How to Make Jollof Rice

This spice infused tomato based Jollof rice is given a protein boost by adding in chickpeas (or lentils if you prefer) to make a fully balanced meal.

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If you love a flavorful rice dish with a bit of spice and heat, you have to try making Jollof rice! Kwaku Boateng, the defensive lineman from the Edmonton Eskimo football team, shared this recipe — and it’s one of my new favorites!

red checkered tablecloth underneath a bowl of Jollof rice with chickpeas garnish with parsley

What is Jollof  Rice?

Jollof rice is a traditional West African dish composed of spicy tomato rice that can be cooked with a variety of different vegetables such as peas, peppers, or carrots and is paired with meat for a main meal – usually lamb, goat, chicken, or beef.

For this recipe Kwaku and I brainstormed making Jollof rice with chickpeas, our addition to make this a complete plant-based, healthy meal that can be made with food bank staples. Good, healthy and delicious food is important for everyone. Healthy staples liked canned fish, lentils, rice and chickpeas are great items to donate to your local food bank.

The Tackle Hunger Campaign

I’m sure you have already muttered to yourself, “Karlynn, you are the least football-y person I know. What on earth are you talking about partnering with a football team for? Do you even know what a football is?”

(I do, and I also have the answer to that first question!)

This summer I was invited to work with Purolator on their Tackle Hunger Campaign: a campaign that sees them partner with the CFL, pairing up the Canadian football teams with their local food bank to do a large campaign to fill the shelves. Now in it’s 17th year, it has been a hugely successful venture – and this year I was able to head to the Edmonton Food Bank to learn all about it, with the kids in tow.

The kids and Mike went to one side of the food bank and learned how to sort all of the donations coming in – and then they were put to work.

The Tackle Hunger Campaign. Sorting all of the donations coming in the food bank.

Kwaku and I were on the other side, learning how to pack the hampers that are given out to people. Certain items need to go in for each person. This particular week was busy, as we had just had a large festival that collected for the food bank, so there was a wide variety of donations—but that’s not always the case!

The Edmonton Food Bank supports over 20,000 individuals each month, 40% of whom are children. They also serve the community with over 500,000 meals and snacks each month. Over the past 16 years, the Purolator Tackle Hunger campaign has helped deliver the equivalent of 12 million pounds of food to food banks across Canada.

packed hampers given out to people

This year, the PTH game was August 9th in Edmonton, with our Edmonton Eskimos playing the Ottawa Red Blacks. Together, the Edmonton Eskimos, Purolator, and Kwaku Boateng collected 66,000 pounds of food during this game alone!

This year, donating meant getting your picture taken with the Grey Cup, so Mike and Kade were quick to donate and get theirs before the game—it’s not something you get to do every day!

picture with the Grey Cup during PTH game

Now, on to the recipe! As part of this campaign, it was up to me to chat with Kwaku and brainstorm a recipe highlighting how delicious and healthy plant-based meals can be made from food bank staples. After chatting with Kwaku about his favorite foods from childhood, Jollof rice was his top choice as his favorite food memory. With his family roots hailing from Ghana, this West African dish is one of his favorites that his mom would make – but there are SO many versions of this rice depending on the region that the dish is made in, each one being authentic to it’s own area.

On a side note : Currently, for the season (this is for you avid football fans), Kwaku eats a ton of vegetables and lean protein, with some side carbs thrown in for good measure. Oatmeal and fruit for breakfast, broccoli, chicken breast, fish fish, and more fish, and not as much protein as I would have thought! We all think that professional athletes must be packing away the protein, and it’s quite the opposite – carbs, fruit, and vegetables too.

close up red checkered tablecloth underneath a bowl of Jollof rice with chickpeas garnish with parsley

How to Make Jollof Rice

  1. Prepare your pureed tomato and curry based sauce. Now again, the spices will vary region to region, but this sauce is almost universally a smooth tomato and onion sauce. Then you add on to it with other flavors. Read my recipes notes to see what other spices you can add to it.
  2. Add in your rice.
  3. Cook in a Dutch oven until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked and fluffy.
  4. Party rice is Jollof rice that is traditionally cooked over a fire, infusing the rice with a smoky flavor. You can add this element by roasting any vegetables that you add to the dish and really browning the onions when cooking.
high angle shot red checkered tablecloth underneath a bowl of Jollof rice with chickpeas garnish with parsley

How to Parboil Rice

Parboiling the rice means that you are giving it a head start cooking. This is a good trick when cooking the rice in an acidic-based sauce – the tomato sauce- which can actually stop the rice cooking process.

