Ultimate Guide to Jollof Rice (Learn How to Make Good Jollof!)

Ultimate Guide To Making Joloff Rice

Jollof rice is a popular West African cuisine. It has its origins in the Senegambia region. It derives its name from the Jollof Empire that once ruled the Senegambia. This empire belonged to the Wolof people. The Wolof people themselves call it Benachin.

What's ahead: Learn about Nigerian joloff rice, Ghanaian joloff, organizations and events related to Joloff, and why this dish brings Africa together (and causes a lot of arguments :D ).

Jollof cuisine has many variants from region to region. The kind of Jollof rice being prepared in Nigeria varies from that being prepared in Senegal or Ghana.

Although there are many variations, there are striking similarities in terms of basic ingredients, preparation methods, and outlook.

Discover more: What Is African Food Like?

Basic ingredients of Jollof Rice

  • Rice
  • Tomatoes and tomato paste
  • Cooking oil
  • Onions
  • Spices
  • Chili peppers

The Rice

The rice used to make Jollof varies from place to place. For example, in Senegal, they use broken rice to make Jollof. In Nigeria, they mostly long grained rice. In Ghana, they use aromatic Basmati rice.

Tomatoes and tomato paste

Apart from rice, the second most important ingredient is tomatoes. There are plenty of tomatoes used. Most of the cuisines use tomato paste while some other use both fried tomatoes and tomato paste.

This tomato paste is traditionally made by frying until it forms a paste. However, with blenders, some people simply decide to blend a tomato paste, as it is quicker than frying it into a paste.

Cooking oil

The main cooking oil used in making Jollof Rice is palm oil. This is due to it being so plenty in West Africa.


Jollof rice is never flat. There is a huge variety of spices put in. The most commonly used spices are ginger, cumin, and nutmeg.

Chili pepper

There are many varieties of chili peppers used depending on their local availability. However, the most commonly used pepper is Scotch bonnet.


Different varieties of onions can be used. However, those with strong taste are preferred.


Jollof Rice is mostly served with goat meat, beef, chicken, turkey, and eggs. Fish is occasionally used as an accompaniment for those communities where fish is common.

The Jollof ‘superpowers’

Jollof rice has its own politics. Though its origins in Senegal are not so hotly contested due to its name, there is always a contest as to who makes the best Jollof. This is usually a hot contest between Ghanaians and Nigerians and sometimes often leads to heated political debates bordering on extreme nationalism.
Jollof fans from the two countries often battle for supremacy just as football fans always do to support their teams - only that this one occasionally draws in politicians at the highest levels.

The two prominent varieties of Jollof rice are the Nigerian Jollof and the Ghanaian Jollof. There is a slight difference in the type of rice used, non-basic ingredients, the method of cooking, and the accompaniments.

Nigerian Jollof


Nigerian Jollof is distinguished for its long-grain rice as opposed to the traditional broken rice commonly used for making Jollof in Senegal.

Ingredients of Nigerian Jollof

  • Long grain parboiled rice (not basmati)
  • Tomatoes and tomato paste
  • Onions
  • Stock cubes
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Wash, strain and boil rice until ready
  2. Fry onions in a pan using cooking oil until golden brown
  3. Add tomatoes to the onions keep frying while stirring until a paste is formed
  4. Prepare pepper puree
  5. Mix the tomato paste and pepper puree to form a base
  6. Add parboiled rice into the base, mix and add some little water to allow cooking
  7. Season with salt to taste
  8. Serve with your favorite accompaniments
  • Protein source – beef, chicken, turkey, etc
  • Vegetables - moi moi, salad, steamed vegetables, coleslaw, among others

Ghanaian Jollof


Ghanaian Jollof is mainly distinguished from Nigerian Jollof by its preparation method.


  • Basmati rice
  • Tomato paste
  • Garlic Cloves
  • Onions
  • Bell pepper
  • Beef/goat/chicken
  • Vegetable oil
  1. Season beef/goat/chicken and then fry until fully cooked
  2. Add onions to the fried meat and continue frying until it turns golden.
  3. Add tomatoes followed by spices and then the rest of the ingredients except rice
  4. Once the rest have properly fried, add washed and strained rice. Mix and then add some little water to allow cooking
  5. Season with salt to taste
  6. Serve with your favorite accompaniments

The primary difference between Nigerian Jollof and Ghanaian Jollof is that Ghanaian Jollof is a one-pot meal where all ingredients are combined together at various stages of cooking.

With the Nigerian Jollof, rice is parboiled separately and only mixed afterward. The main protein source is cooked separately unlike with the Ghanaian Jollof where other ingredients are added to the main protein source (meat).

Modern ways of making Jollof

These days Jollof making has undergone a lot of radical changes in terms of its making. Thus, there are many other ingredients added to it. In addition, modern ways of cooking it have evolved. Hence, when it comes to recipes, and more so preparation methods, you will find different instructions from one person to another.

Cultural bonds brought about by Jollof

Jollof, though sometimes bring about intense debates and a strong sense of nationalism, it has extremely significant cultural value. Just like football fans of various teams and nationalities may quarrel, even engage in acts of fistfights and hooliganism, there is one common factor that brings them together – football.

Jollof brings people of Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Gambia, Cameroon, Sierra Leon, Liberia, Mali, Ivory Coast, and Togo to a common dining table. This is one thing that they can all have a conversation about. It is one thing that they all know. It is a staple food that is a national diet for most of them.

Jollof World Day

EMMANUEL AREWA Fans of Jollof, especially in the diaspora have created a Jollof World Day. This is a day where different cultures and nationalities come together and expend their culinary skills in deriving various delicacies of Jollof.

Guests are invited to sample different variations of Jollof and the one who gets the praise as the best Jollof cook wins the ultimate prize. The main intention of the Jollof World Day is to bring West Africans together through sharing of that which is so common among them – Jollof.

It is also aimed at showcasing the West African culinary culture to the rest of the world and in the process help to bring adaptation, appreciation, and understanding.


Food is not just a meal for the stomach but a core essence of culture. Food unites people in a cultural cuisine.

In a planet that is increasingly becoming lonely as social bonds continue to be strained, it is important to explore and celebrate those cultural elements that unite us. Jollof is one such cultural element that unites the people of West Africa.

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