5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe: A Delicious Cajun Dish for Large Gatherings

Jambalaya is a dish that has been around for centuries, and its origins can be traced back to the Spanish settlers in Louisiana. It is believed that the Spanish colonizers brought the concept of paella to Louisiana, and the Cajuns adapted it to fit their tastes and ingredients. The dish then evolved into what we now know as Jambalaya, a combination of rice, meat, and vegetables, flavored with spices and herbs. We have this wonderful 5 gallon jambalaya recipe to bring this history to your next large gathering.

The History of Jambalaya

5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe

Jambalaya has a rich and fascinating history. It is a dish that represents the unique blend of cultures that make up Louisiana. The dish is believed to have originated in the 18th century when Spanish settlers brought the concept of paella to Louisiana. The Cajuns, who were French settlers living in Louisiana, adapted the recipe to fit their ingredients and tastes.

The word “jambalaya” is derived from the Provençal word “jambalaia,” which means a mish-mash or mix-up. This is a fitting name for the dish since it is a mix of different meats, vegetables, and spices.

Cajun vs. Creole Jambalaya

  • Cajun Jambalaya: Often referred to as “brown jambalaya,” it skips the tomato and focuses on the smoked meats and seasoning.
  • Creole Jambalaya: Known as “red jambalaya,” it includes tomatoes, giving it a distinctive color and flavor.

The Spanish Influence on Jambalaya

When delving into the 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, it’s essential to acknowledge the profound Spanish influence that has shaped this iconic dish. The Spanish legacy in jambalaya is most prominently seen through the incorporation of rice, a fundamental element that acts as a canvas for the dish’s rich tapestry of flavors.

Rice: The Heart of Jambalaya

In traditional jambalaya, rice isn’t just an addition; it’s the heart of the recipe. The Spanish brought their love for rice and their recipes for paella to Louisiana, where the ingredient became a staple. Just like in paella, jambalaya uses long-grain rice known for its ability to remain distinct and non-sticky when cooked, making it ideal for absorbing the robust flavors of the meats and seasonings it’s cooked with.

Cooking Method

The method of cooking the rice for jambalaya mirrors that of paella. The rice is simmered slowly in a rich broth, which can be made from chicken, seafood, or sometimes a combination of both, depending on the recipe. As the rice cooks, it swells and soaks up the savory liquids, along with the essence of all the other ingredients, such as:

  • Smoked sausage or andouille
  • Chicken or game meats
  • Seafood like shrimp or crawfish
  • A mélange of vegetables including onions, bell peppers, and celery
  • A blend of spices, typically featuring Cajun or Creole seasonings

The Broth’s Role

The broth in a 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe is a crucial component. It’s seasoned not just with salt but with a medley of spices that may include garlic, cayenne pepper, thyme, and bay leaves. The choice of stock and its seasonings are what set one jambalaya apart from another, infusing the rice with layers of flavor that are both complex and comforting.

The French Influence on Jambalaya

Understanding the 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe requires a nod to the French influence that has left an indelible mark on the dish’s evolution. French culinary practices have been interwoven into the fabric of Cajun cooking, bringing techniques and ingredients that are now staples in the creation of jambalaya.

The “Holy Trinity” of Cajun Cuisine

At the core of jambalaya, and indeed much of Cajun cuisine, is the “holy trinity” — a term that pays homage to the French mirepoix. This base consists of:

  • Onions
  • Celery
  • Bell peppers

These vegetables are the starting point for the 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, providing a foundation of flavors that are quintessentially Cajun but with roots in French cooking traditions.

Roux: The French Thickener

The use of roux is another French culinary concept that has been embraced by Cajun cooks. In jambalaya, a roux is sometimes used to add depth and body to the dish. It’s made by cooking flour and fat together until they reach the desired color and flavor. The roux for jambalaya is typically lighter than the one used for gumbo, aiming not to overpower the other ingredients.

The African Influence on Jambalaya

The 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe is not only a testament to the culinary fusion that defines Louisiana but also a reflection of the rich African heritage that has significantly influenced its flavor profile. The introduction of robust spices and herbs by African individuals in Louisiana is a key component of what makes jambalaya such a distinctive and beloved dish.

