What the heck is Jambalaya, anyway?

You’ve read about it, talked about it, may have even eaten it, but what exactly is jambalaya?

At it’s core, jambalaya is a rice, meat, and vegetable dish most popular in the Southern United States, particularly in Louisiana. It’s delicious, versatile, and inexpensive, but jambalaya is so much more like a culture than a comfort dish. In Louisiana, each family has its own way of cooking jambalaya. The kind of meat, the kind of vegetables used vary from household to household, and each dish becomes a story rather than a recipe.

Okay, let’s break it down. There are two kinds of jambalaya: Cajun and Creole. The two differ from each other in both the recipe’s use of vegetables and the order in which it prepares the ingredients. Creole recipes cook its vegetables and meat together. After the veggies and meat cook, rice, stock, and tomatoes are added. Cajun jambalaya doesn’t use tomatoes, and cooks its meat separately from its vegetables. How can you tell the difference between the two? By looking, Creole jambalaya is red and Cajun jambalaya is brown. By tasting, Cajun jambalaya is smokier and usually meatier than its Creole counterpart. Cajun jambalaya is mostly eaten in rural Louisiana, and the Creole variety is eaten in New Orleans and surrounding Creole neighborhoods.

The history of jambalaya is a murky one, but we know it must have originated in the ports of New Orleans centuries ago when multiple ethnicities were passing through and mingling. You can taste and feel the African and Caribbean influences, along with notes of Europe, particularly Spain and France.

At Jep’s Southern Roots, we use only the freshest, local ingredients we can find. Meet us at our food truck, and try our family jambalaya recipe. Drop a comment and let us know if there are any jambalaya fans out there!