/Tales From Nigeria: Kenyan Pilau vs Nigerian Jollof

Tales From Nigeria: Kenyan Pilau vs Nigerian Jollof

I am writing this knowing very well that I will be ridiculed by my colleagues for even thinking of comparing the two. Oh well, I will still live to see another day to eat the Kenyan pilau. So here are my thoughts about Kenyan Pilau vs Nigerian jollof.

Kenyan Pilau Vs Nigerian Jollof

 I have been in Nigeria for a week now and on my way here all I could think about is having a taste of the Nigerian Jollof rice, please do not just call it jollof rice address it by its full name “Nigerian jollof rice”. There has always been a debate on where exactly in West Africa the jollof rice originated from between Ghana and Nigeria. I am however sure that the cooking procedure is more or less similar in both countries. So back to my thoughts of having a bite of the jollof rice on my way to Lagos. I got here at around 10.30am some hours to the lunch hour. And to say the truth I was not that hungry but when I heard the idea of going to get some jollof rice I could not resist.

The anticipation made room in my tummy for the famous delicacy. In a short while, we were sited in a restaurant with my plate of jollof rice, chicken and pepper stew. The long-anticipated first bite was finally here, oh God if I had any idea what I was in for I would have ordered fufu. The pepper was everywhere from the jollof to the stew. How can people eat this much pepper? After around five bites of the rice and a million sips of water after each bite. I opted to eat the chicken at least because I did not see myself finishing the rice. The chicken was well cooked without pepper, Thank God.

If by any chance it had pepper, my friends, my mouth would have by itself let out horrific screams from the torture I would be putting it through. You would think that after this experience I would never eat Jollof rice again right? Wrong, I have eaten it several times after and honestly, I love it as long as it does not have so much pepper.


Now back to the comparison. Most people would say that pilau and jollof are more or less the same, but honestly, the two are very different.


  • The ingredients. For Nigerian jollof rice, the main ingredients are a mix of blended pepper (very spicy), tomatoes and bell peppers. The other ingredients include palm oil, chicken stock, thyme, onions, curry powder, ginger, tomato paste and the rice.

 Ingredients for Kenyan pilau are rice, onions, tomato paste, garlic, ginger, pilau masala which can be either in a pre-packed powder form or whole pilau masala that should be roasted and crushed before use.


  • Add-ons. When it comes to add-ons, the jollof rice rarely has any apart few peas.  I feel like this is still quite rare.

For the pilau, you can have either beef to make it beef pilau and this is the most common, chicken pilau or vegetable pilau. Plain Pilau is very uncommon. Kenyans love their meat for sure.


  • The color. The result of the two is very different in terms of taste and color. The pilau is dark brown while the jollof is red. When it comes to the taste so I have to explain how jollof tastes after the brief story of my first experience. Jollof is not for the faint-hearted. When it comes to pilau, of cos I will be a bit biased here.  You can feel all the flavor from the mix of the ingredients used to cook it. And you don’t have to follow each bite with a gulp of water.


  • The sides. Most jollof rice are served with a pepper stew making the spice twice as much. For the pilau kachumbari ( a mix of chopped onions, tomato, some chili and some splash of lemon juice) is the main side. You can add some mango for some sweetness or avocado if the avocado is bae. I actually think Jollof rice would go very well with a mango kachumbari. The sweetness of the mango will balance out the spiciness of the pepper. I will try it out and let you guys know in the comments how it goes.


In the short period, I have been here, I have noticed that pepper is the main spice of choice, almost everything has pepper. I know that we have so many different spices that are used in cooking that balance out the food. In my honest opinion, I feel that without pepper jollof rice will just be blunt without any flavor. I always feel that a lot of pepper even when used in Kenyan cooking masks the food’s flavor. However, that is my opinion, my colleagues should at this point be throwing stones at me lol. Some of them who have been to Kenya says the Kenyan food is blunt and honestly I agree.  I was not the one that cooked for them so how do they expect to enjoy Kenyan food lol.


In conclusion and in all honesty, the Kenyan Pilau would win any competition with the Nigerian Jollof. This is just my opinion and it is bound to change anytime. 

Image: Zumi Kenya