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Recipe: Sausage Jambalaya

Sausage Jambalaya (29 of 30)

Sausage Jambalaya is without a doubt one of the top comfort foods of my childhood and now my adult life. It’s something my mom made because it was quick, easy, and simple. I enjoy it for those same reasons. It can be a bit of a poor man’s dinner too. Rice, a few spices, and a link of sausage makes it not too terribly expensive of a meal. It doesn’t take much skill either. Which means even before I embarked on this journey of cooking, I was able to make sausage jambalaya for myself.

The recipe I am sharing today is by no means fancy. It’s not seafood or a pork & chicken jambalaya that takes more steps and longer amounts of time. While jambalaya always takes a bit of time to cook (due to the rice), this recipe is wonderful in its simplicity. Or so I think.

In fact, I shared this recipe some time ago on this website.  It was before the time of my fancy camera or my attempts at trying to share step-by-step recipes here on Not Exactly Bento.  You’ll find that this version is nearly the same as the old post, just more refined in its detail…and of course with lots of pictures!

The ingredient list is simple too.

  • 1 lb smoked sausage
  • 3/4 cup of diced onion
  • 1/2 cup of diced bell pepper
  • 2-3 tsp of minced garlic (about 1 large clove)
  • 1 1/4 cups of rice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1/4 teaspoon of Kitchen Bouquet (an additional +1/8 tsp is optional)
  • Spices mix: 3/4 tsp of salt, 1/4 tsp garlic powder, 1/4 tsp onion powder, and 1/4 tsp of Tony Chachere’s seasoning.

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A big part of the recipe for this jambalaya has to do with the pots you use to cook it. I’ve learned over the years to always use a heavy-bottomed pot. A pot that is substantial. You don’t want your rice to burn. Some people use a heavy Dutch Oven. I just use a heavy skillet and a medium sized sauce pot.

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With jambalaya, you have a bit of chopping up to do before you get started. The first thing I do is dice my seasonings: bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Green or red bell pepper works great and a half a cup will do you fine. My mom uses a whole onion. I used half here since I’m a bit sensitive to onion flavors (I don’t like it to be too strong). The diced onion shown above is approxiamately 3/4 cup of onion. Last, I minced a large clove of garlic (about 2-3 teaspoons of garlic).

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Let’s turn our attention to the smoked sausage. You have a few decisions to make: how much to use and how to slice it. For this recipe, you can use anywhere from 3/4 pound to a whole pound of smoked sausage. I cut a bit off of my pound link in order to use it for another recipe I planned to make.

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Slicing the sausage for this recipe comes next. This may sound silly, but how I slice the meat is a big consideration for me. Do I want it in small bites that finds its way into every bite of the jambalaya, or do I slice it in larger so that it’s a bit more there in certain bites but not necessarily in others? Yes, for this comfort food, I think alot about my mood and what I want.  I think the cooking of this dish is as much of a comfort as the actual dish itself.

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I decided that cutting the slices of sausage into quartered pieces was what I wanted to do. It worked out perfectly for me. Any of these cuts would work: whole, half, or quarter slices/cuts.

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Before cooking the jambalaya, I like to lightly brown the sausage I’m going to use. This is an optional step. If you skip this step and place the sausage as is (when called for later in this recipe), this is acceptable. The sausage will cook completely through, as long as you’re using a cured type sausage as this. The amount of time it takes to completely cook the rice is enough time to completely heat through and cook the sausage.

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What it really comes down to is texture. If you place the sausage straight into the pot of rice and water, it will plump and sort of fluff (for lack of a better term) while it cooks, giving it a boiled texture. If you fry it slightly beforehand, it doesn’t puff quite so much. It all depends on what you like. I prefer mine slightly browned before placing into the jambalaya pot.

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Once your sausage is brown to your liking, remove to a paper-towel lined plate to drain a bit. Don’t remove the sausage drippings from the skillet. You will use these to cook your seasonings. If you use a low-fat sausage like I did (it was on sale), you might need to add a wee bit of oil to the skillet. I added about 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil before placing the seasonings into the skillet. The diced/minced garlic, onion, and bell peppers were added, and the heat turned down to a low-medium range.

