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 (/əˈlɒf/), or jollof rice, is a rice dish from West Africa. The dish is typically made with long-grain rice, tomatoes, onions, spices, vegetables and meat in a single pot, although its ingredients and preparation methods vary across different regions.

History and origin[edit]

The origins of jollof rice can be traced to the Senegambian region that was ruled by the Wolof or Jolof Empire in the 14th century, spanning parts of today's Senegal, The Gambia and Mauritania, where rice was grown. The dish has its roots in a traditional dish called thieboudienne, containing rice, fish, shellfish and vegetables.[3]

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.[4]

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.[citation needed]

Geographical range and variants[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,[5] 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 and has become the best known African dish outside the continent.[2][6][7][8][9]


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 chilli peppers. 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, chicken, turkey, beef or fish are often served with the dish.[10][11][3]

Regional variations and rivalry[edit]

Each West African country has at least one variant form of the dish, with Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cameroon particularly competitive as to which country makes the best jollof.[3] This is especially prominent between Nigeria and Ghana,[12] in a rivalry dubbed the "Jollof Wars".[13][14]

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 rich meat stock and 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.[15] 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.[citation needed]

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. The method of cooking jollof begins with first preparing the beef or chicken by seasoning and frying it until it is well-cooked.[16] 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.[17][18]

Jollof in Ghana is also served alongside shito, a popular type of pepper which originates from Ghana, and salad during parties and other ceremonies.[19]

Worldwide popularity[edit]

Since the 2010s there has been increasing interest in West African foods in the western world. Jollof food festivals have been held in Washington, DC, in the US, and Toronto, Canada. "World Jollof Day" has been celebrated since 2015 on 22 August, gaining traction on social media.[3]

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. ^ a b c d Sloley, Patti (7 June 2021). "Jollof Wars: Who does West Africa's iconic rice dish best?". BBC Travel. Retrieved 16 July 2021.
  4. ^ Dufumier, Marc (30 March 2018). "Recette : le thiéboudiène de Marc Dufumier". Le Monde. Retrieved 27 October 2018.
  5. ^ Osseo-Asare, Fran (1 January 2005). Food Culture in Sub-Saharan Africa. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 33, 162. ISBN 978-0-313-32488-8.
  6. ^ Davidson, Alan (11 August 2014). "Jollof rice". The Oxford Companion to Food. Oxford University Press. p. 434. ISBN 978-0-19-967733-7.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ Anderson, E. N. (7 February 2014). Everyone Eats: Understanding Food and Culture, Second Edition. NYU Press. p. 106. ISBN 978-0-8147-8916-2.
  9. ^ "Ghana Jollof Recipe: Steps To Preparing Jollof Rice The Ghanaian Way". BuzzGhana - Famous People, Celebrity Bios, Updates and Trendy News. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  10. ^ "Classic Nigerian Jollof Rice Recipe on Food52". Food52. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  11. ^ "Ghana Jollof Recipe: Steps To Preparing Jollof Rice The Ghanaian Way". BuzzGhana - Famous People, Celebrity Bios, Updates and Trendy News. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  12. ^ Oderinde, Busayo. "Busayo Oderinde: The Nigerian Versus Ghanaian Jollof Rice Debate". Bella Naija. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  13. ^ "Know the Differences Between Nigerian and Ghanaian Jollof Rice". Demand Africa. 4 July 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
  14. ^ Adam, Hakeem. "A Brief History of Jollof Rice, a West African Favourite". Culture Trip. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  15. ^ "How to cook Nigerian Jollof Rice". All Nigerian Recipes. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  16. ^ "Ghana: Jollof Rice". The African Food Map. Retrieved 15 November 2016.
  17. ^ Sekibo, Kojo (14 January 2020). "Traditional Ghanaian Jollof Rice Recipe". - Ghana news. Retrieved 16 January 2020.
  18. ^ "Ghana Jollof Recipe: Steps To Preparing Jollof Rice The Ghanaian Way". BuzzGhana - Famous People, Celebrity Bios, Updates and Trendy News. 5 September 2017. Retrieved 18 May 2021.
  19. ^ Sekibo, Kojo (14 January 2020). "Traditional Ghanaian Jollof Rice Recipe". - Ghana news. Retrieved 16 January 2020.

Further reading[edit]