Cajun Jambalaya

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To pin down the One True Cajun Jambalaya is a fool’s errand: This is one of those recipes that has as many versions as it has cooks. But I can assure you, this is a good one. 

Some jambalaya recipes have seafood, some chicken, many, including this one, feature wild game — duck, quail, venison, etc. There are a few constants, however. Cajun jambalaya, for example, is a darker dish, with less tomato than New Orleans Creole jambalaya, and often no tomato at all.

Cajun Jambalaya in a bowl
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Both versions usually have sausage, too. Andouille is king here, and here is my andouille recipe if you want to make your own.

I developed this recipe as an amalgam of jambalaya recipes from the great Cajun chefs Don Link and Eula Mae Dore, whose book Eula Mae’s Cajun Kitchen I highly recommend.

My rendition of Cajun jambalaya uses a mix of duck, pheasant thighs, homemade andouille, and some homemade jowl bacon. My suggestion is to use the following:

  • A dark meat. In my case, it was duck. You’re looking for about a pound or so. Venison, beef, lamb, goat, goose; any would be good.
  • Thighs of a white meat bird. I use ruffed grouse or pheasant, but chicken or turkey would work, too.
  • Smoked sausage. Andouille is what you want, but any smoked sausage will do in a pinch.
  • Bacon of some sort, or tasso ham. Because bacon.

All this said, let your freak flag fly on this one. Cajun jambalaya is a one-pot wonder designed for freestyling, so you can use it as an “empty the freezer” special, too.

One tip I picked up from Don Link is akin to making an Italian sugo: In the cooking process, you let the browned bits start to stick to the bottom of the pot a bit before adding enough liquid to then scrape them off. You do this twice, which adds a ton of flavor and gives you that nice brick-red color you see in the pictures.

Closeup of a bowl of Cajun jambalaya
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Cajun jambalaya tends to be a drier dish, more like a perloo or dirty rice, rather than a porridge-like, soupy rice dish like Lowcountry chicken bog, which Creole jambalaya tends to be.

Either way, jambalaya is a hit at parties, and reheats really well, so make a big batch and bring it to work, or eat off it the whole week. One good idea for leftovers is to spread some out in a frying pan over a little lard, butter or oil, get it sizzling, then crack a few eggs over it. Mix, then let the eggs set, and eat. You’ll thank me later. 

Cajun Jambalaya in a bowl
4.92 from 12 votes

Cajun Jambalaya

You will see my choices of meats here, but feel free to mix and match; just look for the approximate weight. Always use medium- or long-grain rice, and, if you are using store-bought Cajun or Creole seasonings, you won't need salt -- they are very salty to begin with.
Course: Main Course, Rice
Cuisine: Cajun
Servings: 8 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 1/4 pound bacon
  • 1 pound skinless duck breasts, diced
  • 2 pounds bone-in chicken or pheasant thighs (either skinless or skin-on is fine)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 3 celery stalks, chopped
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 2 quarts chicken or other light stock
  • 1/2 pound andouille sausage
  • 2 1/2 cups medium- or long-grained rice
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions or chives
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley

Instructions 

  • In a large Dutch oven or similar pot, fry the bacon over medium heat. When it's crispy, remove and chop. Set aside. Brown the duck and thighs well. Add the onion, celery and green pepper and brown that, too. Let this cook a minute or three, then add the garlic. In some cases, your pot may be too crowded, so if that happens, fish out the thighs for the moment.
  • As the vegetables are cooking, use the liquid they release to scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pot. Let everything cook until you get bits starting to stick again. Add a splash of stock and the tomato paste, along with the oregano and Cajun seasoning. Stir well and let this cook until it starts to stick one more time.
  • Stir in the rice and andouille and let this cook for a minute or two. Add in the rest of the stock, stir well, scrape any browned bits off the bottom of the pot and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot, drop the heat to low and let this cook until the rice is done, about 20 minutes.
  • Stir in the chives and parsley before serving.

Notes

The use of any tomato in many Cajun recipes is hotly debated; it's one of the things that differentiates Cajun versus Creole cooking. I got the idea of adding a tiny bit of tomato paste in my jambalaya from a friend in Houma, which is in Cajun country, so I went with it here. You can skip the tomato paste if you want. 

Nutrition

Calories: 633kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 50g | Fat: 23g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 4g | Monounsaturated Fat: 9g | Trans Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 185mg | Sodium: 564mg | Potassium: 1018mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 1311IU | Vitamin C: 22mg | Calcium: 74mg | Iron: 6mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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14 Comments

      1. What do you thing about simmering 2 pounds of squirrel meat Bon-in instead of pheasant thighs and save that water for the broth

  1. So epic. Made it with some mallards we shot recently. Used the recipe as a guideline and kinda just tossed stuff in there. My new favorite way to make duck

  2. This was great!! Made this with duck and chicken thighs. Very rich .

    I did add a can of diced tomatoes to give it some color.

    I was thinking of doubling the batch. Glad I didn’t as this make a couple days worth of food.

    This definitely on the list to make again.

  3. Great, looks lovely, I will give it a try. My only problem is converting your measurements to metric. The rest of the world uses metric, but you guys still stick with pounds and ounces. It’s a real pain. Why don’t you have a button to convert to metric.

  4. Tim W: Remove the quantity you want to freeze before you add your rice and when you defrost it just add fresh rice.

  5. Awesome recipe, and pretty easy to boot – I ended up using some bits of venison and pheasant I had lying around and some store-bought andouille I found. I’ll have to make the sausage myself next time, it was good as it was but could definitely stand to be improved.

    One note, I agree with Charlie regarding the stock, 2 quarts seemed like way too much so I added about 4-ish cups and eyeballed it while the rice was cooking to see if it needed more. Turned out great!

  6. Made this yesterday and it turned out great! I highly recommend using Two Brooks missimati rice with this recipe. They have an awesome story (https://twobrooksfarm.com/).

    I’m in my early twenties, so it would help people like me to post directions with a little more detail. I initially browned the chicken thighs whole and then after cooking for a little bit fished them out and chopped them up. This would probably be better if I had taken the meat off the bone before I browned it?

    But, it turned out absolutely fantastic! I would recommend one quart of stock. I had to let it cook down for about an hour because it was very soupy.

    Thanks for the awesome recipes! Keep ’em comin’!

    Charlie

  7. Tim W – I too generally do a chicken/shrimp/andouille jambalaya. On the odd occasions when I’ve had to freeze the left overs, I’ve found that the rice tends to lose a little texture and gets a touch mushy upon thawing. Still beats the heck out of a ham sandwich for lunch at work.

    I’ve also used only Uncle Bens’ rice, wondering if another type of rice would tolerate freezing better.

  8. I’m always looking for recipes to use last season’s venison, (blacktail). This looks like a winner for deer camp. At home, I usually make a standard shrimp, chicken, andouille version. I always have leftovers since my wife doesn’t like spicy, and tries to stick to vegetarian. Will this freeze well, without out too much loss in quality?