jambalaya vs gumbo

Jambalaya vs Gumbo – What Are The Differences?

Jambalaya and gumbo remain a staple of Creole cuisine, but do you know what their differences are? 

You may want to figure out what each of these dishes entails before ordering, as they are not the same. Avoid an embarrassment and learn how to differentiate between these two delicious meals. 

Let’s dive into what jambalaya and gumbo are and why you should order one or the other!   

What Is Jambalaya?


Jambalaya is a dish originally from the French Quarter in New Orleans, a city in Louisiana, United States. This meal is essentially a stew that contains chicken or sausage, celery, onions, peppers, stock, and eventually, rice is added as well. 

This dish requires only fresh and raw ingredients, so it may be easy to confuse it with rice. It is often a delicacy depending on the type of fish used and can be very expensive at times. This dish is both Creole and Cajun, but there are some differences in preparation. 

The Creole version is also known as “red jambalaya,” and it also contains tomatoes and seafood along with the rest of the ingredients. The Cajun jambalaya contains no tomatoes and the meat is browned further. In some variations, jambalaya may also include duck or beef. 

Nutrition Facts

Because of its ingredients, jambalaya contains various nutrients, including vitamins and minerals. One cup (244 g) has the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 395 calories
  • 33.6 g protein
  • 12.6 g fat
  • 19.4 g carbohydrate
  • 1.71 g fiber
  • 58.6 mg calcium 
  • 46.4 mg magnesium
  • 332 mg phosphorus 
  • 588 mg potassium
  • 925 mg sodium 
  • 15.6 mg vitamin C 
  • 102 mg choline
  • 19.5 µg vitamin A 
  • 10.5 µg vitamin K

Which jambalaya is the best?

While Cajun jambalaya is sometimes the “original” type, the Creole kind is just as common and tasty. When preparing Cajun jambalaya, all ingredients go in the pot at the same time and slow cooking everything else. 

On the other hand, Creole jambalaya contains tomatoes, but it also requires cooking things in different stages. 

Brown or Cajun jambalaya tastes a little more nutty and toasted, while red or Creole jambalaya is more acidic and slightly sweet. Creole jambalaya is also more likely to include shrimp or seafood, making its protein and omega 3 content higher. 

In terms of preparation, Cajun jambalaya is easier and requires less monitoring, as it is all added at the same time and allowed to cook slowly. Creole jambalaya requires you to add things at different times, paying close attention to the process, and finishing with the rice. 

Since these two versions of jambalaya are not that different, the best version is defined in terms of preparation or nutrient content. 

The Cajun jambalaya is easier to make but contains fewer nutrients. The Creole jambalaya may require more work but contains higher protein and omega 3 content. 

What Is Gumbo?


Gumbo is another dish from Louisiana, the United States, that dates back to the 1700s. This dish is more liquidy and consists mainly of thick broth that contains either a dark roux, okra, or ground sassafras leaves. 

Gumbo contains ingredients like celery, onions, paprika, pepper, garlic, and other spices or herbs. 

The meat in gumbo is usually sausage, chicken, duck, or rabbit. Some gumbo may also include seafood, such as oysters, crabmeat, or shrimp. Another unique factor is that most cook gumbo for at least three hours,  and it can have rice as a side dish. 

As with jambalaya, gumbo can be Creole or Cajun. The Creole version contains shellfish and a dark roux or broth, and sometimes tomatoes. The Cajun gumbo is made with a dark roux, shellfish, or fowl.  

Nutrition Facts

Because of its ingredients, gumbo contains various nutrients, including vitamins and minerals.  One cup (244 g) has the following nutritional content (*): 

  • 217 calories
  • 19.9 g protein
  • 8.37 g fat
  • 16 g carbohydrates
  • 2.2 g fiber
  • 63.4 mg calcium 
  • 63.4 mg magnesium 
  • 200 mg phosphorus 
  • 429 mg potassium 
  • 976 mg sodium 
  • 11 mg vitamin C 
  • 1.2 mg vitamin E 
  • 13.2 µg vitamin K 

Which gumbo is the best? 

