Stir-Fry

Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice

August 16, 2016
4.4 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Makes a family-sized pot
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 Nigerian-style curry powder and dried thyme. Served with fried, ripe plantains which we call dodo 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.

Learning to make Jollof was a rite of passage for me and I've gone through so many iterations each time trying to streamline the process while delivering the most flavour.

Some notes:
- This makes a large pot but you can successfully halve this recipe
- If you're using thinner long grain rice like basmati rice or scented rice, use less stock - so 3 - 4 cups not 5 - 6; and less tomato sauce - say 1/2 - 2/3rds. Leave the tomato puree as is and slightly adjust the spices
- When you add the rice in Step 4, trust the process - leave it to steam without fretting. Trust me, it'll be fine
- Leftovers keep well too

Helpful tools for this recipe:
- Le Creuset Enameled Cast Iron Signature Sauteuse
- Vitamix One High-Speed Blender
- Five Two Double-Sided Bamboo Cutting Board

Kitchen Butterfly

Test Kitchen Notes

Ozoz Sokoh, aka Kitchen Butterfly, is a Nigerian food explorer, blogger, culinary anthropologist, and food historian—she’s also a longtime Food52 community member and contributor of many beloved recipes. In fact, it’s her we have to thank for sharing one of our all-time most popular dishes: Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice.

“The thing about Jollof...it’s that one dish across West Africa that is a unifying dish,” Ozoz told our co-founder Merrill Stubbs in a recent episode of ‘At Home With Us.’ Every country has their own version, she explains, “But the core is always two things—well, three things: rice, a tomato stew, and seasoning.”

Thousands of people have made this recipe since Ozoz put it up on the site in 2016. She’s revisited it to make a few key changes that are slightly different from what you’ll see in the video.

In the original recipe, the method instructs you to first parboil the rice in stock, but it can sometimes lead to overcooked rice. Ozoz now skips that step and adds the stock in with the tomato and pepper mixture, adding the rice in raw. She also calls for 1/2 to 1 Scotch Bonnet pepper (instead of the full 1) now.

Another tweak to the ingredients list: Ozoz uses both white and black pepper for a deeper, earthier, smokier flavor. Oh, and one last thing: If you want to make your curry powder blend from scratch, this Nigerian-style version from Ozoz is the way to go.

Want to hear more about jollof rice? On our new podcast Counterjam—a show that explores culture through food and music—host Peter J. Kim asks comedian Ego Nwodim and Afrobeat pioneers Femi and Made Kuti about their favorite versions—check out the episode here. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice
Ingredients
  • 1/3 cup oil (vegetable/canola/coconut, not olive oil)
  • 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
  • 1/2 to 1 hot pepper, or to taste (yellow Scotch bonnets are my favourite)
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 teaspoons (Caribbean/Jamaican-style) curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 5 to 6 cups stock (vegetable, chicken, or beef) or water, divided
  • 2 teaspoons unsalted butter (optional), divided
  • 4 cups uncooked converted long-grain rice or golden sella basmati, rinsed
  • Salt, to taste
  • Black and white pepper, to taste
  • Extra: sliced onions, tomatoes
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. In a blender, combine tomatoes, red poblano (or bell) peppers, chopped onions, and Scotch bonnets with 2 cups of stock, blend till smooth, about a minute or two. You should have roughly 6 cups of blended mix. Pour into a large pot/ pan and bring to the boil then turn down and let simmer, partly covered for 10 - 12 minutes
  2. In a large pan, heat oil and add the sliced onions. Season with a pinch of salt, stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes, then add the bay leaves, curry powder and dried thyme and a pinch of black pepper for 3 - 4 minutes on medium heat. Then add the tomato paste - stir for another 2 minutes. Add the reduced tomato-pepper-Scotch bonnet mixture, stir, and set on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes till reduced by half, with the lid partly on. This is the stew that will define the pot.
  3. Add 4 cups of the stock to the cooked tomato sauce and bring it to boil for 1 - 2 minutes.
  4. Add the rinsed rice and butter, 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 flavor. Turn down the heat and cook on the lowest possible heat for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.
  5. Stir rice—taste and adjust as required. If rice isn't soft enough/ needs additional cooking, add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of stock or water, stir through and continue to steam, on low till cooked through.
  6. If you like, add sliced onions, fresh tomatoes and the 2nd teaspoon of butter and stir through. Let rest, covered for 5 to 6 minutes.
  7. 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 crackle 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!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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I love food and I'm interested in making space for little-heard voices, as well as celebrating Nigerian cuisine in its entirety.

