Jamaican Jerk Chicken – This recipe’s balance of heat and sweetness is sheer perfection! It’s what makes this dish one of my family’s favorite dinners. The bold flavors of this tender, juicy chicken smothered in Jamaican jerk marinade will have you (and your entire family) hooked after just one bite. I guarantee it! 😋
Who doesn’t love a little island flavor to spice up their weekly meal routine? I know I do! And this generously seasoned grilled jerk chicken ticks all the boxes for vibrant Jamaican food. With layers upon layers of flavor – from the spicy peppers and warm cinnamon to the zing of the ginger and the umami of the soy sauce – this is one dish you’ll stop to savor.
Plus, grilled chicken. Need I say more? I don’t, but I will. 😂I love oven-baked and fried chicken just as much as the next chicken lover, but there’s just something about grilled food. That smokey char atop the juicy meat is pretty much unbeatable.
How to Make the Best Jerk Marinade
How to Make the Best Jamaican Jerk Chicken Marinade
As with many traditional recipes, there’s no single “right way” to make a jerk chicken marinade. Every Nani or Nana has her recipe, and, of course, I’ve got mine. But here’s why I think my jerk chicken marinade is top-notch:
- 🌿 Fresh ingredients make for a flavor explosion! We aren’t just using dry spices here, my friend. Several fresh herbs and spices are involved, which really ups the flavor ante.
- 🧑🍳 Perfectly balanced spices. I’ve tried about a million ways to make a jerk chicken marinade before settling on this one as the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and spicy. I’ve done all the legwork, so you can simply whip it up and enjoy!
- 🤫 A top secret ingredient, which I’ll reveal later in this post. 😉
- Chicken – A whole chicken goes into this recipe, but this recipe is so delicious a family of four can devour the entire chicken in one sitting. Cut it up into 10 pieces, or use 10 pieces of your preferred chicken cuts.
- Dry Spices – Homemade jerk seasoning (the dry kind), onion and garlic powder, and a little S&P get rubbed onto the chicken before we douse it with the wet marinade.
- Jerk Marinade – Here’s where things really get flavorful! Blended herbs, including fresh thyme, garlic, green onion, habanero peppers, and ginger, mix with soy sauce, brown sugar, a few warm spices like allspice, and (🚨secret ingredient alert!) pineapple juice come together for an authentic flavor explosion!
How to Make Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Marinate the Chicken
- Prep Chicken – Trim chicken of excess fat and pat dry with a cloth or paper napkin.
- Season – Rub the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper, jerk seasoning, garlic, and onion powder. Set aside while you make the wet marinade.
- Start Marinade – In a food processor or blender, combine the following: thyme, green onions, garlic, ginger, and habanero pepper. Pulse for about 30 seconds until blended.
- Marinate – Mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, chicken bouillon, and water or pineapple juice and pour it over the chicken.
- Spice it Up – Then, add the blended herbs and seasonings to complete the jerk marinade.
- Chill – After drenching the chicken with jerk marinade, refrigerate it in a Ziplock bag for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight.
Grill the Jerk Chicken
- Prep Grill – Oil your grill lightly and heat it to a medium-high temperature.
- Drain Chicken – Next, remove the chicken from the jerk marinade and place it on the grill. Reserve the remaining marinade.
- Grill It – Cook the chicken on the prepared grill for 12-20 minutes until juices run clear and each piece has an internal temperature of 165℉/75℃, turning often to optimize cooking and browning.
- Make Jerk Sauce – Simmer the remaining marinade from the chicken in a small saucepan for about 7 minutes.
- Serve the sauce with the chicken or alongside plantains.
- No grill? No problem. Broil or roast your jerk chicken instead. Just make sure you do it using a hot oven. Around 425℉/220℃ should do the trick.
- Skip the spicy (if you must 😜). I love the spiciness of this recipe, but I know some people can’t do spicy foods or have little kids to think about. Just skip the habaneros if you need a mild version of this dish.
- Make it paleo-friendly. You can easily make this paleo by replacing the sugar with honey or coconut sugar.
Tips and Tricks
- Avoid touching the jerk blend with your hands because it is extremely spicy hot. It’s best to use gloves if possible.
- Marinate your chicken for 3-24 hours for the best-tasting Jerk Chicken. Just don’t forget about it in the back of your fridge. Marinating it for more than 2 days may make your chicken mushy because the acids of the marinade start to break down the fibers of the chicken. 😬
- Rub some jerk marinade underneath the chicken skin carefully to maximize the flavor.
IMO, the best way to make this ahead is to prep the marinade ahead of time, which is probably the most time-consuming part of this recipe. There’s nothing like Jamaican jerk chicken fresh off the grill y’all. You can make the marinade 4 days in advance, mixing all the ingredients and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also freeze this jerk marinade for up to three months.
