Difference between: gumbo and jambalaya

After the food history of gumbo, it was suggested to me to check out the difference between gumbo and jambalaya.


  • Gumbo: a stew or thick soup, usually made with chicken or seafood, greens, and okra or sometimes filĂ© as a thickener; okra.

  • Jambalaya: a dish of Creole origin, consisting of rice cooked with ham, sausage, chicken, or shellfish, herbs, spices, and vegetables, especially tomatoes, onions, and peppers.

And, by the way, etoufee has both Creole and Cajun origins – it is a stew of crayfish served over white rice.

Right away, I notice a big difference between the two, simply from my prior knowledge of gumbo history: gumbo cannot be traced back to either Creole or Cajun roots – it is an ongoing debate among gumbo connoisseurs which is  original gumbo. But, clearly, jambalaya can trace its creation to the Creoles.

Regardless of how they originated, both gumbo and jambalaya can be made in Cajun or Creole versions today. In fact, this Difference Between could almost be called the difference between Cajun and Creole.

Both gumbo and jambalaya:

*Onions, green bell peppers, and celery.

While both dishes include rice, one of the big differences between gumbo and jambalaya is that with gumbo, the rice is cooked separately; with jambalaya it is cooked in the same pot.

The other main difference between the two is that gumbo is more of a stew or a soup, while jambalaya is more of a casserole. The liquid in gumbo is a dark roux that can take hours to make. Much of its flavor is derived from this rick stock.

While gumbo is more time consuming, jambalaya can be made in half an hour. Although they contain many of the same ingredients, jambalaya tends to be more colorful. And again, less stew-like.

Let us investigate the difference between the Cajun and Creole influences on the two dishes.

Cajun gumbo:

  • Contains meat or seafood.**
  • Does not include tomatoes.
  • Has a dark roux base.
  • Is more stew-like.

**Cajun dishes can include alligator, duck, turtle, or venison, in addition to chicken or sausage.

Creole gumbo:

  • Contains seafood.
  • Includes tomatoes.
  • Is less spicy than the Cajun version.
  • Is more soup-like.

Cajun jambalaya:

  • Contains meat or seafood.
  • Is also known as “brown jambalaya.”
  • Does not include tomatoes.

Creole jambalaya:

  • Contains chicken, sausage, or seafood.
  • Is also known as “red jambalaya.”
  • Includes tomatoes.

Personally, I would go with Cajun gumbo and Creole jambalaya – that dark roux is the foundation of what makes gumbo gumbo, in my opinion. And with jambalaya, I think a tomato base is more appropriate and appetizing.

The nutritional differences, of course, would depend upon the exact varieties of gumbo and jambalaya that we’re using. However, gumbo appears to be more healthy than jambalaya overall, with jambalaya containing more calories, fat, and carbohydrates.

In any case, there is no one “true” recipe for either gumbo or jambalaya. They are both versatile dishes, easily adapted to what is on hand or in season, and the cook’s personal preferences.

2 thoughts on “Difference between: gumbo and jambalaya

  1. Which of the two is best for someone who cannot eat spicy foods? Or should both be avoided?

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