12 Ingredients | 35 Minutes | Nigerian jollof rice, or “party jollof” is a one pot, tomato and pepper infused rice with a layer of crispy rice at the bottom. My recipe is vegan / vegetarian, packed with flavor, and Nigerian-partner approved!
My partner is Nigerian. Born and raised in Lagos, and proud of it, and one of the main reasons I started this blog. So, as a dutiful Nigerian spouse, I wanted to find a vegetarian recipe for a Nigerian dish we could both enjoy. Thankfully, I didn’t have to look too far. Enter the jollof rice.
Jollof rice is a delicious, one-pot, stewed tomato and pepper rice (where you infuse and cook the rice in the tomato-pepper base). There’s a lot of debate about where jollof originated, sparking online wars. However, it’s also a dish that every household has their own recipe for – like a Thanksgiving turkey, or cornbread.
There are two components to the Nigerian jollof rice. The first is the base sauce – the African pepper sauce. For this, I use red bell peppers, Roma tomatoes, yellow onion, and habanero peppers.
For seasoning, I use vegetarian bouillon, bay leaves, curry powder and thyme. Then, I use basmati rice (though any long-grain rice will work – see below) and cook that in the base sauce and vegetable stock.
What is the best rice for jollof? This is a raging debate! The most common options are long-grain rice, basmati , and Thai jasmine. I have noticed a trend towards bulgur as a healthy option. Traditional long grain rice tends to hold the consistency the best, but I prefer basmati because it cooks a bit softer. For the oven, Thai jasmine works best (World Jollof Day agrees!)
How do you increase or reduce the amount of pepper? The pepper sauce is the heart of any jollof rice recipe. To intensify flavors, you can parboil the sauce (i.e. simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes) to get a more concentrated flavor. This is the base which we use for making a variety of dishes (like this vegan red pepper alfredo or my vegan Nigerian efo riro).
To reduce the pepper flavor, play with the mix of tomatoes and red peppers, or eliminate the habanero peppers entirely. Every person’s spice palette is different. If you have low spice tolerance, play safe the first time and then increase the peppers the next time, versus the other way around.
♨️ Making Nigerian jollof rice
First, make the base sauce. There’s two ways of doing this.
You need red peppers, tomatoes, onions and habanero peppers to make the base sauce. Blend them all together. You can then use this sauce directly to make your jollof rice. Just use the proportions mentioned in the recipe.
If you have time and want to intensify the flavor, you can parboil the base to evaporate excess water. This is my African pepper sauce. I usually make this in a big batch and have it on hand almost all the time. If you go this route: use around 200 ml (80% of a cup) per 2 cups of basmati rice.
Then, you cook your rice in the base along with a few spices
If you’re using the sauce before parboiling it, you need about 2 cups of the sauce. If you’re using the parboiled version, you need about 1 cup. Then, for seasoning, I use vegetarian bouillon, curry powder, thyme, and bay leaves. That’s it. Super simple. 30 minutes, and one pot from start to finish.
💭 Difference between Nigerian and Ghanaian jollof rice
There are a couple of key differences from what I’ve seen. Nigerian jollof uses long grain, parboiled rice (the most commonly consumed rice in Nigeria). Ghanaian jollof uses softer, non-parboiled rice. So it’s starchy. I’ve noticed that Ghanaian jollof also has a wider variety of spices (I’ve eaten some with clove, for instance) – but the Nigerian version keeps it simpler.
We’ve all been there. My recipe took me a couple of attempts to perfect. But thankfully, I was able to troubleshoot some common problems so hopefully you don’t have to. The two most common ones – the rice burns, or it gets too mushy. Here are tips for preventing or salvaging the dish if that happens.
How can I make jollof rice without burning it?
If your rice is starting to burn when you check on the 10 minute mark (i.e. there’s no water left, but it’s raw and not cooked yet) – then add a bit of boiling hot water, cover the pot with aluminum foil, turn the heat to high for a minute, and then take off the heat. The residual heat will cook the rice without burning it further. I would say, use about 1/3 cup of water for every 2 cups of rice. Leave it covered for 10 to 15 minutes and check again.
One note here: “party” jollof rice has a smoky flavor, and is scorched at the bottom so you get crispy rice. This is normal (and included in the steps of the recipe). If you don’t want that to happen, I suggest an extra tablespoon of oil, and a bit of water after stock. More liquid, less chance of burning.
Why is it mushy or sticky? How do I save sticky jollof rice?
