This Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe is dedicated to all of my fellow spice lovers. Marinated in an amazing concoction of ingredients, it’s a total flavor bomb with a customizable level of kick.
It’s a tropical delight that will totally tickle your taste buds. And you can either grill or bake it, so it’s not only great for cookout season, but all year round.
If you’re craving big flavors, you need to make jerk chicken tonight!
Jamaican food is one of our favorites, with its big, bold flavors. If you’ve tried our Jamaican Curry Chicken or Jamaican Pepper Steak, you know what I’m talking about.
And then there’s jerk chicken. This one is iconic, and often the first thing to come to mind when thinking about Jamaican cuisine.
What is “Jerk”?
Jerk is a Jamaican style of cooking. This rustic, traditional home cooking method, with its unique seasoning, is the Caribbean way to barbecue.
The term “jerk” is thought to be derived from an English translation of the Spanish word “Charqui”, which means dried preserved strips of meat, like modern day jerky. The technique of jerk suggests it may have started out as a way to preserve wild boar, salting and smoking the meat.
Jerk also refers to the action of poking meat with holes so the marinate penetrate deep into it.
Jerked food can be pork, chicken, beef, goat, or fish that has been marinated overnight, even up to 48 hours
Traditionally it is grilled over pimento wood fires. Today we’re sharing both grilling and baking instructions.
- Customize the heat: Use 1 habanero for mild, 2 for medium hot, and 3 for extra hot.
- Don’t rush the marination: Start marinating in the morning, or better yet, overnight.
- Watch for flareups: Fat dripping from the chicken skin can catch fire. You want some char, but not totally burnt. Keep a spray bottle of water handy.
- Use a meat thermometer: Chicken is safe to eat at 165°F. Stop right there for light meat, as it will quickly become dried out if cooked more. For dark meat, cook to 185-190°F if you like fall off the bone tender, like we do.
- Let the chicken rest 5 minutes after cooking: This allows the juices to reabsorb back into the meat.
Jerk Chicken Ingredients
- Chicken – Bone in, skin on dark meat, please.
- Marinade base – Olive oil, soy sauce, vinegar, orange juice.
- Aromatics – Onion, scallions, garlic, ginger.
- Herbs and spices – Fresh thyme, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, pepper.
- Brown sugar
How to Make Jerk Chicken
1. Make the marinade: Put bigger chunks like chopped onion, scallion, ginger, garlic, thyme and habanero peppers in the blender and blend well. Add remaining ingredients, then blend to a paste-like consistency.
For more details, check out our Jerk Marinade recipe.
2. Marinate the chicken: Poke holes in the chicken with a fork or knife, to allow the marinade to penetrate more deeply. Place the chicken in a large bowl, then pour in the marinade. Massage it all over the chicken, making sure to push some up under the skin.
Cover the bowl with cling wrap, then place in the refrigerator. Overnight marination is best, but you can start marinating in the morning, then cook the jerk chicken in the evening. Remove from refrigerator 30 minute prior to cooking
3. Cook the chicken:
- Grilling method: Preheat grill over medium high heat to 425-450°F. Grill the chicken 8-10 minute per side, or until the internal temperature reaches 185-190°F (165°F if using chicken breast).
- Baking method: Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake chicken on a lightly oiled sheet pan or baking dish for about 1 hour.
What to Serve with Jerk Chicken
The best side dish for jerk chicken is Jamaican Rice and Peas, which is creamy and coconutty, a perfect contrast to the fiery and bold jerk.
If it’s mango season, our Mango Salsa is also a great side dish contender.
A nice chilled Red Stripe is always good too!
Storage and Leftovers
You can refrigerate the leftover jerk chicken in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
It also freezes well. Place cooled chicken in a freezer bag and squeeze out any excess air. Freeze 2-3 months.
Take your taste buds on a tropical adventure, and make this amazing jerk chicken. It may be our favorite grilled chicken recipe of all, and is surely the most flavor packed.
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Jerk Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
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Jamaican Jerk Chicken
This Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe is marinated in an amazing concoction of ingredients. It’s a total flavor bomb with a customizable level of kick.
- 8-10 bone in, skin on chicken thighs
- 1-3 habanero or scotch bonnet peppers (see note 1)
- 5 scallions, roughly chopped
- 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
- 7-8 sprigs of thyme
- 8 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 inch ginger, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp allspice pimento berries or powder
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
Make the marinade:
- Put bigger chunks like chopped onion, scallion, ginger, garlic, thyme and habanero peppers in the blender and blend well.
- Add remaining ingredients, then blend to a paste-like consistency.
Marinate the chicken:
- Poke holes in the chicken with a fork or knife, to allow the marinade to penetrate more deeply. Place the chicken in a large bowl, then pour in the marinade. Massage it all over the chicken, making sure to push some up under the skin.
- Cover the bowl with cling wrap, then place in the refrigerator. Marinate overnight, or start marinating in the morning, then cook in the evening. Remove from refrigerator 30 minute prior to cooking.
Cook the chicken:
- Grilling method: Preheat grill over medium high heat to 425-450°F. Grill the chicken 8-10 minute per side, or until desired doneness. (see note 2)
- Baking method: Preheat oven to 400°F. Bake chicken on a lightly oiled sheet pan or baking dish for about 1 hour, or until desired doneness. (see note 2)
- 1 pepper for mild, 2 for medium hot and 3 for extra hot
- Chicken is safe to eat at 165°F. This is also the ideal doneness for chicken breast. For chicken thighs or legs, use the following guidelines:
- 165°F chicken is done, but is still chewy and sticks to the bone.
- 175-180°F for chicken that is tender, but sticks to the bone.
- 185-190°F for chicken that is tender and falls off the bone.
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