Exotic and flavorful, Nigerian Jollof Rice is a one-pot meal that hails from Africa and is now popular worldwide. Made from scratch, this incredibly delicious jollof rice is bursting with fresh flavors of tomatoes, bell peppers, and bay leaf, slowly simmered in tomato sauce!
This authentic Nigerian Jollof Rice Recipe is easy to make for a hearty dish or dinner. It includes red bell peppers, tomatoes, onions, and spicy peppers.
Serve this Jollof rice with chicken, or your favorite protein.
What I Love About This Recipe?
This gluten-free recipe of Nigerian Jollof Rice is a blend of spicy and savory flavors!
Toddlers love Jollof Rice’s typical orange color. Most children of West African descent who live in Europe and North America are raised on a diet of Jollof rice.
Jollof rice is the highlight of the menu at Nigerian parties and restaurants. And for good reason: this rice dish is delicious and bursting with tropical flavors and aroma.
Jollof Rice is an excellent way to introduce people from around the world to the exotic tastes of Africa. They’re sure to fall in love!
What is Jollof Rice?
Nigerian Jollof Rice is a popular easy-to-cook dish well-loved in West Africa. It’s also a big hit among members of the African diaspora worldwide. It’s served as a main course for lunch or dinner in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, and Mali. The dish is packed with flavor, color and vegetables.
Jollof rice originates from West Africa, where it’s a prominent staple food. Rice (Oryza sativa) itself originated from Asia. Jollof Rice has several different names, such benachin in Senegal or as riz au gras in other French-speaking countries. Jollof rice comes in a range of flavour variations depending on the country.
In many parts of West Africa, people enjoy rice almost daily with simpler dishes like stew. However, Jollof rice is usually served on special occasions, such as christenings, birthdays, Christmas, and weddings.
Nigerian Jollof rice is not to be confused with Nigerian fried rice (see photo below), which is cooked without tomato but with shrimps, green peas, and other additions.
Nigerian Jollof Rice
All Jollof Rice variations have a tomato base. However, due to variations in recipes, you can find different flavors in different countries. For example, Nigerian Jollof Rice features bay leaves. Ghanaians include shito and ginger, while Liberian Jollof, influenced by Creole techniques, has beef, chicken, and ham.
Traditional Nigerian Jollof Rice does not include vegetables or any other type of protein. Instead, we like to serve vegetables and proteins separately as side dishes.
Roasting the red bell peppers and fresh tomatoes gives the jollof rice a smoky flavor. If you like spicy jollof rice then increase the number of scotch bonnets included in the blended mixture to turn up the heat!
This recipe uses easy-to-find ingredients that can be bought from a local store if you don’t already have them in your pantry. Read the Recipe Card for the measurements.
For Nigerian Jollof Rice
- White rice – I have used long grain white rice for this recipe because it stays firm and maintains its shape. Basmati rice tends to become quite soft and mushy quickly so should be avoided.
- Plum Tomatoes – are slightly sweeter and are perfect for pureeing. They add a nice red color to this rice. You may also use cherry tomatoes, canned tomatoes or tomato paste as well. Fresh Tomatoes work best, though.
- Bell Peppers – I have used red bell pepper as this recipe needs to impart a red color to the rice. Roasting the bell pepper adds a smoky flavor!
- Scotch Bonnet – is a Caribbean chili pepper that adds spicy depth to this rice dish. If you don’t like the heat, feel free to adjust its quantity.
- Tomato Puree/Paste – Add more color and flavor to this rice by adding tomato puree.
- Chicken Stock- makes protein-rich flavorful rice. If you wish to make vegetarian or vegan rice, replace the chicken stock with veg stock or water.
- Onion- adds mild sweet flavors. I have used red onions. You may use white onions instead.
- Sunflower oil- I have used sunflower oil as its light. You may use coconut oil or vegetable oil as well.
- Knorr Cubes- Add these crisp from out and soft within, knorr cubes. Blend of flavors of chicken, onion and spices, these cubes surely enhance the aroma and taste of rice. For vegetarian/vegan options, you may add fried chunks of Tofu or broccoli.
- Thyme- Adds earthy and nutty flavor.
- Bayleaf- I have used dried bayleaf to make aromatic and flavorful rice. One large is sufficient for this recipe.
- Curry Powder- adds a spicy touch to this recipe. You may adjust the quantity.
- Salt- Table salt works well. You may also use Kosher salt.
Jollof allows you to have a go and be creative. Feel free to add a variety of vegetables and spices to make vibrant yet flavorful rice!
- Nigerian Fried Rice – Made with shrimps, peas and without tomatoes, this fried rice is another popular Nigerian recipe.
- Vegetarian/Vegan Jollof Rice-- You can easily make vegan or vegetarian Jollof rice. Simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. If you’re using tomato paste, then make sure it’s plant-based as some include fish sauce.
- Nigerian Coconut Rice-- Coconut jollof rice is another delicious alternative recipe. To make it, add coconut milk to the tomato base for a creamy, tropical twist.
