Simply stated, jambalaya is a south Louisiana stew. But ask five local chefs to define it and you might get six answers. Bottom line, it is indefinable, at least in its particulars. But there are two basic styles. Creole jambalaya likely began as a version of Spanish paella that substituted tomatoes for saffron. Cajun jambalaya, which contains no tomatoes, tends to be a hunter’s stew made with whatever swamp country critters are available, plus sausage. Like gumbo, most jambalaya is aggressively seasoned, partly by the smoked and spiced meats it contains but also by the cook who stirs it in the big iron pot using a paddle or shovel. The technical difference between jambalaya and gumbo is that in the latter, rice always is cooked separately and combined with the soup for serving. When making jambalaya, rice is cooked with everything else, sopping up different flavors. A perhaps more important distinction between the two is that gumbo can be thought of as quite sophisticated; jambalaya always is considered a people’s dish, served at big picnics, fairs, and community parties.

Restaurants With This Dish

Broad dish holds crawfish with corn, potatoes, mushrooms, and sausage.
Cub’s Crawfish


Boll Weevil Cafe & Sweetery


Tangaroa Restaurant


Warm picked lobster and melted butter in a toasted bun
Denmo’s Snack & Dairy Bar


Johnson’s Boucaniere


French Market Grille



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