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The seasonings are cooked until the onions are browned and fairly translucent. Turning down the heat and cooking for a slower, longer period ensures I don’t accidentally burn my garlic or onions. It also lets the flavors meld together quite a bit. Once your seasonings are cooked down, it is time to assemble the jambalaya.

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Now comes time for the big sauce pot. Remove your skillet to an unused burner, and place the pot on low heat while you get everything ready. This sort of allows the pot to slightly preheat.

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First into the pot are the cooked seasonings. Just scrape them right out of the skillet and into the pot.

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Add the browned sausage next. Use a spatula, wooden spoon, or your favorite cooking utensil to mix the sausage and seasoning mixture together well.

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Pour in 1 1/4 cup of rice. There is no need to rinse the rice beforehand. My mom never does it, and neither do I.

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Add 2 cups of water to the pot. Now, 1 1/4 cups of rice to 2 cups of water is a bit over the rice to water ratio normally suggested. The reason is the resulting texture of the rice. If you make jambalaya, you’ll find that the rice will stick together a bit. It’s not necessarily overly mushy, but jambalaya will make a nice scoopful that will hold its shape once scooped from the pot and put on a plate. Adding a bit more rice to the typical 1:2 ratio means that the rice doesn’t get too mushy, something I don’t care for (and the way my mother cooks it).

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To this pot of water, rice, sausage, and seasonings we add our spices: 1/4 tsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, and Tony chachere’s as well as  3/4 – 1 tsp of salt (depending on how salty you might like your food).

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The “secret” ingredient to my mother’s jamabalaya is Kitchen Bouquet. This isn’t for flavor; it is for color. The rice in a jambalaya should be brownish, taking it’s color from the browning of the sausage and seasonings. However sometimes the rice just doesn’t take on that color and it all looks off. I’m not a fan of jambalaya with pure white rice. I don’t care how good it might taste. It’s just not right! Kitchen Bouquet solves all that; however, it is slightly potent stuff. By potent,I mean a little goes a long way. Overdoing the Kitchen Bouquet turns your rice into a slimy, nasty mess. Limit yourself to 1/4 tsp of Kitchen Bouquet. You can increase this to an additional 1/8 tsp, but THAT’S IT. Anything beyond that leads you into dangerous territory in my opinion. Stick with the 1/4 teaspoon. Once added, give your pot of a stir.

Sausage Jambalaya (16 of 30)You are nearly ready to get this jamalaya cooking. Your last decision is the spice factor. I’m a spice wuss, and I know it. I’m comfortable with that fact of life. This recipe, as shown so far, is seasoned just as I like it. However, it isn’t necessarily spicy. You can add a bit of spice or heat in two ways. First, you could double the amount of Tony Chachere’s from 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. That will give you a bit more heat. The ultimate way would be to add 1-2 drops of hot sauce into the water right after the Kitchen Bouquet but before that final stir.

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Turn your heat to medium-high and bring the pot of goodness to a boil. Don’t let it boil long or the water boil out. This is just like cooking a plain pot of rice where you bring the water to a boil then lower the heat.

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Once the pot of goodness is boiling, place a tight-fitting lid on the pot and lower the heat to low or simmer. It’s now time to allow the jambalaya to cook. What you are really doing is allowing the rice to cook. Check the pot after 15-20 minutes. If all the water looks like it has boiled out of the pot and the rice looks cooked (give it a quick taste test to check), it’s time to do the turn.

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One of the best tricks for a great pot of jambalaya is the final turn. Remove the lid of the pot and Using a spatula or cooking spoon turn the rice over in the pot. What you want to do is use that spatula to basically flip all the contents in the pot over. Leave the lid off the top of the pot and let it steam for a few minutes (about 3-5).

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Once the steaming is finished, you have your final product: a great pot of sausage jambalaya. This is not a dish I can just let sit around without digging into it.

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Into a bowl it goes, ready for consumption. I can’t even begin to tell you how wonderful this one pot of sausage jambalaya made my week.

In Louisiana jambalaya is not only a staple of the lifestyle, it’s a great fundraiser. People who host benefits for whatever cause often sell jambalaya dinners to raise money. I mention this since the dinner is nearly always the same. The sides tend to be a nice salad, a scoop of white beans (sometimes made with ham), and a slice of french bread or a dinner roll. That’s about as traditional Louisiana as you can get. I like mine with those sides or a bit of potato salad.  Often, I just eat it plain, as is, no side bits.

