Jollof rice

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Jollof rice
Jollof rice.jpg
Jollof rice
Alternative namesBenachin, riz au gras, ceebu jën, zaamè
TypeRice dish
Region or stateWest Africa[1][2]
Main ingredientsRice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onions, cooking oil, goat meat, chicken, or beef

Jollof rice, or jollof (/əˈlɒf/), also known as benachin[3] in Wolof ('one pot'), is a one-pot rice dish popular in many West African countries such as The Gambia, Senegal, Ghana, Nigeria, Benin, Cameroon, Sierra Leone, Côte d'Ivoire, Liberia, Togo and Mali.[4][5][6][7] It is also called 'reddish one-pot dish' and varies in these countries.[8]

Geographical range, history and origin[edit]

Jollof rice is one of the most common dishes in West Africa. There are several regional variations in name and ingredients,[1] for example, in Mali it is called zaamè in Bamanankan. The dish's most common name of Jollof derives from the name of the Wolof people,[9] though in Senegal and Gambia the dish is referred to in Wolof as ceebu jën or benachin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. Despite the variations, the dish is "mutually intelligible" across the regions had become the best known African dish outside the continent.[2][6].

Based on its name, the origins of jollof rice can be traced to the Senegambian region that was ruled by the Jolof Empire. Food and agriculture historian James C. McCann considers this claim plausible given the popularity of rice in the upper Niger valley, but considers it unlikely that the dish could have spread from Senegal to its current range since such a diffusion is not seen in "linguistic, historical or political patterns". Instead he proposes that the dish spread with the Mali empire, especially the Djula tradespeople who dispersed widely to the regional commercial and urban centers, taking with them economic arts of "blacksmithing, small-scale marketing, and rice agronomy" as well as the religion of Islam.[2] Marc Dufumier, Emeritus Professor of Agronomy proposes a more recent origin for the dish, which may only have appeared as a consequence of the colonial promotion of intensive peanut cropping in central Senegal for the French oil industry, and where commensurate reduction in the planted area of traditional millet and sorghum staples was compensated by forced imports of broken rice from Southeast Asia.[10] It may then have spread throughout the region through the historical commercial, cultural and religious channels linking Senegal with Ghana, Nigeria and beyond, many of which continue to thrive today, such as the Tijāniyyah Sufi brotherhood bringing thousands of West African pilgrims to Senegal annually.


Fried rice, jollof rice and salad, served with grilled chicken

Jollof rice traditionally consists of rice, cooking oil, vegetables such as tomato, onion, red pepper, garlic, ginger and scotch bonnet. To enhance the colour of the dish, tomato paste (purée) is added. As seasoning spices, salt, seasoning/stock cubes (a blend of flavour enhancers, salt, nutmeg and herbs), curry powder and dried thyme are used. To complement the dish, red and white meats (I.e. chicken, turkey, beef), and fish are often served with the dish.


The main ingredients of jollof rice are rice and tomatoes; neither has any saturated fat or cholesterol.[11] The addition of palm oil does add saturated fat. Jollof is primarily carbohydrates, as it is a rice dish. Since jollof is often served with chicken, beef, and/or turkey, it is complemented by the protein from those accompanying dishes. Fish is sometimes used as an accompaniment, and can provide the dish with omega-3 fatty acids, as well as protein.

Nigerian and Ghanaian rivalry[edit]

Due to the differences in regional recipes, the various regions where jollof rice is common are competitive over which variant tastes the best. This is especially prominent between Nigeria and Ghana.[12] These differences have brought about the "Jollof Wars" between Nigeria and Ghana.[13]

Nigerian jollof[edit]

Although considerable variation exists, the basic profile for Nigerian jollof rice includes long grain parboiled rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, pepper, vegetable oil, onions, and stock cubes. Most of the ingredients are cooked in one pot, of which a fried tomato and pepper puree characteristically forms the base. Rice is then added and left to cook in the liquid. The dish is then served with the protein of choice and very often with fried plantains, moi moi, steamed vegetables, coleslaw, salad, etc.[14]

In the riverine areas of Nigeria where seafood is the main source of protein, seafood often takes the place of chicken or meat as the protein of choice and there are variations of the classic jollof rice; including coconut jollof rice, fisherman jollof rice (made with prawns, periwinkles, crayfish), mixed vegetables jollof rice, and rice and beans. More economical versions of jollof rice are popularly referred to among Nigerians as “concoction rice,” the preparation of which can involve as little as rice and pepper.

