"Real" Jambalaya!

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Smoking Fanatic
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The "real" part is a little ribbing for my Crecent City friends. 

Probably not well known outside of Louisiana, there are actually 2 main variations of Jambalaya in the Pelican State. Red and brown. The main difference is the use of tomatoes. There are some other differences too, but tomatoes is the main divider. Since New Orleans is a famous city frequented by many tourists every year most people think jambalaya is red and has tomatoes in it and andouille and shrimp or even crawfish, or God forbid something like alligator or nutria. However, head west on I-10 toward Baton Rouge and you will discover a very different version of jambalaya. Those of us from the south central area of the state, in and around Baton Rouge, call this version the "real" jambalaya. It is brown and would never, ever in a million years be in the same zip code with tomatoes. 

Now, I am only kidding when I say brown is the "real" jambalaya, but only a little. We are passionate about jambalaya where I come from. 

*For starters, we pronounce it jumbalaya. Don't ask me why, we just do. Its a U sound not an A sound. Not jam but jum. 

* The jambalaya epicenter is a little town immediately east of Baton Rouge called Gonzales, Louisiana. This is where the Jambalaya Festival is held every year in late May. 

*Brown Jambalaya is truly an art to cook. In fact, participants in the Jambalaya festival have to choose from the same ingredients: Chicken, yellow onions, green onions, garlic, bell peppers, celery, red pepper, black pepper, salt and cooking oil. You don't have to use all of them but you must use from this. You must use a cast iron pot and THE HEAT IS FROM A WOOD FIRE. This is not a contest you do just for kicks. These folks are dead serious about it. 

Well, I had the envie (pronounced auhvee) for some jambalaya today and I remembered to take some pics to share. Now, I am not a good jambalaya cooker but it is fun and every now and again I get it right. 

Festival Jambalaya only has chicken as the meat. But everywhere else we use chicken, sausage and often pork. I ended up using all the pork butt for some Italian sausage I made this morning so I just used chicken and sausage. 

I start by browning about a pound of cut up chicken thighs. Proper browning of the meat to achieve a gratin, where the meat sticks a little bit to the bottom of the pot. This is vitally important as this gives jambalaya its distinctive flavor and its brown color. 

The trick is getting lots of gratin but not scorching the meat:

This is good stuff on the bottom. I've seen better gratin but this will work 

Now to brown the sausage. Not too much on the sausage as it will burn easier.

Now the onions, green onions, bell pepper and garlic and a little parsley: 

As the veggies sweat they will deglaze the gratin. 

 As the gratin loosens it will turn everything nice and dark. This is where the color will come from.

Most of the grating is off the bottom and incorporated into the veggies. 

Now we add the meat and some stock: 

Let it simmer for 15- 20 or so:

Then get it to a hard rolling boil and add the rice. This is important since you want it to come to a boil again ASAP after the rice. This will make the rice "pop", where it actually splits at the seam later as it cooks. Let it roll without a lid until it it starts to gain bulk and absorb the stock. I let it go a little longer after this pic and then put on the lid and cut the fire down to barely on. 

Don't touch it for 20-30 minutes. If you have a lot in the pot leave it closer to 30. No peaking.

After 20 minutes or so you need to turn the rice. Do not scrape the bottom. Gently get the rice toward the bottom to trade places with the rice at the top. If there is still some liquid put on the lid and let it go another 10 minutes on super low heat then check it again. Then put the top on and take it off the flame let it set for at least 15 minutes. 

If there is no liquid left when you turn the rice, then put the lid on and let set for at least 15 minutes. Longer is better. 

After 20 minutes and a turn.:

Just about ready to eat. Some of the rice has split, a good sign. It should be most of the grains but I am not complaining. This jambalaya came out good. Like I said, I'm  a so-so jambalaya cooker but the Gods smiled on me today. 

Last edited:


Master of the Pit
SMF Premier Member
Feb 7, 2015
New Orleans LA
That looks "Real" good!  



