Jollof Rice Asumana marafa


Jollof rice is a specialty dish made by most West African countries which include Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Togo, Mali, ivory Coast, and Southern Cameroon. There are many different ways in which each of these countries prepare Jollof rice but they all use these common basic ingredients: rice, tomatoes and tomato paste, onion (lots of onions), salt, and red peppers. Beyond that, nearly any kind of meat, fish, vegetable or spice can be added. The variations are mostly due to the fact that most Africans do not follow exact recipes and are not used to measuring the quantity of ingredients in the foods they prepare. Most of them like it spicy with the exception of only a few.

Moving on, the history of Jollof rice in United states dates back to the slave trade; when Africans were sold to the Americans as slaves. A part of the culture they brought to America was some of the African traditional dishes they enjoy; with Jollof rice being one of the few. During the celebration of Kwanzaa, the last day which is the 31st of December is set aside for a Karamu or African feast in which varieties of African dishes are prepared. Kwanzaa is a celebration of the African heritage in African-American culture held in the United States and in other nations from December 26th to 31st (A&E television network). According to the Congo Cookbook, many groups observe black history month with public lectures and exhibits, which perhaps include African foods. Some of these foods include Koki, peanut soup, okra and greens, yam, and of course Jollof rice, which was reported by Maya Angelou as “a smashing success”. Kwanzaa is also called the black people’s Christmas and it is mostly celebrated the African-American Churches.

For the purpose of this project, I will be making the Nigerian version of Jollof rice simply because Nigeria is my country of origin. Nigerians eat this special meal during special occasions such as weddings, and parties. It is also part of their Christmas celebration. Jollof rice is prepared on early Christmas morning and served to guests and neighbors throughout Christmas day and possibly the day after. This tradition symbolizes love shown through sharing. I consider Jollof rice as a religious dish because the African American Church serve it during Kwanzaa.

The preparation of Jollof rice takes a lot of time and energy but the end result is always delicious and one will not regret putting so much time and effort into preparing this meal. Some addition to the ingredients mentioned earlier include: vegetable oil; stock cubes (bouillon); garlic; thyme; curry; carrots; green and red bell peppers; rice (preferably golden/parboiled); and lastly, water. Firstly, the peppers (red and scotch), onions and garlic are blended into a smoothie-like texture and then fried in the vegetable oil for about fifteen minutes before adding the tomato paste. Curry, thyme and bouillon cubes are then added into the mixture for seasoning. After frying all this, water is added and then boiled to a thick sauce-like nature; then followed by the rice and left to boil till the rice is completely cooked. Finally, the carrots and green peppers are then cut into cubes and put to steam on the rice. A choice of either fried fish or meat is also served with this meal.


Jollof rice is considered a very delicious and nutritious meal that most West African countries such as Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal, Gambia, Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Mali consume at least once a week in their households. Children, adults and the elderly all enjoy this meal and it is a specialty for most formal and informal events. It is a type of food that vegetarians, and non-vegetarians can consume without violating their food laws and practices due to the flexibility in its method of preparation. This paper basically explores the history of Jollof rice and how it is related to the principle of social justice, environmental justice, well-being, and religious freedom.

In West Africa, Jollof rice is a fragrant dish that is enjoyed across the sub-region for its unique sweet taste and subtle spiciness. Just like we read about the Hummus wars in Jerusalem, the origin of Jollof rice cannot be traced back to its original creator but it is believed to have originated in the Senegambia region that was ruled by the Jollof Empire among the Wolof people, where it is known as Benachin. The meal traveled throughout the sub-region because of the frequent cultural exchange that took place in those days. As a result, it evolved into several regional varieties such as Nigerian, Ghanaian, Liberian, Gambian, etc. (Adams, 2017).

Digging deeper into the history of Jollof rice, food and agriculture historian James C. McCann considers it likely that this dish could have traveled from Senegal to its current range. he then proposes that the dish spread with the Mali Empire, especially the Djula tradespeople who traveled widely to regions with commercial and urban centers, taking with them economic arts of blacksmiths, small scale marketing, and rice agronomy. McCann, James C. (2009). On the other hand, Marc Dufumier, Emeritus Professor of Agronomy proposes a more recent origin of this dish where he said it may have appeared as a consequence of the colonial promotion of intensive peanut cropping in central Senegal for the French oil industry, and were commensurate reduction in the planted area of traditional millet and sorghum staples was compensated by forced imports of broken rice from Indochina. It then may have dispersed throughout the region through the historical commercial, cultural and religious channels linking Senegal with Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia and beyond.