Ghanaian jollof[edit]

Ghanaian jollof rice is made of vegetable oil, onion, bell pepper, cloves of pressed garlic, chillies, tomato paste, beef or goat meat or chicken (some times alternated with mixed vegetables), local or refined rice and black pepper.[15] The method of cooking jollof begins with first preparing the beef or chicken by seasoning and frying it until it is well-cooked.[15] The rest of the ingredients are then fried all together, starting from onions, pepper, tomato paste,tomatoes and spices in that order. After all the ingredients have been fried, rice is then added and cooked until the meal is prepared. Ghanaian jollof is typically served with side dishes of beef, chicken, well-seasoned fried fish, or mixed vegetables.[16]

Jollof in Ghana is also served alongside shito, a popular type of pepper which originates from Ghana, and salad during parties and other ceremonies.[17]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Ayto, John (2012). "Jollof rice". The Diner's Dictionary: Word Origins of Food and Drink (2nd ed.). Oxford University Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-0199640249.
  2. ^ a b c McCann, James C. (2009). A west African culinary grammar". Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine. Ohio University Press. pp. 133–135. ISBN 978-0896802728.
  3. ^ Adam, Hakeem. "A Brief History of Jollof Rice, a West African Favourite". Culture Trip. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  4. ^ Brasseaux, Ryan A.; Brasseaux, Carl A. (1 February 2014). "Jambalaya". In Edge, John T. (ed.). The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 7: Foodways. University of North Carolina Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-4696-1652-0.
  5. ^ Anderson, E. N. (7 February 2014). Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture, Second Edition. NYU Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-8147-8916-2.
  6. ^ a b Davidson, Alan (11 August 2014). "Jollof rice". The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 434. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7.
  7. ^ "Ghana Jollof Recipe: Steps To Preparing Jollof Rice The Ghanaian Way". BuzzGhana - Famous People, Celebrity Bios, Updates and Trendy News. 2017-09-05. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  8. ^ "Ghana Jollof Recipe: Steps To Preparing Jollof Rice The Ghanaian Way". BuzzGhana - Famous People, Celebrity Bios, Updates and Trendy News. 2017-09-05. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  9. ^ Osseo-Asare, Fran (1 January 2005). Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 33, 162. ISBN 978-0-313-32488-8.
  10. ^ Dufumier, Marc (March 30, 2018). "Recette : le thiéboudiène de Marc Dufumier". Le Monde. Retrieved 2018-10-27.
  11. ^ "Nigerian Jollof Rice & Chicken Recipe". Calorie Count. Archived from the original on 15 November 2016. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  12. ^ Oderinde, Busayo. "Busayo Oderinde: The Nigerian Versus Ghanaian Jollof Rice Debate". Bella Naija. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  13. ^ Adam, Hakeem. "A Brief History of Jollof Rice, a West African Favourite". Culture Trip. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  14. ^ "How to cook Nigerian Jollof Rice". All Nigerian Recipes. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  15. ^ a b "Ghana: Jollof Rice". The African Food Map. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  16. ^ Sekibo, Kojo (2020-01-14). "Traditional Ghanaian Jollof Rice Recipe". - Ghana news. Retrieved 2020-01-16.
  17. ^ Sekibo, Kojo (2020-01-14). "Traditional Ghanaian Jollof Rice Recipe". - Ghana news. Retrieved 2020-01-16.

Further reading[edit]