You’d never guess that my Canadian husband would be a lover of all things Cajun food, but he is! While I grew up eating jambalaya, étouffée, gumbo, and red beans and rice, my husband’s first exposure to the glorious flavors of Cajun or Creole cooking didn’t happen until he immigrated to the U.S. back in 2007. But it was love at first bite! And now, every time I ask him what he wants on our weekly dinner menu, I always get, “something Cajun, please!”
Even though I’m a Midwestern girl, my family’s food culture leans pretty heavily on Southern food traditions—including Cajun and Creole cooking—so I’m no stranger to the holy trinity (the green pepper, celery, and onion base that makes up most Cajun and Creole dishes). I am proud to say that I can make a mean pot of jambalaya—or in this case, a mean Instant Pot of jambalaya. And my Cajun-loving husband agrees!
What is jambalaya?
If you’ve never had the pleasure of eating a bowl of jambalaya, let’s start off with a little bit of education! Jambalaya is a Louisiana cuisine dish made up of meat, vegetables, stock, and rice. For meat, jambalaya usually consists of andouille sausage, some sort of seafood (crawfish and shrimp are both common), and sometimes a third meat (chicken or pork). The meat is combined with green peppers, celery, onion, stock seasoning, and rice. The Creole version of Jambalaya adds tomatoes to the base—we do that here in this recipe (this is sometimes called “red jambalaya”), while the Cajun version of jambalaya tends to be tomato-less (called “brown jambalaya”).
What’s the difference between jambalaya and gumbo?
While jambalaya and gumbo have similar flavor profiles, there are a few major differences. A big difference is how it’s served—gumbo is a thinner stew served over top of rice, whereas jambalaya is a thick dish that has rice cooked into it. Gumbo tends to include vegetables that you won’t usually find in jambalaya—like okra. Gumbo also has a slightly different flavor profile thanks to the use of a roux and filé powder for flavoring. Overall, jambalaya is one of the quickest and simplest Cajun/Creole dishes to make, especially compared to more complicated dishes like étouffée. And we make it even quicker thanks to the Instant Pot!
How do you make shrimp jambalaya?
Making jambalaya is a breeze! Let me walk you through the steps:
- Sear the andouille sausage so it gets a nice brown color.
- Sauté the holy trinity—bell pepper, onion, celery, and we add garlic, too!
- Add in Cajun seasoning (my favorite is Slap Ya Mama!), herbs, rice, and chicken broth.
- Cook until the rice is tender.
- Add in the cooked shrimp.
- Serve topped with sliced green onions.
What kind of sausage do you use in jambalaya?
You’ll want to track down andouille sausage for your batch of jambalaya! You can purchase pork or chicken andouille sausages from most major supermarkets. In a pinch, you can use spicy Italian sausages, but you’re really way better off tracking down andouille.
What kind of rice should you use for jambalaya?
You really can’t mess jambalaya up—so any kind of rice will do the trick here. I prefer long-grain white rice, but if you want to use brown rice, you can easily do that with just a few tweaks to your cooking time, which we’ve noted in the recipe below.
Can you make this jambalaya gluten-free, paleo, or Whole30-compliant?
It’s easy peasy to make this dish grain-free by just swapping out the rice for cauliflower rice instead! You do need to reduce the stock (since cauliflower rice doesn’t absorb the same way regular rice does). Make sure to check the notes section of the recipe for a full how-to.
A warning: occasionally both andouille and Cajun seasoning blends will have gluten-containing ingredients, so make sure to double-check your packages to make sure they are gluten- and grain-free.
Andouille will also frequently include added sugar—the sausage I get from a local farm doesn’t, but most of the ones in my regular supermarket have added sugar. Check your labels if it’s important for you to avoid added sugar!
Can you make shrimp jambalaya ahead of time? How can it be reheated?
You absolutely can make jambalaya in advance. In fact, like most Cajun dishes, jambalaya is much tastier on the second day! Cook the entire dish ahead of time, and then reheat in the microwave or on the stove until warmed through.
What if you don’t have an Instant Pot? How can you make this on the stove?
No Instant pot? No problem! The method for cooking this dish is the same in the Instant Pot or on the stovetop—your cooking time just gets a bit longer. We’ve included instructions for stovetop preparation in the recipe card. Enjoy!