100 Reviews

twisty7867 October 1, 2022
I've never made Jollof Rice (or indeed any African food). I saw a chef on Beat Bobby Flay who intended to make it and did not, but my interest was piqued.

I loved the taste and flavor. I bought Lion brand curry powder from Nigeria from Walmart.com rather than using a Caribbean one and it smells so good.

The only trouble I had with the recipe is that it says the ingredients that go in the blender should amount to about 6 cups, but mine amounted to 10 cups! (I guess we have huge vegetables?!). I just let it simmer for half an hour to reduce to 6 cups so I'm sure we got a little extra flavor out of that :)

I was a little intimidated by the scotch bonnet pepper, so I only put half of one in and I kinda regretted that, in the end it was not really hot at all. I think a whole one would have generated a nice mild heat.
 
RichardS September 2, 2022
I've made jollof rice before, but after watching the video in conjunction with the recipe to get a better idea of how to make the stew, it was perfect. Amazing colour and depth of flavour. My family loved it.
 
cocoabrioche July 11, 2022
Burlap and Barrel sells Jollof Rice seasoning. I found this recipe just as my bottle of Jollof rice seasoning arrived, and that evening we watched the Chrismas season 2 episode of Ted Lasso. There was a big bowl of jollof rice for the expats dinner! I used a few drops of liquid smoke, reduced the liquid because all I have is brown jasmine rice, and the rice was great. One of those dishes where you could add sausage, or shrimp or goat or just about anything. Love that it's from a different culture.
 
Dave G. February 26, 2022
I loved this!
A trick I came up with was to sauté the rice in batches after cooking it to caramelize/brown it, adding texture and complexity without burning it. It took a little extra time but was well worth the effort.

I made it for a group of Nigerian immigrants from Houston (consulting at our clinic in cold February Wisconsin) and they said it was the real thing! Kudos to you!!
 
Chazi February 23, 2022
This is my first time doing this recipe wow it turned out perfectly will be doing again
Thanks very much
 
MagnusRex February 9, 2022
Nothing but trouble with the recipe - seems like there is way too much liquid and it's not reducing enough at all. I want to try it again, but I really need to rebalance this.
 
Kitchen B. June 7, 2022
I'm sorry to hear this. Some possible issues:
- Stews/ sauces aren't cooked down sufficiently
- If other types of rice are used - instead of parboiled/ converted, the absorption of the liquid is really different

Please hold back some of the liquid and add as you need.

 
Lagniappe February 6, 2022
I grew up in South Louisiana and ate rice quite a lot as a kid. I like this recipe. It's a good basic starting point to make it your own. Traditional dishes like this always have some family variation, like your grandma's potato salad.

I can definitely taste how Jollof Rice is the ancestor of jambalaya. I think this recipe benefits with some smoky background. I like mine with a little smoked paprika or a dash of liquid smoke. Real homemade stock made from chicken bones is worth the effort since it's a big player with this rice. Fresh thyme is good too. I think fried plantain (dodo) is essential with Jollof Rice as well. It makes for a main meal instead of just a side.
 
Andi January 15, 2022
Made this recipe a few days ago and it was so flavorful and delicious. One reviewer wrote that she used 2C rice and 4C liquid, I did the same. I mistakenly simmered uncovered for more than 12 min., my sauce reduce a lot and I think I ended up with a little more than 4C. The sauce came out thinner than Kitchen Butterfly’s but I didn’t mind.

