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Why Nigerian jollof rice is the best in Africa



For decades, West Africans have debated about who makes the best jollof rice. Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, and The Gambia all

For decades, West Africans have debated about who makes the best jollof rice. Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Cameroon, and The Gambia all claim to have the best jollof rice recipes.

So do Sierra Leone, Cameroon, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia, and Mali.

In 2023, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) recognised Senegal as the origin of this culinary delight.

It is believed to have originated from the Wolof people of Senegal.

According to the UN, the Senegalese version of jollof rice is an intangible treasure for the Senegalese people.

Despite this pronouncement, other countries in the West African region, particularly Nigeria and Ghana, continue to differ over who makes the best jollof rice dish.

What is jollof?

It is a one-pot dish made with rice, oil, tomatoes, tomato paste, onions and other spices.

These are just the basics, as there are many other ingredients used, depending on one’s native culture.

So, what’s the big deal about jollof rice? Well, it is more than just a meal for those who like it.

It represents solidarity, joy, and cultural heritage. It is usually served at weddings, birthday parties, and cultural festivals.

The meal is so significant that sharing it with people creates a sense of community, and enhances familial relationships.

The debate on the country with the best jollof dish always rages on social media and seems to remain unresolved. It most heated between Nigerians and Ghanaians.

”Ghana Jollof is undoubtedly the best Jollof in Africa. It is usually spiced with tomato sauce and local ‘Salmon’ fish,” Hafiz Tijani from Ghana says as he believes his country holds the top jollof title.

”The aroma alone before eating the food leaves one with an unforgettable imagination. Eating Jollof made in Ghana does not only kill hunger, it gives pleasure too,” Hafiz tells TRT Afrika.

Chef Racheal from Nigeria, however has a counter argument.

”The smokiness of Nigeria’s jollof is what makes our recipe unique. There is no other African country that prepares Jollof this way. Since our jollof recipe stands out from the crowd. This makes ours the best jollof dish on the continent.”

The meal is, however, believed to have originated among the Wolof people in Senegal and The Gambia.

They are the largest ethnic group in Senegal, and are concentrated in the country’s northern region near the Senegal River and the Gambia River.

During the early colonial period, the foreign rulers imported broken rice as part of their regular meals.

It is documented that the Senegalese preferred broken rice over whole grains. This led to the creation of Ceebu jën, a popular dish in the country.

The meal’s popularity later spread to other countries in the West African region.

Trade, migration, intermarriage, and cultural transfer are said to have played an important role in popularising the meal. And what is known today as jollof rice became a source of pride and cultural identity for the West African region.

Serving jollof rice to guests is viewed as a gesture of hospitality and generosity. Ghanaians cook their jollof rice using aromatic basmati rice, and often add protein such as chicken or beef to the meal.

Nigerians, on the other hand, prefer long-grain rice as the key ingredient also with palm oil, fish, chicken or beef. According to them, the crispier the rice, the better it tastes.

Cameroonians use beef while preparing their jollof meal, while the Senegalese add palm oil.

As most West Africans, Liberians also add pepper on their jollof food. The debate, which appears not to have a universally accepted agreement, continues to rage: who makes the best jollof?

By Susan Mwongeli &

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