Always make sure you rinse the rice first, and remove the excess starch. When you steam cook like you do with this dish, the extra starch can overcook and make the rice mushy. If your rice is already mushy or sticky, get it off the heat ASAP. This stops the cooking. Then:
- Drain excess water, and transfer rice to a flat dish (e.g. baking sheet). Spread it out and let it cool (~30 minutes at room temperature)
- Then, use a paper towel to blot excess water, and pop the baking sheet in the oven at 350F for 10 minutes. Mushy jollof rice, salvaged.
🍴 Three tips for perfect jollof rice
- Wash your rice first! Extra starch can turn the rice super mushy if you’re not careful about it. Typically, I measure the rice into a mixing bowl, fill it with COLD water, and use my hands to wash the rice. I typically wash it twice before I cook it.
- Use 1:1 water to rice ratio, and cook on medium heat. Jollof rice uses steam infusion to cook – not boiling. So it’s not like the process to make rice. You don’t want to overcook the rice! Some people use aluminum foil in addition to a tight fitting lid but this is optional.
- Check your rice halfway through the cook time. I typically check my jollof rice halfway through and give the rice a good stir before closing the lid again. This makes sure that you’re not burning any of the bottom rice. Fluffy, delicious jollof.
🥣 Storing & freezing
Storing jollof rice is really simple. Just wait for it to cool down completely, throw it in an airtight container and put it in the fridge. It’ll stay well for at least 3-4 days. You can just microwave the portion of the rice you want to eat when you want to eat it.
Freezing is also super simple. First make sure that the rice is completely cooled down, then put it in an airtight container. When you’re ready to eat, make sure you thaw the rice first, then spread in a baking sheet, and throw it in the oven (15 minutes at 350F after it comes to room temperature).
If you’re looking for other vegan or vegetarian Nigerian recipes: check out this vegan Nigerian Efo Riro (African spinach stew).Print
This vegetarian Nigerian jollof rice is a tomato and pepper infused rice with a layer of crispy rice at the bottom. The life of the party!
For the stew base
- 2 large red bell peppers, diced
- 2 large tomato, quartered
- 1–3 habanero peppers, diced (note: adjust up or down to your spice tolerance)
- 1/2 white or yellow onion
For the jollof rice
- 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
- 1/2 onion (other half of the pepper base)
- 2–3 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (for the color – you can make do without)
- 2 cubes vegetarian bouillon (enhances flavor)
- 1/2 tsp curry powder (optional)
- 1/2 tsp thyme (or thyme powder)
- 1/2 tsp salt (add more to taste as needed )
- 2 cups basmati rice (wash and drain to get rid of excess starch)
- 2 cups vegetable stock
- Blend the tomatoes, red peppers, half an onion and habanero peppers in a blender until smooth
- In a deep pot, heat the vegetable oil over medium heat
- Add other half of onion and bay leaves to heated oil and fry for 2-3 minutes
- Once onions are translucent, add pepper sauce, and tomato paste for color
- Add bouillon, curry powder, salt and thyme – cook covered for 3-4 minutes until well mixed
- Add vegetable stock, cover, and bring to a boil (5-6 minutes)
- Add washed and drained rice, mix with the sauce, and lower heat to a low-medium.
- Now, cover the pot (either with foil first or just a tight fitting lid) and simmer for 10 minutes
- At the 10 min mark, stir the rice so it doesn’t stick
- In 5 more minutes, taste to see if rice is cooked – it’ll be fluffy but also discrete.
- If you want the bottom to be crispy, turn up the heat to medium high for 1 minute
- Take the pot off the heat, and stir up the crispy rice at the bottom to the top. Serve hot!
- Typically, Nigerians use long grain rice (and not aromatic rice like basmati) to make jollof. However, I’ve found that basmati rice works as a great substitute since it’s meant for “infusion” cooking (i.e. when you cook the rice in a flavorful sauce or broth like in this case). Plus, I couldn’t resist adding a bit of my own heritage into the mix here!
- It’s easy to adjust this recipe to your taste – if you want it more spicy, add another habanero pepper; if you want it less spicy, avoid it altogether. Every person’s spice palette is different, but if your spice tolerance is lower, I’d suggest playing safe the first time and then increasing the peppers, versus the other way around.
- Category: Main Course
- Method: Parboiling, Infusion Cooking
- Cuisine: Nigerian
Keywords: nigerian jollof, jollof rice, party jollof