Spices and Herbs in Jambalaya

African culinary traditions are renowned for their judicious use of spices and herbs, which they introduced to the New World. In jambalaya, these are more than mere ingredients; they represent the soul of the dish. The following spices are central to creating an authentic jambalaya experience:

  • Paprika: Offers warmth and depth, coloring the dish with its vibrant hue.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Provides a fiery kick, which is a hallmark of many African and Cajun recipes.
  • Thyme: Contributes a subtle, earthy flavor that complements the other bold ingredients.

The Role of Spices and Herbs in the 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe

When preparing a large batch of jambalaya, such as a 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, the balance and proportion of spices and herbs are critical. They must be measured with precision to ensure that every spoonful is imbued with the intended flavor. Here’s how these elements are integrated:

  1. Creating a Spice Blend: Start by mixing the spices in the right ratios to create a balanced blend.
  2. Seasoning the Proteins: Before they hit the pot, season the chicken, sausage, and seafood with the spice blend to marinate them in the flavors.
  3. Layering During Cooking: As the jambalaya cooks, layer in the spices and herbs at different stages to build complexity in the taste.
  4. Adjusting to Taste: Given the volume of a 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, it’s important to taste and adjust the seasoning as needed, ensuring a consistent and flavorful dish.

The African Legacy in Every Bite

The influence of African culture in jambalaya is a reminder of the profound impact that African slaves had on the culinary landscape of the South. Their knowledge of spice combinations and cooking techniques helped to shape not just jambalaya but numerous other dishes that are now staples in American cuisine.

By incorporating these spices and herbs into the 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, cooks pay homage to the African roots that contribute to the dish’s bold and dynamic flavors. This recipe not only provides sustenance and pleasure to those who partake in it but also serves as a culinary bridge between continents and cultures.

The Native American Influence on Jambalaya

The 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe is deeply enriched by Native American foodways, particularly through the use of smoked meats. The smoking process, perfected by Native Americans for preservation, imparts a distinctive taste that is integral to the character of jambalaya.

Smoked Meats: A Flavorful Tradition

Native American tribes were adept at smoking meats, which allowed them to store food for extended periods. This technique, which involves curing meat with the application of smoke from burning wood, not only preserved the meat but also added a depth of flavor that has become synonymous with many traditional Southern dishes, including jambalaya.

Incorporating Smoked Meats into Jambalaya

The process of integrating smoked meats into a 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe involves several steps:

  1. Selection of Meats: Choose high-quality meats such as pork, sausage, or chicken that benefit from the smoking process.
  2. Smoking Technique: Use traditional smoking methods to cure the meats, which may include a variety of woods such as hickory or oak to achieve different flavor profiles.
  3. Preparation for the Pot: Cut the smoked meats into bite-sized pieces to ensure they distribute evenly throughout the jambalaya.
  4. Cooking with Smoked Meats: Add the smoked meats early in the cooking process so their robust flavor infuses the entire dish.

The Impact of Smoked Meats on the Recipe

In a 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, smoked meats contribute to the dish in several ways:

  • Flavor: They provide a rich, smoky undertone that is the backbone of the dish’s flavor.
  • Texture: Smoking alters the texture of the meat, adding a chewy, satisfying dimension to the jambalaya.
  • Aroma: The aroma of smoked meats is unmistakable and sets the stage for the sensory experience of enjoying jambalaya.

Honoring Native American Contributions

By incorporating smoked meats into jambalaya, the recipe pays respect to the ingenuity of Native American preservation and cooking techniques. This element not only enhances the dish’s taste but also serves as a culinary tribute to the original inhabitants of Louisiana, acknowledging their role in the development of the region’s gastronomy.

The 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe is not just a meal; it’s a celebration of the diverse cultures that have come together to shape the Louisiana culinary scene. The Native American practice of smoking meats is a vital part of this story, adding both historical significance and irresistible flavor to every batch of jambalaya.

