A vegetarian version of this spicy, steamed tomato rice, inspired by travels to West Africa.
You didn’t think that the West African Spicy Peanut Shrimp was going to be my only Ghanian-inspired recipe this year, did you? It is, after all, turning out to be the year of global recipes.
What is Jollof Rice?
Jollof Rice is a lovely one-pot rice dish that’s popular in West Africa. Each country – specifically Nigeria and Ghana – has its own versions of Jollof. This one is a spin of the traditional Ghanaian version, you know, considering it’s what I’ve had and all.
P.S. Head to the Spicy Peanut Shrimp recipe to read more about my time in Ghana!
Traditionally it’s made with some sort of meat cooked down first. Obviously, the meat is left out of this vegetarian version, but if you wanted to add meat you absolutely could. Then the rice simmers and steams up with a rich, flavorful mix of onion, tomatoes, and spices.
While it’s popular at many celebrations and ceremonies, I often enjoyed it along side chicken as an everyday meal in Ghana. Since I don’t really eat much meat nowadays, I have some other ways I like to enjoy it. More on that later…
How to Make Jollof Rice
I consider Jollof Rice to be one of the special recipes made on Sunday afternoon that’s later enjoyed by the whole family, laughing around the table as one week comes to an end and another begins.
It’s a dish that while, it doesn’t require a lot of effort, it does require time.
Time for the onions to sweat out their liquid. Then time for the tomatoes to reduce down into a thick, rich paste. Time for the rice to steam up all the flavors. Time for spices to meld and perfection to happen.
The beauty of it all though, is that it all happens in ONE pot.
The onions get blended, and then cooked down in the pot.
Tomatoes, chilis (scotch bonnet peppers are used in Ghana – but hard to find around Minnesota!), garlic, ginger, and tomato paste then all get blended together too. In the pot they go, to cook down, along with thyme, curry powder, salt, and pepper. They cook down long enough that a thick, rich red paste forms.
Now you’re ready to add the basmati rice (which is part of what makes this version specific to Ghana). Add in water or vegetable stock, cover, and let the rice steam away, soaking up ALL that flavor.
What to Serve with Jollof Rice
You can say “when in Ghana” and serve it along side fried fish, chicken, or beef (again, as discussed, if that’s your thing), or mixed vegetables.
I often like to add spinach to it if I’m reheating it for lunches, and throw an avocado on top (this is absolutely my own twist…).
If I’m serving it for dinner, I do love some simple grilled shrimp alongside the rice. Because the rice has so much flavor and a good kick of spice, you don’t want the side to be equally spicy/flavorful, so something more mild is the perfect balance.
If you make Vegetarian Jollof Rice at home, snap a photo and tag me on Instagram (or Facebook, or via email!). I LOVE to see what’s cooking in YOUR kitchens!
Vegetarian Jollof Rice
- 2 TBSP vegetable oil or oil of choice1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped3-4 garlic cloves1-2 Thai chilis (optional: seeds removed)1 1/2 inch piece ginger, peel removed1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes3 TBSP tomato paste~2 tsp kosher salt total, or to taste1 teaspoon dried thyme1 tsp curry powder1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper1 1/4 cup basmati rice2 1/2 cups water or vegetable stock
- In a large dutch oven or stock pot, heat oil over medium heat. Puree onion in a blender until smooth, and add to heated oil. Let simmer to reduce down and release all the liquid. I like to add a pinch of the salt here, to continue layering in the flavor. It will cook for about 8-10 minutes total until "paste-like". Stir occasionally - some browning is ok!As the onion cooks down, add the garlic, chilis, ginger, diced tomatoes, and tomato paste to the blender. Puree until smooth. Once the onion puree has cooked down, add the tomato mixture along with the remaining dry spices (salt, thyme, curry powder, black pepper). Stir to combine and continue to let cook down for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it's thick and a deep red color. Add the rice and stir to coat with the tomato mixture. Pour in the water or stock, stir to combine. Cover and let simmer for 30-40 minutes until rice is cooked through. You'll want to stir it 1-2 times during the cooking process, but not too much so the rice continues to steam. If needed, add an additional 1/4-1/2 cup liquid if most is absorbed but rice is still firm. Once cooked through, serve alongside vegetables or a protein of choice. Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge.