Chef John's Jollof Rice


This is a foolproof recipe for cooking Jollof rice, West Africa’s most popular dish. I like to serve it as a side with my West African-style grilled beef (Suya), but it can also be a main course.

Prep Time:
15 mins
Cook Time:
30 mins
Stand Time:
12 mins
Total Time:
57 mins


Tomato Sauce:

  • 1 large, ripe tomato, cored and quartered

  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

  • 1 whole habanero pepper, stem removed

  • 1 whole Fresno chili, or jalapeño, stem removed

  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger

  • 2 cups water


  • 1/3 cup olive oil

  • 1 red onion, diced

  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

  • 1/4 cup tomato paste

  • 2 tablespoons smoked paprika

  • 1 teaspoon curry powder

  • 1 teaspoon cumin

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric

  • 2 1/4 cups basmati rice

  • 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon chicken bouillon paste

  • 1/4 cup chopped green onion for garnish (optional)

  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)


  1. Combine tomato, red bell pepper, habanero pepper, fresno chili, garlic, ginger, and water in a blender for the sauce. Blend on high until smooth and set aside.

  2. Heat olive oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and salt and sauté until onion starts to soften, 4 to 5 minutes. Clear space in the middle of the pan, add tomato paste, and sauté for 2 to 3 minutes. Season with paprika, curry powder, cumin, thyme, pepper, and turmeric; continue cooking for 1 to 2 minutes until everything is well combined.

  3. Turn off the heat, and stir in the rice, making sure every grain of rice is coated with the oil-tomato mixture. Add bay leaf and chicken bouillon paste.

  4. Turn heat to high, stir in tomato sauce, and bring to a vigorous simmer. Cover with a tight fitting lid, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Do not remove the lid or stir rice.

  5. Turn off heat after 20 minutes, and set the timer for 12 minutes. Allow rice to sit and do not remove the lid.

  6. After the 12 minutes are up, remove lid, and fluff rice with a fork, separating all the grains. Serve garnished with green onions and chopped cilantro.

    Cook's Note:

    If rice seems to be a little undercooked at this point, stop fluffing. Pat the rice down gently with the back of the fork, cover tightly again, and set heat to medium low. Cook for another 5 minutes, and check again. 

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

174 Calories
10g Fat
20g Carbs
3g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 8
Calories 174
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 10g 12%
Saturated Fat 1g 7%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 456mg 20%
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 9%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 3g
Vitamin C 41mg 203%
Calcium 36mg 3%
Iron 2mg 11%
Potassium 294mg 6%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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