This 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 jollof rice with chicken, or your favorite protein.
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.
When is Nigerian Jollof Rice Served?
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 flavours and aroma.
Toddlers love Jollof Rice’s typical orange colour. Most children of West African descent who live in Europe and North America are raised on a diet of Jollof rice. This dish is an excellent way to introduce people from around the world to the exotic tastes of Africa. They’re sure to fall in love!
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 give the jollof rice a smoky flavour. This method is used to make Nigerian jollof rice for special occasions. However, this step is optional.
If you like spicy jollof rice then increase the number of scotch bonnets included in the blended mixture to turn up the heat!
How To Make Nigerian Jollof Rice Recipe
Here is my signature SIMPLE JOLLOF RICE RECIPE that I prepare for friends and family:
- Preheat the oven to 200°C to roast red bell peppers. This is actually an optional step. Only do it if you like extra smoky rice.
- Next, add one can of plum tomatoes, 2 red bell peppers, 1 large onion, and a scotch bonnet pepper to a blender. Blend until you have a smooth, spicy paste.
- Add sunflower oil to cover the bottom of a large saucepan and heat over high heat. Once the oil is hot, pour in the blended mixture and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring.
- Add salt to taste, 1 teaspoons of thyme, 3 knorr cubes, 2 teaspoons of curry powder (optional), 1/4 cup of tomato paste (purée), and 1 to 2 cups of chicken stock. Stir and cook for another 15 minutes.
- Add 3 cups of rinsed long grain white rice to the saucepan and stir. Then, add 3 cups of 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 7 minutes to prevent burning.
- Finally, add bay leaves and half of a thinly sliced onion (optional), stir and cook over low heat until the rice is tender and flavor-packed.
NB: For a stronger bay leaf flavour add bay leaf to the mixed pepper sauce (step 4) instead of in the last ten minutes (step 6).
Alternative Jollof Rice Recipes
I am excited by the fact that Jollof allows you to have a go and be creative. For example, you can easily make vegan or vegetarian Jollof rice. Simply replace the chicken stock with vegetable stock. Also, if you’re using tomato paste, check to ensure that it’s plant-based (many include fish sauce).
Coconut jollof rice is another delicious alternative recipe. To make it, add coconut milk to the tomato base to for a creamy, tropical twist. The possibilities really are endless!
How does your family like to flavor their Jollof Rice? I’d love to give it a try! Leave me a comment 🙂
What to Serve with Nigerian Jollof Rice
Again, the possibilities are pretty endless when it comes to dishes that pair well with homemade Nigerian Jollof rice. My family loves:
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.
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.
The base of jollof rice includes tomatoes, red bell peppers, scotch bonnets and tomato purée. These ingredients give jollof rice its notorious red color!
Traditional Nigerian Jollof rice usually includes at least 1 scotch bonnet pepper, which gives the dish mild heat. However, you can change the number of scotch bonnets to alter the heat level.
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.
More Traditional West African Recipes
Try these other flavor-packed West African meals next:
Thanks for reading this recipe, comment below if you made this and let me know how it went! Follow @simshomekitchen on Instagram, take a photo, tag and hashtag it with @simshomekitchen.
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.