Jambalaya is one of my all-time favorite dishes. I probably make it at least a few times per month, trying different versions and combinations. I even tried my hand at a vegan version. Needless to say, it wasn’t nearly as good as the original. You can’t replicate andouille sausage, chicken, and shrimp – no matter how good the vegan copycats are.
But the thing about jambalaya is that generally, you’re going to make a pretty good amount of it. I mean, why would you only want to make a measly 3-4 servings?!
I love eating jambalaya for lunch for the next 2-3 days after making it. For this amount of time I just usually store it in the fridge. But what if, like me, you sometimes make a serious amount? Can you freeze jambalaya?
The great news is that, yes, you can freeze jambalaya! In fact, I highly recommend doing so if you’re worried you won’t eat all of your leftovers in time.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about freezing your leftover jambalaya.
Does Jambalaya Freeze Well?
Yes, jambalaya freezes well. But you need to do it the right way. It’s also completely safe to eat after frozen jambalaya has been frozen and reheated.
However, there are ways that you can freeze the jambalaya for the best results – more on that later.
Overall, freezing is a great way to extend the life of leftover jambalaya and to prevent food waste. For food this delicious, letting it go to waste would be a cardinal sin!
How Long Does Jambalaya Last in the Freezer?
Unfortunately, jambalaya doesn’t last too long in either the fridge or freezer.
You can keep jambalaya in the freezer for up to 3 months, but it will start to lose its quality after the first or second month.
Though this isn’t very long when compared to more freezer-friendly foods, it is at least a lot longer than if it’s stored in the fridge where it can only last for about 4 days.
What Happens to the Rice When You Freeze Jambalaya?
One of the main drawbacks when it comes to freezing jambalaya is how the rice changes its texture when it’s frozen in the liquid.
While it’s still completely safe to freeze and reheat it, if rice is frozen inside the jambalaya mixture, the texture will not be nearly as good as when it’s fresh. This is because rice in the jambalaya gets mushy when it’s frozen.
However, all is not lost when it comes to this problem, especially if you haven’t made your jambalaya yet.
If you plan on freezing it there in fact 3 different things that you can do to prevent mushy rice. They are:
Don’t cook the jambalaya with rice. Simple enough, when preparing jambalaya that you intend to freeze, don’t make rice at the same time. Instead, prepare this when you defrost and reheat the frozen jambalaya.
Undercook the rice. In a slight variation of the above, do cook the rice, but not fully. Instead, it will finish cooking when you reheat the jambalaya.
Use a vacuum-sealed bag. If you’re freezing leftover jambalaya that has fully cooked rice, a vacuum-sealed bag is a great choice. This helps to maximize the freshness of the contents whilst keeping out moisture which could impact the texture of the rice.
I’ll go into more detail on all of these points in the “How to Freeze Jambalaya” section below.
What Happens to the Meat When You Freeze Jambalaya?
When you freeze any food, there are going to be some changes. After all, you are changing the physical and chemical state of the food. However, the type of food and whether or not it’s already been cooked can play a big part in how much of a change occurs.
For example, when you freeze berries, the defrosted version turns out to be sad and squishy, changing their texture and firmness entirely. This is because of the high water content that wreaks havoc on the cell structure and it results in a defrosted product that’s only a shell of its former self.
With meat, something similar happens, particularly if it’s already been cooked. When meat is frozen, the frozen water inside the meat’s protein cells causes the release of soluble salts. This actually leads to a physical change in the meat, which causes the texture to alter quite dramatically. Generally, this leads to the meat being dry and/or rubbery.
The meats used in jambalaya are no different. When you freeze the jambalaya you can expect the sausage, shrimp, or chicken to have slightly different textures – generally, they’re a bit more rubbery compared to when they are never frozen.
However, it’s cooked shrimp that are affected the most. When shrimp are frozen inside the jambalaya they become spongy and not very appetizing. So, if you’re planning on freezing jambalaya and don’t want spongy shrimp, it’s best to either cook the jambalaya without shrimp or remove the shrimp before freezing it.
However, despite the texture changes, the shrimp are still completely safe to eat if you decide to keep the shrimp in the jambalaya when you freeze it.
How to Freeze Jambalaya
I have briefly touched on a few points but let’s get into the specifics on how to freeze jambalaya for the best results.
It’s important to mention that to get the best results when it comes to freezing jambalaya, you should cook with freezing in mind.
Two of the 3 methods of freezing jambalaya consider this as it helps to prevent stodgy rice. You can also consider whether or not you’ll put shrimp in the jambalaya as I have mentioned, as it can have a weird texture after it’s been frozen and defrosted.
