Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice

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Jollof Rice Recipe (Nigerian Rice) - Chili Pepper Madness

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 – 2/3rd. 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

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

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup oil (vegetable/canola/coconut, not olive oil)
  • medium-sized fresh plum/Roma tomatoes, chopped, OR a 400-gram tin of tomatoes
  • fresh, red poblano peppers (or 4 large red bell peppers), seeds discarded
  • 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
  • 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

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, 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 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 flavour. Turn down the heat and cook on low for 30 minutes.
  5. Stir rice—taste and adjust as required.
  6. If you like, add sliced onions, fresh tomatoes and the 2nd teaspoon of butter and stir through.
  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!