Wedding, funerals, naming ceremonies, get togethers, celebration times = Jollof rice in many West African countries. If you have been lucky to be invited to one of their party times, you would notice this vibrant, flavorful rice dish that they love and adore. Spiced and stewed in a tomato based broth and seasoned with curry powder, thyme and scotch bonnet peppers, this is a rice dish you are gonna love!!
What is Jollof Rice?
The name Jollof is said to come from the Wolof people of Senegal. Known by many different names in different countries, Jollof is a one pot rice dish often called “reddish one-pot dish”. It is popular in many West African countries including Nigeria, Ghana, Gambia, Senegal, Cameroon, Mali, Sierra, Ivory Coast and Liberia. There are several regional variations, the difference being the method of cooking or the ingredients used .
Everybody is quite passionate and possessive over their beloved jollof, ready to go to war proving theirs is the BEST out there. These verbal “Jollof Wars” are well known, especially between Nigeria and Ghana. Typically this dish is rice cooked in a tomato based sauce or broth. Often it is supplemented by some veggies and meats like chicken, beef or goat, sometimes even seafood.
I decided to cook my first Jollof taking inspiration from both Nigerian and Ghanaian styles, as both seem to have ingredients I thought I would like in my jollof.
You can cook this on your stovetop or in the oven, but today we are using the oven method. I find it easier and love how the chicken ends up so tender and the rice so perfect.
- Basmati rice – Nigerians use par boiled long grain rice and Ghanaians use jasmine or basmati rice. I am more used to basmati and have loved it all my life, so basmati it is.
- Tomato sauce – So important to create those vibrant flavors and colors. One of the most distinguishing ingredient of jollof.
- Onion – To create the base.
- Bell peppers – I used red and yellow bell peppers.
- Garlic – I love plenty.
- Ginger – Another of my favorites.
- Curry powder – The popularity of this spice blend in African cuisine is famous.
- Thyme – Great flavor.
- Chicken – Bone in, skin on thighs and/or drumsticks are best for jollof. The end result is tender fall off the bone meat.
- Chicken broth – To cook the rice.
- Bay leaves – A little extra flavor.
- Salt and Pepper – To taste.
- Scotch bonnet peppers – You need a little heat here, but it’s up to you how much. Easily customized. If you can’t find them, habanero are a good alternative, though they have slightly less heat.
This is how to cook Jollof Rice in your own kitchen
Season chicken with salt and pepper and shallow fry in your preheated, oiled, pan (I am using my beloved cast iron, as later I am sticking the same pot in the oven to finish the cooking) over medium to medium high heat. Shallow fry 4-5 minutes per side. You want some golden brown color on each side.
Remove from pan and set aside. Around this time start preheating your oven to 350°F.
Add chopped onion and peppers to the same pan. Sauté until soft. Stir in chopped garlic and ginger and sauté for one minute.
Now add in tomato sauce, thyme, curry powder and diced scotch bonnet pepper. Be very careful handling these, and wash your hand well afterwards, as they are very hot.
Salt and pepper to your preference, but be cautious with salt, as we will be using chicken broth, which has plenty of sodium. Mix everything well. Add basmati rice and mix for a minute so the rice is nicely coated.
Pour in chicken broth and give everything a good stir. Now place the chicken back into the pot, add your bay leaves, and cover with foil. Cook in preheated oven at 350°F for one hour.
You will be notified that the rice is almost done when the most amazing smells started wafting out of your oven. When you open that foil you will be greeted by beautifully colored, steaming, comforting rice sprinkled with perfect fall off the bone chicken. The rice is perfectly fluffed when baked in the oven and is flavored with just the right amount of spices and herbs. By adding the chicken (or any other meat), this is a complete one pot meal and you don’t need to cook anything else. Though next time I might try it with a side of my tomato cucumber raita.
Can I store this delicious dish? Oh yes. This meal is perfect as left overs, as all the flavors are enhanced the next day, so go ahead and make a huge pot. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. You can freeze in an airtight container, but for best quality I recommend eating within one month.
Did you say I can cook it on stovetop? Yes, in fact it’s a bit quicker. Follow all instructions up until the point you would place you dish in the oven. At this point, bring everything up to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and cook 15-20 minutes. As cooking times vary depending on your stove, I recommend checking after 15 minutes. You want your rice tender and all liquid absorbed.
What variations can I try? Throw in any vegetables you like! I have tried mushrooms, carrots and even half ears of corn. You can also try this with beef, I would recommend stew meat. Shrimp is another great option, but you want to cook them separately and add them at the end, otherwise they can get overcooked and rubbery.
Next time you have some party coming up… some get together… some company coming in… blow them away with these amazing African flavors. Bring festivity and celebration into your home with this colorful one pot meal! Have fun!!
Chicken Jollof Rice, on my Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
- 6 chicken pieces (legs and/or thighs)
- 2 Tbsp cooking oil
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 onion
- 2 bell peppers (I used red and yellow)
- 1 cup tomato sauce
- 5 cloves garlic
- 1 Tbsp chopped ginger
- 3 tsp dried thyme
- 3 tsp curry powder
- 3 bay leaves
- 2 scotch bonnet peppers (vary depending on your heat tolerance)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Preheat oil cast iron skillet, or other oven safe pan, over medium high heat.
- Season chicken with salt and pepper and place in pan. Brown 4-5 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.
- Chop vegetables, ginger and garlic.
- Add onions and peppers to same pan, cook until soft.
- Add garlic and ginger, stir and cook 1 minute.
- Stir in tomato sauce, thyme, curry powder, chopped scotch bonnet peppers, salt and pepper. Once well mixed, add rice and stir well.
- Pour in chicken broth, stir, then place chicken pieces in the pan. Add in bay leaves.
- Cover pan with foil. Place in preheated oven and bake 1 hour.
Scotch bonnet peppers are very hot. If you are heat sensitive, you can omit them or use less quantity. After chopping, be sure to wash hands thoroughly. Do not touch your eyes, mouth or nose until your hands are washed.
Nutrition InformationYield 6 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 444Total Fat 24gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 17gCholesterol 169mgSodium 936mgCarbohydrates 26gFiber 3gSugar 5gProtein 35g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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