In my last post I shared some of the history of that classic New Orleans/Mardi Gras dish, Jambalaya.
As promised, I will now share my base recipe and several vegan and gluten-free variations.
First, I admit that Jambalaya is an easy recipe to veganize. Faux versions of sausage and chicken have gotten so common (and so realistic), it’s super easy to just swap the cruel version for the plant-based version, and not make any other changes to the recipe.
Recently, though, that technique has been making me hesitate.
I’ve been trying to reduce the processed meat substitutes I eat, for two reasons.
One, because they’re … well, processed. These days, I try to get the bulk of my protein from beans, lentils, tofu, and tempeh.
Two, because they’re … well, EXPENSIVE! If I buy a package of veggie sausage and a package of mock chicken to make what is considered “classic” jambalaya, I could easily spend $10-$14 – and that doesn’t even include any other ingredients! A very expensive meal. And “expensive” seems to go against the whole spirit of this dish!
Then I remembered the story of poor Jean. “Balayez, balayez!” Throw something together!
At its heart Jambalaya is a delicious rice dish, that can be stretched with whatever’s in your kitchen. Just because chicken and sausage were common in a Creole’s kitchen … or wild boar or alligator or shrimp in a Cajun’s kitchen … doesn’t mean they’re common in YOUR vegan kitchen!
So use what you have! Throw something together! Balayez! You can use one faux meat item, or two, or none. You can add a can of beans. Use up that tofu or tempeh. Do you happen to have some fresh corn, a stray zucchini, or half a bag of frozen okra? Add it in! Balayez!
Some of my favorite combinations are:
Tonight’s Going To Be A Good Night Jambalaya. Because you’ll be spending it with black eyed peas! This is the Jambalaya you see in these pictures, and it is actually a common version in New Orleans. It’s like Hoppin’ John on steroids (if you’re interested, check out the milder, North Carolina version of Hoppin’ John.) Just add two links of veggie sausage (really love Field Roast for this) and a can of rinsed, drained black eyed peas. (Gluten sensitive people, you may need to skip the sausage – most have vital wheat gluten.)
Alligator Jambalaya. So-named because alligator tastes “just like chicken.” Actually, alligator DOESN’T taste just like chicken, so it’s ok if the chicken substitute you use doesn’t taste 100% like chicken, either. Beyond Meat chicken strips work well here. (Gluten free people, check your brand to make sure it’s gluten-free.)
Two Bean, or Not Two Bean, Jambalaya? Add red kidney beans or white kidney (cannellini) beans – or a can of each. Just make sure that people know you MEANT to do this, and call it Red Bean Jambalaya – not Red Beans and Rice.
Voodoo Veggie Jambalaya – Especially good in the summer when you’re likely to have lots of fresh vegetable odds and ends. Try adding a sliced squash or zucchini, corn, okra, and lima beans.
Et Tu, Tofu Jambalaya. Yes, even you, tofu! Press and drain a block of extra-firm tofu, cut into small squares, toss with Cajun or Creole seasoning, and lightly brown in a pan. This is actually a very nice variation as the tofu really soaks up the flavors of the tomatoes and spices.
So .. ready for that basic Jambalaya recipe?
Ingredients for Balayez Jambalaya:
1 medium to large Yellow Onion, diced
1 Bell Pepper, diced (any color – green tends to be less expensive)
3 Stalks Celery, diced
3-4 Cloves Garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon Canola or Olive Oil
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (Look for a Trinity blend – Onions, Peppers, and Celery)
1 Can Rotel Tomatoes (Choose the hotness level right for you)
3 Cups Water or Broth (full strength is fine in this)
1 Cup Uncooked Rice (I always use Basmati)
2 Bay Leaves
2 Teaspoons Vegan Worcestershire Sauce (Worcestershire Sauce usually contains anchovies; however there are more and more vegan ones coming on the market, so vegan should be easy to find! Substitute Bragg’s Liquid Aminos if you can’t find the Worcestershire.)
1 Teaspoon Dried Thyme (crumble it in your fingers before adding to the pot)
2-3 Teaspoons Creole or Cajun Seasoning
1 Teaspoon Tabasco or other hot sauce
Handful Parsley, chopped (Italian flat leaf, not curly)
Directions for Balayez Jambalaya
Heat oil in a large, deep skillet or soup pot over medium-high heat.
Add onion, bell pepper, and celery. Saute 5 minutes.
Add garlic – saute 2 minutes.
Add tomatoes, Worcertershire Sauce, and hot sauce. Add spices (Thyme, Cajun/Creole Seasoning, Bay Leaves).
Add rice and broth.
ADD WHATEVER OPTIONAL ADD-INS YOU HAVE IN YOUR KITCHEN – BEANS, “SAUSAGE,” “CHICKEN,” VEGGIES, TOFU, ETC. Two cups is a good amount to aim for.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and COVER. Simmer for at least 20 minutes – stirring only occasionally so that it won’t burn.
Add a handful or two of chopped, fresh parsley. Stir just until wilted.
Taste. Cajun/Creole seasonings usually have salt added, so most likely you will not have to add any additional salt. It depends on the brand, though. Now is also the time to add a dash more hot sauce, if desired.
Serve and enjoy!