The US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) last Wednesday announced it was no longer going to tell us how to make Jambalaya. OMG, this is a travesty….

Now how did this all come about you might ask?  Well, it seems that almost six years ago, the McCormick & Company owned Zatarain’s, based in New Orleans, suggested in a formal petition that FSIS remove the requirement that Jambalaya contains 25 percent cooked ham and revise references in the “Food Standards and Labeling Policy Book for Tomatoes and Rice. Many never knew these stupid regulations existed.

The petition specifically requested the following language to define Jambalaya:
“A Louisiana-style rice-based dish involving spices and seasoning, which may contain tomatoes. The product can contain meat, seafood, and/or vegetables such as sausage, chicken, ham, pork shrimp or bell peppers. It must all be composed of at least 50 percent rice. Labeling must show true produce name, e.g.-Ham, and Shrimp Jambalaya.”

After thinking about for the past six years, however, FSIS decided that instead of revising the entry from the Policy Book, it would remove it entirely. In the future, products labeled as Jambalaya will just have to disclose its level of meats and poultry.

The Zatarain definition is correct in that Jambalaya likely did originate in Louisiana, but spread throughout the South and beyond in recent years.

“Just as there is no set standard list of ingredients that must be included in Jambalaya, even the dish’s origins are open to speculation, wrote San Francisco food writer and chef, Eric Burkett, in Food Safety News almost a decade ago. “Some cookbooks, many, actually suggest it has French roots. 

The French word for ham is jambon which sounds like… well, you get it. Perhaps a more likely source is that classic Spanish dish, paella, which its rich assortment of surf and turf mixed with fragrant saffron rice. The Spanish ruled Louisiana for nearly 40 years, and Spanish influence over the region was much longer.”

As good-to-great Jambalaya can be, it always involves a word of caution. There’s no room for error when dealing with shellfish and other ingredients. Two years ago Jambalaya served as a fundraising event for Louisiana parish softball league, sickened 160 people and resulted in one death. Salmonella and Clostridium Perfringens;   a bacterium commonly found on raw meat and poultry, were the pathogens doing the damage because the Jambalaya was not prepared and held at correct temperatures.


Even when politics gets into cooking, the important thing about Jambalaya is that it is you, personalized for your style of eating and cooking, it’s basically meat, fish, fowl, elephant, ostrich, gator and the occasional trespasser, ingredients and rice in a tomato base accented in the true traditional Louisiana flavorings.

  • The Basic Cajun “ Holy trinity”: Celery, onions,  and green, yellow, orange and red bell peppers for color.  If you stopped selling celery, onions and peppers in Louisiana, the state would shut down in starvation.
  • Jalapeño and Cayenne Pepper : For heat.  Remove tithe and seeds from Jalopena for less heat
  • Garlic, Creole or McCormick or Tones Cajun seasoning or make you own
  • Chicken, shrimp and Andouille sausage:  plus you can add lobster, mussels, pork, quail, etc, no boundary’s
  • Chicken Stock or Vegetarian, Some use 
  • White cooking Wine 
  • Crushed tomatoes and diced tomatoes
  • White rice: Long grain is traditional, but short grain white rice also works.
  • Okra: Fresh or frozen as a thickener
  • Salt and Black Pepper: Season just before serving
  • Scallions sliced thin or sometimes  very thin cut shallots
  • Garnish with Parsley or Cilantro
  • Lemon


2 tablespoons each  garlic powder,  Italian seasoningpaprika, salt
1 tablespoon black pepper, cayenne pepper, dried thyme, onion powder
Option  1/2 teaspoon Gram Masala  lemo pepper

DEC 2020