Recipe: “Ghanaian” Jollof rice

IMG_2627I spent ten weeks in a small town in Ghana last summer when I was conducting research for my masters degree thesis. I was a little worried about finding gluten-free vegetarian food I could eat there, so before I left, I asked one of my Ghanaian friends, Isak, for recommendations. He gave me great advice, and highly recommended two traditional dishes: “red-red” (a mix of spicy beans served with fried plantains) and  jollof rice (a rice dish with tomato and spices).

I really liked both dishes. Because I didn’t have access to a kitchen in Ghana, I had to eat all my meals at local restaurants in town. I tried out several different types of jollof, and liked it best when the rice was soft, and came with several types of vegetables.

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This is the best jollof dish I had in a restaurant in Ghana. It was served with char-grilled squid.

I’ve tried to replicate jollof rice at home, and this is my best guess at a recipe. However, I’m sure many Africans will disagree with my directions. As this Guardian article points out, the recipe for the dish varies a lot between West African countries.

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A view of Accra, Ghana, from the Jamestown Lighthouse

Ingredients:

  • one onion, diced
  • two medium hot peppers, diced (I tried making the dish with hot peppers once, and that was a MISTAKE)
  • chopped carrots
  • tomato paste
  • vegetable stock cube
  • 2 cups of white rice
  • 4 cups of water
  • oil (for cooking)
  • garlic salt (for garnish).

Directions: In a cooking pot, fry the onion and peppers until soft. Add the chopped carrots and cook for approximately 3 more minutes. Next, add the stock cube and 4 cups of water, along with a generous portion of tomato paste (approximately 1/4 cup). Add the rice, cover and cook until soft (approximately 15 minutes). When the rice is cooked, add garlic salt for additional flavor, and more tomato paste, as needed. Serve with fish, or a simple omelet for protein.

2 thoughts on “Recipe: “Ghanaian” Jollof rice

  1. This looks great! And I’m so happy I found your blog- I’ve never heard of anyone else who was vegetarian and gluten-free. I was wondering what other advice you were given about eating in Ghana- I am going to Tanzania for a study abroad trip and am a bit concerned about my culinary fate.

    1. Hey Ray, I’m glad that you’ve found the blog helpful! I was really worried about finding gluten-free vegetarian food to eat in Ghana, so before I went I did extensive research – I scouted out lots of websites. I also talked with friends from Ghana, and asked the name of local dishes they thought would be OK for me to eat (for example, one friend told me that “red red” is a Ghanaian dish with spicy beans and fried plantains, and I knew anytime I saw it on the menu, I could eat it.) I also packed a whole bunch of gluten free breakfast bars with me before I left, because I was worried about finding good gluten free breakfast snacks to eat with my daily malaria meds (if you swallow them on an empty stomach, you’ll feel terrible!) Once I got to Ghana, I scouted out all the local shops to see what might work, and stocked up on supplies – peanuts, nuts, potato chips, groundnut butter. There was incredible fruit in the town I was living in (bananas, mango, pineapple), so I bought cleaning supplies, a knife, and tupperware, and would make fruit salad to snack on daily. For breakfast everyday, I ended up eating bananas with groundnut butter. For other meals (lunch and dinner), I went to local restaurants and mainly had rice and some variation of fried eggs (pretty boring, but acceptable!) There are a lot of dishes in Ghana made out of plantains and yams, which were also very good, but it was hard for me to find them in local restaurants – I sought them out on weekends. I found that vegetables weren’t a big component of the local diet in the town I was in, which was one of the reasons why I thought it was so important to fill up on fresh fruit to get nutrients. As someone who has always suffered from stomach problems, I was also pretty OCD about hygiene when I was in Ghana – I didn’t eat at stalls that didn’t look clean, and I avoided uncooked vegetables. The greatest challenge was having to eat out so often – I didn’t have access to a kitchen, so it was more challenging than usual to make sure I got enough to eat. I hope some of that is helpful! Let me know if you have any questions!

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