Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice

By • August 16, 2016 17 Comments

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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

  • 4 cups uncooked long-grain rice (not basmati)
  • 5 to 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 to 2 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
  • Salt, to taste
  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: Side Dishes|Rice & Grains|Curries|Plums|Coconut