to cook the roast meat, sausage, and veggies mixture until it forms a griade again. Add water again.
This time though, you are going to want to make it even darker. It will be close-to-burnt. And even when you think you’ve burnt it, you probably haven’t. Just add water very quickly to scrape off the bottom and sides of the pot. You’re striving for almost black, not black 🙂
Repeat this process a few times until your veggies and sausage are browned. It will start to develop a beautiful dark-brown gravy.
This is when you will add the garlic and chicken (or other delicate meat). These two items take the least amount of time to cook, so I add them last. Adding the garlic with the onions won’t do any harm, but I’d rather add them last, so that the garlic flavor is not cooked down before we add the broth.
Again, season this layer of chicken before mixing it up into the rest of the pot. The reason I add chicken last is because chicken will tend to shred after cooking for a long time.
Once the chicken is cooked thoroughly with the rest of the ingredients (about 10 minutes), AND all of the liquid is cooked out, add the rice, and mix it. Cook the rice for about 5 minutes, while mixing it into the mixture. *Make sure all liquid is cooked out before adding the rice.
Please note that the amount of rice added MUST be measured. There must be an exact rice/water ratio in order to cook the rice perfectly (according to rice package directions).
Lastly, add the broth and extra Cajun seasoning (for this step, I use Tony’s), and mix thoroughly.
In this example, according to my rice package directions, I used 6 cups of rice & 12 cups of broth.
You will have a beautiful, golden-dark-brown liquid, formed from the griade and gravy that you previously cooked down.
Add the butter, and stir until melted
Bring to a boil, cover, and reduce heat to a low simmer. Stir occasionally to make sure it’s not sticking to the pot.
Cook about 20 minutes, or until rice is tender.
PRO TIP: TURN OFF THE HEAT RIGHT BEFORE THE RICE APPEARS DONE. COVER THE POT AND LET SIT FOR A FEW MINUTES. THIS WILL INSURE THAT YOUR RICE DOESN’T TURN MUSHY.
And voila! You have a homemade, Cajun Jambalaya!
**You don’t have to, but you’ll get the BEST results using a cast iron pot. This is my 7-quart black-iron pot.
- 4 TBsp Coconut Oil (flavorless), divided
- 2 lbs Roast or Loin, cubed
- 2 packages Smoked Sausage, cubed
- 2 lbs Chicken (or other delicate meat), cubed (sometimes I use leftover chicken)
- 6 Onions (Medium to Large)
- 5-6 Bell Peppers
- 6-8 Cloves of Garlic
- 5 cups of your favorite Rice
- 7 1/2 to 10 cups Beef Bouillon Broth, depending on liquid needed to cook rice (see Rice packaging)
- 1 stick of Butter
- Extra Salt
- Your Favorite Cajun Seasoning
- Get your large pot ready with a tablespoon of coconut oil, and heat to medium-high. Throw in your roast meat, and season with Cajun seasoning, enough to coat the meat.
- Keep sizzling the meat until it forms a brown sediment (griade) at the bottom of the pot. Once the meat has created a good browning at bottom of the pot, add about 1 cup of water. Add enough water to be able to scrape the griade off the bottom, but not too much so that it doesn’t take too long to cook back out gain.
- Repeat this process (browning and adding water) a few times until you form a very dark-brown griade at the bottom of the pot. Each time, you will need to add water and let it cook out completely, brown the bottom, and then add more water to scrape off the bottom. This process can be repeated up to 5 times. You will be looking for a golden brown sauce that is formed when adding the water. After cooking the water out for a final time, you are ready to add the rest of your ingredients one by one.
- Start by adding more oil (about 1 tBsp) to the pot and scrape the griade off the bottom. If you need to add a little water to scrape the bottom, then add a little water. Add sausage, onions, and bell pepper.
- Continue to cook the roast, sausage, and veggies mixture until it forms a griade again. Add water again.This time though, you are going to want to make it even darker. It will be close-to-burnt.
- Add water very quickly to scrape off the bottom and sides of the pot.
- Repeat this process a few times until your veggies and sausage are browned. It will start to develop a beautiful dark-brown gravy.
- Add the garlic and chicken, and cook until chicken is cooked through.
- Make sure all liquid is cooked out before adding the rice. Add the rice, and mix it, while cooking for at least 5 minutes.
- Add the broth, butter, and about 2 TBsp of extra Cajun seasoning, and bring mixture to a boil, stirring frequently.
- Once boiling, cover and simmer for at least 20 minutes, or until rice is thoroughly cooked, stirring occasionally to make sure it's not sticking to the pot. Add salt if needed. The saltier, the better. PRO TIP: TURN OFF THE HEAT RIGHT BEFORE THE RICE APPEARS DONE. COVER THE POT AND LET SIT FOR A FEW MINUTES. THIS WILL INSURE THAT YOUR RICE DOESN'T TURN MUSHY.
Every new layer of food added (i.e. meat, onions, bell pepper, excluding the sausage) should be seasoned accordingly with salt/Cajun seasoning. *YOU MAY WANT TO HALF THIS RECIPE (if this is your first time) BECAUSE IT MAKES A LOT!
Can’t wait to try this. I’ve never been able to make a good jambalaya. Do you think this would be a good way to make a gumbo also? On a side note, Jenn, I know you’re into a healthy lifestyle so I am just wondering if the pot you use to cook in is magnalite. If so, please do some research into the dangers of magnalite cooking. Also, have you tried making the jambayla with brown rice? Just wondering, because I’ve tried, but it came out terrible. Would love a recipe with brown rice that comes out good. Well, thanks for the very detailed directions for the jambalaya. I will try it and let you know.
Awesome! Thanks for reading!
I haven’t tried brown rice since we always use white rice. We have also changed our rice to a nonGMO rice that Rouse’s sells, since I’ve read that most rice contains so many chemicals like arsenic. I wonder if the brown rice would work in this recipe?
As for the Magnalite, I am using a Magnalite in this recipe, but I’m definitely looking forward to the day we upgrade to ALL black-iron pots! It’s the biggest pot I have, so I used it for huge meals. Supposedly, the old Maganlites were stainless steel, but the newer (fake) ones are made of aluminum. Not very good for you. Thank you for mentioning that 🙂
For gumbo, we use a very dark roux – which I will post soon enough! I’m getting there lol.
This is exactly how I make Jambayla. I always use cast iron. Will be making this over the weekend. Thanks for posting your great recipes! I am checking out your gumbo recipe too. Check out my website too please. Talk about healthy. You find it on my website.
I’d love to have a large cast iron pot one day! You’re welcome. And thanks!
The word you’re looking for is ‘grillade’ , not ‘griade.’ (Think of grits and grillades.)
Yes! Thank you! I think I saw this and realized I needed to update it!
Darleen B Picone
Hi Jen, what kind of seasoning do you use. They have so many.
I use a variety of different ones – Tony Chachere’s, Paleo Powder, Zatarrain’s. Also, one of my cousins developed a successful brand called Ole Cajun >> https://amzn.to/3meQV4z
Hi! Hugs from Panamá Central America, i have family in LA and i really love your food and culture. Here in Panamá we have an Afrocaribbean rice very similar to Jambalaya and the name is “One Pat” or “One Pot” afrocaribbeans that came for the construction of the Panama Canal, did have to eat in great quantitites and also eat food that was preserve (salted pig tail, salted shrimp and salted beef) and they used sausage also, its very rich in flavor, of course we unsalt everything first! Hope share the recipe with all of you also
Karen R Rymer
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