Thiéboudienne: Jollof Rice's Senegalese Origins

For the month of December, we’re celebrating Jollof rice in all of its forms. That means we couldn’t miss out on discussing Thiéboudienne, which is the Senegalese version of Jollof rice and thought to be one of its earliest forms. Let’s dive in!

What is Thiéboudienne?

Thiéboudienne is Senegal’s version of Jollof rice, and it’s the country’s national dish. It originated in the coastal town of Saint Louis in Senegal in the nineteenth century. It’s sometimes also called chebu jen, and the name of the dish comes from Wolof words meaning 'rice' (ceeb) and 'fish' (jën).

Thiéboudienne is boldly flavored with combinations of fish and vegetables, and the focus on seafood is certainly due to the coastal influence. Given the proximity of Saint Louis and other Senegalese towns to the sea, seafood plays a large role in the cuisine. The cuts of fish and vegetables are all cooked in a rich tomato base.

Firm white fish is usually the best choice for Thiéboudienne, and grouper or snapper would be the most authentic options. It usually also calls for a few unique, local ingredients like smoked fish and netetou, a fermented locust bean powder.

Common vegetables you might find in Thiéboudienne include potatoes, cassava, squash, pumpkin, and plantains. Classically, broken rice is used to make Thiéboudienne.

It’s usually served communally on a large tray with the fish and vegetables arranged on top of the rice in the center.

Our Thiéboudienne Recipe from Elsie Kriz

The Thiéboudienne recipe we have here for you today comes from Elsie Kriz of AFROVITALITYEATS. The recipe was passed down by her family friend, Ma Seybou, and it features some tasty ingredients like seasoned salmon steaks, green cabbage, cassava root, and eggplant.

Kriz has also used our Egunsifoods’ Obe Ata soup to help season her base!

Kriz is a food and product photographer as well as a recipe creator, and she credits her mother for passing down her ingrained love for food and passion for West African cuisine. She remembers telling stories with her family, the delectable smell of dinner cooking, and how their food came from fresh, local ingredients.

These are the sorts of feelings and values that she not only wants to share with her family but also with everyone else through her photography and her recipes. This Thiéboudienne recipe is just one example!

Make this recipe for your holiday table and enjoy an authentic taste of Senegal!

How to Make Thiéboudienne

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1hr 30 minutes

Total Time: ~ 2 hours

Servings: 4-6 People


For the Seasoned Salmon Steaks

  • 3 pieces of salmon steaks (at least 1 inch thick)
  • 1 small bunch of curly parsley
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1-2 pinches of salt
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper

For the Thiéboudienne

  • 2 ¼ cups of broken basmati rice*
  • 1 jar Egunsifoods’ Obe Ata soup
  • 1 - 6 oz can of tomato paste
  • ¾ cup of canola oil
  • 1 cup diced sweet onions
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 pieces of salmon steaks, seasoned as directed
  • ½ medium green cabbage, cut into two large chunks
  • 2 extra large carrots, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 1 medium purple eggplant, halved and cut into 2-inch chunks
  • 2 whole scotch bonnet peppers (stalk attached)
  • 1 teaspoon of sour tamarind paste**
  • 1 small piece of dried fish
  • A few fresh mussels**
  • 6-8 cups of water
  • Salt, to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. First, season the salmon steaks: in a food processor or blender, pulse the parsley, garlic, pepper, and salt until you have a coarse mixture. Use your thumb to firmly press into the salmon and create small holes, about 3 per side. Fill holes with the herb blend, and set the salmon steaks aside.
  2. To start the Thiéboudienne, heat the oil in a large sauce pot over medium heat and saute the onions until translucent. Then, add the diced green peppers and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Thin the tomato paste with a cup of water, then add into the pot together with the Obe Ata soup. Cover and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add 6-8 cups of water to the sauce, then season with salt. Then add all the vegetables, hot peppers, and the fish. Make sure you’ve added enough water to cover all the vegetables without risking overflowing.
  5. Bring the mixture to a slow boil and simmer for about 30 minutes. Remove the fish and the hot peppers (so they don’t split open), then continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender (about 30 more minutes). Carefully remove the vegetables and set them aside.*** 
  6. Use some of the base sauce to thin the tamarind paste, then add into the pot and stir. Taste, and season with salt to your preference.
  7. Rinse the broken rice in warm water and strain, then precook the wet rice by putting it in the microwave for 5 minutes. Do this in intervals of 1-2 minutes, pausing to stir in between.****
  8. Add the rice to the sauce pot, mix well, and seal tightly. Reduce the heat and let the rice “steam cook” on a low heat until tender. Use a flat ladle to scoop and stir the rice as it cooks to ensure it’s cooking evenly.
  9. To serve, plate the rice and then top with the vegetables and the fish. Enjoy!


*You can also use regular grain rice, but the broken rice absorbs the sauce really well for maximum flavor.

**Mussels and tamarind paste can be optional, and if you leave them out, you’ll still enjoy a tasty Thiéboudienne!

***The final volume of the sauce before you add the rice depends on how long it takes your vegetables to cook and how tender you prefer your vegetables. Add more water if necessary while cooking your vegetables.

****How much rice you add will depend on how much base sauce you have after cooking your vegetables (see note above) as well as the texture of rice you want. We love it when the rice is slightly chewy. Your ratio of rice to sauce should be 1 part rice to no more than 1 ½ - 2 parts sauce. 

Ensure you properly store your fish and vegetables while the rice cooks. Use your stove top or oven on a “Keep Warm” setting, if possible.

Older Post Newer Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published