Jambalaya is one of my favorite one-pot style recipes. The combo of sausage, chicken, and shrimp with Creole seasoning and rice is always a winner in my book. Making it in a slow cooker makes it even easier to prepare!
There are a few things to watch out for when assembling the recipe, but if you follow the tips below, you’ll be left with a great jambalaya that’s sure to please a crowd on a chilly winter day. Enjoy!
- Looking for a stove-top jambalaya? Here you go!
Jambalaya vs. Gumbo
The base ingredients for these two classic Creole dishes are almost identical. The main difference is that gumbo incorporates a roux, or some sort of thickener, and is served either by itself, almost like a chili, or over a bed of rice.
Jambalaya is more like arroz con pollo, in that the rice and other ingredients cook together. This is actually hard to pull off consistently in a slow cooker so I recommend cooking the rice separately, and then either serving the jambalaya over the rice or stirring the cooked rice into the finished jambalaya before serving. Personally, I prefer to serve it over rice on an individual serving basis!
But have no fear! It can be done!
The Creole Seasoning: DIY or Buy?
I normally just buy my Creole seasoning. I like Tony Chachere's Original Creole seasoning which is a classic and available in most supermarkets nationwide. It is not the same as Cajun seasoning, which is more of a blackening spice. I wouldn't substitute Creole for Cajun!
If you want make your own Creole seasoning, you can get a good result by stirring together the following:
- 2 tablespoons paprika
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 2 teaspoons granulated onion
- 2 teaspoons granulated garlic
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
Store whatever you don't use for this recipe in a tightly covered container.
Whatever you do, if your Creole seasoning has salt in it already, and most of them will, make sure you taste as you go. You may not need additional salt during the cooking process. It's much easier to add salt in; it's much harder to take it out.
The Holy Trinity in Creole Cuisine
Almost any classic Creole recipe will start with what’s often referred to as the "holy trinity" of onion, bell pepper, and celery. This is a great start to so many recipes, and you better believe I include it in this slow cooker version as well.
Take the time to dice your vegetables to a similar size so they cook at the same rate, and you don’t end up with any huge chunks.
How to Prep the Shrimp
Buy unpeeled shrimp and leave the shells on, but use kitchen shears to cut the shells up the backs. The shells add a lot of flavor to the dish and also help prevent the shrimp from becoming overcooked and rubbery during slow cooking, which is why we leave them on. But cutting them up the backs now will make them easier to peel at the table when eating.
Cook This Jambalaya in Two Stages
If you toss all the ingredients in this recipe in a slow cooker and hit go, you would be in for disappointment after 3 to 4 hours of cooking. The rice would be soggy and the shrimp would be like rubber. No, thank you!
To prevent that, cook this jambalaya in two stages.
Stage one is for cooking the trinity, garlic, spices, tomato, chicken, and sausage. This stage you can cook for a long time. It’ll take at least 3 to 4 hours on high heat, but if you were trying to space it out more, you could cook it on low heat for up to 6 hours.
Then it’s time to add the shrimp! Stir the shrimp into the jambalaya and then cook for another 30 to 45 minutes more. The final cooking time might vary a bit depending on your exact slow cooker. It’s done, though, when the shrimp are cooked through.
While the shrimp cooks, get a pot of rice going on your stovetop. When ready to serve, taste the jambalaya and season it with salt and pepper to your liking, then either stir the rice into the jambalaya or serve scoops of the jambalaya over the cooked rice.
Looking for More New Orleans Favorites?
Slow Cooker Jambalaya
- 1 white onion, diced
- 3 stalks celery, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 pound smoked sausage, sliced about 1/4 inch
- 1 pound boneless chicken breasts and/or thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Creole seasoning (I like Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning)
- 1 pound large shrimp, shell on, thawed
- 1 cup long grain white rice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, or to taste
- Fresh parsley, chopped, for garnish
Slow cook the sausage, chicken, and veggies:
Add the onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, sausage, chicken, tomatoes, oregano, bay leaves, and Creole seasoning to a large slow cooker. Stir together well.
Cook on high for 3 hours or on low for 4 to 5 hours. You are ready to move onto the next step when the veggies are very tender and the chicken is cooked through and you can pull it easily apart.
Add the shrimp and cook on high:
Leave the shells on the shrimp, but use kitchen shears to cut up the backs; this will make them easier to peel later.
Add the shrimp to the slow cooker. Stir it in, cover, and cook on high for another 30 to 45 minutes until the shrimp are cooked through.
Cook the rice:
While the shrimp cooks, cook the rice either according to the package directions or following this boiled rice method. When done, set the rice aside, covered, until ready to serve. (This makes about 4 cups of cooked rice.)
Taste and season:
Remove bay leaves from the jambalaya and taste. Season with salt and pepper to taste and garnish with fresh chopped parsley. Either peel the shells off the shrimp now, or serve with the shells on and instruct guests to remove the shells as they eat.
Stir the cooked rice into the jambalaya (as pictured), or serve the jambalaya ladled over top the rice.
Leftovers will keep in the fridge in air-tight containers for 2 to 3 days and then the shrimp start to really break down. This dish doesn’t freeze particularly well. The combination of rice, shrimp, and sauce doesn’t reheat easily without making the shrimp very rubbery.