When you’re tired of turkey and you need a zippy, quick to pull together pick-me-up dinner, try making this semi-homemade jumbalaya. You might even try making it with some leftover turkey chunks and/or ham.

Why semi-homemade? Because some evenings when you get home from work you just don’t feel like fussing around with ingredients and monitoring cooking too closely. And because some evenings you need to tell an older kid to make dinner which everyone can eat reliably.

Bonus: this recipe as prepared also reduces the sodium in the overall dish by about half, and allows you to tweak the seasonings to make it more or less spicy. (My kids prefer it less salty and a little less spicy – that’s how we discovered the semi-homemade method, adding more rice.)

Serve with a nice tossed salad and a light-bodied red wine and relax the rest of the evening. Don’t forget the tabasco sauce on the side in case you need more heat!  . . .

Semi-Homemade Jumbalaya


1 box Zatarain’s Jumbalaya Mix + water as called for on box
1 cup uncooked rice
1-3/4 cups water
1 pound any one or more of these proteins: bite-sized chunks of sauteed ham, smoked sausage, pieces of cooked chicken, or shelled/deveined shrimp
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 green or red bell pepper, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons chili powder (use as desired, more if you want spicy, less if you like milder flavor)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 bay leaf (optional)
1 tablespoon finely minced sun dried tomatoes or dried tomato flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon dried bell pepper (optional)


Prepare all vegetables and then saute in (1) tablespoon of olive oil until onions are translucent; mix in dried herbs/spices, then set aside. Brown meat in (1) tablespoon of olive oil, set aside.

In a rice cooker, empty box of Zatarain’s and add the uncooked rice. Add the water called for on Zatarain’s box and the additional 1-3/4 cup water. Add the browned meat and the sauted vegetables, stir together well. Cover and press Cook on your rice maker as if making rice.

Check about 15-20 minutes into cooking cycle (at least 10 min. before end of cycle); if rice seems too dry, add 1/4 cup water and recover and allow to continue to cook until rice maker shuts off at end of cycle.

This can be made on the stove as well; just mix the meat, rice, Zatarain’s, water in large shallow pan and cook over med-high heat until water comes to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn heat down to low and cover, allow rice to steam until done, approx. 20 min.


If you can’t find Zatarain’s, you can make something very similar at home; you can control the salt by adding more/less bouillion. You can also omit the tomatoes and use water only if you don’t care for tomatoes.

Homemade Jumbalaya Mix
Makes (3) batches

3 cups uncooked rice (long grain white preferred, but brown can work)
3 tablespoons dried minced onion
3 teaspoons dried bell pepper
3 tablespoons finely minced sun dried tomatoes or dried tomato flakes
3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
3 teaspoons dried celery flakes (do NOT use seeds)
3/4 teaspoons ground black pepper
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1-1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1-1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
1-1/2 teaspoons dried thyme

Divide above into three separate portions and store in clean, dry jars with tight fitting lids.

To prepare: Empty contents of jar into rice maker and add 1-1/2 cup cold water, 1 15-oz can of crushed tomatoes, and 1 to 2 pounds of your choice of protein: bite-sized chunks of sauteed ham, smoked sausage, pieces of cooked chicken, or shelled/deveined shrimp. Press Cook and check about 2/3 way through cycle; if rice appears too dry, add 1/4 warm water and allow to finish steaming.

(This last photo taken during cooking in rice maker; sorry, we jumped on the jumbalaya and ate it before I could take a final shot of a cooked serving!)



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