Jollof rice recipes are one of the more competed over in the world of food! It is decidedly West African, and seems to have evolved from a Senegalese dish called benachin (in the Wolof language) which literally means ‘one-pot rice’. The key or knack to making a good jollof rice is to take your time so the flavours of the spices develop with the onions and tomatoes. And the best way to do that is to break up the cooking into 3 stages.

To simplify the process as much as possible I’ve segmented the ingredients so you know what you’re using for each stage, and the directions are similarly split. That means some ingredients will appear twice, so make sure you’ve checked each section before starting – nothing worse than having to leg it to the shop once you’re underway.

The ingredients will make enough for 6 people (or 4 hungry people!) If you’re confident you’ll like it, make twice or triple the spice mix and store it in a air-tight container in a cool place to slightly speed up your next batch. I personally use the recipe organising app Paprika (not a commission link), so always appreciate a clearly laid out recipe and have added microformats and the microdata schema too.

Jollof Rice

Here goes:

Jollof Rice

Total time: (but the longer you spend cooking this the better it will taste)
Servings: 6 people.

1. The Jollof Dry Spice Mix:

Note this makes double the amount you need, so keep the rest in an airtight container for your second batch!
  • 1 thumb length of fresh ginger (or 1½ ground ginger)
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (or 1 small clove)
  • 2 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 1 heaped tsp dried thyme
  • 1 generous tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 pinch of ground black pepper

2. The Sauce:

  • 1 small onion
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 4cm of fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ a scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded (optional)
  • 1 tbsp thyme leaves
  • 1 flat tbsp of your jollof dry spice mix (half of the above)
  • 200g chopped tomatoes or 250g fresh diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Flaked sea salt to taste
  • 50ml good vegetable (or chicken) stock

3. The Rice:

  • 2 large onions, finely chopped
  • Drizzle of olive oil or groundnut oil
  • 6 – 8 chicken thighs or breasts
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 3 tsps thyme leaves
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 guinea peppers or crushed cardamon pods
  • 1 scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded & diced
  • 2 tbsp of your jollof dry spice mix (above)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 4 tbsp groundnut oil or sunflower oil
  • 1 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 250ml of the jollof sauce you made
  • 300g basmati or other long grain rice (white is better for this)
  • Serve with chopped coriander or parsley sprinkled on top. For vegetarians aubergine or African aubergine works well, otherwise try mixed veg, or even fried halloumi or a firm tofu for similar effect.

Spices & Sauce:

  • Mix all the spices in the first section of ingredients together in one bowl. If you double or triple the amount, then keep the rest in an airtight container in a cool place.
  • Cover the bottom of a large saucepan with the oil and heat it. Once it’s hot, add the onion and keep the temperature on medium until the onion becomes translucent. Stir in the curry and chilli powder, gently cook for a couple more minutes.
  • Next add the ginger, garlic, scotch bonnet chilli, thyme and your jollof dry spice mix, and stir well. Add the tomatoes and tomato purée, the sea salt and stock, then stir once more before blending thoroughly with a stick blender – aim for a smooth soupy consistency.
  • Simmer over a medium-low heat for around 40 minutes. Add salt and pepper to your taste. Any excess sauce can be left to cool in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days, or freeze for future use.

The Rice:

  • First make the broth. Sweat half the chopped onion in a little oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan over a low heat, add the chicken, the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, guinea peppers, Scotch Bonnet, 1 tablespoon jollof dry spice mix and sea salt and stir well. Pour in enough water just to cover the ingredients and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
  • Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180°C. Remove the chicken from the pan, place on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil or groundnut oil. Bake in the oven for 20–25 minutes.
  • Drain the fragrant broth into a jug and reserve for adding to the rice.
  • To make the jollof, heat the 4 tablespoons of groundnut or sunflower oil in the same pan you used to make the broth, add the remaining chopped onion and sauté over a medium heat for a few minutes until soft. Stir in the remaining jollof dry spice mix, the chilli powder and curry powder and add 350ml of the jollof sauce, reserving the rest for adding at the next stage. Then stir the broth into the pan.
  • Wash the rice thoroughly in cold water to remove as much starch as possible – I wash it in at least 3 changes of water until the water runs clear – then drain and stir it into the jollof sauce/broth mixture so that it’s evenly coated. Ladle in the reserved jollof sauce without stirring, then reduce the heat, cover the pan with foil to keep in the steam and add the lid. Cook for 15–20 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is tender. Stir through with a fork to fluff up the rice.
  • By this stage, your chicken in the oven should be perfectly crisp! Serve the rice with the chicken pieces on top, scattered with the chopped herbs to garnish.
  • Tips: If the sauce isn’t hot enough before adding the rice, the rice will soak up the cold water and become soggy.
  • If you find that the rice is too dry halfway through cooking, top up with additional water, adding a small quantity at a time as needed.
With thanks to my Ghanaian friends, and Zoe Adjonyoh’s version in her Zoe’s Ghana Kitchen, Maria Bradford, Fafa Gilbert, Lope Ariyo and Emeka Frederick.