Jollof rice (also called benachin) is a one-pot rice dish that is beloved among West Africans. Pretty much all West African countries have their own version of jollof rice and there’s a long-standing friendly competition between West Africans (especially Ghanaians and Nigerians) over which country has the best jollof rice. For the record, Ghanaian jollof is the best (lol; kidding).
What is Jollof Rice?
Jollof rice is basically rice that is cooked in a flavorful tomato-based sauce. The dish is thought to have originated from Wolof people, a West African ethnic group who mainly reside in Senegal. Jollof rice is usually served at weddings and other parties, and on holidays like Christmas. It can also be enjoyed on any regular day.
How to Make Ghanaian Jollof Rice
The basic ingredients for Ghanaian-style jollof rice include jasmine or basmati rice, fresh tomatoes, tomato paste, onions, ginger, and chili peppers. Other ingredients that can be used include red bell peppers, garlic, thyme, bay leaves, nutmeg, chicken bouillon cubes (usually Maggi), and chicken broth. Traditionally Ghanaian jollof is cooked with meat in the rice rather than as a side dish. Chicken is the meat that is often added to the dish but seafood such as shrimp is also common. Fresh or frozen mixed vegetables can also be added to the rice.
To make jollof rice, start by soaking 2 cups of jasmine rice in water for about 1 hour; if using basmati rice, skip this step. Chop 2 large fresh tomatoes (hot house or vine-ripened tomatoes), 1 large red bell pepper, and 1 large onion. In a blender, blend the tomatoes, bell pepper, 1/2 of the onions, 3 cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons of grated ginger, 4 tablespoons of canned tomato paste, 1 scotch bonnet pepper (seed the pepper for a less spicy dish), and 1 cup of chicken broth.
Chop 1 chicken breast into cubes. Heat 1 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil in a non-stick pot over medium heat. Season the chicken breasts with 1 tablespoon of curry powder (optional) and 1 teaspoon of salt. Add the chicken breasts to the pot and cook for about 5 minutes or until the meat is browned/sealed on all sides. Remove the chicken breasts from the pot and set aside on a plate. Add the remaining onions to the pot plus 1 teaspoon of ground nutmeg and 1 crushed/crumbled chicken bouillon cube (or 4 Maggi cubes), cook until fragrant (about 3 minutes).
Pour the tomato sauce into the pot. Cover the pot and cook for 5 minutes to remove some of the sourness from the tomatoes. Drain and wash the rice in a fine mesh strainer over the sink with running water to remove the surface starch (wash the rice until the water is mostly clear). Do this with basmati rice as well, if using it.
Add the rice to the pot as well as 2 bay leaves, 5 stalks of thyme (de-stemmed), and 1 teaspoon of black pepper. Add the chicken to the rice and mix well. Cover the pot with thin foil (see above picture), then put a lid over the pot. As jollof rice is cooked mainly with steam not liquid, it’s important to cover the pot with thin foil as it helps to trap in steam to evenly cook the rice. If you miss this step, you will likely end up with rice that’s uncooked at the top.
Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes. Season 20 medium raw, devined shrimp with salt and black pepper (to taste) and add them to the rice, gently mix everything together. Cook the rice with the pot covered with the thin foil and the lid for 5 minutes. Uncover the pot, gently mix the rice with a spoon and let the rice cook with just the lid covering the pot for another 5 minutes. You can garnish the jollof rice with chopped green onions before serving. Ghanaian jollof is usually served with shito. Fried plantains are also a common side dish for jollof rice. The printable recipe card is at the bottom. Enjoy!
Other Rice Dishes You Might Like
Ghanaian Jollof Rice
- 2 cups jasmine rice (or basmati rice)
- 1 chicken breast (chopped into 1-inch cubes)
- 20 medium shrimps (raw; devined)
- 2 large fresh tomatoes (chopped)
- 1 large red bell pepper (chopped)
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 3 cloves garlic (diced)
- 2 tsp ginger (grated)
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper (chopped)
- 4 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt (and more to taste)
- 1 tsp black pepper (and more to taste)
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1 tbsp curry powder (optional)
- 1 chicken bouillon cube (crushed/crumbled)
- 2 bay leaves
- 5 stalks thyme (de-stemmed)
- 2 stalks green onions (optional)
- 1 cup chicken broth
- 1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
- Soak the rice in water for about 1 hour before it’s time to make the jollof rice; if using basmati rice, skip this step.
- Blend the tomatoes, bell pepper, 1/2 of the onion, garlic, ginger, tomato paste, and chicken broth in a blender or food processor.
- Season the chicken with the curry powder and 1 tsp of salt.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick pot over medium heat. Put the chicken in the pot and brown/seal the chicken on all sides, about 5 minutes. Set the chicken aside on a plate once this is done.
- Add the remaining onions, nutmeg and chicken bouillon cube to the pot and cook until fragrant, about 3 minutes.
- Pour the tomato sauce into the pot, cover and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes.
- Drain and wash the rice in a fine mesh strainer over the sink with running water to remove the surface starch (wash the rice until the water is mostly clear). Do this with basmati rice as well, if using it.
- Add the rice, bay leaves, thyme, and black pepper to the tomato sauce.
- Return the chicken to the pot, mix everything together, and then cover the pot with thin foil before covering it with a lid.
- Bring the pot to a boil over medium heat, then turn the heat to low and cook for 25 minutes.
- Season the shrimp with salt and pepper (to taste). Add the shrimp to the rice and mix gently. Place the thin foil and the lid back over the pot and let the rice cook for 5 minutes.
- Remove the thin foil from the pot. Gently mix the rice again and let the rice cook with just the lid covering the pot for 5 minutes.
- Garnish with green onions, if desired.