Every time I make a recipe that calls for adding rice to soup or sauce I don’t do it because it ALWAYS comes out mushy. So I put the rice in a separate pot and added a little less than 4C sauce which was a mistake, parts of the rice were hard and parts were soft so I added the rest of the sauce and covered for another 15 min. Even though the rice had burned at the bottom it ended up better than before. I was going to throw it away and then I thought add the chopped tomato and onion, stir above the burned part and let it sit covered. It was much, much better and my friend and I ate it all. Before the weekend is over I’m going to make this again.

Thank you Kitchen Butterfly for the lovely recipe.
 
Toner November 25, 2021
I made this recipe for thanksgiving 2021. I used no peppers at first because my roommate cannot tolerate spice, but I put peppers in after the rice was cooked and I took out her potion and closed the lid down as I was making the rice “smoky” and it was the perfect addition. I cut the recipe in half and was surprised when I took off the lid at the end of the thirty minutes and saw a lot of sauce on the top but once I stirred it up all was well and it was perfect!! Thank you so much for this recipe! Everyone loved it. I’m Jamaican but I love Nigerian food and will continue making this recipe.
 
Juliette30 August 13, 2021
Thanks so much for this recipe. I followed your instructions to the letter and, in 3 years, finally tried to cook Jollof Rice, and... what a success ! I can tell you that my man was not deceived. Your advices are amazing !
 
Quarantine C. August 5, 2021
In step 1 my mix turned out to be roughly over 9 cups. What size Roma tomatoes did you use because I think mine were to large (the size of the palm of a hand)
 
Chelsey A. April 15, 2021
Amazing recipe, taste sooo good
 
eurotrash February 26, 2021
In step 2, how are you reducing by half with the lid on? Surely that stops the majority of the steam from escaping, resulting in practically no reduction.
 
Sumbo E. February 20, 2021
This is an amazing recipe! I normally struggle to get jollof rice done - but this turned out incredibly well and it was super easy to make as well. Win-win!
 
Sydney E. January 16, 2021
If Ozoz Sokoh could get her hands on me! Well I cooked a few bone in pork chops and chicken thighs in the sauce before I cooked the rice. I couldn't help myself. I'm shooting out 5-Stars to Ozoz. Need a cook book and a TV cook show young lady.
 
Courtney B. January 5, 2021
This was THE best rice recipe ever. I didn’t have all the ingredients (used Orange peppers since that’s what Aldo had, veggie broth, and skipped the bitter) and it was so good! The foil + low heat made the rice cook nicely - soft but not mushy. This will be on repeat!
 
Courtney B. January 5, 2021
*Aldi
*butter
Autocorrect 🙄
 
Eratwoeratwo December 20, 2020
Great recipe. Although I found it amusing that it uses Jamaican curry powder which might be hard to obtain in Nigeria...Here in Brazil you have to make whatever kind of curry powder from scratch. I used plain old long grain rice ans green cayenne peppers for the scotch bonnets. The leftovers are exceptionally good when used as a base for deep fried rice balls. A unique pass around hors d'ouvre.
 
Kitchen B. January 4, 2021
:) - I say Jamaica curry powder because that's the closest common type you'll find in stores. You'll be hardpressed to find Nigerian curry powder. I've also developed a version https://food52.com/recipes/83239-nigerian-style-curry-powder

And yes to rice balls. Yum yum
 
Sabrina H. September 6, 2020
wow thank you so much for this beautiful recipe im orginally from jamaica but i love Nigerian food and ive attempted to make jollif rice before but it never came out as perfect as it did today my family loved it i made a massive pot of it i have loads left i guess thats dinner sorted for tommorrow loool thank you so so so much!!
 
MissyMingole September 5, 2020
Hey I’m cooking this right now. It tastes delicious but the problem is that rice won’t cook. Must done something wrong there :(
 
Kitchen B. January 4, 2021
So sorry to hear that. What kind of rice did you use? The best rice for this is longgrain parboiled/ converted rice. Golden Sella Basmati works well too
 
Jill F. September 2, 2020
Wonderful recipe!!! Cooked up a batch this afternoon and half of it will easily he gone before dinner. Everyone keeps sneaking spoonfuls! This is so delicious and flavorful, have some sweet plantains and beans ready for this eve!!! Thank you!