Thieboudienne: Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish

May 1, 2017 (Last Updated: November 15, 2023)

As a Nigerian myself, I thought that nothing could rival Nigerian food in this spot, but after I tasted the National dish of Senegal, Thieboudienne (also ceebu jen or thiebou dieune), there was a mini war for my food heart. Thieboudienne is a mouth watering rice and fish dish that is like nothing I had before.

thieboudienne (ceebu jen/ thiebou dieune): Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish

Once upon a time, I was introduced to a Senegalese restaurant in downtown Baltimore by one of my dear Cameroonian friends. This trip created a soft spot in my food heart (aka my belly) for Senegalese cuisine. As a Nigerian myself, I thought that nothing could rival Nigerian jollof in this spot, but after I tasted Thieboudienne (the Senegalese Jollof rice dish also known as Ceebu Jen in Wolof language, riz au poisson or thiebou dieune in French, all of which literally mean: rice and fish), there was a mini war for my food loving heart. Thieboudienne (pronounced ‘Ceebu Jen’ or Chee-boo-Jen) is the National dish of Senegal and is comprised of stewed broken jasmine rice and vegetables served with marinated fish. This Thieboudienne/ thiebou dieune recipe is a mouth watering rice and fish dish that is like nothing I had before.

I could be tempted to say thieboudienne/thiebou dieune/ceebu jen is like regular Jollof rice, but it really is not. Thieboudienne has a distinctively different taste that Jollof rice doesn’t mimic. While Nigerian food is still near and dear to my food heart, I have had to make more room for other cuisines, and currently, Senegalese food especially thieboudienne is sitting nice and pretty, right next to Nigerian food.

Origins of Thieboudienne (Thiebou dieune/Ceebu jen)

The origin of thieboudienne is quite fascinating, albeit not as straightforward as one would like it to be as most of the history surrounding this delicacy was transmitted via oral tradition. While Jollof rice is traditionally attributed to the Senegalese Wolof Empire (which in the 14th to 16th century was a West African ruling state  whose migration patterns lead to the spread of Jollof across West Africa),  a popular perspective is that the adoption of thieboudienne as Senegal’s national dish was a result of a reinvention of Senegal’s colonial legacy (they were colonized by the French) and their local culture. According to Kiratiana Freelon, oral tradition credits the actual invention of thieboudienne to a woman called  Penda Mbaye from St. Louis, Senegal. A cook who lived and worked in the colonial governor’s palace, she is said to have utilized broken rice as an alternative to Barley, which was in short supply at the time. While fish is quite abundant in the Senegambia region,  broken rice wasn’t local to the Senegalese natives as it was introduced by the French colonialists in the nineteenth century as a result of importation of large quantities of poor quality rice by the French from Asia. According to this version of history, French merchants would dump large quantities of Vietnamese rice, whose grains were broken during the milling process in Senegal and regarded as low quality. With time, this rice gained the favor of the native Senegalese due to its low cost and has evolved to become the preferred rice staple and the primary ingredient in ceebu jen/thiebou dieune, even more so than long grained rice.

In this thieboudienne recipe I used broken jasmine which is what is called for traditionally, but you could use regular jasmine rice. If you have access to an Asian market, you can find broken jasmine rice labeled as jasmine rice bits. Also feel free to use any type of fish that you can easily find. I used blue snapper fish. You may use any vegetable of your preference, I used sweet potatoes, eggplants, carrots, bell peppers and cabbage. As a final note, preparing thieboudienne is quite the labor of love, so I will save it for special occasions.

Enjoy my recipe!

How to Make Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish

This thieboudienne recipe begins with soaking 2 cups of the rice while preparing the other ingredients.

Ingredients for the Fish and Stuffing

  • A handful of parsley about a heaping cup
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 scotch bonnet/ habanero pepper
  • 1 tsp shrimp bouillon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2.5 lbs blue snapper fish preferably cut into fish steaks or any white fish of your choice

Marinade the Fish

With a mortar and pistol or in a food processor, grind the parsley, garlic, scotch bonnet, bullion black pepper and salt into a rough paste.

