The following excerpt and recipe for Jollof Rice and Ata Lilo is from Yewande Komolafe's cookbook "My Everyday Lagos," available now on Amazon

The success of a batch of jollof rice requires a few key ingredients — abase sauce of ọbẹ̀ ata, herbs, spices, and stock— and a perfect sauce-to-rice ratio (so the cooked grains of rice remain separate). This recipe achieves all of this with very little tending. I have found the best, no fuss way to do this is to make it in the oven.

Because of its increased absorption of flavors, jollof rice is typically made with long-grained parboiled rice, though nonparboiled varieties are my preference and may be interchanged cup for cup. Missing from the oven version is the slightly smoked flavor you get from the little bits of rice that have browned on the bottom of your pan, but that’s nothing a pinch of smoked paprika can’t fix!

Jollof Rice

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:1 hr 5 mins
  • Total Time:1 hr 10 mins
  • Servings:8
  • Medium


  • 1⁄2 cup canola or other neutral oil such as grapeseed or safflower
  • 2 medium thinly sliced red onions
  • 4 sliced garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 2 cups Ata Lílọ̀ - recipe below
  • 3 cups - about 1 1/4 pounds - parboiled long-grain rice such as Carolina Gold or Uncle Ben’s Original or any long-grain nonparboiled variety such as basmati or jasmine
  • 5 fresh thyme sprigs
  • 1 fresh bay leaf
  • Salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups meat or chicken stock - page 79 'My Everyday Lagos' - or vegetable stock
Photographs by Kelly Marshall
  • Step 1

    Preheat the oven to 350°F. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add the onions and sauté, stirring frequently until softened, 6 to 8 minutes. Remove half the onions to a plate and set aside. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and turmeric and toast until the turmeric is fragrant and tomato paste has deepened to a dark red color, about 2 minutes.

  • Step 2

    Stir in the ata lílọ̀ and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Stir in the rice, thyme, and bay leaf and season with salt and pepper. Pour in the stock, stir, and cover with a lid. Transfer the pot to the oven and cook until rice is just tender, 35 minutes.

  • Step 3

    Remove the pot from the oven and allow to sit, covered (no peeking) for 15 minutes. Uncover, fluff the rice with a fork, and stir in the reserved onions. Adjust seasoning if necessary and remove the bay leaf and thyme.

  • Step 4

    Serve jollof rice while still warm with a side of Dódó (page 193) and Braised Goat Leg in Ọbè (page 223).

Ata lílọ̀ is a smooth puree of fresh pepper and tomatoes that serves as the base for several Nigerian dishes such as jollof rice and ọbẹ̀, a stew for cooked meats. This puree is added to a pan with oil and cooked; it is a wonderful accompanying sauce for drowning starches such as fùfú, steamed rice, yams, or plantains. It is almost identical to ata gígé in ingredient composition, but think of ata lílọ̀ as ideal for incorporating flavor into meats whenever low-heat, simmering, and, braising techniques are used.

Ata Lílọ̀

  • Prep Time:10 mins
  • Cook Time:0
  • Total Time:10 mins
  • Servings:2
  • Easy


  • 2 medium red bell peppers - stemmed and seeded
  • 1 medium roughly chopped red onion
  • 1 14.5-ounce can peeled whole tomatoes
  • 4 peeled garlic cloves
  • 1-inch piece ginger - peeled and chopped
  • 1 or 2 Scotch bonnet peppers stemmed
  • Step 1

    Working in batches if necessary, combine the bell peppers, onion, tomatoes, garlic, ginger, and Scotch bonnet peppers in a food processor or blender and blend on high to a fine puree. The liquid from the can of tomatoes should suffice but you can add up to 1⁄4 cup of water if necessary to get the puree going.

Ata lílọ̀ can be stored for upto a week in the refrigerator or for up to a month in the freezer.

Note: Lagosians around Ebute Metta, Lagos Island, and the coast of Lagos serve fresh and uncooked ata lílọ̀ with roast fish. Abodo is a lightly roasted herring often served in this way.

My Everyday Lagos by Yewande Komolafe 

Reprinted with permission from My Everyday Lagos by Yewande Komolafe copyright © 2023. Photographs by Kelly Marshall. Published by Clarkson Potter, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC.