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Everyone needs a healthy dinner to turn to on busy evenings, and this Crockpot Jambalaya is just the answer! Full of chicken, shrimp, and smoky sausage, plenty of fresh veggies, and loads of Cajun spice, this easy rice dish is a simplified version of the Creole classic. Add a side of cornbread, biscuits, or salad to complete the cozy meal!

Overhead shot of holding a bowl of Instant Pot jambalaya.

Easy Jambalaya Recipe

Traditional jambalaya is an American Creole and Cajun rice dish with French, African, and Spanish influence. It typically includes meat (chicken, sausage, crawfish, and/or shrimp) and vegetables mixed with cooked rice.

Technically, for a true jambalaya, the rice cooks in the same pot as the other ingredients. Here, however, for a crockpot jambalaya, you’ll cook the rice separately. This is because rice tends to get mushy, gummy, and overdone in the slow cooker or Instant Pot — not ideal! Instead, combine the meat and vegetables with the cooked rice at the very end. This gives you more control over all of the individual ingredients so that you have perfectly cooked chicken, shrimp, and rice by mealtime!

Two bowls of crockpot jambalaya on a dinner table with cornbread

Gumbo vs Jambalaya

While gumbo and jambalaya both originated in Louisiana and have similar flavor profiles, there are a couple of significant differences between these two dishes:

  • Gumbo is a hearty soup or stew inspired by the French bouillabaisse and named after the West African word for okra “guingombo.” It’s served with a small amount of rice that’s cooked in a separate pan.
  • Jambalaya is a thicker rice-based meal, in which the rice is cooked in the same pot as the meat and vegetables (see my note above for why we cook our rice separately here).
Adding vegetables to slow cooker

Ingredients

This is a quick overview of the ingredients that you’ll need for crockpot jambalaya. As always, specific measurements and complete cooking instructions are included in the printable recipe box at the bottom of the post.

  • Sausage: this is optional, as the recipe works well with just the chicken and shrimp, too. If you’d like to add the smoky sausage component to the dish, I recommend either andouille sausage or kielbasa smoked sausage.
  • Chicken: I find that boneless skinless chicken thighs hold up better and stay juicier in the slow cooker, but you can substitute with boneless skinless chicken breasts if you prefer the white meat.
  • Celery, onion, and bell pepper: The Holy Trinity of vegetables that traditionally flavors jambalaya. I use red bell pepper here, but green bell pepper is a great option, too.
  • Cajun or Creole seasoning: a flavorful blend of spices that often includes paprika, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, oregano, and basil. It gives the jambalaya a bit of a spicy kick!
  • Garlic: for even more flavor.
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper: to enhance the other flavors in the dish.
  • Diced tomatoes and tomato paste: for that tomato flavor that’s common in jambalaya recipes.
  • Chicken broth: to thin the jambalaya.
  • Shrimp: add these at the end so that they’re perfectly cooked. I like the “medium” shrimp, but you can use any size and just adjust the cooking time accordingly.
  • Cooked white rice: for serving.
Adding raw shrimp to a slow cooker

How to Make Crockpot Jambalaya

Use this recipe to make Crockpot Jambalaya or Instant Pot Jambalaya — both sets of instructions are included below. No matter which method you choose, the Cajun-inspired meal will taste delicious…and you might just feel like you’ve been transported to New Orleans!

  1. Sauté the sausage in a skillet just until browned (if you’re using the sausage — otherwise you can skip this step). Transfer to the slow cooker.
  2. Add chicken, celery, onions, bell pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic, salt, diced tomatoes (with their juices), broth, and tomato paste to the Crock Pot.
  3. Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours or on HIGH for 2-3 hours.
  4. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks or cut into chunks. Return the chicken to the pot.
  5. Stir in the shrimp, cover, and cook for about 10-20 more minutes, or just until the shrimp turn pink.
  6. Serve over cooked rice and garnish with fresh parsley or sliced green onion.
Overhead image of hands holding a bowl of a healthy crockpot jambalaya recipe

What to Serve with Jambalaya

This easy jambalaya recipe is truly an entire meal in one pot! With protein, veggies, and grains, you really don’t need anything more. That said, if you’d like an additional option on the side, I suggest:

Close up side shot of a bowl of chicken and shrimp jambalaya

How to Store Crock Pot Jambalaya

Store leftover jambalaya in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. The texture of the shrimp may be different after thawing, but the jambalaya will still taste great. I do NOT recommend freezing leftover jambalaya with rice, since the rice may be slightly mushy after thawing.

How to Reheat

To reheat the jambalaya, place in a saucepan or Dutch oven on the stovetop over low heat. Cover the pot and cook just until warmed through. Do not let it get too hot, or you risk overcooking the shrimp.

Recipe Variations for Crockpot Jambalaya

  • Chicken thighs stay more tender and juicy in the slow cooker; however, you can substitute with chicken breast if you prefer the white meat.
  • To add sausage to your slow cooker jambalaya: brown sliced andouille or kielbasa rounds in a skillet. Add the browned sausage to the slow cooker along with the chicken and other ingredients. Proceed with the rest of the cooking instructions.
  • Use just about any combination of meat that you prefer. For instance, use only shrimp (increasing the amount by an extra 1 lb.), or use only chicken (increasing the amount by an extra 1 lb.). Substitute sausage for the shrimp if you don’t want shellfish, or just use shrimp and sausage and omit the chicken. Make sure that you use about 2 ½ – 3 lbs. of meat altogether.
  • Add some herbs to the pot, such as fresh thyme, parsley, oregano, chives, or rosemary. One to two bay leaves would also be a great addition!
  • For a lighter, healthy, grain-free option, try serving your jambalaya with cauliflower rice!
Close overhead shot of a bowl of slow cooker jambalaya.

Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Jambalaya Recipe

  • Be careful not to overcook the chicken. I find that chicken has the best texture when cooked in my slow cooker on HIGH for about 2 hours. That keeps it moist and juicy, and prevents it from drying out.
  • The total cooking time will vary depending on your individual Crock Pot. Every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Since my slow cooker tends to cook at a relatively high temperature, I find that the meal is best when cooked on HIGH for about 2 hours or on LOW for about 4 hours. Just get familiar with your pot and adjust accordingly.
  • Keep a close eye on the shrimp once you add it to the slow cooker. Turn off the pot as soon as the shrimp turns pink and opaque. This can take anywhere from about 10 minutes to 20 minutes depending on the size and temperature of your shrimp. Overcooked shrimp will be tough and rubbery — not ideal!
  • This jambalaya has a mild flavor, so feel free to jazz it up with more spice. Stir in some extra Creole seasoning or cayenne pepper, serve each dish with hot sauce, or add some crushed red pepper flakes on top. Customize it to suit your family’s preferences!
Hands eating a bowl of chicken and shrimp crockpot jambalaya.

More Cajun Recipes to Try

Overhead shot of holding a bowl of Instant Pot jambalaya.

Crockpot Jambalaya {Instant Pot Jambalaya}

Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 5 hours
Total: 5 hours 20 minutes
Servings 8 cups
Calories 162 kcal
This simplified version of the Cajun classic includes chicken, shrimp, and sausage — and it's made in the slow cooker or Instant Pot!

Ingredients
  

  • 12 ounces andouille or kielbasa sausage, sliced into rounds (optional)
  • 1 – 1 ½ lbs. boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces (or substitute with boneless skinless chicken breast)
  • 1 cup (about 2 stalks) diced celery
  • 2 large onions, diced
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded diced
  • 2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning, plus more to taste
  • 2 teaspoons minced or pressed fresh garlic (about 2 large cloves)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, not drained
  • ½ cup chicken broth
  • 3 ounces (about ⅓ cup) tomato paste
  • 1 lb. peeled and deveined medium shrimp
  • For serving: cooked rice
  • Optional garnish: chopped fresh parsley or sliced green onion; hot sauce

Instructions

SLOW COOKER METHOD:

  • Optional: If you’d like to add sausage to your jambalaya, you can do so by browning sliced kielbasa or andouille sausage in a skillet. Add the browned sausage to the slow cooker along with the chicken and other ingredients. Proceed with the rest of the cooking instructions.
  • In slow cooker, stir together chicken, celery, onions, bell pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic, salt, diced tomatoes (in their juices), broth and tomato paste.
  • Cover and cook on LOW for 4-6 hours (or on HIGH for 2 – 3 hours).
  • Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks; return to the pot.
  • Stir in shrimp, cover, and cook for an additional 10-20 minutes (or just until shrimp turn pink), stirring once. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper or Creole seasoning, if necessary. Serve over rice and garnish with parsley or green onion.

INSTANT POT METHOD:

  • Optional: If you’d like to add sausage to your jambalaya, you can do so by browning sliced kielbasa or andouille sausage in the Instant Pot at the same time that you brown the chicken. Remove the chicken and sausage as instructed above, and proceed with the rest of the cooking instructions above.
  • Select “sauté” on the Instant Pot and adjust to “normal.” Add 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to the pot. When hot, add the chicken. Cook for 5-6 minutes, or until browned. Using a slotted spoon, transfer chicken to a bowl (leave oil in the pot).
  • Add celery, onion, bell pepper, Cajun seasoning, garlic, and salt to the pot. Cook, stirring constantly, for 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Press “cancel.”
  • Add chicken, tomatoes in their juices, 1 cup of broth, and tomato paste to the pot. Secure the lid on the pot. Close the pressure-release valve.
  • Select “manual” and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. When cooking is complete, use a quick release to depressurize. Press “cancel.”
  • Remove the chicken to a cutting board and shred with two forks; return to the pot.
  • Select “sauté” and adjust to “normal.” Add the shrimp to the pot and cook for 5 minutes, or until shrimp are cooked through (they will turn pink and you’ll know they’re done). Press “cancel.”
  • Taste and season with additional salt and pepper or Creole seasoning, if necessary. Ladle the jambalaya over the rice and garnish with parsley or green onion.

Notes

  • Be careful not to overcook the chicken. I find that chicken has the best texture when cooked in my slow cooker on HIGH for about 2 hours. That keeps it moist and juicy, and prevents it from drying out.
  • The total cooking time will vary depending on your individual Crock Pot. Every slow cooker runs at a slightly different temperature (which is why the recipe gives you general time ranges, rather than exact times). Since my slow cooker tends to cook at a relatively high temperature, I find that the meal is best when cooked on HIGH for about 2 hours or on LOW for about 4 hours. Just get familiar with your pot and adjust accordingly. 
  • Keep a close eye on the shrimp once you add it to the slow cooker. Turn off the pot as soon as the shrimp turns pink and opaque. This can take anywhere from about 10 minutes to 20 minutes depending on the size and temperature of your shrimp. Overcooked shrimp will be tough and rubbery — not ideal!
  • This jambalaya has a mild flavor, so feel free to jazz it up with more spice. Stir in some extra Creole seasoning or cayenne pepper, serve each dish with hot sauce, or add some crushed red pepper flakes on top. Customize it to suit your family’s preferences!

Nutrition

Serving: 1cup of Jambalaya (not including rice for serving)Calories: 162kcalCarbohydrates: 8gProtein: 24gFat: 3gCholesterol: 196mgSodium: 859mgPotassium: 514mgFiber: 2gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 965IUVitamin C: 32.5mgCalcium: 120mgIron: 2.7mg
Keyword: crockpot jambalaya, healthy instant pot recipe, instant pot jambalaya, slow cooker jambalaya
Course: Dinner
Cuisine: Southern
Author: Blair Lonergan

This post was originally published in January, 2016. The photos were updated in February, 2022.

blair

Hey, I’m Blair!

Welcome to my farmhouse kitchen in the foothills of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Inspired by local traditions and seasonal fare, you’ll find plenty of easy, comforting recipes that bring your family together around the table. It’s down-home, country-style cooking!

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Comments

  1. Mmm I can almost taste this deliciousness, Blair! I’m always looking for healthier slow cooker meals, so this sounds just perfect! I love the combo of chicken and shrimp. And I love your bowls, too! 🙂

    1. Thanks, Gayle! We’re currently getting pummeled with snow, and I’m thinking that I need to throw another batch into my crock pot too!

  2. You know I’ve never made jambalaya? I just may need to get on that. I’ve been craving these flavors, but don’t feel like doing the work.

    1. Megan, you NEED to try this! It’s got some nice spice, but it’s not ridiculously hot. The flavors are all there in a lightened-up way!

  3. Wow, wonderful weblog format! How long have you been blogging for?
    you make blogging glance easy. The full glance of your site is fantastic, as
    neatly as the content!

    1. Hi, Judy! Absolutely! I find that the chicken thighs stay a bit more moist in the slow cooker, but the white meat chicken breast will also work — so use whatever you prefer! 🙂

    1. Hi, BJ! You just want the chicken in bite-size pieces. You can chop the thighs, shred them, or leave them in larger chunks — whatever suits your preference. Enjoy!