I am feeling controversial, so let me start by saying that Nigerian Jollof rice is and always will be the best as far as rice goes.
I sense rotten tomatoes coming my way from my fellow West Africans after that bold statement! However, there is no denying that Jollof rice is a classic in the African region, no matter how the dish is prepared.
I am thrilled to be back on the blog. It seems like forever since my last post. I have been battling rhinitis. It feels like my nose is about to fall off my face. I am still unsure what allergen I keep reacting to, but it's safe to say it's going to be a great weekend since I haven't sneezed in 24 hours. Can I hear a hallelujah?
What is Jollof Rice?
Jollof rice is a rice dish from West Africa. Many would argue it first originated from Senegal, but others swear it's from Nigeria. No matter the origin, jolof is one dish that binds us all across Africa and it's swiftly gaining international recognition and popularity.
Nigerian Jollof is a stewed base rice dish made with three main ingredients such as rice, tomato/pepper- stew base, and African-style seasonings like curry powder, dried thyme, and chicken stock cube.
Not only is this easy rice dish a party favorite in its native land, but it is also globally recognized - ask my American and European friends who have begged me to make this on countless occasions!
A little back story
Growing up in Nigeria, I know how this dish is often made over firewood, giving it a very distinctive taste, one that I long for and can't replicate now that I am away from my home country.
That was until I met my native caterer here in Dallas. She catered for a friend's party, and I was blown away by the taste of her jollof rice. It was exactly like the one they make back home. Of course, I proceeded to ask her, but she refused to reveal the secret ingredient(I guess for fear that I might start the business and take her customers).
I would hesitate as well. I mean, it's like asking Wendy's restaurant what the secret ingredient is for their pomegranate vinaigrette dressing(I never stop asking them in hopes that someone will slip up one day, fingers crossed).
So, after much persuasion from my friend, I was able to get the full gist. Yes, my dearest snitched! For that, my palate will forever be indebted to her.
Jollof Rice Secret Ingredient list revealed
This bad boy right here is the reason I get giggly whenever I am feeling nostalgic. If you think naijajollof is already flavorful with its essential ingredients, wait until you add liquid smoke. A teaspoon or two of this liquid will leave your dish exploding with flavor. It elevates the recipe to a whole new level. Like, way up there awesome. Seriously, snap your wig off your head kind of situation.
Are you down with this? You can find one at your local grocery store or on amazon. Score! (Update- I tried other liquid smoke brands, but they didn't perform as well as the Figaro brand, so it's safe to say this Figaro liquid smoke MESQUITE is one of the best).
To make this flavorful Naija party Jollof dish, you will need;
- Red bell peppers
- onion ( I prefer the purple ones. However, I used sweet onion for this dish)
- scotch bonnet (also known as Caribbean peppers or Bonney peppers)
- fresh ginger roots
- long-grain rice
- vegetable oil
- bay leaves
- tomato paste
- chicken or beef stock
- Some seasonings like; curry powder (African or Caribbean), dried thyme, seasoning cubes(I love Knorr cubes), salt, and the holy grail for this one-pot rice dish-liquid smoke.
How to make Smoky Jollof Rice without Firewood
1) First, you will need a large onion or three small ones. I usually cut the large onion into three parts. One part is chopped in wedges to be blended, the other part is finely chopped for sautéeing, and the remaining part is thinly sliced for the final cooking process. The same goes for the tomato. You will blend three and slice the remainder for later use.
Core and deseed the bell peppers. Chop the tomato(3), peppers, onion, and ginger. Place them in a blender or food processor and process them until puréed.
2) Next, heat oil in a heavy bottom pot. Add bay leaves and onion, and saute for a few minutes. Add tomato paste, fry for a minute, then add the blended mixture. Continue to fry until the sauce decreases in volume, about 15 minutes. Once the sauce is cooked, you will see a little oil settle at the sauce's top.
3) Meanwhile, rinse the rice thoroughly under cold running water until the water is no longer cloudy, then set it aside. I used long-grain, parboiled rice. I do not recommend basmati or brown rice. Basmati rice isn't sturdy enough for this dish; it will end up mushy. Ask for Brown rice; it might not soak up all the ingredients in time before the dish is complete because of the brown husk around the rice.
4) Add the seasoning and stock to the sauce (I used chicken stock). It is entirely okay to use beef or vegetable stock or good old water. I feel the stock elevates the taste of the dish.
Stir to mix all the ingredients. Now add the rice and stir ONCE. It is imperative not to over-stir once the rice is added because it will begin to burn before it cooks.
