Jerk Chicken

August 6th is Jamaican Independence Day. Celebrate! This jerk chicken relies on an easy marinade you toss together from Jamaican allspice, scallion, thyme, cinnamon, chile pepper, and vinegar that tastes just like what you’d experience in the Caribbean. With easy instructions on how to cook it without fail.

A sliced jerk chicken breast on a round cutting board, with a man's hand holding a cleaver above it

Few things make us quite as content as a plate of authentic jerk chicken like what you’d experience in the Caribbean. This authentic recipe has all the taste of tradition, though a touch milder, which can easily be remedied for those who prefer it by tossing in more chile peppers.–Renee Schettler

What Do I Serve With Jamaican Jerk Chicken?

In Jamaica, folks are accustomed to teaming smoke-infused, falling-apart-tender jerk chicken with festival. Not festival as in a party, although of course an authentic jerk chicken is always worth celebrating, but festival as in the Jamaican bread dumpling with the party-in-a-recipe name that’s dense and deep-fried and robust enough to sop up any jerk paste that remains on the plate. We gotta say, we vastly prefer the Jamaican duo of chicken and dumplings to the more staid and soggy American version. No contest.

Jerk Chicken

  • Quick Glance
  • (1)
  • 25 M
  • 2 H, 25 M
  • Serves 4
5/5 - 1 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Jerk from Jamaica cookbook

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  • For the jerk marinade
  • For the jerk chicken


Make the jerk marinade

In a blender or food processor, combine all the ingredients and process until smooth. The marinade will be quite thick. You should have about 1 1/2 cups. (You can store the marinade in a tightly closed jar in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks.)

Make the jerk chicken

Place the chicken in a large glass bowl or baking dish and dump 1 cup jerk marinade over the chicken. Turn the pieces to coat them completely. Cover and refrigerate for 4 to 6 hours.

Build a low fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill to 225°F (107°C). [Editor’s Note: For authentic flavor, build a low fire in a charcoal grill with a combination of charcoal and pimento wood and hold the temperature around 225°F (107°C). If you don’t have pimento wood, substitute hickory or applewood, or use all charcoal.]

Grill the jerk chicken

Place the chicken on the grill, skin-side down. The marinade will cling to the chicken; that’s okay. Cover the grill and cook the chicken, basting frequently with the remaining 1/2 cup jerk marinade and turning every 10 minutes or so, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The chicken is done when the flesh feels firm and the juices run clear when the meat is pricked with a fork.

Pile the jerk chicken onto a platter and have at it. Originally published July 23, 2013.

Print RecipeBuy the Jerk from Jamaica cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    Spicier Jerk Chicken Variation

    • To increase the heat of this rather mild jerk marinade, add a splash of store-bought or homemade hot pepper sauce or more hot peppers. If you want less heat, remove the seeds and ribs of the chiles before grinding them. This is an excellent marinade for chicken, beef, or pork.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    I got excited about this recipe as soon as I made the marinade. The allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon in the oniony slush gave it a wonderful smell. The finished chicken didn’t disappoint.

    I cooked this on my Big Green Egg, which made holding a steady low temperature very easy. I think the low temp is crucial here, as it allows the marinade to form a flavorful crust on the chicken without burning.

    The only thing I’d change about this recipe is to up the amount of chile peppers in the marinade. I used one jalapeño plus one Thai chile, but I’d have liked a little more heat. I think habañeros would be ideal here.

    There will definitely be a next time for this recipe. The flavors of this marinade are so good and the ingredients are things that I already had on hand, so it made for a very easy recipe to pull together. I loved the spiciness with that slightly sweet note that’s typical of jerk recipes. (I used brown sugar instead of regular sugar.)

    So I admit that I didn’t actually grill the chicken; it was just too hot outside! However, I really wanted to try this recipe, so I decided to roast the chicken instead and it made for what I thought was a wonderful jerk chicken! I pan-seared the chicken first and then roasted it and basted it a couple times with the extra marinade. I can only imagine how good it’d be if I’d actually been able to grill it low and slow with the wood chips!


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    1. This is similar to mine. I use 1 bunch green onion, 6 garlic cloves, zest and juice of 2 limes, fresh ginger, olive oil and 6 habaneros. Marinate 1 day, cooked in my pit barrel 275 degrees. Dont be afraid of this many habaneros.

      1. Hey Jennifer, none of our testers complained of this. May I ask, what type of chile pepper did you use? Also, we only used the white and pale green portions of the scallion, but if you used the dark green ends, that could definitely skew the coloring to a very Kermit-like hue…more importantly, what did you think of the taste?

        1. I used 1 jalapeño pepper. My scallions were rather light. My chicken is marinating now, when I tasted it it, was more tang than sweet so I added brown sugar. The taste was better. But still a grainy dark green rather than smooth brown.

          1. Hey Jennifer, thanks for getting back in touch. I gotta admit, I’m at sorta a loss. I make jerk pastes rather a lot, including this one, and they have some green in them but overall tend to have a brownish cast. I’d venture to say the jalapeño in place of a habañero may have something to do with it? At any rate, the taste is what matters, so I’d love if you let us know how you like it on the finished bird. Jerk tends to have more heat than sweet, but of course, I’m glad you tweaked it to your preference.

            1. It was YUM! Great smoky and bold flavors. It had a hint of the jerk taste but not much… I am going to be trying this recipe again so I can get it spot on… I tasted its potential, it definitely can go all the way!

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