Jollof rice is a traditional West African dish of long-grained rice cooked in an intensely flavored sauce with blended tomato, bell pepper, Scotch bonnet pepper, warm spices, and more. This savory, spicy side is sure to wake up your taste buds.
Easy Jollof Rice Recipe
Rice. It’s a staple in cultures around the world. It is a beautifully versatile starch that can be dressed up or down in seemingly endless ways. In West Africa, they have created something special. Jollof rice can be found pretty much anywhere you turn. I was in Morocco last month, and I ordered it almost everywhere we went to eat. It serves as an excellent, spicy side to many savory mains and is sometimes even enjoyed as a meal on its own.
It takes a little extra effort than your typical white rice dish might, but it is worth it. You can smell the warmth of a Nigerian spice blend as you simmer the rich, spicy, tomato-based sauce that serves as the cooking liquid for this flavorful rice dish. Pop it all in the oven and let the magic happen. The end product is a perfectly fluffy, savory, just-spicy-enough rice dish that will transport you to another continent.
What is Jollof Rice?
Jollof rice is a traditional dish found throughout West Africa but most commonly in Nigeria and Ghana. It consists of long-grained rice cooked in a tomato-based sauce packed with warm spices. It has a kick due to the addition of a Scotch bonnet pepper. Jollof rice is usually served as a side dish, often next to hearty meat stews, but it also has protein added to it sometimes, like beef or goat.
So many spices and big flavors! Here’s a list of what you will need to make jollof rice.
For the Nigerian curry powder:
- Ground coriander
- Ground turmeric
- Ground ginger
- Ground cayenne pepper
- Ground cumin
- Ground black pepper
- Ground nutmeg
- Ground mustard powder
- Ground cloves
For the sauce:
- Red onion
- Red bell pepper
- Tomato puree
- Roma tomato
- Garlic powder
- Fresh thyme
- Scotch bonnet pepper: Remove the seeds unless you want an incredibly spicy Jollof. You can also use a different pepper, such as habanero.
- Chicken bouillon granules: These are optional, but they will add some extra depth.
- Chicken broth
- Nigerian curry powder
- Avocado oil: Or you can use vegetable oil.
To cook the rice
- Unsalted butter
- Tomato paste
- Parboiled Basmati rice: Parboiled jasmine rice will work here as well.
- Chicken Broth
- Bay leaves
- Sea salt
How to Make Jollof Rice
I enjoy making this flavorful rice dish and love that the sauce is used as part of the cooking liquid. Here’s a quick rundown of how to make Ghana jollof rice. Remember to scroll to the recipe below for more detailed instructions.
For the sauce
- Whisk together the spices for the Nigerian spice blend.
- In a food processor or blender, blend the red onion, red bell pepper, tomato puree, Roma tomato, garlic powder, thyme, Scotch bonnet, chicken bouillon granules, chicken broth, and Nigerian curry powder until smooth.
- Reduce the sauce. Heat the avocado oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet, add the sauce, bring it to a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes.
To cook the rice
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
- Cook the tomato paste. Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the tomato paste in the pan until dark red, stirring continuously.
- Toast the rice. Add the rice to the pan and cook for 2 minutes while constantly stirring.
- Add the sauce, chicken stock, bay leaves, and sea salt. Stir to combine.
- Bake: Cover with a lid and bake for 30 minutes.
- Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.
Tips for Success
Rice might seem like a no-brainer, but it’s easy to get it wrong. Rice can burn, turn out mushy, and do many other less-than-ideal things. Follow these tips and tricks to get the best jollof rice possible.
- Buy the proper rice. The wrong rice can throw off this recipe. Select long-grained, parboiled rice. This is the one I used 👉 https://amzn.to/3l0Pdck. Basmati is my favorite, but jasmine rice will do well here too. Short-grained rice is starchier and tends to clump together. Rice that has not been parboiled will cook faster, leaving you with a mushy Jollof.
- Get the rice-to-liquid ratio right. After reducing it on the stovetop, the amount of sauce you are left with may be more or less than the suggested 2 cups. If you have under two cups of sauce, add more chicken stock to end up with the proper amount of liquid. If you have extra sauce, discard it or enjoy it with crusty bread. Do not add it to the recipe.
- No peeking. While the rice is cooking in the oven, it is crucial not to open the lid to check on the progress of the rice. This will allow steam to escape and will disrupt the cooking process. So have faith in the recipe and be patient.
- Fluff immediately. When the Jollof comes out of the oven, immediately give it a nice fluff. If you wait to do this, the rice is more likely to clump together and create a sticky mess.
This simple Jollof rice serves as a beautiful canvas for fun additions such as veggies and meats. Make it your own with one or more of these exciting variations.
- Add veggies. Before adding the tomato paste, saute onions, bell pepper, and/or carrots; remove them from the pot before adding the tomato paste and add them back in before baking. You can also add peas to the mix just before baking for a pop of color.
- Add meat. Sear several pieces of chicken, beef, or pork, and nestle them on top of the rice before covering and baking. I love using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.
- More or less spice. Jollof can be pretty spicy due to the addition of the bonnet pepper. Feel free to use half of a pepper or select a slightly more mild pepper, such as a jalapeno. Want more spice? Add a second bonnet pepper (or half of one). Just remember that a little bit goes a long way.
- Fresh herbs. Toss the Jollof with a bit of chopped fresh parsley. It adds color and a bit of brightness to the flavor profile. Cilantro would be a good choice as well.
What Goes with Jollof Rice?
This flavorful side is a staple throughout West Africa. It goes well with hearty meat dishes, soups, stews, salads, and other starchy sides. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve it.
- Hearty meat mains. Serve jollof rice with my Moroccan Chicken Tagine or this Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Stone Fruit Sauce. Roasted goat and curried beef stew are a couple of other traditional options.
- Salad. Balance this hearty side with a light salad such as this Olives and Avocado Salad with Tomatoes and Feta Cheese, my Cabbage Cucumber Salad, or even this Grilled Zucchini Salad with Corn and Tomatoes.
- Soup. We enjoy this flavorful rice dish next to a warming soup. Try my Creamy Carrot Soup Recipe or this Black-Eyed Peas Soup with Sausage and Kale.
- With fried plantains. This is a typical West African dish often served with jollof rice.
More Ways to Cook Rice
Rice is such a versatile grain. Jollof rice is full of flavor and spice. It certainly is delicious but if it isn’t quite your thing, here are a few of my other favorite rice dishes.
- Spanish Seafood Paella
- Mom’s One Skillet Sausage and Rice
- Jeera Rice (Cumin Rice)
- Easy Taco Beef and Rice Skillet
- Lemon Rice Recipe
- One Skillet Broccoli and Rice Ranch Chicken Recipe
- Vegetable Biryani Rice
- Garlic Butter Chicken and Rice Recipe
- 1½ tablespoons ground coriander
- 1½ tablespoons ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground mustard
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, seeds removed and roughly chopped
- ⅓ cup tomato puree
- 1 Roma tomato, quartered
- 2½ teaspoons garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed – feel free to substitute it for habanero.
- 3 teaspoons chicken bouillon granules
- 1 cup chicken broth
- homemade Nigerian curry powder
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 cups parboiled Basmati rice, rinsed until water runs clear
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- Whisk together the ground coriander, ground turmeric, ground ginger, ground cayenne pepper, ground cumin, ground black pepper, ground nutmeg, ground mustard powder, and ground cloves. Set aside.
- Add the onion, red bell pepper, tomato puree, Roma tomato, garlic powder, thyme, Scotch bonnet, chicken bouillon granules, chicken broth, and Nigerian curry powder to a blender; blend until smooth. You should have about 3 cups of sauce.
- Heat the avocado oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed skillet.
- Add the sauce to the skillet and bring it to a boil.
- Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes. The sauce should reduce by about 1/3, leaving you with 2 cups of liquid. If you have more, discard the extras or save it as a dip for crusty bread.
- Preheat the oven to 350˚F. If your oven has a convection setting, use it.
- Melt the butter in a large oven-safe pot or pan set over medium heat. Add the tomato paste and stir for about 2 minutes or until dark red.
- Add the rice to the pan. Stir for about 2 minutes to toast the rice.
- Add the previously prepared sauce and stir to combine.
- Add chicken broth, bay leaves, and sea salt. Stir to combine.
- Cover with a lid and bake for 30 minutes.
- Remove from oven and immediately fluff the rice with a fork.
- Parboiled Basmati Rice, also known as converted rice, is a partially cooked rice common in African and Asian cuisines. I almost always get mine on Amazon.
- Rice to Liquid Ratio: After reducing the sauce, the amount of sauce you are left with may be more or less than the suggested 2 cups. If you have under two cups of sauce, add more chicken broth to get the proper amount of liquid. Additionally, cook the rice until it is soft and tender but not mushy. You also don’t want to overcook the rice, or it will become dry and crunchy.
- Add-ins: Before cooking the tomato paste, sauté chopped onions and bell peppers until tender and remove them from the pot. When ready to bake, stir the onions and peppers into the rice and bake. You can also sear some chicken pieces, beef, or pork and nestle them on top of the rice before covering and baking.
- Storing: This recipe makes a pretty big batch of Jollof. Cool the rice to room temperature if you have leftovers, then transfer it to an airtight container. Cover and store the container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To reheat, heat some oil in a heavy-bottomed skillet and add the rice, stirring until heated through. If the rice is dry, add a splash of water or chicken broth.
Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.