Cover the pot with a large sheet of aluminum foil, then put the lid on the pan, ensuring it's properly sealed. This helps to retain moisture, enabling the rice to steam appropriately with less liquid. If you are concerned about the foil leaching into the food, use a thick dish towel; don't forget to fold the dish towel over the lid, keeping it away from the fire.
Try not to peek through while the rice cooks. Allow cooking on medium-low heat for twenty minutes.
5) Yes! Peeking now is safe. Remove lid and check for doneness. Adjust seasoning if you are not satisfied with the taste at this point. Add the onion, tomato, more liquid smoke, and chopped basil to the pot. Stir thoroughly and simmer on low heat for two minutes. Add the butter, and fluff with a fork. Remove from heat and serve.
Ta-da! Pipping hot, delicious smoky jollof rice ready to be devoured. I love to serve it alongside fried plantain or meat. It's a match made in heaven.
The best part about this jollof rice recipe is that you can prepare it ahead of time. You can also put the leftover in the fridge for up to two days. Although we serve this dish as a main course back home, you can enjoy it with other dishes as an add-on. It tastes magnificent alone and is exceptional when served with fried plantain, chicken, goat meat, or shrimps.
Variations and Substitutions
Parboiled rice: I used long grain rice for this recipe, like the Uncle Ben's rice well known in the U.S. You can use Basmati or Jasmine rice instead. If you do, use a cup or two less liquid to avoid having mushy rice. Reduce the cooking time per the direction on the back of the package of rice.
Stew Base: I used a combination of fresh tomatoes and peppers. You can use solely red bell peppers, with the scotch bonnets or habanero. Make sure to fry the stew base down before adding the rice.
Any tomato paste will do. If you don't like your jollof rice spicy, use skip the habanero and use cayenne powder.
Stock: to make this dish truly authentic, we use homemade stock like chicken or beef. If you don't have the patience to make one, use store-bought stock NOT broth.
Seasoning: I would advise against altering any of the seasonings used as this adds a unique taste to the dish. But, if you have health or dietary reasons why you can't use what's listed, feel free to use smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, and curry powder from either India or the Caribbeans.
An easy, flavorful, one-pot dish that will leave your West African friends wondering how you got that smoky taste they've been trying to figure out all along. Please let me know in the comment section below if you made this rice dish and how you liked it. Don't forget to Pin and share this recipe. We'll chat soon.
PEACE & LOVE
Other African Recipes to try
NIGERIAN JOLLOF RICE
- 2 large Red bell peppers, halved lengthwise and seeded (tatashe)
- 1 large red onion, divided into 3 parts
- 5 Roma tomatoes
- 1 scotch bonnet (or habanero)
- ¼ inch fresh ginger root, skin removed
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3½ cups long grain parboiled rice
- ½ cup vegetable oil (any neutral tasting oil is fine, too)
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste (I love the "Derica" brand)
- 1 teaspoon curry powder (preferably Ducros or Lion brand)
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme (preferably Ducros or Lion brand)
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
- 2 seasoning cubes (I used Knorr)
- salt to taste
- 3 cups stock (chicken or beef)
- A handful of basil, chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon butter
- Divide the onion into 3 portions. Chop one portion, slice the other portion very thin and cut the rest into wedges. Also, cut 3 of the Roma tomatoes into wedges and slice the remainder thinly for later use. .
- Place the red bell pepper, wedged onion and tomato, scotch bonnet, ginger, and garlic in a blender. Process until it's roughly chopped.
- Meanwhile, place a heavy bottom saucepan over medium-high heat. Pour in the oil, heat up a bit, add the chopped portion of the onion and bay leaves. Allow cooking for 2 minutes. As soon as the onion and bay leave become aromatic, add the tomato paste, and fry for about 2 minutes. Add the pureed mix, cover, and bring to a boil for 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, rinse the rice thoroughly under running water until the water turns clear. Set aside.
- Add seasoning cube, salt, curry powder, thyme, and liquid smoke to the sauce. Stir to combine. Add 3 cups of stock and stir in a circular motion once. Add the rice, stir ONCE in a steady stream. Cover the pot with aluminum foil and then with the lid. Lower heat to medium-low and cook for 20 minutes.
- Check for doneness and adjust the taste. Add basil, the thinly sliced onion, a teaspoon of liquid smoke, and tomato. Stir completely and simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Add the butter, and fluff with a fork. Remove from heat and serve.