A war rages to this day between the people of Ghana, Nigeria, and Senegal throughout the world. The “Jollof wars” is a battle over which West African country has bragging rights to the best spicy-sweet rice called Jollof Rice (jah-luv rice). This single one-pot rice dish has become subject of endless heated debates, videos, songs, articles, and cook-offs.
While the most passionate voices in the heated Jollof rice conflict are Ghanaian and Nigerian, it is mostly believed that the dish originated when a woman from Senegal replaced barley with rice during a barley shortage. She added fish, vegetables, and tomatoes to create a tasty dish that would work its way along the coast where cooks in Ghana and Nigeria took ownership of the recipe.
To an outsider, the two versions seem fairly similar. But that is a simplistic view. Ask renown British chef Jamie Oliver, who was viscously attacked online by both Ghanaians and Nigerians a for publishing a modified recipe that strayed too far from the original. Both versions do share similar basic ingredients like rice, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, scotch bonnet peppers, spices and cooking oil. The cooking method such as stove top, oven, or open wood fire defines each version. Additional ingredients are added as well.
So, now you understand the great risk in presenting a Jollof rice recipe on this site. The dish is so good that any version is worth taking that risk. This recipe lands closer to the Nigerian Jollof rice. MHT’s Jollof is also finished in the oven rather than over a cooktop or wood fire. It doesn’t replace the delicious crusty-burnt rice on the bottom, but it works well for a home cook looking to through their hat in the ring for best rice. Take your mark!
Jollof Rice – West African Spicy Rice Pilaf
- Food Processor or blender
- Large Dutch oven with cover or large heavy pot
- Medium saucepan
Obe Ata Base
- 14 oz Can, diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 medium Red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, roughly chopped
- 1 medium Habanero pepper (or large Jalapeno), stemmed
- 1 inch Piece ginger root, peeled, sliced, crushed
- ½ medium Red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
- 4 cloves Garlic, peeled
- 2 tbsp Vegetable oil
- ¼ cup Vegetable oil
- ¼ cup Palm oil or double vegetable oil amount
- 2 medium Red onions, peeled, halved and sliced thin
- 4 cloves Garlic, sliced thin
- 1 tbsp Tomato paste
- ¼ tsp Smoked paprika
- 1 tsp Ground turmeric
- 3 cups Parboiled long grain rice (Carolina Gold or Uncle Ben's Original) or 2½ cups jasmine, rinsed till clear
- 5 sprigs Fresh thyme (or 1 tsp dried)
- 1 large Bay leaf
- 2 cups Beef or chicken stock (vegetable for vegetarian)
- Salt and pepper to taste
Prepare Obe Ata
- Combine all ingredients in processor or blender, except oil, and puree on high until smooth. Heat vegetable oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add puree, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook for 20 minutes. Set aside to cool or refrigerate for up to 2 weeks or freeze for a month or so.
- Heat oils in a large pot over medium until shimmering, about 1 minute. Stir in sliced onions and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer ½ of cooked onions to a bowl. To the onions in the pot, add garlic and stir 2 minutes. Add in tomato paste, turmeric, paprika and cook until the onions turn a deep red color, about another 2 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 375°F (190°C). Add Obe Ata sauce to onion mixture and bring to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the rice, thyme, and bay leaf. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Pour in stock, stir, and cover. Transfer pot to oven a cook until rice is just cooked, 35 minutes. Remove pot to stove top and let sit for 15 minutes without lifting the cover.
Serve Jollof Rice
- After 15 minutes, uncover pot, fluff the rice with a fork. Discard bay leaf and thyme sprigs, if used. Stir in reserved cooked onions and adjust seasonings, as desired. Serve warm in a serving bowl or on individual plates.