Even though there are two main types of gumbo, there is a third version that only contains slow-cooked greens. All of these must be simmered for about three hours, but the flavor can be strikingly different depending on the meat or seafood. 

All gumbo requires effort and attention to detail. In preparing gumbo, the base is first prepared, then the vegetables are added, and the meat last. In most cases, the spices are also added at the end. 

In terms of which kind of gumbo is best, the decision is based solely on taste and diet preferences. With both Creole and Cajun gumbo, there is seafood. 

In Cajun gumbo, there can also be fowl, adding more protein and more fat. The third choice contains no meat, so it is safe for vegetarians but also contains fewer nutrients. 

What Is The Difference Between Gumbo and Jambalaya?

The first thing to consider when it comes to jambalaya and gumbo is the rice. In jambalaya, rice is an essential dish that is added as part of the cooking process. With gumbo, though, the rice is served as a side dish and prepared separately. 

Another difference is consistency. The jambalaya is a slow-cooked stew that contains some liquid, but not a lot. Gumbo is more of a thick soup, and thus, it has more of a liquid-like consistency. 

Gumbo differs from jambalaya in that it must contain a roux, which is what gives it a better consistency. Jambalaya does not contain a roux as one of its ingredients, but it instead gets its thickness from the various vegetables and types of meat it contains. 

Both dishes have origins in Louisiana and stem from African and French influences. They both have variations depending on Creole or Cajun cuisines. But there are three types of gumbo, while there are only two real versions of jambalaya. 

Finally, gumbo has an essential ingredient that is not always present in jambalaya. Gumbo must always have filé, dried and powdered leaves of the North American sassafras tree leaves. This file powder ingredient is added only at the end of the cooking process, but it is believed to be primordial. 

Gumbo vs JambalayaJambalayaGumbo
Ingredients Broth, roux, vegetables, shellfish, fowl, and spices.  Broth, vegetables, spices, rice, meat, or seafood. 
ConsistencyThick Liquid Thick 
ColorRed or brown Brown 
OriginLouisiana–Creole and Cajun  Louisiana–Creole and Cajun  
Taste and SmellJambalaya can be either nutty and salty or sweet and slightly aromatic. The aroma is a bit pungent, but also sweet.  Gumbo is nutty and root beer-like when it comes to flavor. As for the smell, it has an earthy aroma. 
How To CookThe differences depend on whether it is Creole or Cajun, but both include rice in the cooking process. 
First, a base is created, then the vegetables, then the meat, and last the spices. This dish contains no rice in it. 
Cooking TimePrep time: 20 minutesCook time: 40 minutesTotal time: 60 minutesPrep time: 20 minutesCook time: 3 hours Total time: 3 hours and 20 minutes
Calories per 100 gram serving162 calories 89 calories 

Is Jambalaya or Gumbo Healthier? 

Both dishes contain several ingredients that make them highly nutritious. However, jambalaya is much more nutrient-dense than gumbo. It not only contains more protein but also more vitamins and minerals. 

Gumbo has fewer calories, but that also means it contains less protein. Some would prefer gumbo because it contains less fat, but it could mean that there is the need to add more rice after it is served to make it as filling. 

There is also the matter of the roux to evaluate, as some people may add more butter than others. 

Jambalaya is much more filling and calorically-dense, but the amount varies depending on the preparation. Given the amount of work and time the gumbo takes, jambalaya may be the best choice despite it containing more calories and fat, but the difference may not be significant. 


Now that you know the differences between jambalaya and gumbo, you will never be confused at a Cajun or Creole restaurant. Both these dishes are flavorful, delicate, and extremely satisfying, but they may each contain specific details that you like more. 

Be sure to enjoy them in their light knowing how tasty and unique they are.

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*image by voltan1&ezumeimages/depositphotos

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