This easy Vegetable Jambalaya has amazing flavor with a bit of spice. I’ve got simple tips for creating satisfying vegetarian dishes to make all the difference!
I won’t name any names, but someone in my house recently made a joke about how there wasn’t any meat in my jambalaya. I’m no fledgling when it comes to vegetarian jokes and comments. I hear them pretty regularly.
It can certainly be challenging to satisfy everyone when feeding a mix of carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians, vegans…you know what I mean. Then, a dish like this happens. Jokes fly, eyes roll, spoons enter mouths, then…hmmm. Vegetarian bliss.
I’ve been often asked how I get so much flavor in my vegetarian dishes without adding any meat. There’s nothing really complex about these tips, but I do think that dishes with lots of layers of flavor and spices are the easiest to vegetarian-ize.
How To Create Lots of Flavor When Cooking Vegetarian Dishes
Bump up your spices by adding a bit more than maybe you usually would and use a variety of spices. Combining different paprikas, for example, like a sweet paprika paired with a bit of hot smoked paprika can build flavors. Find spices that work well together instead of just using one spice.
When cooking with spices, be sure to add them to your oil in the pan, before adding any liquids. This gives the spices a chance to get a bit toasty and releases their oils.
Use a variety of herbs like thyme, bay leaf and sage. Adding woody herbs, like those, at the beginning of cooking creates a lot of flavor, but I like to add just a bit more at the end of cooking. That’s a good time to sprinkle some tender green herbs in too!
Unless you’re on a low sodium diet for health reasons, don’t skimp on salt. That doesn’t mean to over-salt your dishes, but add pinches as you go and taste test with each addition. I always love a pinch of flakey sea salt to finish a dish.
Look for ingredients that add a bit of umami, like a sharp cheese, or nutritional yeast, or soy sauce, tamari or miso. Mushrooms, like shiitake, can add lots of deep umami flavor.
When cooking vegetarian dishes, I find that adding additional healthy fats to your dish creates a richer and more satisfying taste and texture. I love drizzling some fruity extra-virgin olive oil over the top just before serving. Play around with other healthy, plant-based oils too. A drizzle of nut oils, like sesame or walnut oil can add lots of flavor. Also, try flavored oils, like basil oil, lemon oil or truffle oil. Finishing oils like those are delicious!
This colorful jambalaya is a perfect example of getting the most flavor out of plant-based foods. I use most of those tips in this recipe. I’d love to hear your own tips for creating lots of flavor!
What I love about this veggie jambalaya is how easy and versatile it is. This recipe can work with any vegetables you have in the fridge. The addition of black-eyed peas adds some protein, iron, fiber and folate. You can certainly use any beans you have in the cupboard or add some cubed tofu as well.
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium sweet onion, sliced
- 2 stalks celery, cut into ½-inch slices
- 2 medium carrots, cut into ½-inch slices
- 1 medium red bell pepper, sliced
- 3 to 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 2 bay leaves
- Kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 15-ounce can diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
- 1¼ cups white rice
- 2½ cups vegetable broth
- 15-ounce can black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed
- 8-ounces frozen cut okra
- hot pepper sauce
- handful chopped celery leaves or fresh parsley
- Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet or braiser over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 6 minutes or until the onions become a bit soft. Add the red pepper and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, paprika, cayenne, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, salt and pepper. Stir to coat and add the tomatoes. Cook for 2 minutes. Add the rice. Stir to coat. Add the vegetable broth and stir.
- Cover the pot, increase the heat a bit and bring to a boil. Immediately reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook the rice covered for 10 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas and okra just over the top of the rice and cover. Cook for an additional 10 to 15 minutes or until the okra is tender and the rice is cooked. Remove from the heat, keeping the pot covered and allow it to sit for 5 minutes before serving.
- Stir and fluff the rice with a large fork. Top with your favorite hot sauce and a handful of chopped celery leaves or parsley.
Not all spices are created equal. I find it important to mention because different brands have varying intensities and flavors as do bottles that may have been in your cabinet for a while. That said, I always suggest starting with the amounts given in a recipe and taste-testing. Adjust from there. I've made this with one brand of smoked paprika that ended up having no taste and had to add more. The second time, it was just right using a different brand. Let me know what worked best for you.