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The Best Way To Prepare Jollof Rice

Nigerian jollof rice is a rich and incredibly delicious West African dish. It is a very versatile dish and is usually prepared from scratch using rice, tomatoes, peppers, tomato paste, scotch bonnet pepper, onions, salt and other spices. Jollof rice is one of the most common dishes in West Africa, consumed in the regions of Nigeria, Ghana, Togo, Senegal, Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Liberia. 

However, each of these West African countries has its own variation of this dish.  It is a dish that is cheap and easy to prepare but, at the same time, delicious. When cooking Jollof rice, it is very important to create a flavour base. Do not rush to pour the ingredients into the pot, otherwise, you will have what we call a “concoction”. According to Wikipedia, the name Jollof comes from the Wolof people’s name. 

In Senegal and Gambia, it is called ceebu jën or benachin in Wolof. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. There are variations of the dish throughout the region. However, Jollof rice has spread through the diaspora and has become the best-known African dish outside the continent.


Nigerian Jollof Rice Recipe

This recipe for jollof rice is the best you can find. It is a detailed, step-by-step procedure that simplifies the cooking process so that anyone, whether a beginner or a professional chef, can cook it perfectly. With this recipe for jollof rice, you will have red (orangey), delicious rice that can be served at celebrations or eaten as lunch or dinner.

Indeed, in Nigeria, no feast is complete without jollof rice. This recipe is enough for 8 people, but you can halve the recipe if you don’t need it or double it depending on the number of servings you want.



4 cups long  grain Rice

1/2 cup Vegetable oil

2 big onions

240 grams of tomato paste

4-5 red bell pepper (tatashe)

4 medium-sized tomatoes

3-6 pieces Scotch bonnet pepper (Atarodo) or more if yours is not hot 

2kg chicken/beef 

1 small size ginger

2 garlic cloves

50 grams butter/margarine

3-4 pieces of bay leaves

1 tablespoon curry

1 tablespoon thyme

8 cubes seasoning

1 tablespoon salt


Before you start cooking, you should prepare and have all the ingredients on hand.

  • Wash and season the beef/chicken with onion, salt, 2 seasoning cubes, ginger, garlic, curry and thyme and cook until tender.
  • Remove the stock and set it aside. When ready, grill it on the oven rack. It can also be fried. This gives it a golden and more presentable appearance, especially if you have guests for dinner.
  • Wash and mix the tomatoes, red pepper, scotch bonnet pepper, onion, ginger and garlic cloves.
  • Dice or slice the remaining onion and set it aside.
  • Parboil the rice to a boil, rinse it, and drain it in a sieve; boiling the rice helps remove excess starch in the rice, which usually causes the grains to clump together.

Cooking process

  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onions set aside earlier and sauté them. Fry the onions until they become fragrant and translucent. This takes about one minute.
  2. Then add the tomato puree/ tomato paste. Fry for 5-10 minutes until reduced and no longer sour. Continue stirring.
  3. Add the blended ingredients (tomatoes, scotch bonnet, garlic, onions and chilli) and mix well; make sure to stir constantly to avoid burning the tomato mixture.
  4. Then add the curry powder, dried thyme, bouillon cubes and salt. Fry until it turns dark red and no longer tastes raw. The sauce will have reduced in quantity, it will be thick, and the oil will float over the sauce. This takes about 10-15 minutes. Remove about a quarter of the stew and set it aside for later use.
  5. Add the meat or chicken stock to the pot and the bay leaves. Bring to the boil over high heat for 5-10 minutes. If the stock is not hot enough before adding the pre-cooked (parboiled) rice, the rice will absorb the cold water, become mushy and burn before it is cooked through.
  6. Then add the pre-cooked rice and stir well; the liquid in the pot must be at the same level as the rice in the pot. If the meat or chicken stock is not enough, more hot water can be added.
  7. Cover the pot with aluminium foil and let the rice cook over medium-low heat. The high heat will burn the rice before it is fully cooked. Allow it to cook for 15-30 minutes.
  8. Just 5 minutes before the rice is fully cooked, add a tablespoon of butter/margarine to flavour it further. When the liquid from the rice has almost dried up, add the remaining stew (without touching the rice), cover the pot and let it cook for another 5-10 minutes until the liquid has completely dried up. Now stir well and garnish with the onion slices. 