Don’t Cook It With Rice
This method, along with the next method (undercook the rice), are both great ways to store jambalaya for a longer period of time. However, these two methods are to be used when you plan on making it to serve at a later time.
To do it this way you simply need to make the jambalaya as you usually would. But when it comes time to add rice, don’t. Leave your uncooked rice on the side for now.
Then, after the flavors have combined and you have a jambalaya with a rich flavor, remove it from the heat and allow it to cool. After it’s had the chance to cool completely, put 2 cup portions into freezer-friendly containers (preferably vacuum-sealed bags) and label them. Place them in the freezer and use them within two to three months.
When you plan on making the jambalaya again, you simply need to cook it in a large pot or pan (after it’s been defrosted) and then add the rice and finish cooking as you normally would. This way you can have super tasty jambalaya without the mushy rice negatively affecting the texture.
Undercook the Rice
Another way to avoid mushy rice is by undercooking the rice in the latter stages of cooking the jambalaya.
To do this you simply do everything as you would when you normally cook it, but you don’t allow the rice to cook thoroughly.
You can add the rice and let it cook for a few minutes but then remove it from the heat before it gets the chance to be fully cooked.
Since it’s undercooked it won’t have the moisture inside of it that cooked rice has. Then, when you complete the cooking process after it’s been defrosted, the rice can cook through fully, thus preventing the excess moisture causing them to be soft and mushy.
The results aren’t quite as good as when you don’t cook with rice at all, but if for some reason you aren’t able to add the rice later, then this is a good option. It also cuts down on the cooking time as well.
Use A Vacuum-Sealed Bag
Of course, a lot of the time you don’t cook something with freezing it in mind. Sometimes you end up with a lot of leftovers that you won’t be able to eat before they go bad. As you may be able to tell from my earlier displeasure with throwing jambalaya away, it’s better to freeze it even if it won’t be quite as good as when it’s fresh.
To keep the jambalaya in the best possible shape you should freeze it in a vacuum-sealed container. Since it’s vacuum-sealed and nearly all of the air is sucked out, this can help to prevent the rice from becoming stodgy and mushy.
If you don’t have a vacuum sealer then the next best thing is to double bag it. To do this you simply put the jambalaya in a Ziplock bag and then lay it flat and then press out as much air as possible. Then, put that bag inside another Ziplock bag before labelling it and placing it flat in the freezer.
How to Defrost Jambalaya
The best way to defrost jambalaya is by simply leaving it in the fridge overnight.
Don’t leave it on the countertop as this can increase the risk of developing a foodborne illness. This is especially possible when it comes to rice and meats.
You can also thaw jambalaya in the microwave if you are short on time, but the defrosting process using this method can further degrade the rice and shrimp if they are still in the jambalaya.
If you’ve taken out the rice and shrimp, however, the microwave isn’t such a bad option, especially if you’re short on time.
How to Reheat Jambalaya
The three ways to reheat jambalaya are in the microwave, on the stove, or in the oven. My personal preference is using the stovetop but I’ll explain all three of them and you can choose the option that’s best for you.
This is by far the fastest and easiest method. But that comes at a cost. The end product isn’t quite as good as when it’s defrosted in the oven or on the stove. This is because generally reheating food in the microwave can lead to the food being unevenly heated.
If you do it this way first allow the jambalaya to defrost in the fridge and then place it into a microwave-safe container.
Then, cover it with a damp paper towel and microwave it in 30-second increments alongside a glass of water. This prevents it from drying out.
After each 30-second increment stir the jambalaya to allow for even heating.
You can either put the frozen jambalaya straight onto a skillet with a few drops of water and cook it on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Or, you can defrost it and then also reheat it in a skillet on low heat stirring occasionally.
Whether it’s still frozen or defrosted each method is very effective. Just make sure the jambalaya is piping hot all the way through before serving.
This is the longest method and is perhaps the most likely to dry out the jambalaya, so keep that in mind.
But to do it, put the defrosted or still frozen jambalaya into an oven-safe pan. Place it in the oven once it’s preheated to 300 degrees °F.
Make sure to cover it with aluminum foil to prevent it from drying out. Warm it for 20-30 minutes. If it’s still frozen, it will take longer to cook compared to if it’s thawed.
Again, make sure your jambalaya is piping hot before serving it.
Can You Refreeze Jambalaya?
No! Don’t refreeze jambalaya. Like nearly every other food, it will seriously impact the quality of the food.
This is particularly true for the rice and shrimp. Even after just 1 time being frozen these ingredients degrade.
While it would be most likely safe to do so, as long as it hasn’t been at room temperature for more than 2 hours, I highly recommend not refreezing as the texture will likely be much worse.