The Best Jambalaya Ever–and Great for a Crowd

This is one of those perfect dishes to make when you don’t know what to make, and it’s a huge crowd pleaser. With the Super Bowl in New Orleans and Mardi Gras coming, a little Cajun comfort food seems just right. Full of shrimp, sausage, chicken, and sumptuously savory rice, this jambalaya is fool-proof and make-ahead-able. What’s not to love?! Serve family style or from the the kitchen with a simple salad and a good sourdough bread, and you’ve got a pretty fabulous feast.

Stephanie Valentine's Jambalaya

Here is the redoubtable Rancho La Zaca Chef Stephanie Valentine’s spin on this Southern surf and turf classic, followed by a few notes on how I’d make it if she weren’t looking.

Serves: 12
  1. 2 pounds shrimp (16-20 shrimp per pound), peeled and veined
  2. 1 3 1/2-pound chicken, cut into pieces and boned except for the legs
  3. 2 to 3 tablespoons Creole seasoning, plus 1 tablespoon extra (store-bought or recipe below)
  4. 4 tablespoons olive oil
  5. 1 cup chopped onion
  6. 1 cup chopped celery
  7. 3/4 cup chopped green pepper
  8. 3/4 cup chopped red pepper
  9. 2 tablespoons butter
  10. 3 cloves garlic, minced
  11. 2 3/4 cups rice, long grain white (not instant)
  12. 2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and chopped
  13. 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
  14. 1 1/2 pounds andouille sausage cut in 1/4-inch slices
  15. 7 cups stock, chicken, shrimp, seafood or combination thereof (You may want to have a little extra if you want a soupier consistency)
  16. 1 bunch scallions, sliced, for garnish
Creole Seasoning
  1. 1 tablespoon black pepper
  2. 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  3. 2 tablespoons onion powder
  4. 2 tablespoons garlic powder
  5. 3 tablespoons salt
  6. 3 tablespoons paprika
  1. Season shrimp and chicken pieces with Creole seasoning.
  2. Heat oil in large heavy stockpot over medium heat and brown chicken skin side down. Remove and set aside.
  3. In same pan add butter, onion, celery, peppers and garlic. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. The vegetables should be well cooked but not browned.
  4. Add rice and stir for about a minute.
  5. Then add tomatoes, Worcestershire, sausage, and chicken. Slowly add broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. Taste broth and adjust seasonings.
  6. Reduce heat to lowest setting, and add shrimp. Cover and cook for 6 to 10 minutes more.
  7. To serve, sprinkle with a little more Creole Seasoning and top with sliced scallions.
  1. Y'all know I am sort of a lazy cook. If pressed for time or energy, I take short-cuts. Stephanie would never do this, but Lord knows I am not Stephanie. Anyway - I buy frozen shrimp already cleaned. I buy a chicken already roasted. If I can't find andouille (at the Piggly Wiggly in Tarboro), I use spicy kielbase or other spicy sausage. I use a combination of bottled clam juice and chicken stock from concentrate - or Knorr's. And those Parmalat chopped tomatoes in a box are a staple for me, especially this time of year. If you are making it ahead, wait to add the shrimp when you re-heat it. Shrimp cooks very quickly and you don't want them to be overcooked and turn into rubber rainboots, which is what they'd taste like.
  2. The best rice in the world, and I am not exaggerating, is from Carolina Rice Plantation, and you can order it from the website. Our friend Caroline from Charleston gave us some as a wedding gift and it was a revelation. I never paid that much attention to rice, but hooo-boy. And then when I went to look up the company, it is owned by a boy I had a crush on when I was, like, 10. Clearly this deserves its own post, and it shall have one. Stay tuned...
Frances Schultz
Jambalaya, photo by Stephanie Valentine
Jambalaya, photo by Stephanie Valentine


  1. Hiya!
    Still at Madoo at this hour…ugh!
    Anywho saw this post and thought, well Kendell has been saying we should have a big open house on Presidents Day Weekend and lo and behold you come up with the perfect idea! Thank you! If this is half a good as that minted iced tea from summer we’re going to be the hosts with the most!

    Let us know when you are in NYC or EH would love to see you!


  2. Having recently had the great good fortune of enjoying this recipe at RLZ recently, please take her word for it – it IS the best ever and our crowd was more than pleased!

  3. Don’t ruin that Jambalaya with just any old frozen shrimp. Make sure they are “Wild Georgia Shrimp”, and you can’t go wrong. I have a great recipe from my daughter-in-law’s father who is 100% Cajun, but I might just try your version. It looks delicious!

  4. This looks yummy and foolproof! I’m a native Atlantan not known for her cooking skills. I’m moving soon, from bursting-at-the-seams Brookhaven to lovely-off-the-square Marietta, and this recipe will be a great housewarming potluck meal! Thanks for sharing it!