Now the Nigerian Jollof rice is ready to eat. You can remove the bay leaves. However, if you do not find them, do not be tempted to look for them, as over-mixing will cause the rice to break. Leave them and remove them whenever you find them.

Nigerian Jollof rice can be served with roast/fried chicken, beef, fish, Moi Moi, stir-fried vegetables and meat, fried plantains, Nigerian salad, and stew (Obe ata dindin or Nigerian beef and chicken stew).


Calories: 634kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 30g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 16g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 5mg | Sodium: 466mg | Potassium: 434mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 1554 IU | Vitamin C: 67mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg



  • When cooking tomato stew, one can tell when it is ready because the oil rises to the surface. Also, another way to tell when it is ready is when the sour taste of the tomatoes has disappeared. The reason why you keep 1/4 of the tomato mixture and add it at the end is for the rice to not burn. It also gives the rice that beautiful red colour that we all know and love.
  • The use of tomato paste is IMPORTANT if you want to achieve the intense red-orange colour and flavour of jollof rice.
  • It is best to use a thick-bottomed aluminium pot for cooking the rice. 
  • Cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid to trap steam. If the lid does not fit the pot well, you can use aluminium foil to cover it first before covering it with the lid. 
  • Cook the rice over low heat 
  • Don’t use too much water for cooking it, as it mainly needs steam.
  • Use more chicken stock than water or an equal proportion.

FAQs About Nigerian Jollof Rice

Q/1. What is the best type of rice for Jollof rice?

Many types of rice can be used to make Jollof rice. For this recipe, it is best to use long grain parboiled rice: this rice is soaked, steamed and dried. The husk is then removed to make parboiled rice. The steaming allows the rice to absorb nutrients and changes the starch, so the rice dish is firmer and less sticky than regular white rice.

Q/2.  How can I get the flavour of party jollof rice without using wood, just like the rice that party caterers cook?

To get the flavour of Jollof party rice, you need one more step. Party Rice is essentially smoked jollof rice, traditionally cooked over an open fire. However, you can also achieve the same results in the kitchen. Here’s how it’s done. Once the rice is cooked, turn up the heat with the lid on and leave to “burn” for 3 to 5 minutes. You will hear the rice crackle and pop, and it will smell toasted. Turn off the heat and let it “rest” with the lid on until it’s time to serve. The longer you keep the lid closed, the smokier it is. 

Q/3.   Why do you boil or pre-cook the rice for Nigerian Jollof rice when the rice is already boiled from the factory?

This is a controversial question, but it is important to pre-cook long-grain rice for several reasons. First, it helps reduce the starch content of this type of rice, which usually causes jollof rice to burn quickly without proper cooking. Second, it helps reduce cooking time and, in turn, opens up the rice for faster absorption of the ingredients used to cook the jollof rice.

Q/4.   Why did you keep some of the stew and add it at the end? Why not add it all at once?

This method actually helps the jollof rice get the perfect colour, and also, using all the stew at the beginning can make the rice burn faster on the bottom.

Q/5.   Why did you cover the pot with foil?

Jollof rice is steamed, so it cooks more quickly and evenly when you trap as much heat as possible. If you use a pot with a ventilation hole, the heat dissipates. Covering the pot with foil traps enough heat, and the jollof rice cooks evenly without burning when still uncooked or becoming soft/sticky.

Q/6.   Can I cook jollof rice without meat or chicken stock? How can you achieve the same rich flavour if you don’t have meat or chicken broth?

Yes, you can cook jollof rice with any broth. It is true that meat/chicken broth enhances the taste of jollof rice, but you can get very tasty jollof rice even without using meat/chicken broth. For this purpose, one can spice up the tomato sauce and use meat/chicken seasoning cubes.

There are very good spices in the market today, and a teaspoon of butter added 5 minutes before cooking the rice will definitely give the jollof rice an extra flavour boost.