Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice

August 16, 2016

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: Because Jollof Rice is Bae, and much loved South of the Sahara and along the coast of West Africa.

Spiced and stewed in a flavorful tomato broth, it is everything from "everyday" to celebration. The classic version is cooked with long-grain rice (Uncle Ben's/Carolina's) and seasoned with curry powder and dried thyme. Served with fried plantains and coleslaw, it is everything. Note that the world might consider this a side but in Nigeria, it is the main. :)

Even more special is Party Rice, a smoky version, cooked over an open fire, layered with smoke, spice, and immeasurable goodness. A few years ago, I cracked the code on approximating the smoky flavor on the stovetop. The secret? Read on.
Kitchen Butterfly

Makes: a family-sized pot
Prep time: 30 min
Cook time: 1 hrs 30 min


  • 4 cups uncooked long-grain rice (not basmati)
  • 6 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef) or water, divided
  • 6 medium-sized fresh plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped, OR a 400-gram tin of tomatoes
  • 6 fresh, red poblano peppers (or 4 large red bell peppers), seeds discarded
  • 3 medium-sized red onions (1 sliced thinly, 2 roughly chopped), divided
  • 1 Scotch bonnet peppers (yellow is my favorite!), to taste
  • 1/3 cup oil (vegetable/ canola/coconut, not olive oil)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons (Carribean/Jamaican-style) curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) dried thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional), divided
  • 1 dash Salt, to taste
In This Recipe


  1. Rinse the rice to get rid of some starch then parboil: Bring the rice to a boil with 2 cups of the stock (or water) then cook on medium heat, covered, about 12 to 15 minutes. Rice will still be hard, a bit "white" (not translucent) and only partly cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine tomatoes, red poblano (or bell) peppers, chopped onions, and chile pepper; blend till smooth, about a minute or two. You should have roughly 4 cups of blended mix.
  3. In a large pan, heat oil and add sliced onion. Season with a pinch of salt, stir-fry for a minute or two, then add the tomato paste, curry powder, dried thyme and bay leaves. Stir for another 2 minutes. Add the blended tomato-pepper-chile mixture, stir, and set on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes so the mix cooks and the raw taste of the tomatoes is gone. You might feel your eyes sting with onions.
  4. Add 2 cups of the stock to the cooked tomato sauce, 1 teaspoon of butter, and then add the parboiled rice. Stir, cover with a double piece of foil/ baking or parchment paper and put a lid on the pan. This will seal in the steam and lock in the flavour. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Stir again, adjust seasoning to taste, then add the remaining 1 cup of stock. Stir, cover with foil/ baking or parchment paper and let cook for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent burning and till the rice is cooked and the grains are separate.
  5. Don't be afraid to add some more stock or water—by the half-cup, stirring gently—if you find it a bit hard. When it’s cooked, take off heat and remove the cover of the pot. Put a tea cloth over the top and leave for half an hour or more, till ready to serve.
  6. To make Party Rice, you'll need one more step. Now Party Rice is essentially Smoky Jollof Rice, traditionally cooked over an open fire. However, you can achieve the same results on the stove top. Here's how: Once the rice is cooked, turn up the heat with the lid on and leave to "burn" for 3 to 5 minutes. You'll hear the rice crackled and snap and it will smell toasted. Turn off the heat and leave with the lid on to "rest" till ready to serve. The longer the lid stays on, the smokier. Let the party begin!

More Great Recipes:
African|Bell Pepper|Grains|Poblano|Thyme|Rice|Stir-Fry|Side

Reviews (28) Questions (0)

