Jollof Rice: The True Origins

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Jollof rice /ˈdʒɒləf/, also called Benachin (Wolof: “one pot”), is a one-pot rice dish popular in many West African countries. It is a progenitor of the Louisianian dish jambalaya.

World Jollof Rice Day is August 22nd.

Jollof rice is a very sensitive matter between Nigerians and Ghanaians. No one else understands this rivalry

            Well, since its been an established fact from historical evidence that the dish originated from the Kingdom of Jolof which was a West African rump state located in what is today the nation of Senegal which thrived between 1549–1875. So I think that this question should rather be “Between Ghana and Nigeria, which country got Jollof Rice first?”.

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                You may have heard by now, of all the fuss about these colored grains of rice by both Ghanaians and Nigerians. There’s even a division: jollof rice made by Nigerians is termed Nigerian Jollof rice and the same made by Ghanaians, you can guess. I have always refused to be a part of this argument citing for reason that the greatest element of impact to the taste of this delicacy is the brains behind the meal. Thus, like any other delicacy, if it tastes so good, all credit to the chef. If it doesn’t, you know who to blame.

        Jollof rice is one of the most common dishes in Western Africa, consumed throughout the region including Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Togo, Cameroon, Mali and Ghana. There are several regional variations in name and ingredients, with non-local versions regarded as “inauthentic”. The name Jollof rice derives from the name of the Wolof people, though now called theibou dienn or benachin. In French-speaking areas, it is called riz au gras. Despite the variations, the dish is “mutually intelligible” across the region, and has spread along with the diaspora to become the best known African dish outside the continent.

“Between Ghana and Nigeria, which country got Jollof Rice first?”


According to the geographical origin and the era that the revered dish began to spread across the rest of West Africa region and the available mediums of transportation at the time, it is undoubtedly practical that it would have gotten to Ghana before Nigeria.

Also based on public opinion by a survey conducted by The Guardian, it is shown that majority of a sample of West Africans believe that Ghana embraced Jollof before Nigeria did


Origins of the Nigerian Jollof Rice.

It all started sometime in 1969. The government of the then Republic of Ghana banished Nigerians out of the country. Well, not just Nigerians, but other immigrants. The reasons as to why this happened, are irrelevant in this case. But one thing you should know is that, Ghana, the pride of Africa, had gained independence from colonial rule (1957). The grass was indeed greener on the other side for all these neighboring countries. Long story short, Ghana attracted immigrants.


Fast forward to about two decades later, Ghanaians were being chased out of Nigeria (1983). Well, once again alongside other immigrants but the majority being Ghanaian. A catch phrase that is still existent today was even developed. Now, like the lost stories of the childhood of Jesus, in that gap is where we derive our cue to the truth.

In between, this time frame, Nigeria needed help in building and sustaining a strong economy. Ghanaians offered to help and before you could utter the phrase Jack Robinson, Ghanaians had taken over the land and almost every sector and industry. Being all generous and hospitable, they decided to also help Nigerians in the kitchen and dropped to them, a recipe to a certain unknown delicacy, totally oblivious to the Nigerian population, that will eventually set the stage to an eternal battle.

Time Bomb

By 1983, Nigerians had attained lots of information and decided to break this fairy tale of a love story with the people that readily came to their aid- Ghanaians. To do that, they developed xenophobic characteristics and chased them out. Once the last Ghanaian was ousted, they supposedly reinvented the wheel that is branded today, (you name it). The older generation through whom these deeds were done, phased out and a vibrant young with no knowledge of that evil past came in. The ECOWAS free movement between West African countries was formed. Rumors of this fine tomato covered grains of rice from both parties emerged. The internet joined our worlds together. Then all hell broke loose!


Disclaimer: This is a piece of art; a combination of history and fiction and has no intent to create division but only to entertain the imagination of readers.

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