Poke two holes into the flesh of the fish and stuff them with the parsley mix. Broil or Fry the fish until it is golden brown on each side, and set aside for the sauce

6-step photo showing how to prepare the fish

Ingredients for the Jollof Rice

  • 2 cups of broken jasmine rice or regular jasmine rice (should be soaked in water)
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 purple eggplant
  • 4 carrots I used orange purple and yellow carrots
  • 1/2 a head of cabbage
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 scotch bonnet/ habanero peppers
  • For the sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1 large onions sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 scotch bonnet/ habanero peppers I used green scotch bonnets, the color doesn’t really matter
  • 3 tablespoon of shrimp bouillon
  • 1 teaspoon of black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Grind Spices into Paste

In a mortar and with a pestle or in a food processor grind the scotch bonnet peppers and garlic into a rough paste.

Stew the Vegetables

Saute the sliced onions in the oil over medium heat until translucent. Add in the tomato paste, and stir fry for 5 minutes. The tomato paste may start to brown a little.

Add in the ground garlic and scotch bonnet and stir fry for another 2 minutes. Add in bullion, black pepper, and 8 cups of water. At this stage, taste the sauce for salt, and adjust to your preference.

6-step photo showing the stew preparation

Add in the tough vegetable first in to the sauce and cook until tender. In this case, add in the sweet potatoes, cook until tender and remove, then the carrots, cook until tender and remove. Continue adding in the vegetables until all the vegetables are cooked.

Set the cooked vegetables aside and then add in the fish and cook in the sauce for 2-5 minutes. Once the fish has simmered in the sauce for 2-5 minutes, gently remove it from the sauce.

6-step photo showing how to cook ceebu jen/ thebou dieune

Completing the Thieboudienne

At this point, drain the rice that has been cooking and pour into the sauce. The sauce should just cover the rice. Adjust the amount of water at this stage if needed to make sure that the rice is just covered.

Cover the pot and simmer on low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes. You may seal the cover of the pot with foil to prevent steam from escaping.

At the 15 minute mark, check that the rice has absorbed the moisture and is soft. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes if it needs more time. If the water has dried up and the rice is still not soft, add in 4 tbsp of water, cover and allow to cook. Serve the thieboudienne hot with the vegetables and fish, and lime wedges.

6-step collage showing cooking of rice, stew and vegetable mixture in pot
Thieboudienne (Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish) served on plate on table

Print Recipe
5 from 15 votes

Thieboudienne (Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish) Recipe

As a Nigerian, I thought nothing could rival our jollof rice, but after I tasted Thieboudienne (also ceebu jen or thiebou dieune), the Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish, a mini war for my heart began!
Prep Time1 hour
Cook Time1 hour
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: African, Senegalese, West African
Servings: 8 people
Calories: 654.9kcal
Author: Yummy Medley

Ingredients

The Fish

  • A handful of parsley about a heaping cup
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 Scotch bonnet/ habanero pepper
  • 1 tsp shrimp bouillon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2.5  lbs blue snapper fish preferably cut into fish steaks or any white fish of your choice

The Rice

  • 2 cups of broken jasmine rice or regular jasmine rice soaking
  • 1 sweet potato
  • 1 purple eggplant
  • 4 carrots I used orange purple and yellow carrots
  • 1/2 a head of cabbage
  • 2 bell peppers
  • 3 scotch bonnet/ habanero peppers
  • For the sauce
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup tomato paste
  • 1 large onions sliced
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 scotch bonnet/ habanero peppers I used green scotch bonnets, the color doesn’t really matter
  • 3 tbsp shrimp bouillon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Instructions

Marinating the Fish

  • With a mortar and pistol or in a food processor, grind the parsley, garlic, scotch bonnet, bullion black pepper and salt into a rough paste.
  • Poke two holes into the flesh of the fish and stuff them with the parsley mix.
  • Broil or Fry the fish until it is golden brown on each side, and set aside for the sauce.