According to the Apple dictionary, social justice is justice in terms of the distribution of wealth, opportunities, and privileges within a society. It affects the socioeconomic complexion of the communities that the food markets serve. It also provides greater food security for urban communities. (Angyeman, 2016). Jollof rice is undeniably a very simple meal to prepare and very affordable to the group of people that consume it. Jollof rice is safe and healthy to eat because most of its ingredients are from organic sources; fresh vegetables, and unprocessed meat; does not use any preservative that can affect the consumers’ health now or in the future. It is culturally appropriate and one can be able to find the ingredients wherever one finds himself/herself. For example, I am African and sometimes when I get homesick, I try to eat or do things that remind me of home. I usually go to Walmart to purchase all the ingredients I need to prepare this meal and it usually costs not more than thirty dollars but it does not cost as much in most African countries due to the exchange rate. Furthermore, the whole process of preparing and eating the food is satisfying to the feeling of homesickness and hunger. It is also a great feeling to share this delicious with friends that are from different parts of the world because rice is a staple food found and consumed in most part of the world.

Well-being is the state of being comfortable, healthy, or happy. It is often said that ‘you are what you eat’. The global food industry has profoundly changed the way we eat. Dietary changes have impacted physical health, mental and emotional well-being of individuals. Highly-processed snack and takeaway food products, rich in tasty fat and sugar, have now displaced much of the fruit, vegetables and other nutritious, unprocessed in our diets. As a result of these changes, there has been a staggering increase in the proportion of overweight and obese people across any countries (The conversation, 2014).

Ingredients for preparing Jollof rice include: rice (all kinds of rice but with exception of brown rice); bell, and green peppers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, vegetable oil, curry powder, thyme, bouillon cubes and any protein of choice (beef, chicken, turkey, pork, or fish). As mentioned earlier, this meal is very flexible and one can take out one or two if the ingredients and it will still taste amazing.

Rice is a good source of carbohydrate and small amounts of protein and no fat. It has the versatility and ability to adopt to any flavor seasoning. There are about 53 grams of carbohydrate in s single serving of rice. Most of it is starch and small sugar. Rice also has quite a few micro nutrients such as B vitamins, thiamine, niacin, riboflavin, fiber, and iron. It is also an excellent source of magnesium and manganese. Both the macro and micro nutrients found in rice are very important to one’s health and well-being and when combined with the other nutrients, Jollof rice can be seen as a balanced diet even though it is only one course. The green and red peppers; carrots, onions, and tomatoes are very good sources of vitamins and minerals and also water. The bouillon cube is a source of salt and iodine. The meat or fish used is considered a source of protein and fat. When all these are put together, they make up a meal that satisfies one’s appetite and also meet individual nutritional requirement.

Environmental justice reflects the fundamental reality that vulnerable communities are all too often subject to the disproportionate burden of pollution and contamination. This does not apply to Jollof rice because the ingredients used are environmentally friendly and will not cause any pollution to the environment. According to Rice Knowledge Bank, rice is mostly an organic food grown on the farm and there is no complex processing required except for the rice which will have to be milled to remove the husk and the bran layers, whitening or polishing, grading and separation of white rice, mixing, mist polishing and weighing.

Religious freedom is a principle that supports the freedom of an individual or community, in public or private, to manifest religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance. Many people and most nations consider religious freedom to be a fundamental human right so one is free to practice whatever his/her religion believes in. (The church of Jesus Christ Of the Latter-day Saints, 2019). Most religions have foods that are seen as taboos. What might be right to eat in Christianity might be totally wrong to eat in Islam but since Jollof rice is a Christian based meal based consumed mostly by the African Americans during Kwanzaa; also known as the black people’s Christmas.


Apparently, there is an ethical viability of food and it is important that we acknowledge that ethical variability requires us to be mindful of the miracle of life we share with one another. In relation to Jollof rice, a meal whose history and nutritional facts were written in my previous papers; the ethical variability is geared towards the well-being, social justice, environmental justice, religious freedom.

Jollof rice is a food that minimizes harm and is protective of the environment, consumers, farmers and all that are involved in rice production and distribution. However, this depends on the type of rice used especially because this is a food consumed by people from west African countries. Rice is the most common staple food consumed there and sometimes the consumers might not have all the required ingredients to make Jollof rice. These other ingredients such as peppers, tomatoes, carrots, onions, green beans and especially their choice of protein can be hard to afford to some populations and with these important ingredients being absent, the nutritional content of the Jollof rice is decreased. I have seen people make this dish with only rice, oil, onions and salt and they eat it repeated for a long period of time. When people lack the calories, macro-nutrients, and micro-nutrients, such as iron, protein, vitamins that enable the body to develop, the lifelong effects can be devastating. In third world or undeveloped countries, food insecurity is prominent leading to undernourished children that are susceptible to disease and are often stunted both physically and mentally, impacting their school performance and their potentially productive adults. (Hessler, Whetten, & Loopstra, N.D)

Another ethical variability related to Jollof rice is how the rice is produced. Many insects and pathogens attack rice at different growth stages a well as in storage. When the pathogens and insect pests are identified, the extent of damage is damaged and proper control measures are taken. Pesticides are chemicals used to control pests and diseases and they are poisons that kill insects, pathogens and weeds but some of them can also harm wildlife and humans, as well as pollute the environment. (Balasubramanian, 2017). The potential outcomes of these chemicals are not socially or environmentally just. on the other hand, environmental justice can be impaired in situations where the rice dish gets burnt during cooking and produces a bad odor.

