Seven-Spice Jollof Rice


This spicy rice recipe originated in Senegal but is popular throughout Western Africa. Serve it alongside your choice of grilled, roasted or stewed meat and fried plantains.

a recipe photo of the Jollof Rice
Photo: Jason Donnelly
Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
1 hr 25 mins

My earliest memories of jollof rice were from holiday parties at my childhood home in Reisterstown, Maryland. My mother was a pediatrician and my father was a civil engineer who worked in Nigeria for most of the year, so we saved Nigerian dishes like jollof rice for special occasions like holidays. On one notable Thanksgiving, for instance, I remember gazing dreamily at the table laid out with all the delicious food. My mom had roasted a turkey, and our extended family had brought lasagna, grilled veggies, barbecued meats, rich and velvety mashed potatoes, a ceramic dish filled to the brim with efo riro (a Nigerian spinach and palm oil stew), plus a perfectly golden brown apple pie, puff puffs (handmade Nigerian doughnut holes) and ice cream for dessert. As everybody settled around the table, my mom entered the room with the final dish—her jollof rice, served in a large crystal dish and garnished with slices of tomato and onion.

Jollof rice was a constant figure in my life. We moved to Nigeria when I was 7 years old, and most of our Sunday afternoons were spent at my grandparents' house in the Isolo neighborhood of Lagos. My father was the first of nine children, and all of my aunts and uncles and cousins came by for Sunday lunch at the Pepto-Bismol-pink family home. The meal was often a rice dish with a stewed protein and fried plantains.

When my grandmother served jollof rice, her helpers would bring a giant brown cooler of rice into the dining room and lay it on the buffet table alongside her big black wooden dining set, followed by another cooler filled with the stewed meats and then a ceramic dish of fried sweet plantains—the crowning glory of the spread. She always had the most delicious fried plantains and later in life revealed to me that her secret was infusing the oil with onions before frying the plantains. My paternal grandmother's Sunday suppers were the inspiration for my pop-up event series which eventually evolved into Eko Kitchen, San Francisco's first Nigerian restaurant and catering company.

Five bowl of Jollof rice topped with tomato and red onion
Simileoluwa Adebajo

Although jollof rice is a Nigerian fan favorite, it actually originated in the 19th century with the Wolof people in Senegal where it's referred to as thiéboudienne or chebu jen. The dish, celebrated throughout Western Africa, is made by cooking rice with aromatics, plenty of spices and a richly flavored tomato-bell pepper sauce.

My fascination with jollof rice grew as it became a bestselling dish at the restaurant. How could I give people the best jollof rice possible, given what was locally available to me in San Francisco? I started with the inspiration of both of my grandmother's and mother's recipes, experimenting with different spice combinations, different types of rice and playing around with the liquid-to-rice ratio. Eventually, at the end of 2019, my recipe for Seven Spice Jollof Rice was born, fusing flavors from Nigeria, Cameroon, Senegal and India (my tandoori masala touch) to bring this celebrated rice dish to a global audience.

By the end of 2020, I had sold over 10,000 plates of this dish and taught 300 virtual and in-person cooking classes that showed people how to make my unique take on jollof rice at home. My connection to jollof rice was so strong at that point that most of my dreams involved eating it, cooking it and packing up boxes for delivery!

Jollof rice had traveled all through West Africa, adapting and changing forms in each country that it went to. And through me, the Nigerian American, it had made its way to California and taken on a brand new form inspired by a global palate. Jollof rice 2.0.


Obe Ata Sauce

  • 2 medium tomatoes, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 1 small red bell pepper, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • ½ large red onion, cut into 2-inch pieces

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • ½ habanero or Scotch bonnet pepper, stemmed and seeded, if desired


  • 1 large red onion

  • 2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral oil

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • 2 bay leaves

  • 1 tablespoon hot curry powder, such as tandoori masala or madras

  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger

  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme

  • ½ teaspoon ground Cameroon pepper (see Note) or chipotle chile powder

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste

  • 1 cup unsalted chicken or vegetable broth

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • 2 cups parboiled enriched long-grain rice

  • 1 large tomato, sliced


  1. To make sauce: Place tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, garlic and chile pepper in a large saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes. Drain. Transfer the vegetables to a blender and process until mostly smooth.

  2. To make rice: Halve onion crosswise. Dice half and cut the other half into rings. Set the rings aside for Step 5.

  3. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onion, garlic and bay leaves. Cook, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add curry powder, ginger, thyme, Cameroon pepper (or chipotle powder) and cayenne; stir until well-combined. Stir in tomato paste; cover and cook until the tomato paste has darkened, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the obe ata sauce and cook, covered, for 5 minutes.

  4. Add broth and salt; stir well to combine. Increase heat to medium, cover and cook until the sauce comes to a rolling boil, about 3 minutes. Stir in rice and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cover the pot with foil, then the lid. Cook until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat.

  5. Stir the rice. Top with onion rings and tomato slices. Cover and let steam for 5 minutes more. Remove the bay leaves before serving.


Cameroon pepper is made by grinding fiery dried Scotch bonnet chiles. Look for it online or in African markets.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

193 Calories
3g Fat
37g Carbs
5g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 12
Serving Size 1/2 cup
Calories 193
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 37g 13%
Dietary Fiber 3g 11%
Total Sugars 4g
Protein 5g 10%
Total Fat 3g 4%
Vitamin A 735IU 15%
Vitamin C 20mg 22%
Vitamin E 1mg 9%
Folate 164mcg 41%
Vitamin K 7mcg 6%
Sodium 228mg 10%
Calcium 45mg 3%
Iron 3mg 17%
Magnesium 25mg 6%
Potassium 361mg 8%
Zinc 1mg 9%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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