28 Reviews

Dora January 13, 2019
Made this yesterday and it turned out great! Didn’t follow the recipe entirely as I could not find the red poblano peppers so used what I thought were the green ones. Also, there is no Jamaican curry powder where I live 😓 so used what I think was normal curry powder 🤷🏾‍♀️ Didn’t need as much stock water so will change it next time and didn’t cook it for as long as prescribed otherwise it would have turned mushy. Can’t wait to eat it again today 😋<br />Instructions were very easy to follow! First time I’ve ever made jollof and first time I’ve ever left a review on a food website I’ve used!<br />Thanks Kitchen Butterfly 🤗
Lilian L. November 15, 2018
Hi, thanks for the recipe. Always been wanting to try out Nigerian jollof. Is there another alternative if you don't have red bell peppers? Here in Cameroon, we mostly have the green peppers and sometimes orange which is scarce to find actually. Eagerly waiting to read from u.
Dora January 13, 2019
I used green peppers and it turned out great
TIM January 30, 2018
This was my first attempt at cooking Jollof. The recipe was easy to follow and the results were great! Thank you
Keith December 4, 2017
I havent thought of this rice for years. A Nigerian work colleague used to make it for me so I cant wait to try this.
Ciera S. September 22, 2017
Just made this tonight, used 2 cups of stock, 2 peppers slightly deserved, 4 cups parboiled rice, and seasoned well, its on the stove now with double foil and the lid. I'm going to take it off the heat and let sit for half an hour before serving, and removing bay leaves. I hope it turns out great, I baked chicken wings to go along side it for lunch tomorrow. <br />
Missie September 19, 2017
Can this be made a day in advance? Or at least certain parts? <br />
Mimi C. September 11, 2017
Amazing this helped me a lot!
Mimi C. September 11, 2017
Amazing! This helped me a lot!
Catherine R. April 24, 2017
THANK YOU for posting a Jollof Rice recipe that does NOT rely on Maggi's boyfriend is horribly allergic to the preservatives in that stuff, and I'd really love to make this for him this coming weekend. Question though...have you ever attempted making this with brown rice? I imagine it would be harder for the grains to soak in the flavors since there is that bran husk around each grain, but I'd like to try anyway since we're trying to eat healthier this year. And mmmmm I can only imagine how scrumptious this is with plantains and a deliciousy bright vinegar-based slaw. Thanks for sharing!
alywit August 30, 2016
I tried making this recipe yesterday afternoon. I followed the recipe closely with the exception of the hot pepper due to our families flavor preferences. What I learned since yesterday is that generally white rice requires at least 2 cups of water, per 1 cup of rice. 5-6 cups of stock + tomato/pepper puree is nowhere near enough liquid to soften the rice. By the time I had enough liquid in the rice, adding an additional 1/2 cup at a time every 10 minutes, the rice and lost their shape and it was a mushy mess. I discarded the entire pot. I think this recipe has a great heart and potential, however the science behind it needs some work.
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 30, 2016
Dear Alywit - I'm really sorry it didn't work out.<br /><br />In Nigeria, we use parboiled, longgrain rice - not basmati, easy cook or Thai Jasmine. The grains are sturdier and generally hold up to the stirring and cooking.<br /><br />One tip which might help and which I've added - Step 4 - is to cover the rice with a double layer of parchment/ baking paper or foil, in addition to the lid. This creates a 'steam' environment in w hich the rice cooks with minimal liquid.<br /><br />I hope you try again. Thanks<br /><br />I'll share any a
Joy D. March 17, 2018
I wish I had seen this comment earlier - I had the exact same problem and was so disappointed! Since the yield is so large, I will just use the rice mush I ended up with in a casserole a bit at a time (hopefully that will be palatable -<br /> it's a shame to let such a huge amount of food go to waste). I used long grain rice (not basmati, easy-cook, or Jasmine) and followed every step, including the aluminum foil in step 4. Next time I will have to do a test run with double the liquid for a 2-1 liquid to rice ratio and see if that helps.
Jim August 28, 2016
I didn't see in your recipe where and how you used the Scotch Bonnet peppers. I know there are three options - one is to use the whole pepper added to a dish without breaking it open to add flavor and little if any 'heat', or use just the flesh of the pepper without the seeds and white membrane to add some heat, or to use the whole pepper cut open with the seeds and the white membrane for the 'full' effect and heat (100,000 - 350,000 Scoville Units or 12 -140 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper). How do you prefer to use them? And if you use either of the two latter options, I assume you blend then in with the poblano peppers? Or do you add them when you add the tomato paste?
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 30, 2016
Hi ya, it's in Step 2: In a blender, combine tomatoes, red poblano (or bell) peppers, chopped onions, and chile pepper; blend till smooth, about a minute or two. You should have roughly 4 cups of blended mix.<br /><br />I prefer to use the whole pepper :). Yes, blended with the poblanos, tomatoes and onions
Jim August 30, 2016
Thanks - I did miss that but glad to know it is the whole pepper - my preference as well :)
Jay A. August 28, 2016
Interesting twist with the butter....will give it a try. Awesome
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 30, 2016
Thank you!
LULULAND August 24, 2016
Thank you for answering so soon! Have a great day!
LULULAND August 24, 2016
Sounds interesting. How many does this serve? Can I use regular curry powder, I've never heard of or seen Jamaican curry powder? Thanks
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 24, 2016
Regular curry powder - not the Indian blends which have different flavour profiles. <br /><br />At home in Nigeria, it would serve 8 - 10 because rice isn't a 'side'. In the West, you could probably half the proportions. Thank you
Richard D. August 24, 2016
could you add smoked paprika to give it a smokey flavor?
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 24, 2016
You could add smoked paprika or use smoked red fresh paprika/ red poblanos. Its a different 'flavour' from the 'burn'but yes
ChefJune August 22, 2016
I've made this dish many times from Jessica Harris' recipe, but had kind of forgotten about it. Now I'm staring at a pile of gorgeous tomatoes, and peppers from my Greenmarket trip on Saturday and happily you gave me a great suggestion of what to make for dinner tonight!! Brava!
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 23, 2016
Yay, this makes me happy. Enjoy
Ralph N. August 22, 2016
Would palm oil be appropriate in this dish?
Author Comment
Kitchen B. August 23, 2016
You could make a palm oil version but, you would use more onions than tomatoes and the flavour profile would be different. For that version, I would recommend you finish with some herbs. Here's a version on my blog -; you might swap out some ingredients. Cheers
Ralph N. August 24, 2016