Jollof rice

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Jollof rice
Jollof rice.jpg
Jollof rice
Alternative names Benachin, riz au gras, theibou dienn
Type Rice dish
Region or state West Africa[1][2]
Main ingredients Rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onions , cooking oil (any oil of your choice)
Cookbook: Jollof rice  Media: Jollof rice

Jollof rice /ˈɒləf/, also called Benachin (Wolof: "one pot"), is a one-pot rice dish popular in many West African countries. It is the progenitor of the Louisianian dish jambalaya.[3][4][5] Jollof rice can be served with any kind of meat or chicken. World Jollof Rice Day is every 22nd August.

Geographical range and origin[edit]

Jollof rice is one of the most common dishes in Western Africa, consumed throughout the region including Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Cameroon, Mali and Ghana. There are several regional variations in name and ingredients, with non-local versions regarded as "inauthentic".[1] The name Jollof rice derives from the name of the Wolof people,[6] though now called theibou dienn or benachin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. Despite the variations, the dish is "mutually intelligible" across the region, and has spread along with the diaspora to become the best known African dish outside the continent.[2][5]

The points of origin of the dish are mostly debated among Ghanaians and Nigerians, each claiming to be the original inventors of the Jollof rice. Jollof rice is typically seen as a culturally sensitive issue between Nigerians and Ghanaians. Based on its name, the origins of Jollof rice are 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]

General Ingredients[edit]

Fried Rice, Jollof rice and salad, served with grilled chicken

The dish consists of rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onions, salt, spices (such as nutmeg, ginger, Scotch bonnet (pepper), and cumin) and chili peppers; optional ingredients can be added such as vegetables, meats, or fish.[7] Due to the tomato paste and palm oil, the dish is always red in colour.[5]

The cooking method for Jollof rice begins with using oil (palm or peanut oil) to fry finely-chopped onions, tomatoes and ground pepper (plus any other optional seasoning); adding stock; and then cooking the rice in this mixture so it takes up all the liquid. The rice takes on a characteristic orange color from the mixture. The orange colour is derived from the tomato paste that is being used during the process of the cooking. The more tomato paste is being used the more orange the jollof rice would be, most times it is advisable to use in minimal way and to the amount of rice that is going to be cooked because you don’t want your jollof rice to be looking red.It can be served with cooked meat, such as chicken or fish, and vegetables separately on the plate or they can be stirred in at the end. Optional ingredients can include garlic, peas, thyme, tea-bush leaves, partminger (a herb from the basil family), and curry powder. It is also often served with fried plantain and salad. Jambalaya, a dish traditionally made in the southern United States, is heavily influenced by jollof rice, as well as other West African dishes and spices.

Nigerian and Ghanaian Debate[edit]

There are multiple regions in Africa who debate over the geographical origins of Jollof rice however, one of the most longstanding and popular debates between two regions, has typically been between Nigerians and Ghanaians. The main argument over this debate is surrounded on which country had invented Jollof rice, and on whose tastes better. The reason for the debate is due to the huge popularity of Jollof rice, in regards to West African cuisine. Both Nigeria and Ghana have shown consistent competitiveness over the debate as to who can serve the dish the best.[8] The debate has gone so far as to even having organized contest shows, in order for famous critics from all over the world to taste, examine the differences, and give their overall judgments on either forms of the dish. Recently, social media has also become a popular tool for people to share pictures, and opinions over who serves the dish the best.

Nigerian Jollof[edit]

The main ingredients for Nigerian Jollof rice includes cooking oil, onions, bell pepper, scotch bonnet, tomato paste, salt, stock, curry, thyme, ginger, garlic, and whole grain rice. The ingredients are all made in a large pot, are fried and accompanied by a sauce made of blended peppers and tomato paste. Rice is then added until the meat has been fully cooked. Nigerian Jollof rice can be eaten with any kind of meat such as, fish or chicken. Most Nigerians serve the dish with a side of sliced, fried Plantain, also referred to as dodo.

Ghanaian Jollof[edit]

Ghanaian Jollof rice is made up of vegetable oil, onion, bell pepper, cloves of pressed garlic, chillies, tomato paste, beef or chicken (some times alternated with mixed vegetables), long grain rice and black pepper.[9] The method of cooking Jollof rice begins with first preparing the beef or chicken by seasoning and frying it until it is well cooked.[10] The rest of the ingredients are then fried altogether, starting from onions, 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 and fried fish and/or mixed vegetables.


The main ingredients of Jollof rice are rice and tomatoes, both of these ingredients have no saturated fat and no cholesterol.[11] It also contains carbohydrates, the carbohydrates are primarily from the rice that is used in making the Jollof. Most of the time, Jollof Rice is served with chicken, beef, eggs and turkey. All of these contain protein in them, making the dish fairly high in protein. Fish is also another alternative to meat, which can provide the dish with omega-3 fatty acids, rather than how it would usually have a higher amount of protein. Vegetarians will often choose to eat Jollof rice with salad or coleslaw instead of most meats, and gain vitamins and minerals in their body from vegetables. Tomatoes also play a main role in making Jollof rice, therefore the dish contains a vegetable that provides a well amount of vitamins and minerals. Amidst the basic nutritional facts of the dish, consuming heavy amounts of Jollof rice can still pose health risks. The health risks associated with this dish mainly derive from the high rice amount in the dish. Rice is known as a staple food, and although it contains carbohydrates which provide sufficient amount of energy to the body, it also contains high levels of arsenic,[12] which can be detrimental to the body if the intake is too high.[13]


In the event of special occasions such as birthdays, weddings or baby showers, the dish can be presented and served in a way in which the rice is made into shapes, overall creating a more formal presentation of the dish. Fried plantain is also placed at the top, or at the side of the Jollof rice, and then various meats are added around the rest of the dish.

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. ^ Brasseaux, Ryan A.; Brasseaux, Carl A. (1 February 2014). "Jambalaya". In Edge, John T. The New Encyclopedia of Southern Culture: Volume 7: Foodways. University of North Carolina Press. p. 188. ISBN 978-1-4696-1652-0. 
  4. ^ Anderson, E. N. (7 February 2014). Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture, Second Edition. NYU Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-8147-8916-2. 
  5. ^ a b c Davidson, Alan (11 August 2014). "Jollof rice". The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 434. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7. 
  6. ^ Osseo-Asare, Fran (1 January 2005). Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 33, 162. ISBN 978-0-313-32488-8. 
  7. ^ Ferruzza, Charles (October 1, 2013). "Esther's African Cuisine leaves the light on for you". The Pitch. Retrieved 2013-10-08. Meals are served with white rice or, for an upcharge, an extraordinary concoction of rice cooked with tomatoes, carrots, onions, peas and shredded chicken called Jealof rice. 'It's the Sunday dish in my country,' [Esther] Mulbah says. It's hearty and comforting, as a side or a full meal. 
  8. ^ Oderinde, Busayo. "Busayo Oderinde: The Nigerian Versus Ghanaian Jollof Rice Debate". Bella Naija. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  9. ^ "Ghana: Jollof Rice". The African Food Map. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  10. ^ "Ghana: Jollof Rice". The African Food Map. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  11. ^ "Nigerian Jollof Rice & Chicken Recipe". Calorie Count. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  12. ^ "Is White Rice Healthy?". Wellness Mama. Retrieved 15 November 2016. 
  13. ^ "Arsenic in Rice: Should You Be Concerned?". Authority Nutrition. Retrieved 15 November 2016.