Nigerian Jollof Rice – a spicy and vibrant one-pot tomato rice, which will become a family favorite, this is probably the best-known Nigerian food recipe.
Jollof Rice – Nigerian Food
This Nigerian Jollof rice is spicy, fresh, comforting, and satisfying – all in one – the perfect rice dish! I can have it on its own any time of the week, and it makes a wonderful side dish for lots of dishes.
I do have a soft spot for this kind of one-pot rice dishes and tomato-based rice dishes are my favorite. Try this rice with tomato and vegetables or the Romanian vegetable pilaf or Cheesy Corn Rice (with Turmeric).
Actually, the first one mentioned is not so different from this jollof rice, but it tastes completely different as it is differently spiced. The Romanian version is spiced the Romanian style, which means barely spiced actually, just some garlic and thyme, salt and pepper.
The Nigerian jollof rice on the other side is hot and besides thyme (which I seem to add by default to most rice dishes), is also spiced with curry powder as well. So, two similar looking dishes, but two different flavors. Both good, mind you, I could not say which one I like best...
What is Jollof Rice?
Jollof rice is a dish popular not only in Nigeria but in several other West-African countries, such as Senegal or Gambia, Ghana or Sierra Leone. The main idea of the dish is the same in all of these countries but, of course, every country has its own version of it.
According to Wikipedia “the name Jollof derives from the name of the Wolof people, though in Senegal and Gambia the dish is referred to in Wolof as theibou dienne or benachin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras.”
Despite the different names this dish is to be found everywhere in the region and through the many African people living outside Africa, the jollof rice has become one of the best-known African dishes outside the continent. No wonder, it is utterly delicious and so easy to make.
- The Nigerian jollof rice is made with parboiled rice. I saw recipes explaining how to parboil rice before even starting to cook this dish. I would have done it, but it was really not necessary, the parboiled sort is very easily available around here, so I preferred to buy it instead.
- The Ghanaian Jollof version is made with basmati, which doesn't have to be parboiled. You could try that version if you wish.
- I could not find any Scotch bonnet around here and I know that kind of chili to be unbearably spicy anyway, probably too much for the children.
- So I chose the “local” kind of chili and I left the seeds inside to make the dish spicier. It was wonderful, hot but not overwhelmingly so and totally aromatic, I loved it!
- However, if you can find any Scotch bonnet and like spicy food, you should definitely choose that kind of chili then.
- Something that you will also need to cook this spicy Nigerian recipe is a Maggi stock cube.
- It was one of the very few times in my life that I have both these particular Maggi stock cubes, I actually only buy them when I cook something African, many African dishes I have cooked until now contain Maggi stock cubes, they are apparently hugely popular there.
- Alternatively, use a regular vegetable stock cube.
- Another original ingredient used for making this Nigerian Jollof rice is palm oil.
- I didn't have it though. So, regular vegetable oil for me.
- An update on palm oil: a Nigerian reader told me that "palm oil is not an actual ingredient in the making of Jollof".
- I quote: "Palm oil is used in a variety of Nigerian dishes like vegetable stew, fried pepper sauce (this is a whatever oil you prefer recipe). The only rice dish that Nigerians use palm oil in when making it is The Native Concoction Rice, a dish similar to jollof but which contains vegetables, a variety of meat and seafood and Palm oil, hence the name concoction rice. I understand that recipes can be modified but it just doesn’t seem right to write that Palm oil is an ingredient used in the making of Nigerian Jollof rice. No Nigerian would ever cook Jollof rice with palm oil and call it jollof. Just thought you should know. "
- However, another reader told me that palm oil is used when making this dish, so I suppose the choice is yours.
- After you have made the sauce, cook it for a few minutes to thicken it slightly. Add it to the onions and add a generous amount of tomato paste as well, it is necessary to give the rice more tomato flavor, more color and to thicken the sauce a bit more as well.
- When you are finished with this step of the recipe, take out about ¼ of this tomato sauce and reserve it for later. You will add it to the finished dish, thus enhancing its flavor and bright color.
- Many of the recipes I've seen recommend letting the rice burn a little at the bottom of the pan, which would give it a really authentic taste.
- I was not so keen on doing that, so I thought I would add some smoked paprika and some smoked ground black pepper to give it a bit of a smoky flavor.
- I did and the flavor was wonderful, but without even trying, I did manage to slightly burn it at the bottom of the pan, despite the fact that I used a non-stick pan.
- So, I just assume that this slightly letting the rice burn is just the way it is supposed to be when cooking this Nigerian dish. And that crusty layer at the bottom of the pan is absolutely delicious while eating I was wishing there was more of it there.
How to serve?
- The Nigerian jollof rice is often served as a side dish for meats or fish. Often, the chicken or other kind of meat is already included in the dish.
- It could also be served with fried plantains, with a dish called moi-moi, which is actually a Nigerian steamed bean pudding, with coleslaw or steamed vegetables.
- I ignored all these serving suggestions and served this side dish with some delicious Croatian Cevapci or Cevapcici, which are amazing grilled ground meat rolls. Fusion food, if I may say so, but such a great combination!
PIN IT FOR LATER!
Spicy Nigerian Jollof Rice
- 2 ¾ cups parboiled rice See note 1
- 4 medium tomatoes romana or plum tomatoes
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 1-2 red chilies or ½ -1 Scotch bonnet See note 2
- 4 tablespoons vegetable oil or palm oil, if available
- 1 larger onion
- 5 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 1 Maggi stock cube optional
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 bay leaves
- some smoked black ground pepper optional
- Blend tomatoes: Roughly chop the tomatoes, red bell pepper, and chili. Place them in the food processor and puree them until smooth. Alternatively, use an immersion blender.