That said, you can definitely make the chicken a day or two ahead of time and reheat it. Then reheat the chicken in a baking dish and add a bit of water or chicken stock (just enough for a thin layer of liquid on the bottom).
Cover it to trap the steam and keep the chicken moist, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350°F/177℃ or until internal temperature reaches 165°F/75℃. Remember that baking time will vary depending on the cut of the chicken you’re reheating. You can also reheat it in the microwave if pressed for time.
Serving and Storage Instructions
Serve Jamaican jerk chicken fresh off the grill for maximum tastiness, and drizzle it with extra jerk sauce, if you please.
Store leftover jerk chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Reheat it in the oven or microwave, as noted above in the make-ahead section. 👌
Allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg give jerk chicken a warm, earthy taste, but there’s a definite tang from the pineapple juice and ginger. You’ll also get a subtle sweetness from the brown sugar and a savory, smoky flavor from the grill. It’s complex, and it’s wonderful! 🤤
Yes! It’s definitely a good dish for anyone who loves recipes that bring the heat. It can be modified, though, if you prefer a milder dish.
Jerk marinade is usually a wet sauce you douse meats in before cooking. It usually involves blending fresh herbs and spices, but there are store-bought versions. However, there’s nothing like homemade. Jerk seasoning, on the other hand, is a dry spice rub that includes several different spices to get that classic Jamaican jerk flavor.
This dish is generally associated with Jamaica, but it’s popular all over the Caribbean. (Another reason why there are lots of recipe variations.)
What Goes With Jamaican Jerk Chicken
More Jammin’ Jamaican Recipes to Try
Grab your grilling gear and prepare for an island experience like no other! 🏝️Do you have a secret sauce for your Jamaican jerk chicken? Share the love by spilling the beans in the comment section below. 😅
Watch How to Make It
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This blog post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, cut into 10 pieces
- Salt and ground pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon (15g) jerk seasoning
- ½ tablespoon (5g) garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon (6g) onion powder
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 green onions, green and white parts chopped
- 6-8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1½ tablespoons (9g) fresh ginger, chopped
- 2-4 habanero peppers, chopped
- 1½ tablespoon (23ml) soy sauce
- 2-4 tablespoon (30-60g) brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons (12g) allspice, coarsely ground
- 1 tablespoon (8g) cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon (3.5g) nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon or 6g chicken bouillon powder (optional)
- ¼-½ cup (60-120ml) water or pineapple juice, adjust to a desired consistency
- Trim chicken of excess fat and pat dry with a cloth or paper napkin.
- Rub with salt and freshly ground pepper, jerk seasoning, garlic, and onion powder. Set aside while you make the marinade.
- In a food processor or blender, combine the following: thyme, green onions, garlic, ginger, and habanero pepper. Pulse for about 30 seconds until blended.
- Marinate the chicken in soy sauce, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, chicken bouillon, and water or pineapple juice. Then add the blended herbs and seasonings to complete the jerk marinade.Note: You can combine and blend all the ingredients at once, especially when making the jerk marinade ahead of time—no need to separate the soy sauce mixture.
- Drench the chicken with jerk marinade, place in a ziplock bag, and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Avoid touching the jerk blend with your hands because it is extremely spicy hot. So it's best to use gloves if possible.
- When ready to grill, remove the chicken from the jerk marinade and place it on the lightly oiled, preheated grill (medium to high). Reserve the remaining marinade.
- Cook chicken on the grill for 15-20 minutes until juices run clear and the internal temperature is 165℉/75℃, turning often to optimize cooking and browning. You may also broil or roast the chicken in a hot oven (425℉/220℃).
- In a small saucepan, simmer the remaining marinade, including the chicken marinade, for about 7 minutes. Serve with the chicken or mix it with the plantains before serving.
Tips & Notes:
- Dried seasonings, like onion and garlic powders, are best for chicken rubs for better absorption of flavors.
- Use fresh ingredients to make the jerk marinade for an authentic Caribbean taste.
- Skip the habanero peppers to make it more kid-friendly.
- Marinate your chicken for at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours for the best-tasting jerk chicken. Marinating it for more than 2 days may make your chicken mushy because the acids of the marinade will start to break down the fibers of the chicken.
- Rub some jerk marinade underneath the chicken skin carefully to maximize the flavor.
- When grilling, do not rely on the cooking time and temperature alone. Be sure not to leave the chicken, and always keep an eye on it to prevent burning it.
- Remember to wear gloves when cutting chili peppers like habanero and scotch bonnet peppers.
- You can easily make this paleo by omitting the sugar and using honey or coconut sugar instead.
- Please keep in mind that it is a rough estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary significantly based on the products used.