Jambalaya is a staple dish of New Orleans cooking and has a long and significant history. As with any historical dish, it has evolved over time.
Today, there are many versions of jambalaya. However, the one thing they all have in common is that you need delicious sausage to make the dish.
But what kind of sausage should you use for jambalaya? The andouille sausage first comes to mind, but that’s the obvious choice for Louisiana Cajun cuisine. You can also use chorizo, kielbasa, or just regular beef sausage in jambalaya, too.
In this article, I’ll get into the details and talk about what makes this dish unique and your options for what sausage goes in jambalaya.
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The Origins of Jambalaya
We can trace jambalaya back to 18th century south Louisiana. You could argue that jambalaya started with a problem. There was no saffron in south Louisiana in those days, and the Spanish colonists of the time couldn’t make a paella.
This starts to make more sense when you consider how similar Spanish paella and jambalaya are, with the latter’s notable absence of saffron. Jambalaya is a rice-based dish that contains a type of smoked sausage, seafood, and the “holy trinity” of diced onion, bell pepper, and celery.
For a touch of heat, you also need cayenne pepper. Unlike many southern dishes, jambalaya doesn’t take long to prepare. It’s a one-pot dish that won’t take longer than an hour to cook.
While smoked sausage is the traditional choice for meat in jambalaya, it can be substituted with pork or chicken.
Also, you can cook jambalaya with seafood only, using crawfish or shrimp, or you can use both sausage and seafood in the same dish. Essentially, jambalaya will be different from kitchen to kitchen, as it’s easily modified to suit anyone’s taste.
As for rice, both long- and short-grain white rice are excellent options. If you choose to go with the brown rice, keep in mind you’ll need more water or broth because it cooks longer.
Two Types of Jambalaya
It’s also crucial to note that even though jambalaya recipes are versatile, two primary types have been established for a long time.
This version of jambalaya must contain tomatoes, and it’s more common in the New Orleans area. It’s also called “red” jambalaya. Tomatoes are finely diced and added to the meat, the “holy trinity,” and rice. What’s left is primarily red-hued, and the texture of tomatoes disappears.
More common in rural areas of Louisiana, this version of jambalaya doesn’t contain any tomatoes. It also differs from the Creole version because the meat needs to be caramelized before adding rice and liquids. This is why it’s also referred to as “brown” jambalaya.
Sausage Used in Jambalaya
If you’ve never attempted to cook this delicious dish before, you might not be sure what kind of sausage to use for jambalaya. Some type of smoked pork sausage is the go-to ingredient, but let’s look at the top contenders.
The origins of andouille sausage are connected to France or Germany, both of which have rich sausage-making experiences. In Creole and Cajun cuisine, andouille sausage is a mainstay, and it’s undoubtedly one of the best options for jambalaya.
It is made from using the entire digestive tract of a pig and the animal’s upper shoulder. It’s then combined with onion and seasoning. Size-wise, this is a large sausage. You don’t smoke it, but rather poach it and then allow it to cool.
They’re also great for grilling. For jambalaya, all you have to do is slice it thinly and add to the “holy trinity.” The only downside is that it can be challenging to get your hands on andouille sausage in some areas of the country.
If andouille sausage is out of reach, then chorizo is the second-best option. It’s the closest to it flavor-wise if the texture is different. Chorizo is a highly seasoned pork sausage. Mexican chorizo is made with uncooked pork, and the Spanish version is smoked.
You can use either when preparing jambalaya. Keep in mind that when cooking chorizo, you’re supposed to remove the casing first.
Typically, the chorizo sausage seasonings are paprika, garlic, cloves, coriander, chile peppers, and cumin. There is also the green variety of chorizo, which contains cilantro and tomatillos.
In Polish, “kielbasa” means sausage. It refers to all types of smoked sausages. Although, when people are talking about kielbasa, they’re referring to smoked pork sausages.
If you have a Polish kielbasa sausage at home, you can use it in your jambalaya recipe, as it makes for a great andouille sausage substitute. It allows for easy preparation and mixes well with other ingredients.
If you’re not a pork fan but still want to enjoy jambalaya, you can use beef sausages instead. Traditionally, it’s pork sausage or pork meat that goes in jambalaya, but beef works well. Make sure to get a high-quality beef sausage, whether it’s Italian salami or Polish beef sausage.
What Do You Need to Make Homemade Jambalaya?
You only need one pot, albeit a larger one, to make jambalaya from scratch. You first have to settle on the main ingredients, including which type of sausage to use. Are you going to add seafood or not?
You also have to ensure that you have onions, bell papers, and celery on hand. Think about the rice that will pair well with the dish as well.
You’ll need salt and pepper and some patience while jambalaya simmers for about 30 minutes. You can store jambalaya for up to three days in the refrigerator, making it an excellent meal-prep option.
Sides That Go With Jambalaya
You don’t have to serve any sides with jambalaya, but for the full experience and even more complexity of flavors, you might consider them anyway.
Buttermilk cornbread is the traditional option that goes with jambalaya. It’s crumbly and moist, and it’s sweet and savory at the same time. Grilled corn on the cob is another popular option, as are cheddar biscuits and baked potatoes.
If you have delicious sausage sitting in your fridge and you’re not sure what to do with them, then consider a jambalaya. Don’t overthink by wondering which type goes in jambalaya. The recipe accommodates nearly every kind of sausage, especially if it’s smoked pork, but others work too.
The choice of sausage will dictate the jambalaya’s final flavor, but other ingredients are crucial. Don’t forget about the “holy trinity” either because, without it, you’re already on the wrong path.