Paella vs Jambalaya

Paella vs Jambalaya. What’s the difference between the two? Not much really. They are close kissing cousins to each other. Jambalaya and paella are both one pot rice dishes loaded with medleys of meat, seafood, and vegetables. To me, the main differences are in the spices that are used. Spices differentiate jambalaya and paella. Saffron is the main spice flavoring paella, but it is not in jambalaya.Β Cayenne pepper gives jambalaya a bolder flavor profile than paella. Jambalaya is more French and paella is Spanish. Again, very similar, yet with subtle differences.

I very rarely actually use the real saffron, which means I guess I make more of a jambalaya than a paella. But considering I have strong southern roots and I am not Spanish, I guess that makes sense. Besides saffron is way too expensive for my tastes and if Larry really knew how much saffron was, he would NEVER allow me to use it under any circumstances. The name of the dish doesn’t really matter though. The taste of a dish is really all that counts.

My latest jambalaya/paella dish was loaded with shrimp, sausage and pork loin. Both the sausage and pork loin were leftovers from other dishes, which made me even happier. I got to use up my leftovers while cooking up something else completely different. This is a win/win for me, as you all very well know. I almost added mussels too, which would have made this dish even meatier, but there was so much meat already the dish didn’t need anything more.

I added all kinds of goodness to this recipe. Shrimp, sausage, pork loin, tomatoes, onions, garlic, pumpkin, olives, Peruvian peppers, rice and a dry white wine. My recipe was kind of a paella jambalaya fusion. I used parts of each and mixed and matched them until the flavors were just right, as well as adding my own personal touches too.

There are so many different and delicious versions of both paella and jambalaya available, so I am not really going to give a specific recipe, but instead will give you the cooking methods. Both paella and jambalaya are traditionally “poor man’s” food, and they are made with whatever you have on hand, and vary from region to region, as well as from household to household. You can add whatever you like and discard what you don’t like. You can also change it everytime you make it too. There are no rules.

In a very hot skillet, with olive oil and some lemon olive oil (optional), I cooked the shrimp first until they were done. Then removed them from the heat until later.

Once the shrimp were cooked, the onions, garlic, pumpkin and red pepper flakes were next. I cooked them for about 7-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until they were tender and the onions were translucent.

Next came 1 1/2 cups of rice and about 1 cup of dry white wine. I sauteed the rice for a few minutes, then added the rest of the ingredients, including about 3 cups of chicken broth.

Bring everything to a full, rapid boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, add your spices and seasoning and continue to cook for about 30-40 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring often to make sure the rice doesn’t stick. Although, a true Spanish paella is cooked with the rice sticking and forming a slight crust on the pan. It even has its own special name – arroz crujiente, or a socarrat, which means to lightly toast. This happens when the rice is not cooked evenly and it crusts onto the pan. This is more of a Spanish layering and cooking technique, that can take years to master. However, most Americans prefer their rice to be cooked more evenly, so we tend not to use this method as much. I like the arroz crujiente, but Larry does not.

I re-added the shrimp towards the very end, just to reheat it and not to overcook it. Over cooked shrimp is very rubbery and tough. Once everything was cooked and mixed together, a final touch was to add some lemon juice on top of everything, to really enhance the flavors.

Sticking with Spanish tradition, of course I served it with a warmed bread and some dry white wine on the side. !Deliciosa!

Que tengas un lindo dia or have a great day Everyone. Stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.


Author: ajeanneinthekitchen

I have worked in the restaurant and catering industry for over 35 years. I attended 2 culinary schools in Southern California, and have a degree in culinary arts from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, as well as a few other degrees in other areas. I love to cook and I love to feed people.

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