Although I grew up in Pennsylvania surrounded by a very large family, our roots are in the American South. It was not uncommon for my grandmother and aunts to prepare dirty rice, a Southern classic, as a side for Sunday dinners, family gatherings, and holiday feasts. Each relative proudly toted their own rendition, often highlighting and elevating it with special ingredients. From seafood and smoked sausage to hot peppers, the variations were endless—always prepared with love I saw and felt in each bite I tasted.
This dirty rice recipe is one that brings back deep feelings of nostalgia and is a culmination of the ones prepared by my grandmother and one of my favorite aunts. It includes both smoked and spicy bulk sausage, shrimp, and a scotch bonnet pepper for more than a touch of spice. It's the perfect side for large gatherings and it's easy enough to make on a weeknight.
What Is Dirty Rice?
The origins of dirty rice can be traced to Louisiana plantations as a dish prepared by people who were enslaved. With limited means, they prepared dirty rice with scraps of livestock organs and vegetables. When combined with rice these scraps made the rice appear “dirty.” While the recipe for dirty rice has evolved over the years and as it traveled across America, the most common preparation uses cooked chicken gizzards, ground beef or pork, and the holy trinity (yellow onion, green bell pepper, and celery) commonly used in Cajun and Creole cooking.
You Don't Need Chicken Liver or Gizzards
Some would argue that it isn’t technically dirty rice without chicken liver or gizzards. Although this recipe does not call for them, feel free to replace a quarter pound of diced smoked sausage with a quarter pound of chopped chicken gizzards or liver. Add them to the skillet after you cook the smoked sausage.
The Best Rice for Dirty Rice
Extra Long-Grain Carolina White Rice is my go-to rice for dirty rice. Any long-grain white rice will work. To plan ahead, you can prepare the rice the day before or use leftover rice. Heat the leftovers for 1 minute in the microwave until just warm before adding it to the skillet.
If you’re not a fan of spice, you can omit the scotch bonnet pepper and use regular pork sausage instead of spicy pork sausage. For those who don’t eat pork, this recipe can be made with ground beef or ground turkey.
Weeknight Shrimp Recipes
Dirty Rice with Shrimp
There are a number of Creole or Cajun seasonings that you can try. My favorite is Joe’s Stuff Original Seasoning, made by the New Orleans School of Cooking. It's salty, so taste first before adding more salt.
1 1/2 cups long-grain white rice
2 1/2 cups chicken or seafood stock, divided
1 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1/2 pound smoked sausage or andouille sausage links, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound bulk spicy pork sausage
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 green bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
3 celery ribs, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 tablespoon Cajun or Creole seasoning blend (see recipe note)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt, to taste
12 to 15 jumbo shrimp (about 8 ounces), peeled and deveined
Green onion or fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Prepare the rice:
In a medium lidded pot, add the rice (no need to rinse it), 2 cups chicken or seafood stock, and 1 cup water. Set it over medium heat and bring it to a boil. As soon as it comes up to a boil, lower the heat down to a simmer and place the lid on. Cook for 10 minutes then turn the heat off. Do not open the lid so that the rice can finish cooking in the steam. Set it aside.
Adding water, instead of using all stock, helps dilute the liquid and will make it less salty.
Cook the andouille sausage:
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large lidded skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the andouille sausage and cook until browned and crispy around the edges, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the skillet with a slotted spoon onto a paper towel-lined plate to soak up the grease.
Cook the bulk sausage and vegetables:
In the same Dutch oven, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat and brown the bulk sausage for about 5 minutes. Use the edge of the slotted spoon to crumble the sausage into small pieces. The smaller the better because you’ll get an even distribution of sausage in each bite.
Add the onions, bell pepper, and celery. Sauté until the vegetables are slightly soft, about 3 minutes. Use a spoon to scrape up the browned bits that may be stuck to the bottom and sides of the pot. The moisture released from the onions should help get the bits off. Don’t worry about getting all the bits—you’ll deglaze the skillet soon.
Season, and return the andouille sausage:
Stir in garlic, scotch bonnet (if using), Cajun or Creole seasoning, and dried thyme. Cook for 2 minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
Return the andouille sausage to the pot.
Deglaze and fold in cooked rice:
Add the remaining 1/2 cup chicken or seafood stock, while scraping the bottom of the skillet to pick up all of the browned bits.
If at this point, the mixture looks soupy, turn the heat up to high and cook it for about 2 minutes to reduce the liquid just a bit. The sausage and vegetables should be coated with the stock, not swimming in it.
Lower the heat to a simmer. Gently fold the cooked rice into the mixture until evenly distributed. Be sure not to mix too vigorously as the rice will break and become mushy. Taste and adjust seasoning with more salt, if needed.
Add shrimp and garnish:
Arrange the shrimp evenly on top of the rice, and cover the pot. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes until the shrimp are bright pink, firm when poked, and cooked through. The steam from the skillet will cook the shrimp—how long it takes to cook depends on the size of the shrimp.
Garnish with chopped green onions or parsley, and serve.
Transfer leftovers into an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 5 days or freeze for up to 3 months. Reheat in the microwave in 1-minute intervals until heated through, stirring the rice between each interval.
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|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Servings: 6 to 8|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 28g||37%|
|Saturated Fat 8g||42%|
|Total Carbohydrate 17g||6%|
|Dietary Fiber 1g||4%|
|Total Sugars 4g|
|Vitamin C 21mg||107%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|