The Evolution of Jambalaya

The journey of jambalaya from a simple rice dish to a staple of Louisiana cuisine is a story of cultural amalgamation and culinary innovation. The 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe is a celebration of this evolution, showcasing the distinct flavors that arise from its Creole, Cajun, and Spanish versions.

Creole Jambalaya: The Tomato Twist

Creole or “red” jambalaya distinguishes itself with the inclusion of tomatoes, which adds a tangy sweetness and gives the dish its signature red hue. This version is reflective of the European (especially French and Spanish) influence mixed with West African and Native American culinary traditions, prevalent in the New Orleans area.

Cajun Jambalaya: The Rustic Blend

Cajun jambalaya omits tomatoes and is often characterized by a smokier, more robust flavor. This “brown” jambalaya is a result of the dish being cooked in a cast iron pot, which allows the ingredients to caramelize and create a rich, dark color. The Cajun version is a testament to the resourcefulness of the Acadian settlers who adapted their French culinary roots to the ingredients available in the Louisiana bayou.

Spanish Jambalaya: The Saffron-Infused Variant

Spanish jambalaya, or “yellow jambalaya,” is noted for its use of saffron — the spice that gives paella its yellow color — and Spanish chorizo, which infuses the rice with its piquant, paprika-laden fat. This style is closer to the original paella and speaks to the Spanish influence on Louisiana’s cooking.

Understanding the 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe

A 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe serves as a culinary canvas to these influences, allowing for a large-scale preparation that feeds a crowd while honoring the dish’s diverse roots. Here’s what each variant brings to the table:

  • Creole Jambalaya: It’s ideal for those who enjoy the balance of savory and sweet, with tomatoes providing a fruity undertone.
  • Cajun Jambalaya: Perfect for lovers of deep, meaty flavors with a focus on the smoked meats and the “holy trinity” of Cajun vegetables.
  • Spanish Jambalaya: Saffron and chorizo offer a unique European flavor that is both exotic and familiar.

Preparing a Large Batch

When preparing a 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe, the cook must consider the balance of ingredients and the timing of adding each component to preserve the integrity of the flavors. Regardless of the type, the process involves:

  1. Sautéing or browning the foundational ingredients.
  2. Incorporating the rice and ensuring it is well-coated with the rendered fats and seasonings.
  3. Adding the broth and other liquids, then simmering the mixture until the rice is tender and the flavors meld.

The 5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe is not just a dish but a culinary journey through time and culture, offering a taste of the history and diversity that have simmered together to create Louisiana’s beloved jambalaya.

5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe

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5 Gallon Jambalaya Recipe

5 Gallons of Jambalaya

Ryan Yates
Jambalaya is a classic Cajun dish that combines rice, meat, vegetables, and spices in a flavorful one-pot meal. Traditionally, jambalaya is made in smaller batches, but it can easily be scaled up to feed a crowd. The 5 gallon jambalaya recipe is perfect for large gatherings such as weddings, family reunions, or church events. With a few simple ingredients and some basic cooking skills, you can make a delicious pot of jambalaya that will impress even the pickiest eaters. Ingredients To make a 5 gallon jambalaya recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Main Course
Cuisine cajun, creole
Servings 50


  • A large stockpot or Dutch oven (at least 20 quarts)
  • A large wooden spoon or paddle for stirring
  • Cutting board and knives for preparing the ingredients
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Large bowls for holding the chopped vegetables
  • A colander for rinsing the rice
  • A timer or clock for keeping track of cooking times


  • 10 pounds of boneless chicken thighs cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 5 pounds of smoked sausage sliced
  • 5 pounds of shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 5 cups of chopped onions
  • 5 cups of chopped celery
  • 5 cups of chopped green bell pepper
  • 5 cups of chopped red bell pepper
  • 5 cups of chopped garlic
  • 10 cups of long-grain white rice
  • 20 cups of chicken broth
  • 5 tablespoons of Cajun seasoning
  • 5 teaspoons of dried thyme
  • 5 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • 5 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • 5 teaspoons of cayenne pepper
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Vegetable oil for cooking


