Nigerian Jollof Rice Recipe

Why It Works

  • The tomato combine is cooked twice, first to melt the sting of the uncooked, tart greens, after which once more with seasoning to additional develop the flavorful stew base that defines jollof.
  • Utilizing the proper of rice is necessary. On this case, parboiled rice is a good alternative, because it has the capability to soak up the flavourful, well-seasoned stew with out turning to mush. 
  • Cooking on low warmth permits the rice to soak up the sauce correctly, prepare dinner evenly, and never burn on the underside; stirring minimally ensures evenly cooked rice whereas retaining the grains separate.

Cooking jollof rice, a seasoned, tomatoey rice dish, is a ceremony of passage for a lot of West Africans. For a few years, my very own jollof sport was shaky as a result of I had confused its ubiquity with easiness. I had assumed it was straightforward to make just because I had eaten it usually, at each occasion, Sunday lunch, and every little thing in between, and so did not respect how essential sure recipe steps had been. I would rush by means of making the stew base with out creating sufficient taste, select the unsuitable sort of rice, and be undisciplined about my cooking technique. Some days I’d find yourself with pot and different days, not. I’ve discovered a lot since then, and now make persistently scrumptious pots. My largest tip: Sluggish-cooking the rice is likely one of the primary keys to success.

Pondering pot of jollof rice required little ability wasn’t the one incorrect assumption I made. I additionally assumed that it was Nigerian in origin, provided that I grew up there and it was a mainstay of the desk. However in 2009, when my curiosity in cooking persistently higher pots of jollof deepened, I started researching West African meals and the way they traveled the world. It was then that I discovered in regards to the roots of this dish within the kingdom of Jolof, a historic Fifteenth- to 18th-century state within the Wolof-Senegambian area, on the southern fringe of the Sahara far to the west of Nigeria. 

Critical Eats / Maureen Celestine


So how did jollof discover its manner throughout the sub-Saharan coast? In line with James McCann in Stirring the Pot: A Historical past of African Delicacies, the Dyula ethnic group, famed retailers who established commerce routes all through the area centuries in the past, had been answerable for the dispersal of jollof south of the Sahara, taking it with them as they traveled. Right this moment, each nation in West Africa has a model of jollof, every reflecting its specific historical past and influences. A number of areas past the African continent even have variations that talk to how far it has unfold, notably by way of the transatlantic slave commerce—Lowcountry crimson rice and New Orleans jambalaya within the American South are each descended from jollof rice. 

Jollof can take many various names relying on the area. In its birthplace of Senegal, it retains its Wolof names of thiéboudienne or ceebu jen, and in neighboring Gambia it goes by benachin. The individuals of Mali name it zaame or nsamé. In the remainder of French-speaking West Africa—Guinea Bissau, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Niger, Benin, and Togo—it is known as riz au gras (“riz gras” for brief). In English-speaking Sierra Leone, Liberia, Ghana, and Nigeria, it’s known as jollof. 

There are additionally infinite shadings of distinction from one model to the following. Whereas Senegalese and Ghanaians go for kinds of aromatic Jasmine rice, Nigerians choose parboiled or transformed varieties, reminiscent of Golden Sella basmati rice, which cooks extra shortly and is much less vulnerable to mushiness and clumping. In Nigeria, Caribbean-style curry powder, dried thyme, bay leaf, ginger, and garlic are widespread seasoning components. Distinction that with the favored Senegalese seasoning of rof, a recent parsley paste blended with different aromatics and utilized in mixture with fermented seafood. A Guinean good friend of mine, in the meantime, provides recent tamarind to her stew base.

Complete greens like carrots, eggplant, cabbage, okra, white candy potatoes, and potatoes function in thiéboudienne and different variations from French-speaking West Africa, however not within the Nigerian and Ghanaian variations. 

Critical Eats / Maureen Celestine


There are a variety of particulars that work collectively to ship stellar jollof rice, which I might outline as rice that is stewed and seasoned to perfection, with an orange-red coloration and separate grains which are neither laborious nor mush; jollof shouldn’t be creamy like risotto. To stop this final result, I stir solely often to facilitate the absorption of the sauce with out creating the creamy starchiness that heavy stirring (a la risotto) creates. I additionally prepare dinner it on low warmth for almost all of the time. When the warmth is just too excessive, the pot of rice will prepare dinner erratically and be vulnerable to burning on the base.  

Some browning on the underside layer of rice is fascinating, nevertheless. Jollof rice is historically cooked on the stovetop or over firewood. Overseas, within the diaspora, many West Africans have explored and mastered oven-baked strategies, whereas others have made use of rice cookers and InstantPots to give you much more approaches. Whereas the outcomes are related, stovetop and firewood variations are the best path to “occasion” jollof, a model that’s outlined by its smoky taste and presence of “backside pot,” the crispy, toasty layer of rice that types on (because the title makes clear) the underside of the pot, akin to Spanish socarrat. The direct warmth from under is simply what’s wanted to create that caramelized, roasty underlayer.

Jollof rice shouldn’t be thought of a aspect, however the primary dish. It’s usually paired with beef, rooster, goat, and fish (fried, grilled, or stewed), or eggs (boiled, fried, or scrambled). In Nigeria, it’s served with a salad that resembles an amped-up model of coleslaw. It could even be accompanied by moinmoin, a steamed dish made with skinned, pureed black-eyed beans wrapped within the moinmoin leaves that give it its title, or dodo—fried, ripe plantains. At the least a number of of those accompaniments is taken into account customary.

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