Jollof Rice is one of the most famous dishes you might recognize from Nigeria (with several variations across West Africa). It’s a huge part of our culture, cuisine, celebrations, and history. Everyone makes it a little bit differently, and sometimes there are entirely new takes on it – like this Jollof Orzo Soup recipe!
Why I Made This Jollof Orzo Soup
Jollof Rice comes down to a few core components: the flavorful Omi Eran (meat stock, usually chicken), the Elo Obe (the ingredient base of tomato, red pepper and/or tatashe pepper, onion, and habanero pepper), the oil (vegetable or palm fruit oil) or margarine, and the spices (Jamaican curry powder, dried thyme).
Mastering these components is what gives Jollof its distinct flavor. They make up the foundation of this dish, but you can play around with them, too. The rice in Jollof rice is really a vehicle for the unique flavor of the dish, because these foundational components are so crucial. That’s exactly what I wanted to do with this recipe for Jollof Orzo Soup.
I wanted to capture the signature aspects of the dish that make Jollof, Jollof. For me, it came down to the flavor of the dish. It’s the flavorful stock, the pureed vegetable base, and the seasonings that give it its flavor, and I wanted to see if I could bring this flavor profile to another dish.
It all came down to getting the flavor right, so I brought in the most important spices: the Jamaican curry powder and the dried thyme. This soup is a great way to experience the quintessential Jollof flavors while making a comforting, warming soup perfect for the winter months!
Swapping Rice for Orzo
Because I decided that the core of Jollof was more about the flavor of the base than the fact that it’s a rice dish, I experimented with what I used for this soup. Ultimately, I decided to go with orzo over rice because I felt like it gave the dish a better texture.
Orzo keeps its shape better than rice does in soup without getting mushy, plus it releases starch faster, which gives the soup as a whole a creamier feeling.
A Quick and Easy Dinner with Obe Ata
When I first made this recipe, I made my chicken stock as well as my Elo Obe (the quintessential ingredient base) from scratch. It’s always delicious, but it can add a lot of extra time to cooking. I realized I could swap in Egunsi Foods’ Obe Ata Soup for the vegetable puree I was making.
Obe Ata serves as one of two major mother sauces in West African cuisine (the other is Ata Din Din). It’s made from that classic ingredient base of tomato, red pepper and/or tatashe pepper, onion, and habanero pepper. It has a thinner consistency and smoother texture, since the Elo Obe is blended until it’s smooth to make a base for soups and stews.
By using this as the base for my soup, it all comes together so much faster without sacrificing any of those core components of Jollof Rice that I wanted to bring out in this dish. I can’t wait for you to try it!
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How to Make Jollof Orzo Soup
- 6 cups homemade or store-bought chicken stock
- 1 jar Egunsi Foods Obe Ata West African Tomato Soup
- 1 tablespoon Jamaican curry powder
- ¼ teaspoon dried thyme
- ¼ smoked Spanish paprika
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 6 ounces orzo
- 1 lb. cooked chicken, cubed*
- Salt and fresh minced habanero pepper, to taste
- ½ small onion, diced
- 1 medium plum tomato, diced
- 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
- A pinch of salt
- In a pot, add the stock, Obe Ata West African Tomato soup, tomato paste, Jamaican curry powder, dried thyme, and butter. Let this mixture come to a boil.
- Add the orzo and let cook until al dente, about 8 minutes.
- Add the cubed chicken and allow to cook for another 2 minutes, until heated through. Salt to taste.
- Garnish with diced onion and tomato, and enjoy!