How to Make Senegalese Thieboudienne (Ceebu Jen)

How to Make Senegalese Thieboudienne (Ceebu Jen)

How to Prepare Senegalese Thieboudienne

Just as the Nigerian Jollof is a must in every celebration, so is the Senegalese one-pot wonder- Thieboudienne. I once heard my friends talk about a Senegalese dish that rivaled the Nigerian Jollof rice. I didn’t want to believe it, so I decided to try it out to prove to them that nothing, not even from the future could rival my dear Jollof rice. Well, I wouldn’t say my love for Jollof has waned, but I can tell my loyalty was tested.

Thieboudienne pronounced as “Ceebu Jen,” meaning “rice and fish” is a traditional dish from Senegal, made from fish, rice, and tomato sauce. It is very popular across some African countries and also has different names across those countries. In Côte d’Ivoire and Guinea, it is referred to as “riz au gras” and referred to as “Jollof rice” in Nigeria, Ghana, and Mali.

The legendary Thieboudienne was made famous by a celebrated cook named Penda Mbaye who was often contracted to cook on several occasions in the nineteenth century. The idea for this master piece came from a moment of serendipity.

The Thieboudienne is a fresh fish and cooked rice delicacy with other primary ingredients such as nététou (also referred to as Sumbala), onions, parsley, tomato, hot pepper, and garlic. There is also a version called Thiebou Yapp made from lamb and jasmine rice.

For this particular recipe, we would be going with broken rice.  However, you could also use regular jasmine rice. As for fish, you can use any fish of your choice. In this article, we will be using sweet potatoes, eggplants, carrots, bay leaves, and bellows as vegetables. 


  • 3-4 lean whole fish with firm flesh (tilapia, grouper, snapper, or barramundi) about 1.5-2kg.
  • 2 small pieces of sea snail (optional)
  • 750ml vegetable oil
  • 4 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 sweet potatoes, well cut into chunks
  • 1 cassava root, peeled and cut into pieces
  • 1 eggplant, cut into three wedges
  • 1/3 cabbage
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1kg of broken or regular jasmine rice
  • 1 teaspoon of tamarind
  • 4 okra
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 2 habanero chilies
  • 4 Lime wedges

For Stuffing

  • ½ bunch of chopped curly parsley
  • ½ bulb of big chopped onion
  • 3 peeled garlic cloves
  • ½ habanero chili
  • ½ red capsicum
  • ½ green capsicum
  • ½ tablespoon of salt.
  • Freshly grounded black pepper


  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 2 red capsicum, roughly chopped
  • 2 green capsicum, roughly chopped
  • Pinch of ground pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • 1 teaspoon of nététou


  • Put all the ingredients in a food processor, so that the result would be a smooth paste, suitable for stuffing.
  • This can also be achieved with a mortar and pestle.
  • Cut the fish and keep the head apart to be used later. Remove the entrails and wash them properly. Make a few deep cuts in each piece of the fish with a small sharp knife. Add the stuffing into the fish through the cut you made on the body of the fish.
  • Use a blender or any food processor to blend the nokkos ingredients till a smooth paste is formed.
  • Heat the vegetable oil over high heat in a deep frying pan. Fry each of the fish on each of their sides for about 5-7 minutes and set aside.
  • Pour the nokkos blended paste into the same oil used to fry the fish for about 5 minutes. Add the sea snail and fry for about 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and water quantity of about 250ml (1 cup).
  • Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add about 2 liters of water. Now add the vegetables (carrot, sweet potato, cassava roots, eggplant, cabbage, bellows, and bay leaves) cook for another 20 minutes until tender. After 20 minutes, remove the vegetables from the pot and set aside.
  • Wash the rice and drain the water. Steam in a separate pot for about 10-15 minutes until half cooked.
  • Add some sauce from the pot to a separate cup and add the one tablespoon of tamarind into the same bowl. Set the mixture aside as it will be used to garnish the rice when it is being served.
  • Add the reserved fish heads and fried fish with okra and fresh chilies to the sauce used in cooking the vegetables. Simmer for about 5 minutes and gently remove from the sauce.
  • Add seasoning and salt to the sauce.
  • Drain out the water from the rice, once it has reached the 15 minutes mark. Pour the rice into the sauce and gently stir. The sauce should cover the rice, and you can add more water, enough to cook the rice properly.
  • Cover and allow to simmer on low-medium heat for about 15-20 minutes until the rice is cooked.
  • Once this is done, dish out the rice onto a serving platter, place the vegetables, lime wedges, and fish on top.
  • Drizzle with the tamarind sauce and garnish with tomato and capsicum slices.
  • Serve hot and enjoy with friends and family.

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