If you try the jambalaya, be sure to let me know.  I always like to hear how a recipe turns out for y’all.


  1. Liz says:

    Wait — your Mom didn’t use celery as a part of the “Holy Trinity” of Louisianna cooking? Or is it your preference?

    I’d have to say, that’s a mighty fine meal you’ve got there. And I sure wish we had Jambalaya Fundraisers here. Beats the heck out of (nasty) bottled Spaghetti sauce and cheap pasta dinners that we get out here.

    • Jenn says:

      When I got this recipe from my mom, she said, “You can put celery in it if you want it.” Which is her way of saying, I don’t, but you can if you want to. You’re right, celery, onions, and bell pepper is that “Holy Trinity” of Louisiana cooking for a gumbo and other dishes. But celery isn’t used as much in jambalaya, or so I can tell from the recipes I’ve read so far (or since you asked that question).

      So no, celery isn’t used in this recipe (or at least not the one I’m showing here).

      And thanks. It was a mighty fine meal. Today, I’m debating what I want to cook for this coming week at work!

  2. Yvo says:

    Ahhh I would love to try this… I wonder if I can put it all in a rice cooker and let it do its thing that way. I’m really averse to cooking rice in a pot. Call it upbringing.

    Funny you mention the Kitchen Bouquet being JUST for color – and I wonder about what it tastes like! – because my gravy at Thanksgiving was passed over a few times because it ‘isn’t dark enough; it looks light’ – but it tastes great to me! (There was another gravy on the table that was much darker in color.) I know for a fact that if “gravy masters” isn’t in the gravy, a certain someone won’t eat it, because it’s not dark enough. *shrug* I understand but I didn’t grow up eating darker gravy so.

    Also, I made fried rice 10-20 times before I realized why it never looked quite right. That final splash of soy sauce that adds hardly any flavor to the rice to make it turn colors. Yup. :)

    • Jenn says:

      I’ve never cooked jambalaya in a rice cooker so unfortunately can’t say for certain. Though, I would say it might work. I don’t see why it wouldn’t.

  3. Sarah says:

    I definitely want to try making this. I love jambalaya, but my husband doesn’t like pork or seafood, so I think I’ll try making it with a turkey or chicken sausage.

    I see the link for your mother’s recipe for jambalaya in your ‘related posts’ section at the end of your post. it looks essentially the same but without the garlic or onion powder. is that because she uses a whole onion?

    • Jenn says:

      Hi Sarah,

      Sorry it has taken me a few days to respond. This recipe is a “continuation” of the previous recipe. I wanted to update the recipe with pictures. When I was speaking with my mom to make sure I didn’t have any mistakes in my recipe, she mentioned adding a wee bit of garlic and onion powder to “deepen those flavors.”

      That is why this version has the addition of those powders. I think she adds a bit of each as well even if she is using a whole onion as compared to my lesser amount.

      Hope that answers your question.

  4. emy says:

    That looks very much like the chinese fried rice I make. You may wish to consider cooking the rice first in the rice cooker then adding the sauce, toppings + addnal water to the rice (in the last 15mins) to absorb the flavors and cook down.

  5. Mark Gelbart says:

    I brown the raw rice with the onions and bell pepper. That gives the dish a brown color without the kitchen bouqet. It also makes the rice tastier.

    Tonight, I’m making double sausage jambalaya–uses two different kinds of sausage.

  6. Lulu says:

    Yum, it looks delicious! I cook this often but I take a couple of shorcuts. I’ cheat a lot when it comes to cooking because I’m always running between work and homework for 2 little ones. So, I use 1 cup of parboiled rice and I cook it in the microwake: 2 cups of water, nuke 5 minutes on high, add cup of rice, salt, a bit of oil and nuke another 5 min.on high, then stir, cover and cook another 10 min. at 50% power.
    I always have cans of crushed or petite diced tomatoes, and jars of diced pimentos (great for empanadas). I like it much better with rotel but either can works. So I brown the sausage, add the tomatoes, the pimentos, brown, add the rice, mix in, let it simmer until the juices are reduced and voila! (fake) Jambalaya.

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