- Cook tomatoes: Pour the puree into a saucepan, bring to a boil and cook for about 4-5 minutes or until slightly thickened.
- Chop the onion.
- Cook sauce: Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan or non-stick pan. Fry onion until a bit softer, about 3 minutes. Add the tomato-pepper puree and simmer, often stirring, for about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, stir very well and let simmer for another 4-5 minutes, until the sauce has thickened. Remove about ¼ of the sauce and set it aside.
- Cook rice: Pour the vegetable or chicken stock in the pot. Crumble in the Maggi stock cube and stir well to dissolve. Bring to a boil. Add the washed rice, thyme, curry, smoked paprika, bay leaves, and salt to taste when the stock is boiling. Stir well, turn the heat down to medium-low and cover the pot.Cook until the rice is almost dry and cooked through. Don't worry if the rice catches slightly at the bottom of the pan; that is the desired effect, as long as it doesn't burn completely.
- Add the remaining tomato sauce and stir very gently without breaking the crusty rice layer at the bottom of the pot. Add some smoked or regular ground black pepper and salt to adjust the taste.
- Serve as suggested above.
- You can buy parboiled rice or parboil regular rice yourself.
- Scotch bonnet is the kind of chili customarily used for making Jollof rice. Replace it with regular chilies if you cannot find it. Adjust the chili amount according to your heat tolerance, and keep in mind that Scotch bonnet is really hot.
My kind of food too. I like to use tomato puree to make rice, so I definitely will love this one too.
Malcolm Hollett says
Habanero pepper in the sauce tastes great if you want an extra kick. I accidentally added cumin earlier while making some of this, and it tasted phenomenal (moreso than usual that is)... Just some ideas to try out if you're interested.
Thank you, Malcolm, I am always open to new ideas. Cumin sounds really good, one of my favorite spice, I will think about it next time I make the rice. With habanero I have to be careful, that would probably be too much for the children, although I am proud to say that they can take more heat than all kids I know. 🙂
I really love the recipe and those are nice pictures. However, as a Nigerian, I have to correct you. Palm oil is not an actual ingredient in the making of Jollof rice. Palm oil is used in a variety of Nigerian dishes like vegetable stew, fried pepper sauce (this is a whatever oil you prefer recipe). the only rice dish that Nigerian's use palm oil in when making it is "The Native Concoction Rice", kind of similar to jollof rice but contains vegetables, a variety of meat and seafood and Palm oil, hence the name "concoction rice." I understand that recipes can be modified but it just doesn't seem right to write that Palm oil is an ingredient used in the making of Nigerian Jollof rice. No Nigerian would ever cook Jollof rice with palm oil and call it jollof rice. Just thought you should know.
Hi Faith. Thank you for your comment, I am glad you told me that, I will change it as soon as possible. My sister's husband is Nigerian and he used palm oil for everything he cooked, so I didn't have any doubts about it. But then again, he never cooked Jollof rice while he was here with us.
Mary Oyaladeke says
My Grandma uses Palm oil to cook jollof rice. She said that is the oil they were raised on. She said in the early 1960's Palm oil was on of the most popular oils used globally. Her and her sisters used to pick it straight from the trees. I was raised to cook it like that as Well:-)
Tastes amazing. You should try it.
Hi Mary. I will try it. I think there is quite a debate about the use of palm oil, I assumed palm oil was traditional, because my Nigerian brother-in-law used it all the time in his cooking. However, another reader told me palm oil was never to be used in this dish. 🙂 🙂
mary anderson says
i made it. And everyone like it and want more and more. I made this today for lunch. It was a hit with us
thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe of spicy jollof rice
Thank you. Glad you liked it!
Kelly | Foodtasia says
Adina, this Jollof rice looks so delicious! I can't wait to share it with my family. They love rice dishes like this! I use Maggi cubes in most of my cooking for the boost of flavor it gives. It really does make a big difference in how tasty the food is.
Looks good, I’ll try mine next time with the paprika for the smoky flavour, usually I use a wooden spoon when cooking it for the smoky flavour, or I steam up some firewood in the pot before I even put the oil to cook with the same pot for the smoky effect, this might be a lot easier though haha. As for the palm oil, no Nigerian uses it in our recipe, maybe an attempt at some other kind of recipes but not Nigerian Jollof, it’s a fat no. Well done besides that though!
Hi Phoebe, thank you for the input. I wrote in the post about the palm oil issue, some people seem to use it and some not. So, I thought I just leave it in the recipe as a personal choice. 🙂 And yes, smoked paprika is easier to use than wood, but on the other hand, wood is more genuine, I suppose, and actually an interesting thing to try. 🙂
Grace Alabi says
Lovely recipe, looks very Nigerian. I know you made the oil to use a personal choice, but most Nigerians don't cook Jollof Rice with Palm oil. We use Vegetable oil. It's the native rice that's cooked with palm oil. This native rice is distinct because the recipe contains vegetables, crayfish, stock fish, dry fish and sometimes locust beans. Well done
Thank you, Grace. I would love to try the native rice as well, but it would be a challenge to find some of the ingredients. 🙂
I used Maggi sauce instead of cubes. I love the flavor it adds and using the song allowed me to taste test immediately instead of waiting for the cubes to dissolve
Sounds good, I am glad it worked for you. 🙂
Hi there! Just wondering who took the photos for your recipe. Thank you!