Master of the Pit
Apr 6, 2015
Central New York
Thank You for the how to on this, it sure looks good to me.

Do you put any spices in it or is it just as it is?

Either way I'm going for it.

Points to you, Sir.



Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
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Apr 12, 2013
Kent, UK
That looks really good. I will give it a try over the next day or so. Any recommendations on the type of stock to use?


Fire Starter
Feb 13, 2016
St Augustine, FL
This looks great!
 Ya got me hankering for some Louisiana food now...!!! Looks like I'm going to have to drag a pound or so of some of my homemade Boudin
 out of the freezer for lunch, while I'm letting a couple pounds of my homemade Andouille and Tasso defrost along with some chicken thighs.  Tonight we're gonna make us a batch of this jambalaya. Thanks for the nudge...

Incidentally, back when we were growing up in South-Central Louisiana (that's the Acadiana / Cajun Country region of Louisiana for you non-Southerner types out there), jambalaya to us was all the leftovers in the reefer mixed together in a pot, heated thoroughly, then served with rice.



Smoking Fanatic
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I love the regionality of this dish. I can see it is a relative of paella but it's own deal .
It is generally accepted that it evolved from the Spaniards and their paella. Because saffron threads were difficult to obtain in the new world tomatoes were used to get the coloring. The further west you go in Louisiana the less tomatoes are used in general and the cuisine becomes less creole and more cajun. So to have the brown jambalaya evolve west of The Big Easy was natural. 
Thank You for the how to on this, it sure looks good to me.

Do you put any spices in it or is it just as it is?

Either way I'm going for it.

Points to you, Sir.

I use basic seasoning's like Tony's or something similar. Brown jambalaya is not typically very spicy. While it may appear to be a robust dish the flavors from the gratin and combination of ingredients are subtle and don't lend themselves well to heavy spices. Tabasco or other hot sauces can really alter the flavor. Black, white and cayenne are you best bet for getting spice in the dish. 
That looks really good. I will give it a try over the next day or so. Any recommendations on the type of stock to use?
I used store bought and a combination of beef and chicken. Some folks just use water. Don't vibe afraid the get the stock salty as you will need it when the rice comes in. 
What was the stock to rice ratio?
On small batches like that I use a nearly 2 parts stock to 1 part rice. I use ~ 1lb of meat to 1 cup of uncooked rice. 

Not sure if this is allowed, but if the mods say so I will post a spreadsheet that has an exhaustive amount of ratio formulations and tips and tricks. I didn't make it and can't remember where I acquired it. But it is a fantastic reference. Mods let me know.

pit 4 brains

Master of the Pit
OTBS Member
SMF Premier Member
Group Lead
Dec 16, 2009
Summerville, SC
I was whistling Hank Williams "Jambalaya" the whole time I was reading this post!

Looks real good! I appreciate the tips as I am not a good jambalaya cook either. In fact, I can't cook rice at all. Might have to give this a whirl since I have some extra Andouille sausage in the fridge.. 


Meat Mopper
Jul 29, 2016
A yum! I recently started watching a cajun chef work his magic and it always looks good. Ingredients are good, I am just imagining the flavors. This winter I do believe I'll be trying some of this stuff.

Mighty fine dish you have there!!!


Legendary Pitmaster
OTBS Member
Aug 31, 2014
Looks great, I don't need no tomatoes in mine and would gladly eat a dish of yours!:biggrin:


Smoking Fanatic
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Very Nice Jamba.  Are you using long grain or short? I didn't see a bay leaf... LOL

Mahatma Long Grain. A good quality rice is paramount, as you could imagine.

I don't use bay leaf. Though I had a little parsley in he veggies seasonings, I'm not going for an herby flavor. In a creole jambalaya it would be great. I'm not saying you can't use it in a Cajun brown jambalaya, I don't.


Fire Starter
Apr 2, 2014
Do you eventually scrape the bottom before serving or is this saved for the cook to enjoy in private?

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