Vinegar-Based Hot Sauce Is The Key To Balanced Flavors In Jambalaya

A classic Cajun dish, jambalaya is like a Southerner's take on Spanish paella. Shrimp, chicken, and sausage share space with heavily spiced rice and plenty of vegetables. Looking at any jambalaya recipe's ingredient list can be overwhelming, as a slew of aromatics and seasonings come together to get the full effect. But there's one humble ingredient that deserves a particularly special place in your preparation: vinegar-based hot sauce

Tangy and spicy vinegar hot sauce is a particularly beloved table condiment in Louisiana. In fact, vinegar-based hot sauce has been a mainstay in Cajun country since the 1860s, when Edmund McIlhenny began pedaling his fermented hot sauce, Tabasco, in the state. Naturally, it became a feature of their other famous creation, jambalaya. Here, the vinegar-based hot sauce is used to help balance out the meaty richness with an acidic heat. In the same way that rich soups are balanced out with a splash of sherry vinegar or a bit of seasoned rice vinegar brings a special taste to sushi rice — vinegar hot sauce works the same wonder on jambalaya.  

Adding acidic heat to classic jambalaya

To bring a bit of this flavor to your next batch, you first need to consider your options for the hot sauce. Two classic choices are Louisiana Hot Sauce and Tobasco, but you can also try other brands like Crystals, Texas Pete's, and Frank's RedHot. Each of these hot sauce brands contains more vinegar than water, making them a perfect choice for your jambalaya endeavors. 

As for ratios, much of this tip revolves around "seasoning to taste," which means there's no specific amount you need to add in. Instead, start with stirring in a tablespoon of the hot sauce per recipe, then taste and add more if you desire. If you haven't been using vinegar-based hot sauce as a way to season your rich comfort food dishes, you'll be surprised at the amount of depth it can impart to your cooking with just a few shakes of the bottle. And it all begins with a pot of well-seasoned jambalaya eager for the tangy kick of spice.