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Jollof: West Africa’s Famed Mouth-Watering Rice Dish

Jollof rice is more than just a staple dish of many Africans, particularly in West Africa where it originated from—it is a culture! Known for its reddish colour and spices-filled aroma, this is the one dish that can never be missing during any Nigerian occasion—be it weddings, funerals, child naming ceremonies, or just the usual Sunday lunch. What’s more, jollof rice can be eaten at any time of the day.

Jollof has not gone without its own controversy, especially between the two West African neighbouring countries of Nigeria and Ghana and their infamous jollof-wars—where either country’s recipe has claimed to be better than the other. But for the purpose of this dish, this version is smoky party jollof, and the recipe can be attributed to Nigeria. However, I’m of the opinion that recipes are adaptable and thus universal, and depending on who makes the dish determines which nation can claim the version cooked (Laughs).

Jollof can be paired with chicken or any meat of choice including fish. Side dishes that can go with this meal include fried plantain, and a variety of salads. But on its own, jollof is the superpower of rice dishes and can be eaten without any accompanying sides.

This delicious meal is a one-pot meal comprising a combination of plain or parboiled rice, and tomato and pepper sauce infused with spices. Adding peppers will surely add a burst of flavour to your jollof, but for those who cannot stand the heat, using a moderate number of peppers is advised to prevent it from being too spicy or hot. 

To make the perfect jollof rice, you need patience, bearing in mind that the preparation time takes a little longer than the actual time it takes to cook the main dish. You might want to prep a few hours ahead before you begin to cook.

Now, embrace the combination of flavourful ingredients, and enjoy the culinary journey from the fusion of pleasant flavours of this meal. Rice doesn’t get more mouthwatering than jollof rice!

Prep time: 55-60 mins (includes time to boil, air-fry meat, and roast peppers)

Cook time: 20 mins. 

Yield: 8-10 servings


For the rice:

  • 4 cups plain white rice
  • 1 med-size onion
  • 4 Tablespoon of butter
  • Foil paper (for covering, to absorb and infuse all the flavours into the dish)

For the meat:

  • Mixed portions of meat of choice
  • 2 cups of water
  • 1 mid-size red onions, finely chopped
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, blended
  • 1 Tablespoon curry and thyme powder
  • Bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon ginger and garlic paste
  • Bouillon powder or stock cubes
  • Salt to taste

For the tomatoes base sauce:

  • 6 medium size fresh tomatoes
  • 1 170g tomato paste
  • 2 cups vegetable oil
  • Mixed peppers (2 scotch bonnet, 1 habanero, 3 bell peppers and jalapenos)
  • 3 medium garlic cloves
  • 3 large Bay leaves (rip into 2 or three pieces)
  • 1 big bulb of ginger
  • 2 mid-big bulbs of onions
  • 1 tablespoon crayfish powder


Rice: Wash rice thoroughly with hot water and drain. Heat up a pan or pot and add two tablespoons of butter, allow to melt, and pour in the rice, keep stirring the rice until it’s slightly toasted. Set aside. This should take just about 3-5 mins.

Meat: Wash your choice of meat (chicken, beef, lamb, fish ,goat meat, etc) and add all the ingredients, leave to cook until meat is soft and tender. Remove meat from the broth and place in the air fryer. Set broth aside. Boiling the meat should take about 15 mins, while the air fryer should be set to 15-19 mins.

Tomatoes and pepper sauce: Turn on your oven to 350 degrees F. Take out your usual baking dish and brush lightly with oil. Wash the tomatoes, peppers, garlic, ginger, onions, and wipe off the water with a paper towel. Next place in the oiled pan and roast in the oven for 20-25 mins or until the top starts to slightly burn. Remove from the baking pan and set aside to cool off. Once it’s cooled off, blend with your normal blender until smooth.

Cooking Directions:
Step 1

In another pot, pour in your vegetable oil and allow to heat up, cut the onion in half and nicely dice one half and keep the other half for later. Add the bay leaves. Next pour in the tomato paste and fry. Once the tomato paste is fried (you’ll know this when the oil starts to get absorbed) pour in the blended pepper and tomato mix and continue to fry on low heat. If necessary, cover to avoid spillage. 

Step 2

Again, once the sauce has absorbed the oil, pour in the meat broth, add the crayfish powder, and stir. Now is also the best time to taste for seasoning and salt and adjust accordingly.

Step 3

Next, pour in the slightly toasted rice. Check for liquid sufficiency and cover the pot allowing it to simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked. 

Step 4

Add the butter and slice the other half of onion into thick slices onto the rice, and cover with foil (this is crucial for this recipe because, in addition to infusing all the flavours of the ingredients into the rice, this helps to soften any uncooked portion of rice, and of course to achieve that smoky flavour). After about 5-6 mins, uncover and stir thoroughly and turn off the heat.

Step 5

Serve the finished meal on a plate with the spicy air-fried meat of choice, fried plantain, and choice of salad. 

Enjoy your delicious smoky party jollof rice!

Gladys Christian | Staff Writer

Spring 2024

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