Jambalaya is a classic Louisiana dish with no set recipe, yet there are two distinct types. Cajun Jambalaya generally excludes tomatoes, while Creole Jambalaya features tomatoes. What you can expect from both is a heavenly blend of sausage, beef/chicken/seafood, rice, onions, and pepper. This leaves you with a rich and flavourful dish that features everything you could ask for in a hearty meal.
With Creole Jambalaya, you want a medium-bodied acidic red to hold up to the acidity found in the tomatoes or a full-bodied white. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Rioja, Zinfandel, Chianti, and Pinot Noir all make wonderful dance partners. With Cajun Jambalaya, due to the lack of tomato, you have a little more leeway with heftier reds, such as Shiraz, or Cabernet Sauvignon, especially if there is a heavy focus on beef or sausage. Stick to lighter reds or full-bodied whites if your Cajun Jambalaya features either chicken or seafood.
Chardonnay and Cajun Chicken Jambalaya Pairing
A full-bodied, buttery Chardonnay complements the rich flavours of Cajun Chicken Jambalaya. We love how the tropical fruit flavours and toasty oak notes add lush flavours of vanilla, citrus and mango to this dish. Chardonnay also has enough weight to not be overpowered by the Jambalaya, as it is a heavy dish. The modest amount of acidity in a Chardonnay will also prove to be refreshing as you complete each bite/sip.
For Creole Jambalaya, which is more tomato-based, seek out an unoaked Chardonnay, which isn’t as full-bodied, but features a crisper acidity. Tomato requires an ample amount of acidity or else it just makes the wine taste weird.
Sauvignon Blanc & Cajun/Creole Seafood Jambalaya
Sauvignon Blanc has zingy herbal notes, a touch of minerality, and an electrifying citrus acidity that makes it perfect with Seafood Jambalaya. We like to think of Sauvignon Blanc as adding a squeeze of lemon to your seafood, in that it brings out those tender seafood flavours that tend to get lost amongst the richness of Jambalaya.
Zinfandel & Beef Creole/Cajun Jambalaya Pairing
Zinfandel is slightly sweet and acidic making it excellent with both Creole or Cajun Jambalaya. As Jambalaya is so dense with flavour, the fruity flavours and acidity of a well-made Zinfandel cut right through the rich flavours and draw out the subtle notes you may have never noticed before. We like to often compare Zinfandel to ketchup, in how that tasty condiment adds zest to whatever you pair it with.
The lack of tannin in Zinfandel means that this wine will not clash with any tomatoes in the dish. While the weight of Zinfandel is heavy enough to pair with Beef, you’ll find Zinfandel will also go well with Chicken or Seafood Jambalaya.
Shiraz & Cajun Beef Jambalaya Pairing
A Shiraz brings wild berry flavours that mesh perfectly with the spicy sauce of a Cajun Beef or Sausage Jambalaya. Also, with Shiraz, you have notes of black pepper that further enhance the flavours of this dish. Expect a bit of tannin is Shiraz, meaning it won’t go well with a tomato heavy Creole Jambalaya.
Reserva Rioja & Cajun Jambalaya Pairing
As Rioja is lighter red wine primarily made from the Tempranillo grape, but may contain a blend of many other grapes. Similar to Chianti or Pinot Noir, it has a refreshing tartness and quite versatile with food. Tempranillo has quite a bit of tannin, and as such, this won’t work well with Creole style Jambalaya as the tannin clashes with the acidity found in tomatoes.
However, Rioja works nice with tomatoless Cajun-style Jambalaya, where the fruity flavours are refreshing against the heaviness and depth of Jambalaya. Due to the tannin, you’ll find that this wine will pair well more with grilled sausage or beef Jambalaya, although it will still be delicious with chicken or seafood Jambalaya. Rioja, in my mind, was essentially perfected to enjoy with Tapas. As Jambalaya is such a mix of different foods, plus you have a wide variety of recipes, it’s no surprise that Rioja works so well.