Jollof Rice: Recipe and History of Nigeria’s National Dish

Last updated on October 20th, 2023 at 01:17 pm

Jollof Rice

Jollof rice, a widely recognized dish in Nigeria, has won over the taste buds of numerous enthusiasts thanks to its exquisite flavors and vibrant color palette, catapulting it as one of the most beloved dishes throughout the West African region.

This delicacy has ancestral roots and is the subject of countless anecdotes, including what could be termed a “culinary war.” Each country in the East African region has crafted its own interpretation of this beloved dish, and nations like Ghana, Nigeria, and Cameroon take their jollof very seriously, competing fervently for the title of the best version. People refer to this rivalry as the “Jollof Wars.”

Know more about this dish in this guide that our team at Remitly created. To celebrate the culinary cuisine of customers around the world, we will tell you everything about the world’s most fascinating dishes.

The Origin of Nigerian Jollof Rice

The history of Jollof rice dates back to ancient times, possibly as far back as the 14th century, when it is believed to have originated in the ancient Senegambia region. At that time, what is now Senegal and Gambia was under the rule of the Jolof Empire, hence the name of this dish.

Over time, Jollof rice spread throughout West Africa thanks to trade and migrations. Each country contributed its unique touch to the recipe, giving rise to the numerous variations enjoyed today. To such an extent that Nigerians eventually designated the dish as their national dish, thanks to its high regard.

Ingredients and Preparation of Jollof Rice

The beauty of jollof rice lies in its simplicity. At its core, it requires only a few ingredients: rice, tomatoes, onions, and peppers. These form the base for this popular dish. However, other ingredients often used include garlic, ginger, and spices like thyme and curry powder for added flavor. Meat or fish can also be included, depending on personal preference or occasion.

Cooking jollof rice involves several steps that contribute to its distinctive taste. First off is preparing the tomato stew – a blend of tomatoes, peppers, and onions fried in oil until it forms a thick sauce.

Next comes parboiling the rice before adding it to the stew along with meat stock for extra flavor. The mixture is then left to simmer until all liquid evaporates, leaving behind perfectly cooked grains, each carrying a hint of spice.

A Basic Recipe for Jollof Rice

Would you like to savor this delicacy? You don’t need to import ingredients from Africa to prepare it.  Jollof rice is a versatile dish that can be tailored to individual tastes. Here’s a basic recipe to get you started.


  • 2 cups of long-grain parboiled rice
  • 4 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Vegetable oil for frying
  • Chicken stock (optional)


  1. Rinse the rice under cold water until the water runs clear. Set aside.
  2. Blend the tomatoes and bell pepper into a smooth paste.
  3. Heat oil in a pot and sauté onions until translucent.
  4. Add garlic, thyme, curry powder and salt to the onions and stir well.
  5. Pour in the tomato-pepper blend and fry until it reduces into a thick sauce.
  6. Add the rinsed rice to the pot along with chicken stock if using.
  7. Cover and let it simmer on low heat until all liquid evaporates and rice is cooked through.

Remember, this is just a basic recipe; feel free to add other ingredients like vegetables or proteins according to your preference.

How Jollof Rice is Served and Eaten

Jollof rice can be enjoyed on its own, but it’s often served with sides like fried plantains, coleslaw or moin-moin (a steamed bean pudding). It’s typically eaten with a spoon and can be found at nearly every social gathering. Its presence signifies celebration and communal dining, which are integral parts of Nigerian culture.

It symbolizes abundance and shared joy. Serving jollof rice at events is seen as an act of hospitality and generosity towards guests. It’s more than just sustenance—it’s tradition.

Despite being the national dish of Nigeria, tasting each of the regional versions of this dish in different West African countries is a unique experience. The friendly rivalry to determine who prepares the best jollof only adds more charm to this delicious culinary tradition.

Exploring Nigerian Cuisine Beyond Jollof Rice

Nigerian cuisine offers an array of dishes as diverse as its people. Each region has its specialties, reflecting local produce and cultural influences.

Soups and Stews

Soups are an integral part of Nigerian cuisine, often served with ‘swallow’ – starchy foods like pounded yam or garri that are used to scoop up the soup. Popular soups include Egusi made from melon seeds, okra soup known for its slimy texture, and bitterleaf soup which despite its name isn’t bitter at all.

Stews are also common, often made with a tomato base and varying proteins. Ayamase, a spicy green pepper stew, and efo riro, a spinach-based stew, are well-known examples.

Snacks and Street Food

Nigeria’s street food scene is vibrant, offering quick bites like suya (spicy grilled meat skewers), akara (fried bean cakes), and puff puff (sweet dough balls). These snacks are not only delicious, but also offer insight into Nigeria’s culinary traditions.


Nigerian beverages range from refreshing palm wine tapped from palm trees to zobo, a drink made from dried hibiscus petals. Kunu, a milky drink made from grains like millet or sorghum, is another favorite.

In conclusion, Nigerian cuisine is rich in flavors and textures, offering something for everyone. Whether it’s the comforting Jollof rice or the fiery suya skewers, each dish tells a story of Nigeria’s diverse culture and history.

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