Best Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

jamaican jerk chicken

PHOTO: RACHEL VANNI; FOOD STYLING: BROOKE CAISON

Although Jamaica’s national dish is ackee and salt fish, the most famous Jamaican dish would have to be jerk chicken. The star of this dish is a flavorful and savory marinade loaded with robust herbs and spices. This mix of aromatics and hot peppers gives the marinade a kick that brings you back to the sandy beaches of Jamaica bite after bite. The peppers used in jerk chicken are Scotch bonnet peppers. They’re a beautiful and aromatic pepper whose true flavors shine in Jamaican cuisine. They can usually be found at any Caribbean specialty store or Latin supermarket. They’re also used in Jamaican oxtail stew and curry chicken.

Serve jerk chicken with callaloo and Jamaican-style rice and peas for a delicious, crowd-pleasing meal.

If you can’t get authentic Scotch bonnets, habanero chiles are the next best thing. In this recipe, the peppers have been seeded and deveined to make a milder marinade even suitable for children to consume, but if you enjoy the pleasant burn of hot peppers, throw them in the blender whole.

The sauce also has a subtle sweetness that comes from pineapple juice and brown sugar to help combat the peppers’ fiery heat. The enzymes in the pineapple juice also help to keep the chicken wonderfully tender while on the grill. Warm spices like nutmeg, clove, and allspice complete the sauce, giving it that signature Jamaican flavour.

Even if you don’t eat chicken, jerk sauce is incredibly versatile. Jamaicans are known for putting it on anything from pork to fish to vegetables. It’s a great addition to any dishes perfect for the grill or for adding extra flavor to everyday cooking. It holds up in the fridge, and unused portions can even be frozen for later use. If you don’t have a grill, this recipe can easily be made in the oven. Just bake at 425º until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°, around 30 minutes. If you prefer a saucier jerk chicken like I do, brush on the optional glaze during the last 5 minutes of grilling.

Use leftover marinade for vegetables, tofu, or anything you want to taste like jerk.

Editor’s Note: This recipe was updated on September 8, 2022, to reflect changes to the recipe and to include more information about the dish.

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Yields:

4

Prep Time:

0

hours

25

mins

Total Time:

0

hours

25

mins

1


small yellow onion, chopped

5


scallions, chopped, plus more for serving

4


Scotch bonnet peppers or habanero chiles, seeded and deveined

1/4 c.

chopped fresh ginger (from about 2 [2″] pieces)

1/4 c.

low-sodium soy sauce

2 tsp.

ground allspice or 10 whole allspice berries

1 1/2 tsp.

kosher salt, divided

1 1/2 tsp.

freshly ground black pepper, divided

1


(3 1/2- to 4-lb.) whole chicken, cut into pieces, or 4 lb. mixed chicken parts

1/4 c.

ketchup (optional)

2 tbsp.

soy sauce (optional)

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  1. In a blender, blend onion, scallions, peppers, garlic, pineapple juice, brown sugar, ginger, soy sauce, thyme, bay leaves, allspice, garlic powder, nutmeg, onion powder, cloves, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper until smooth.
  2. Pat chicken dry; season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, then place in a large bowl. Pour 2 cups marinade over chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate chicken at least 2 hours or up to 12 for best results. (Refrigerate remaining marinade in an airtight container and use on other meat, vegetables, tofu, etc.)
  3. Prepare a grill for medium-high heat; clean and oil grates. Grill chicken, reserving marinade and turning occasionally, until chicken is seared and lightly charred in spots, 8 to 12 minutes.
  4. Move chicken to cooler part of grill (or reduce heat to low) and brush with reserved marinade. Cover and grill until chicken is cooked through and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 165°, 10 to 15 minutes for white meat and 18 to 20 minutes for dark meat.
  5. If using optional glaze, in a small bowl, whisk ketchup and soy sauce. Brush chicken on both sides with glaze and continue to grill, turning once, until glaze just starts to bubble, 4 to 6 minutes more.
  6. Transfer chicken to a plate. Top with scallions. Serve with lime wedges alongside.

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jamaican jerk chicken

PHOTO: RACHEL VANNI; FOOD STYLING: BROOKE CAISON

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