Which Type of Rice is Best for Jambalaya: Long-Grain or Short-Grain?

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Jambalaya in a white plate with a text "best rice for jambalaya"

Louisiana fried chicken used to be one of my favorite dishes from Louisiana! 

Now, one day I stumbled upon this local dish named jambalaya from the same state, and let’s just say the fried chicken got some tough competition.

As jambalaya isn’t readily available around me, I had to follow different recipes to cook it at home. 

Unfortunately, I failed every time and ended up with mushy jambalaya. The reason? I didn’t use the right type of rice.

Perfectly cooked jambalaya rice has a non-sticky, fluffy, and tender texture. Thus, it’s best to opt for long-grain varieties such as basmati and jasmine, as they won’t turn mushy or clump together on cooking. You can also opt for Louisiana long-grain rice if you want the same taste and texture as authentic jambalaya.

If you don’t want a gigantic Jambalaya disaster in your kitchen, read on!

What Is the Best Rice for Jambalaya?

Cajun Jambalaya in a white plate.

Rice varieties are generally divided into three categories based on their length and starch content – long-grain, medium-grain, and short-grain. 

I recommend opting for long-grain rice varieties for jambalaya, as their low-starch content helps achieve the texture and flavor needed for the dish. 

Here are some long-grain varieties that I have used for cooking jambalaya. 

1. Basmati Rice 

No rice variety can ever beat the delicious texture and taste of Basmati!

Since jambalaya requires a fluffy texture, basmati rice is one of the best options. This type of rice is known for its well-separated and loose grains, which don’t clump together when cooked.

Cooked basmati rice in a printed plate.

Moreover, each basmati grain properly soaks up various flavors required for a dish like jambalaya. 

I also prefer using basmati rice, as it is easily available in almost all online stores or nearby grocery stores!

2. Jasmine Rice 

Whenever I run out of Basmati rice, I use jasmine rice instead. They’re quite similar, except for tiny differences. 

1 pack of 500g Jasmine rice and raw jasmine rice in a blue bowl.

Jasmine rice is used in various Asian dishes, especially curries and stir-fries, because of its fluffy nature. Hence, it can also give you the tender yet non-mushy texture that jambalaya rice needs!

Cooked jasmine rice in a printed plate.

One thing I love about jasmine rice is how it also imparts a unique floral flavor and aroma. This practically makes your jambalaya taste even more heavenly than it already is! 

3. Louisiana Long Grain Rice

Long grain rice in wooden scoop.

Given that jambalaya originates from Louisiana, the Louisiana long-grain rice variety is the best choice for cooking it.

This type of rice is grown in Louisiana and is slender and long, making it ideal for jambalaya. You can find it in various types, including brown, parboiled, and regular Louisiana rice. 

Most locals recommend using parboiled varieties over regular ones for jambalaya, as parboiled absorbs flavors better. It also has fewer chances of turning mushy or sticky.

The only limitation with this Louisiana rice is that it’s not readily available everywhere. Instead, you can use parboiled basmati or jasmine rice as a substitute. 

Apart from the above three options, you can also go for any other local long-grain rice variety available around you.

Can You Use Short-Grain or Medium-Grain Rice for Jambalaya?

Cooked rice in a blue bowl.

After the countless disasters I had while trying to cook jambalaya with short-grain rice, I would never recommend using short-grain or medium-grain varieties.

Jambalaya requires a non-sticky, fluffy, and tender texture to bring out all its flavors. However, both short-grain (like sushi rice) and medium-grain rice (like arborio rice) contain a lot of starch, making the grains sticky and clumpy once cooked.

As a result, your jambalaya will probably taste like kid’s porridge instead of a flavorful delicacy!

Here’s a tip. If you only have short-grain or medium-grain rice, try making fried rice instead. It’s also easy to make and flavorful.

Tips for Cooking Rice for Jambalaya

Jambalaya rice with chicken, shrimp, sausage and vegetables in a gray plate.

Cooking jambalaya may seem straightforward, but it can easily become complicated if you don’t follow certain steps correctly! Take this from someone who failed numerous times before getting it right. 

Here are some beginner tips for preparing jambalaya at home.

1. Don’t Cook Rice Beforehand

Trust me, one sure way to immediately offend Cajuns is by cooking the rice separately from the seasonings.

While other rice recipes may call for boiling the rice first and then seasoning it, the process for jambalaya is quite different.

Instead of simply boiling the rice with water, you need to cook it with meat, spices, vegetables, seasonings, and broth until it is tender and fully cooked. This step ensures that the grains absorb all the flavors.

Rice cooked with meat, spices, vegetables, seasonings, and broth.

2. Not Too Much Liquid or Too Less!

You shouldn’t add too much or too little liquid while preparing jambalaya rice. 

An inadequate amount of liquid can ruin your jambalaya’s texture, and make it too mushy or dry. 

I always follow the 2:1 water-to-rice ratio for jambalaya. So, you should add at least two cups of liquid for one cup of rice. Sometimes, you might have to add more water if your rice feels undercooked. 

Rice soaked in water in a pan.

3. Use Broth Over Water

When it comes to jambalaya, I always use broth instead of water. It’s also a near-crime to use water in jambalaya. 

Chicken broth in a white bowl.

Broth, be it chicken or vegetable, brings its unique taste and also adds additional nutrients to your rice dish. The ratio for broth and rice is also 2:1

4. Don’t Over-Stir the Rice!

Just like drama, over-stirring jambalaya rice can land you in a lot of trouble.

You need to stir your jambalaya rice gently every five to ten minutes while it is cooking. But, if you do it too often, the grains may break and turn your final dish sticky. 

Final Thoughts

There are many tiny things you need to keep in mind before cooking jambalaya, including the rice you should use. 

Always use long-grain rice to ensure that your jambalaya turns out fluffy and flavorful, and not mushy or bland.

Till then, may the Cajun Gods be with you!

Saniya Baxi Avatar


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