How to Cook the Rice

  • In a mortar and with a pestle or in a food processor grind the scotch bonnet peppers and garlic into a rough paste)
  • Saute the sliced onions in the oil over medium heat until translucent
  • Add in the tomato paste, and stir fry for 5 minutes. The tomato paste may start to brown a little.
  • Add in the ground garlic and scotch bonnet and stir fry for another 2 minutes
  • Add in bullion, black pepper, and 8 cups of water. At this stage, taste the sauce for salt, and adjust to your preference.
  • Add in the tough vegetable first in to the sauce and cook until tender. In this case, add in the sweet potatoes, cook until tender and remove, then the carrots, cook until tender and remove. Continue adding in the vegetables until all the vegetables are cooked.
  • Set the cooked vegetables aside and then add in the fish and cook in the sauce for 2-5 minutes.
  • Once the fish has simmered in the sauce for 2-5 minutes, gently remove it from the sauce.
  • At this point, drain the rice that has been cooking and pour into the sauce. The sauce should just cover the rice. Adjust the amount of water at this stage if needed to make sure that the rice is just covered.
  • Cover the pot and simmer on low-medium heat for 15-20 minutes. You may seal the cover of the pot with foil to prevent steam from escaping.
  • At the 15 minute mark, check that the rice has absorbed the moisture and is soft. Cover and cook for another 5 minutes if it needs more time. If the water has dried up and the rice is still not soft, add in 4 tbsp of water, cover and allow to cook.
  • Serve hot with the vegetables and fish, and lime wedges

Video

Notes

Senegalese Jollof Rice and Fish Calories and Nutrition

As you can see below, this dish is quite rich and calorie dense (one of the reasons it was such a local favorite as an expensive but tasty energy source), so minimal servings are definitely recommended with this senegalese jollof rice! The estimated calorie count and nutritional information for one serving (meaning a plate) of thieboudienne is shown below with an assumption of a total of 8 servings from the ingredients above. Please note that the nutritional information below, including ingredients and calculations is sourced from a third party site and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will depend on the brands used, measuring standards, portion sizes and other factors.
Hands holding a delicious large plate of thieboudienne (ceebu jen/ thiebou dieune)

Let me know how you liked the thieboudienne/ceebu jen! Oh and if you’re looking for another jollof recipe, feel free to check out my Jollof spaghetti! Enjoy!

32 Comments

  • Reply
    Mark
    August 28, 2022 at 10:17 am

    5 stars
    Great recipe! I have tried a variety of recipes for Thieboudienne and yours is the one that reminds me most of the meals that my Senegalese friends shared with me.

  • Reply
    sally
    September 28, 2022 at 11:42 pm

    I saw a travel video of Senegal and it was not parley but chives that were used for the stuffing of the fish. Otherwise looks good

    • Reply
      Felicity
      December 9, 2022 at 11:54 pm

      It’s a personal choice. I’ve only seen parsley being used

  • Reply
    Felicity
    December 9, 2022 at 11:52 pm

    5 stars
    Thumbs up. Will be trying this your way. Simple instructions plus looks yummy. Also great that you only talked positively about Senegal and the food no mention of poverty or fish being a luxury like other ignorant bloggers. Keep up the good work.

  • Reply
    Joshua Monteiro
    December 21, 2022 at 7:58 am

    5 stars
    My family is from Cabo Verde and Senegal. thieboudienne Is my most favorite dish in the world. I’m an army go so I’ve lived and dined all over this planet. I’m a pretty good cook but I’ve always stayed away from thieboudienne. I’m a firm believer in staying away from dishes I can’t make as good as or better than my family did. I stumbled across your recipe after searching for hours to see something similar my aunt used. I can’t take you enough because you were on point and everything taste perfect.

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