Basil Jollof Quinoa

If you have ever explored West African food, the word jollof rice comes up time and time again. You will quickly find yourself in a wormhole of people debating which country has the best Jollof Rice? Is the best jollof the Ghanaian jollof rice, packed with spices or the more simpler Nigerian jollof rice, which Nigerians are incredibly proud of. Being Ghanaian I could be biased but I believe that the best jollof rice is not from one country but highly depends on the person cooking it.


With my jollof political stance aside, I wanted to take my creativity to the next step. For me, the reason I enjoy jollof rice is not because of the rich taste of the tomato sauce, but rather the rice. I am a white rice stan and my addiction to white rice is actually unreal. I can eat copious amounts of it, and when made into jollof rice, well, lets just say no matter how big the pot is I can pretty much each half of it. This is not good. And on a journey to make better choices I said why not substitute the rice for something else. Naturally one would reach for brown rice, but the varying cook times of brown rice is something that needs more attention to detail.

DSC_2657This brings me to why quinoa is a perfect option. First of all it is a complete plant-based protein source packed with a ton of nutrients. Because it really does not have much of a taste on its own, it soaks up all the delicious flavours you give it. Thus making it a great white rice substitute. In addition, I had an abundance of basil available and knowing that basil truly elevates the flavour of tomato sauces, I came up with this Ghanaian fusion dish which will have your taste buds singing. Plus it is less daunting to make than authentic jollof rice which can be intimidating for some–the recipe for this is coming soon.

DSC_2669If you want a full Italian-ghanaian fusion theme, make sure to check out my recipe for my black eye peas meatballs which pair perfectly with this recipe. I will serve this combination with some steamed greens or a salad with avocado. Absolute perfection! This recipe is oil free and low sodium but fill free to add as much salt as you please


  • Prep Time: ~10 mins
  • Cook Time:  ~35 mins
  • Number of Servings: 3 servings
  • Nutrition per Serving: 392 calories, 77.6g carbs, 13.3g protein, 5.3g fat
    • Extras Per Daily Recommended Values: 91% Daily Vitamin A, 51% Daily Iron
Ingredients (Makes 2-3 servings)
  • 1/2 cup carrots
  • 1 1/2 onion sliced
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tomatoes chopped into chunks
  • 1/4 scotch bonnet pepper deseeded
  • A handful of basil (I used about 6 leaves)
  • 1/4 cup tomato paste
  • 1 1/2 cup quinoa
  • water
  • 1 small thumb of ginger, about 1 inch (use 1 tsp of ginger powder if you do not have fresh ginger)
  • 1 tsp each of curry powder, cumin powder, onion powder and garlic powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • Salt to taste
  1. The first thing to do is cook the carrots in water till they are very soft
  2. When soft, add the carrots into the blender with 1 full onion (leaving half an onion aside), the tomatoes, scotch bonnet pepper, ginger (if using fresh ginger) and basil. Blend the mixture with about 1/2 cup of water till smooth
  3. In a pot, add water and sauté the rest of the onions. If you are using oil you can sauté the onions in about 2 tsp of avocado oil (or any oil with a high smoke point)
  4. When the onions are soft, add the tomato paste and cook it down for a few minutes till it is well incorporated with the onions (about 2-3 minutes)
  5. After add the blended tomato mixture into the pot and all our spices, leaving 1 tsp of garam masala aside
  6. Cover the pot VERY well, because it is going to splash everywhere and let it cook at medium to high heat till the sauce is very dry. This takes about 15 minutes or less so keep an eye on it. You will know that it is dry when there is no more liquid left and the sauce looks like it will burn in the next few minutes.
  7. After add the quinoa and 1 3/4 cups of water as well as the rest of the garam masala. Also adjust the amount of salt to taste. Mix everything well and cover the pot very well for 15 minutes to allow the quinoa to cook.
  8. After the 15 minutes, turn the heat off and let pot sit COVERED for another 5 minutes (this allows the quinoa to become extra fluffy)
  9. After the five minutes, you can remove the cover and fluff the quinoa with a fork.
  10. It is now ready to serve

If you want to save this recipe for later, make sure to pin it 

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