- Add another topping – Add chicken or vegetables.
Leftover Jollof Rice can be stored in a dry container with a lid in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
You can freeze Jollof rice for up to three months in an airtight container. To defrost, thaw the rice on the counter and reheat in the microwave before serving.
What to Serve with This Jollof Rice
The possibilities are pretty endless when it comes to dishes that pair well with homemade Nigerian Jollof Rice. My family loves:
How to Make Jollof Rice
Here is my signature Simple Jollof Rice Recipe that I prepare for friends and family:
Prep the Oven
- Preheat the oven to roast red bell peppers. This step is optional. Only do it if you like extra smoky party-style Jollof rice.
- Take a blender and add plum tomatoes, roasted red bell peppers, onion, and a scotch bonnet pepper. Blend until you have a smooth, spicy paste.
Saute The Sauce
- In a large saucepan, add sunflower oil and heat over high heat. Once the oil is hot, pour in the blended sauce and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring.
- To the cooked sauce, add salt, thyme, knorr cubes, curry powder (optional), tomato paste (purée), and chicken stock. Stir and cook for another 15 minutes.
- To the saucepan, add rinsed long grain white rice to the saucepan and stir. Add water to cover the rice and cook over medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes.
- You may need to check the rice, add an additional cup of water, and stir every few minutes to prevent burning.
- Flavor the rice with bay leaves and half of a thinly sliced onion (optional), stir and cook over low heat until the rice is tender and flavor-packed.
The delicious Jollof Rice was ready! Serve it with curd or curry!
- Stirring: Jollof rice burns when it is stirred too much during cooking on the stove. It also burns when there is not enough water. You should monitor your rice as it cooks, adding more water as necessary to keep the rice grains moist.
- Water: Adding too much water can result in soft mushy jollof rice. It’s a careful balance! With a bit of practice, you’ll get a feel for the exact right amount of water and rice to combine for the dish.
- Rice: If your rice is hard, the grains are probably undercooked. Add more water, bring to a simmer, and continue cooking until the grains are soft and chewy.
- Flavor: For a stronger bay leaf flavor add bay leaf to the mixed pepper sauce instead of in the last ten minutes.
It is best to use long-grain white rice for this recipe because it stays firm and maintains its shape. Basmati rice tends to become quite soft and mushy quickly so should be avoided.
The base of jollof rice includes tomatoes, red bell peppers, scotch bonnets and tomato purée. These ingredients give jollof rice its notorious red color!
Curry powder, thyme, scotch bonnet, and bay leaf are the best spices to make a flavorful Jollof rice.
Jollof rice burns when it is stirred too much during cooking on the stove. It also burns when there is not enough water. You should monitor your rice as it cooks, adding more water as necessary to keep the rice grains moist.
More Nigerian Recipes
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Nigerian Jollof Rice Recipe
- 3 cups of washed long grain white rice
- 1 cans of plum tomatoes
- 2 roasted red bell peppers
- 1 large onion
- 1 scotch bonnet
- 3 knorr cubes
- 1-2 bay leaves
- Salt to taste
- 1 tsp of thyme
- 1/4 cup of tomato puree/paste
- 2 tsp curry powder optional
- 1-2 cup of chicken stock
- Water as necessary
- A splash of vegetable/sunflower oil
- Preheat oven at 200C and roast red bell peppers for 20-25 minutes (optional step for extra smoky jollof rice)
- Add 1 can of plum tomatoes, 2 red bell peppers, 1 large onion and 1 scotch bonnet to blender and blend until smooth.
- Add vegetable oil to cover the base of a large saucepan. Once the oil is hot pour in the blended mixture and cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes.
- Add salt to taste, 1 tsp of thyme, 3 knorr cubes, 2 tsp of curry powder (optional), 4 tbsp or 1/4 cup of tomato paste (purée) and 1-2 cups of chicken stock. Stir and cook for another 15 minutes (see notes).
- Add the rinsed white rice to the saucepan and stir. Then add 3 cups of water to cover the rice and leave to cook on a low/medium heat for 10-15 minutes (you may need to check the rice, add one more cup of water and turn the rice every 7 minutes to prevent burning).
- Finally add bay leaves and 1/2 a thinly sliced onion (optional), stir and leave to cook on a low heat until done.
- Jollof rice burns when it is stirred too much during cooking on the stove. It also burns when there is not enough water. You should monitor your rice as it cooks, adding more water as necessary to keep the rice grains moist.
- Adding too much water can result in soft mushy jollof rice. It’s a careful balance! With a bit of practice, you’ll get a feel for the exact right amount of water and rice to combine for the dish.
- If your rice is hard, the grains are probably undercooked. Add more water, bring to a simmer, and continue cooking until the grains are soft and chewy.
- For a stronger bay leaf flavor add bay leaf to the mixed pepper sauce (step 4) instead of in the last ten minutes (step 6).