  5. Looking forward to it at Super Bowl Party, Carolina Plantation all lined up, Thanks for the inspiration Frances.
    Fabulous Blog!!! Fabulous Frances!!!

  6. Frances,
    Making Julia Child’s stock was delicious but could hinder ever finishing the dish. Parmalat or canned diced tomatoes may have the most taste this time of year in Georgia…just forwarded your blog to a N.C. chef friend…he too likes shortcuts.
    Your blog is just the best!

    1. Yes Lynn, I hear you about the stock-making. But I’ve just been reading about pressure cookers and how great they are for making stock – was in a recent issue of the WSJ “Off Duty” section. Interesting… x Frances

    1. High praise coming from you Miss Maile. And hey, for readers who don’t know about, looka here at Maili’s greatest hits for a Super Bowl party, and enjoy!!! x Frances

      Melissa’s Famous Artichoke Dip

      No-Chop Salsa

      Slow Cooker Chili

      Auntie Colleen’s Cornbread

      Point After Peanut Butter Cookies

      The Three Best Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipes including my Chocolate Chip Crunch Cookies F

  7. hi, what is in Creole Seasoning? Just trying to find out are we having “right kind of Creole Seasoning”. I`m from Finland 😉

    1. Hello, Maikki, you stopped reading too soon! Below is a recipe for Creole seasoning in my post. Thanks for writing and enjoy your Jambalaya!

      Creole Seasoning

      1 tablespoon black pepper
      1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
      2 tablespoons onion powder
      2 tablespoons garlic powder
      3 tablespoons salt
      3 tablespoons paprika

      But there are quite a few variations. Here’s another from “Nola” is shorthand for New Orleans, Louisiana, which they night not know in Finland. Thanks for witing and enjoy.

  8. the reason it looks a little soppy is there’s too much broth. at least for asian rice, the standard volume requirement is same amount of water plus an additional unit of water. make sure you have this ratio when you put in the rice.

  9. Sorry, I’m a bit confused here. The directions don’t say what to do with the shrimp! If I’m buying them frozen… what do you do with them?? When do you cook them and how?

    1. Hello Kate and thanks for writing. Sorry you got tripped up there. If you are using frozen shrimp (and I do all the time) or fresh, just put them in a colander and rinse them under cold water and set aside until you put them in the simmering broth – in recipe step #6. They cook very quickly and do not need to be cooked in advance. Lmk how it goes. Best, Frances PS – Corn on the cob would be good with this in the summertime!

    1. Hi Jamie, and thank for writing.

      The sausage (kielbase, for eg.) is usually pre-cooked. But if not, yes, brown it before hand. Even with pre-cooked sausage I sometimes boil it for a few minutes to get some of the fat out. You can do this with un-cooked link sausage and brown it afterward.

      The shrimp, depending on size, takes mere minutes to cook, so put it in at the last minute. If it cooks too long, it will get rubbery.

      Happy New Year, and Happy cooking!

  10. Hi Frances
    Just trying to evaluate your Best Jambalaya Ever recipe. Is that chicken amout supposed to be thirteen and a half pounds? Plan on using boneless, skinless chicken breasts. What amount would work?

    1. Hi Randy – It is 1(one) 3 1/2(three and a half)-pound chicken. Sorry for the confusion! If you are using boneless-skinless, 2 1/2 pounds should be plenty. Good luck and thanks for writing, Frances

  11. Googled do ahead jamablaya and your recipe came up but no mention of how to do ahead of time…sounds delicious….can you make ahead of time….having a crowd of 70! Thanks!

    1. Dear Jane, Can absolutely make ahead and refrigerate for a day or two, or freeze if longer; then re-heat. If making ahead, however, I would recommend adding the shrimp at time of re-heating, so as not to over-cook them. That said, I have re-heated with the shrimp already in, and it was fine. Goof-proof, really. Enjoy, and let me know how it goes. Frances

      1. Hi Joanie, and I would say about a cup and some. If I were serving with a serving spoon, 2 or 3 heaping spoonfuls – depending the spoon size of course! Thank you for writing! Let me know how you liked it! x Frances

  12. Hi Frances, I want to make this Jambalya recipe for about 30 people at a family reunion. I’m worried I don’t have pans big enough. Can you suggest what I should do? I have some tall pans, would that work? Thanks much. Mary

    1. Dear Mary, what fun! I bet if you double the recipe, that would work and be enough. If it is a family reunion I’m betting there will be other dishes served as well so folks will have plenty to eat! A six-quart pot will accommodate a single recipe, so if you have two of those, or one larger one, that should work. Thanks so much for writing, and let me know how it comes out! Frances

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