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The Difference Between Gumbo, Jambalaya, and Etouffee

Gumbo, Jambalaya, Etouffee: What's the Difference?

Close up of delicious, hearty chicken gumbo with big chunks of chicken and thick slices of andouille sausage.  finished off with a scoop of rice in the middle.

New Orleans cuisine has a richly-colored heritage, but unless you're from around there, it sure can be confusing. Not only is it hard to keep track of which dishes are Cajun and which ones are Creole, but those rice dishes can be pretty tough to keep straight! So gumbo, jambalaya, étouffée: what's the difference, anyway?

Jambalaya

Think of jambalaya as a distant relative of paella. It's got protein and vegetables (sometimes tomatoes, sometimes not), with rice and stock later simmered together or combined before serving.

Gumbo

In contrast, gumbo — a mix of vegetables and meat or shellfish with thickened stock — is thinner and served as a soup alongside rice that's cooked separately.

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Etouffée

Different from gumbo (which is considered a soup), étouffée's a main course, made of one type of shellfish (crawfish or shrimp, for instance) that's been smothered in a thick sauce and sometimes served ladled over rice.

Don't confuse any of these, of course, with the city's historic Monday favorite: red beans and rice. Got all that?

Image Source: Getty / Lara Hata
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