  • To parboil the rice, bring a large pot of water to a boil,then boil your rice for five minutes.
  • Strain the rice through a sieve then use in the recipe as directed.
ingredients ready in making Jollof Rice

Adding Protein to Jollof Rice

Traditionally Jollof rice would be served with lamb, goat, chicken or beef as a side dish. To make this plant based we added chickpeas to the mix BUT the world is your oyster when it comes to this dish. You can sub out the chicken broth for vegetable and make this a vegan rice as well.What is perfect about the rice is that almost all of the ingredients are readily available at the food banks in hampers : rice, canned tomatoes, onions, tomato paste. Simple doesn’t have to mean plain when it comes to healthy meals.

Kwaku holding 2 cans, Edmonton's Food Bank wallpaper on his background

A big thanks to Kwaku for introducing us to this amazing rice dish—it’s definitely going into the meal rotation! My family loves anything with chickpeas and curry, and I love how this can be customized to your individual tastes.

If you want to try another delicious rice dish, try my Smoky Spanish Rice and Chickpeas, another great way to use plant proteins with rice.

Happy cooking!



Jollof Rice

This spice infused tomato based Jollof rice is given a protein boost by adding in chickpeas (or lentils if you prefer) to make a fully balanced meal.
5 from 3 votes
close up red checkered tablecloth underneath a bowl of Jollof rice with chickpeas garnish with parsley
Prep Time
45 minutes
Cook Time
3 minutes
Main Course
Karlynn Johnston


  • 2 cups Basmati or other long grain rice parboiled
  • one 19 ounces can chickpeas or lentils drained and rinsed
  • For the Tomato Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 large yellow onions peeled and diced
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper (traditional, but can be replaced with other peppers, see below)
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • one 24 ounces can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder ( or to taste)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt or seasoning salt to taste


To Parboil Rice

  • To parboil the rice,boil your rice in a large pot of water for five minutes. Strain the rice through a sieve, set aside, then add to the tomato sauce when instructed.

Tomato Curry Sauce

  • In a Dutch oven over medium-high heat on the stove, fry the onions in the vegetable oil until they are softened. To add to the smoky taste of party rice, you can brown the onions – almost blackened – in places. Add in the hot pepper of choice and fry for a minute or two.
  • Add in the minced garlic and fry until browned and fragrant.
  • Add in the chicken broth and deglaze the bottom of the Dutch oven with it, bringing it to a low simmer to get all of the stuck on browned bits off the bottom.
  • Add in the diced tomatoes, tomato paste and curry. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the seasoning salt and more curry if needed. This is where you will salt and season to taste, before you put the rice in. Make sure that your sauce tastes exactly how you want it to.
  • When making the sauce if you find it's a bit "flat" when tasting it, add in a sprinkle of white sugar to cut the acidity. Works every time, along with adjusting the salt in it as well.
  • Add in the bay leaves, parboiled rice and chick peas.
  • Place the lid on the Dutch oven, lower the temperature of the stove burner and cook for another 30-40 minutes, until the rice is fully cooked. Stir every 10 minutes or so so the rice doesn't stick too much to the bottom.
  • Fluff, garnish with parsley if desired and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • Spices will vary in this recipe according to the region where it is made. Paprika, thyme, ginger, coconut milk, are all additions that are used in various African countries.
  • You can switch out the scotch bonnet peppers if desired for Thai peppers or habanero, or any pepper of your choice. Scotch bonnets aren’t always easy to find and are TWICE as hot as habaneros, so while using other peppers isn’t traditional, this makes the recipe easier to make from food bank staples. 
  • You can add all sorts of vegetables to Jollof rice from beans, peas, carrots to red/green peppers.
  • When making the sauce if you find it’s a bit “flat” when tasting it, add in a sprinkle of white sugar to cut the acidity. Works every time, along with adjusting the salt in it as well.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 296kcal, Carbohydrates: 56g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 5g, Saturated Fat: 4g, Sodium: 579mg, Potassium: 246mg, Fiber: 2g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 108IU, Vitamin C: 10mg, Calcium: 40mg, Iron: 1mg

All calories and info are based on a third party calculator and are only an estimate. Actual nutritional info will vary with brands used, your measuring methods, portion sizes and more.

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This spice infused tomato based Jollof rice is given a protein boost by adding in chickpeas (or lentils if you prefer) to make a fully balanced meal.

Karlynn Johnston

I’m a busy mom of two, wife & cookbook author who loves creating fast, fresh meals for my little family on the Canadian prairies. Karlynn Facts: I'm allergic to broccoli. I've never met a cocktail that I didn't like. I would rather burn down my house than clean it. Most of all, I love helping YOU get dinner ready because there's nothing more important than connecting with our loved ones around the dinner table!

Learn more about me

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  1. Cay says

    Why do you keep calling the recipe plant based when it’s got chicken broth in it?

  2. Malissa says

    I havent thought of this rice for years. A Nigerian work colleague used to make it for me so I cant wait to try this.5 stars

5 from 3 votes (2 ratings without comment)

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