Want to sample the ultimate fusion dish? Try jambalaya, a dish combining French, Spanish and West African flavors, and a Sunday lunch stalwart in Louisiana.

What is it?

Iconic enough to inspire a classic country song (Hank Williams’ “Jambalaya (On the Bayou)”), jambalaya is the original fusion cuisine, a rice and meat concoction with a thousand possible variations. This recipe is for traditional jambalaya without seafood, but many chefs consider prawns or shrimp an essential addition to bring out the full flavor of the dish.

Ingredients (serves 6)

2 tsp olive oil 
2 boneless chicken breasts, chopped into 2.5cm (1in) pieces 
9oz (250g) Andouille sausage, sliced 
1 onion, peeled and diced 
1 capsicum (bell pepper), diced 
1 stick celery, diced 
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped 
½–1 tsp cayenne pepper 
½ tsp onion powder 
Salt and pepper to taste 
14oz (400g) white rice 
4 cups (1L) chicken stock 
3 bay leaves 
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce 
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco)

A top-down view of a pot of jambalaya, a rice dish containing prawns, meat and veg.
The word jambalaya is said to combine the French words “ham” (jambon) and “with” (a la) with a West African term for “rice“ (ya) © Brent Hofacker / Shutterstock

How to cook

Step 1: In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Sauté chicken and Andouille sausage until lightly browned.
Step 2: Add the onion, capsicum, celery, garlic, cayenne, onion powder and salt and pepper.
Step 3: Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Step 4: Add the rice, chicken stock and bay leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
Step 5: Stir in the Worcestershire sauce and hot sauce and serve.

Jazz musicians performing in the French Quarter of New Orleans, with crowds and neon lights in the background.
As well as being a firm family dinner favorite, you can also find jambalaya on the menu at late-night bars in New Orleans © Rainer_81 / Shutterstock

Tasting notes

Jambalaya is best known as a home-cooked dish, a staple of family Sunday lunches or church picnics. And everyone’s grandmère makes the best version, mais oui! Non-natives can seek jambalaya at the more casual – some might say divey – pubs and late-night haunts of New Orleans.

Order a steaming bowl of whatever’s on special that night – gamey rabbit, salty, savory sausage, sweet crayfish – and chow down, shaking more vinegary Louisiana hot sauce on to taste. Each bite holds dozens of flavors – the freshness of rice, the meaty chew of Andouille, the sting of garlic, the brininess of shrimp. Cool your sizzling taste buds with a chilled Abita ale, brewed just 30 miles away from NOLA.

For additional recipes, check our Travel Kitchen page.

Have you recreated any of the dishes featured in this series so far? Share your pictures with us on Twitter and Instagram by tagging @lonelyplanet. For more great recipes, check out Lonely Planet’s book The World’s Best Spicy Food.

This article was originally published in March 2020 and updated in December 2020.

This article was first published Mar 27, 2020 and updated Dec 18, 2020.

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