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Foods in Nigeria: Jollof Rice History and Recipe

Across various West African countries, when there’s heavily scent in the air with the delicious aroma of a flavourful rice. This can mean only one thing – jollof rice. Jollof rice is almost everyone’s favourite dish in some countries in the region. No wonder there’s always jollof rice war going on between Ghana and Nigeria, sometimes, Senegal, too. From street food vendors to high-end restaurants, jollof rice is an important aspect of Nigerian life and one of the most recognisable Nigerian exports. Known as ceebu jen in Senegal, jollof across West Africa have their own traditional twists and often local ingredients to make the jollof rice recipes personalized to a particular country. But all, mostly contain a combination of thyme, curry powder, scotch bonnet and bouillon cubes. Beef, chicken, pork or fish can be used in cooking jollof rice, some even do the assorted meat.

There’s hardly any ceremony without the presence of jollof rice, unless you’re trying too hard to make enemies. Like the saying goes – in the end you cannot make everyone happy, you’re not jollof rice. An African food so popular that it has become the continent’s greatest culinary export. 

Origin and History 

Africa’s food scene is a wide and varied edible landscape, and the biggest treat awaits the foodies. Jollof rice is a common African food consumed throughout the West African region. You will always see it in parties, weddings, birthdays, etc. Jollof rice is called riz au gras in some of the French West Africa areas. However, it is called ceebu jen in Senegal and Gambia. The name Jollof is said to be driven from the Wolof people, a name that trace back to Jolof Empire of the Senegambian region. Over the years other cultures have added their influence to this regional dish, and it continue to thrive today as landmark recipe within African cuisine. 

How to make jollof rice at home 

Jollof offers a real eclectic mix of West African cultures and people and its combined history has grown to become the best tasting food in the region. But you don’t have wait until your next vacation in the region to eat some jollof rice, making an authentic jollof rice at home can be attempted by everyone, might not be easy as your everyday rice recipe. Yes, we know not everyone has the cooking skills to do that at home, but it is still perfectly possible to create good jollof rice at home. It is always far more rewarding to make your own, and much more fun. Up your jollof cooking game and add this delicious dish to your repertoire with Dream Africa’s handy prep guide to learn how to make the BEST jollof rice recipe.

Jollof rice recipe 


for 4 servings

  • 2 ½ cups long grain parboiled rice 
  • ½ cup vegetable oil 
  • 1.5kg beef. Alternatively you can use chicken pieces, or whole chicken
  • Diced tomato, 400g 
  • Tomato paste, 150g 
  • 1 habanero pepper 
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder 
  • 2 teaspoons thyme 
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder 
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 2 Maggi/Knorr cubes 
  • Pepper to taste 
  • Salt to taste 


  1. Wash the meat, then wash and cut it into desired chunks. 
  2. Cook meat with the thyme, seasoning cubes, onions and all other ingredients for the meat seasoning. Cook until meat is well done. Separate meat from the stock.
  3. Wash your rice in hot water and rinse with cold water. Parboil just to have it semi-cooked. Rinse the parboiled rice and put in a sieve to drain. 
  4. Slice the tomatoes, paprika and peppers – then blend it all together. Pour the mixture in a pot and cook till it thickens. This is to reduce excess water in the blended mixture.
  5. Heat up some oil in a new pot, add and stir-fry the sliced onions and basil leaves. 
  6. Add rosemary, bay leaves, seasoning cube, then stir-in tomato mixture. Cook till everything is well fried and giving the stew flavour. 
  7. Add the meat stock, and some salt to taste. Add whatever ingredient and seasoning you think isn’t sufficient, and adjust to taste. 
  8. Add the semi-cooked rice, spread it gently with a spoon. Add some more water for steaming, if necessary. You might be adding extra water as the rice cooks so do not add so much. 
  9. Add the meat stir well to incorporate, and cook together with the rice, this allows all the flavour to blend together and makes meat extra tender. 
  10. Allow to cook on a medium heat. Jollof rice tends to burn quickly, to avoid this don’t stir until it has cooked through. 
  11. Cover the pot and leave to cook on low to medium heat. This way the rice does not burn before the water dries up. 
  12. Serve jollof rice with fried meat, boiled eggs, dodo (fried plantain), if desired. 
  13. Enjoy!

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