  • Heat a small amount of vegetable oil in the stockpot over medium-high heat. Add the chicken thighs and cook until browned on all sides, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the chicken from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the sliced sausage to the pot and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Remove the sausage from the pot and set aside.
  • Add the onions, celery, and bell peppers to the pot and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the rice to the pot and stir to coat it with the vegetable mixture. Cook the rice for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly.
  • Add the chicken broth, Cajun seasoning, thyme, oregano, smoked paprika, and cayenne pepper to the pot. Stir to combine all the ingredients.
  • Add the chicken and sausage back to the pot and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • After 15 minutes, add the shrimp to the pot and stir to combine
  • Cover the pot again and continue to simmer for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked and the shrimp are pink and cooked through.
  • Once the jambalaya is cooked, remove the pot from the heat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld together.
  • Serve the jambalaya hot, garnished with chopped green onions and parsley, if desired.


Tips and Variations
To make the jambalaya spicier, increase the amount of cayenne pepper or add some hot sauce to the pot.
If you don’t like shrimp, you can leave it out of the recipe or substitute it with another type of seafood, such as crawfish or crab meat.
Jambalaya can be made with a variety of meats, including pork, beef, and alligator. Feel free to experiment with different types of meat to find your favorite combination.
For a vegetarian version of jambalaya, you can substitute the meat with extra vegetables or plant-based protein sources such as tofu or tempeh.
Keyword 5 gallon jambalaya recipe, Cajun jambalaya, Creole jambalaya, crowd-pleaser, jambalaya recipe, Louisiana cuisine, one-pot meal, Southern cuisine


How many servings does the 5 gallon jambalaya recipe make?

The 5 gallon jambalaya recipe makes approximately 80-100 servings, depending on portion size.

Can I make the jambalaya ahead of time and reheat it later?

Yes, you can make the jambalaya ahead of time and reheat it in a large pot or in smaller batches. Just be sure to stir it occasionally to prevent sticking.

Can I freeze the leftover jambalaya?

Yes, you can freeze the leftover jambalaya in airtight containers for up to 3 months. To reheat, thaw the jambalaya overnight in the refrigerator and then reheat it in a pot on the stove or in the microwave.

Can I adjust the amount of ingredients in the 5 gallon jambalaya recipe to make a smaller or larger batch?

Yes, you can adjust the amount of ingredients in the recipe to make a smaller or larger batch. Just keep the same ratios and adjust accordingly. For example, to make a 2.5 gallon batch, you would use half the amount of each ingredient listed.

Is jambalaya spicy?

Jambalaya can be spicy, depending on the amount of cayenne pepper and other spices used. If you prefer a milder flavor, you can reduce the amount of cayenne pepper or omit it altogether.

Can I use brown rice instead of white rice in jambalaya?

Yes, you can use brown rice instead of white rice in jambalaya, but keep in mind that brown rice takes longer to cook and may require more liquid. Adjust the cooking time and liquid accordingly.

What are some side dishes that go well with jambalaya?

Some side dishes that go well with jambalaya include cornbread, coleslaw, green beans, and salad.


The 5 gallon jambalaya recipe is a delicious and hearty dish that’s perfect for feeding a large crowd. With its bold flavors and colorful ingredients, jambalaya is sure to be a hit at your next party or gathering. Whether you follow this recipe exactly or put your own spin on it, you’re sure to end up with a delicious and satisfying meal.

So fire up your stove, grab your biggest pot, and get ready to make a batch of jambalaya that will feed the whole gang. Just be prepared for everyone to ask for seconds!

And if you’re looking for more recipe ideas or cooking tips, be sure to check out our other articles on the topic.

This article was reviewed and published by Ryan Yates, Culinary Expert with over 15 years of experience in elevated cooking techniques. This process was tested in a working commercial kitchen that Ryan manages as a Professional Chef.

Note: This article was crafted with the primary intent of educating and assisting our readers. We ensure that our content is backed by research and expertise. For more culinary insights, stay tuned to the Authentic Hospitality blog.

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Ryan Yates