Jerk Chicken Recipe

Beyond the beautiful turquoise water and white sand commonly associated with the Caribbean, can be found the most delectable dishes with the most interesting names like pepper pot soup, saltfish fritters, and fire engine. One of the most recognized dishes from this area, jerk chicken, is a spicy grilled dish typically associated with Jamaica. Jerk is a style of cooking where the main ingredient typically is chicken but can be seafood, pork, beef and even goat or boar. The meat is coated in spices and slow cooked over a fire or grill with green pimento wood as the base. The smoke is what gives the dish its flavor.

According to Saveur, jerk chicken from Jamaica is best-known for its marinade made from allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers that are similar to chili peppers. Recipe developer Tynia Peay created a jerk chicken recipe that also uses allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers, along with a whole host of other yummy ingredients. She learned to make jerk chicken from a recipe a friend sent her many years ago, and with a few tweaks, Peay has morphed the recipe to fit her availability of ingredients and personal taste. It won't take long before it becomes one of your favorites, too.

Gather up the jerk chicken ingredients

The amazing recipe takes just 20 minutes to prepare, one hour for the meat to soak up the marinade and 45 minutes to cook. All you'll need is a whole chicken cut into eight pieces and this meal should serve a family of four. Grab a yellow onion, garlic cloves, scallions, red and green bell peppers, a lime, brown sugar, ground allspice, kosher salt, dried thyme, black pepper, ground ginger, apple cider vinegar, canola oil, scotch bonnet pepper sauce or scotch bonnet pepper, browning sauce, liquid smoke, and cooking spray. It may not be a short list of ingredients, but they all combine to deliver fantastic jerk flavor. 

"A whole fryer can be purchased already butchered. Alternatively, three to four pounds of chicken legs quarters make a great substitutes. If using whole chicken breasts, remove the bones for more even cooking," Peay said.

What is a scotch bonnet pepper?

"The scotch bonnet pepper is the traditional source of heat in jerk recipes," Peay explained. "Since they aren't easily found in my area, I use a scotch bonnet pepper sauce as a substitute. Habanero or serrano peppers are also close replacements." Both peppers are going to bring some serious heat and be nearly as hot as scotch bonnets. Finally, Peay recommends looking for the sauce in the international foods section of your local grocery store. 

According to the Boston Jerk Fest, the scotch bonnet and habanero are cousins. They both hail from the capsicum Chinese chili plant, but the habanero was domesticated in the Amazons and made its way to Mexico and South America. The scotch bonnet comes from Jamaica.

Prep the jerk chicken

Be sure to buy a whole chicken weighing between 3.5 and five pounds. Cut it up into eight pieces. Place them in a shallow baking dish, then toss together 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 teaspoons of ground allspice, 2 teaspoons of kosher salt, 1 teaspoon of dried thyme, 1/2 a teaspoon of ground ginger, and 1/2 a teaspoon of black pepper. Slowly drizzle 2 tablespoons of canola oil across the chicken and sprinkle half of the spice blend on top. Massage the oil and spices thoroughly into the chicken, then set it aside.

"Whole chickens come with the skin on. So the skin will add to the taste and texture of the chicken. It adds fat, which keeps the chicken moist during high heat cooking," Peay said.

Make the jerk chicken marinade

Take out your blender and place in it half a yellow onion, five trimmed scallions, half of a red bell pepper and half of a green bell pepper, five garlic cloves, one juiced lime, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, 2 tablespoons of scotch bonnet pepper sauce or one scotch bonnet pepper, 2 tablespoons of browning sauce, and 1 tablespoon of liquid smoke. Puree the ingredients until smooth. Then pour the marinade over the chicken and cover with plastic wrap. Allow the chicken to rest in the marinade for a minimum of an hour up to overnight in the refrigerator.

"Many jerk recipes will substitute browning sauce for dark soy sauce. It's mostly for color in this recipe. Jerk chicken can be stewed or grilled. I'm adding a bit of liquid smoke to mimic the smokiness of the grill," Peay said. "Browning sauce can be found in any grocery store in the gravy section. Jerk barbecue sauce can be found in the international section of grocery store and specialty shops."

Get ready to bake your jerk chicken

When the chicken pieces are done marinating and you're ready to cook the jerk chicken, preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a baking rack on the baking sheet over the foil. Layer the chicken skin side up on the rack. Spray the chicken pieces with the canola oil spray and roast for 35 minutes, then flip and cook for another 10 minutes. Check the chicken's internal temperature when done, which should read 165 degrees Fahrenheit. When you take the chicken out of the oven, be sure to let it rest for five to ten minutes before serving.

"This jerk chicken is super tender and ultra juicy," Peay said.

What pairs well with jerk chicken?

Peay said that jerk chicken typically is served with rice and peas, sautéed cabbage and fried plantains. Traditional Jamaican rice and beans goes well with jerk chicken, as does a special Caribbean cole slaw made with shredded coconut, golden raisins and cabbage. There's also Caribbean corn made with green onion, cumin, skim milk and other ingredients. Don't forget the Caribbean yam salad for a sweeter side dish that will pair nicely with the spice and heat of your jerk chicken.

Jerk Chicken Recipe
5 from 33 ratings
Jerk chicken is a traditional Jamaican dish that pulls its flavor from a robust mix of spices. If you're looking for a little bit of heat, you've found it.
Prep Time
Cook Time
Plate of jerk chicken
Total time: 1 hour, 5 minutes
  • 1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (3 ½-5 pounds)
  • ½ yellow onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 5 scallions, trimmed
  • ½ red bell pepper
  • ½ green bell pepper
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoons scotch bonnet pepper sauce or 1 scotch bonnet pepper
  • 2 tablespoons browning sauce, optional for color
  • 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
Optional Ingredients
  • cooking spray
  1. Place the pieces of chicken in a shallow dish and toss the sugar, allspice, kosher salt, dried thyme, ground ginger and black pepper in a separate bowl.
  2. Drizzle two tablespoons of canola oil over the chicken followed by half of the spice blend. Massage the oil and spices into the chicken and set it aside.
  3. In a blender, puree until smooth the yellow onion, red and green peppers, scallions, garlic, lime juice, apple cider vinegar, scotch bonnet pepper sauce, brown sauce, and liquid smoke. Pour the marinade over the chicken and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rest for an hour up to overnight in the fridge.
  4. Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place a baking rack over the foil and layer the chicken skin side up on the rack. Spray the pieces with canola oil spray. Roast the chicken for 35 minutes then flip for another 10 minutes. Serve with your favorite sides.
Calories per Serving 762
Total Fat 52.5 g
Saturated Fat 13.5 g
Trans Fat 0.3 g
Cholesterol 225.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 13.4 g
Dietary Fiber 2.4 g
Total Sugars 7.0 g
Sodium 958.2 mg
Protein 57.1 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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