When cooking, it is common for one to make mistakes such as not using the right recipe, putting too much of one ingredient and less of the other. The one I am most importantly concerned is the salt and bouillon content. When consumed in excess, these ingredients can lead to health conditions especially cardiovascular diseases such as hypertension, dehydration etc. furthermore, the spices added in Jollof rice can be very hot and get uncomfortable for non-spice eating people to eat.

In the aspect of religious freedom, Jollof rice can go wrong for a Muslim if pork is the meat of choice in this dish because the consumption of pork is a taboo in the Islam. Also, the oil and bouillon could be derived from pork. For the Christians that observes Lent, meat would be a problem. But they have the option to eat fish or a side or beans or any other form of protein.

Overall, I would say I agree with the points made above. There are concrete examples and scenarios provided that are true and reliable; including life stories. One can have the written recipe of this dish on the counter next him/her when cooking put can easily miss a step or two, have the wrong ingredients, or not monitor the food frequently during preparation. Also, the consumers of this dish are not always the producers of the ingredients. Therefore, they are not aware of all the processes involved in the production. They see what they think they will need and they buy according to personal preferences. The manufacturers can lie about their products in order to enhance the outlook to encourage adequate marketing and purchase. This is just to mention but a few.

Just Desserts

Jollof rice as I said earlier in this project, is a food consumed mainly by countries in West Africa. These countries include but are not limited to Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Cameroon, etc. I am from Nigeria and we eat this dish a lot; especially on Sundays, Christmas, weddings, birthday parties and other special occasions that involve food. I can say that Jollof rice is one of my favorite Nigerian dish. I was able to prepare this dish specially for this class over spring break with the help of my friends whom I shared afterwards and they really liked. They always ask for when next I will be making it.

I choose this dish firstly because it is a meal that I have consumed all my life. Secondly, in class we were asked to choose a religion that we are interested in, then find a dish that is considered religious in that religion. Therefore, I choose the African-American church which falls under Christianity. On research for the foods in this religion, I came across Jollof rice and found out that it is mostly consumed at Kwanzaa. I immediately decided to choose Jollof rice because I thought I knew everything about but I was wrong. Through this class and this project, I was able to research the history of Jollof rice, and how it transitioned and transformed over the years. I also found out that the Africans that were sold as slaves to Americans in the past brought some of their cultural heritage along with them. Jollof rice is eaten by African Americans during Kwanzaa, which is like a Christmas celebration for them, where they share love and happiness with one another. Being in America for quite a while, I eat different types of food in different restaurants but I have never seen Jollof rice in any of the restaurants (proudly because I am in a small town). And that explains why how special Jollof rice is in the African American Christian community. It is considered to have both cultural and religious heritage.


Adams, H. (2017, January 20). A brief history of Jollof rice, a west African favorite. Retrieved April 16, 2019, from https://theculturetrip.com/africa/ghana/articles/a-brief-history-of-jollof-rice-a-west-african-favourite/

Angyeman, J. (2016). Food. Retrieved April 16, 2019, from https://www.zedbooks.net/blog/posts/food-social-justice/

How To Plant Rice. Retrieved April 16, 2019, from http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/step-by-step-production/growth/planting

McCann, James C. (2009). A west African culinary grammar". Stirring the Pot: A History of African Cuisine. Ohio University Press. pp.

The church of Jesus Christ Of the Latter-day Saints (2019). Religious Freedom. https://www.lds.org/topics/religious-freedom?lang=eng&old=true

The conversation (2014). You are what you eat: How diet affects mental wellbeing. Retrieved April 17, 2019, from https://theconversation.com/you-are-what-you-eat-how-diet-affects-mental

Balasubramanian, V. (2017, July 30). What are the pesticides for farming? Retrieved April 28, 2019, from https://www.quora.com/What-are-the-pesticides-used-for-rice-farming

Hessler, K., Whetten, R., & Loopstra, C. (n.d). Case Study: Golden Rice. Retrieved April 28, 2019, from http://www.biotech.iastate.edu/wp_single/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/goldenrice.pdf

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