Jamaican Jerk Chicken – a well-seasoned grilled chicken with Jamaican jerk marinade that has the perfect balance of heat and sweetness. Amazingly tender, moist, and juicy chicken bursting with savory flavors on every bite. You’ll want to make this all year round!
Having nice weather these past few days makes me crave a spicy and juicy grilled chicken. I’m thinking of bringing some marinated chicken to grill to our upcoming backyard barbecue picnic at my in-law’s house. But that is 2 weeks away and I can’t wait that long. Ugh! I’ve been craving like crazy!
Luckily, I always stock on chicken every grocery trip. So, I marinated my chicken last night and grilled them earlier. Just looking at these photos is making my mouth water. They are seriously delicious!
The grilled chicken turned out really tender, juicy, and moist. And of course, the taste didn’t disappoint! The explosion of flavors with every bite, from the habanero peppers and my homemade Jerk Seasoning and Jerk Marinade is just perfect and so divine. So, if you’re looking for an Authentic Jerk Chicken Recipe, this one is for you.
What is Jerk Chicken?
Jerk Chicken is a famous Jamaican dish often paired with Jamaican Rice and Peas. The chicken is being soaked with Jerk Seasoning and Jerk Marinade. The longer you marinate the chicken, the tastier your chicken will be.
The jerk marinade usually consists of blended spices and seasonings such as cloves, cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, ginger, and salt.
You can play around with herbs and spices like adding cumin or paprika. That’s why homemade marinades are the best. You can adjust it according to your palate. And since I like mine spicy, I added more chopped habanero peppers.
Jerk Chicken Recipe
For the Chicken Rub:
- Whole Chicken – I prefer chicken because it absorbs flavors well, cooks faster, and also tastes better when grilled. Plus, it’s cheaper and kid-friendly.
- Salt and Pepper – the ultimate seasoning duo, these two seasonings may have the simplest and most basic taste but they can make any dish flavorful even in the absence of all the other seasonings.
- Jerk Seasoning – you can use store-bought or make your own from scratch. I like making my own jerk seasoning so I can have full control of the taste. Click here for the recipe.
- Onion Powder – It is best to use onion powder for the chicken rub for easier absorption rather than the chopped onion.
- Garlic Powder – can be easily absorbed by the chicken because it’s dry, it will stick right to the chicken. Its flavor is more concentrated like onion powder.
- Sprig of Fresh Thyme – I used fresh thyme and chopped them to fully release its flavor. You can also use dried thyme if you don’t have fresh ones.
- Scallions or Green Onion– a pungent straw-like veggie that’s often used as a garnish makes this dish flavorful. This is how I cut my green onion.
- Habanero Pepper – is really smoking hot! So remember to put on gloves to prevent having a burning sensation to your hands. Avoid touching sensitive areas like eyes and mouth when cutting this chili.
- Garlic – besides its inviting garlicky aroma, it also makes any dish more savory. How to mince garlic click here.
- Ginger – has a pungent and spicy taste with a little sweetness. It adds a whole layer of flavor when added to garlic and onion.
- Water or Pineapple Juice – the natural sweetness and citrus flavors from the pineapple juice give extra flavors to this Caribbean jerk chicken. But you can totally skip it and use water instead if you don’t want that extra sweetness.
- Soy Sauce – salty marinades like soy sauce are an easy way to give some rich flavor to chicken or any meat and it also helps the meat stay moist and juicy.
- Allspice – is a very aromatic and savory spice with a hint of peppery overtones. It has a flavor profile similar to cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, and ginger combined.
- Brown Sugar – what I like about this ingredient is that it doesn’t dry out the meat too much. The presence of salt already takes away the moisture of the meat so regular sugar will only heighten the effect. Brown sugar already has moisture so it only adds flavor and takes little to no moisture at all!
- Cinnamon Powder – has a sweet and woody flavor, interestingly, it can make any dish flavorful and scrumptious.
- Nutmeg – has a warm, aromatic, and nutty flavor with subtle notes of clove adding richness to any dish and desserts.
- Chicken Bouillon Powder – intensifies the chicken flavor making this grilled chicken extremely savory and flavorful.
You can use any meat you like such as:
- Pork – is the cheapest and most tender among beef and lamb. The best cuts for grilling are tenderloin, sirloin, rib chops, and pork belly.
- Beef – you can choose from any of your favorite steak cuts, like rib-eye or sirloin steak.
- Lamb – ribs, loin, leg, and rump are the best choice of cuts for grilling.
If you can’t find Habanero Pepper you may use:
- Scotch Bonnet Pepper – hotter than habanero pepper but with a sweeter taste.
- Jalapeno Pepper– if you want your chicken to be not too spicy, this one is a better choice.
Note: You can also try my DIY Jerk Seasoning here, if you can’t find jerk seasoning at your local grocery store.
Making Ahead and Proper Storage
- Can be made 4 days in advance. Just place it in an air-tight container or ziplock bags. Click here for my Homemade Jerk Marinade recipe. However, in this recipe, I didn’t add onions, white pepper, and honey to my marinade. I just do that sometimes just for variation. So my jerk chicken will not taste the same all the time. 😉
- Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
- And can stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months.
Note: Freeze them to an ice cube tray or pack them in a small portion using freezer-friendly ziplock bags. So you can thaw just a portion of what you need.
- Refrigerate – marinated chicken can be stored in the fridge for up to 2 days maximum, covered.
- Freezer – marinated chicken can be frozen for up to 2 months.
Storing Leftover Jerk Chicken
- Refrigerate – Place leftover grilled chicken in a sealed dry container, and refrigerate for up to 2-3 days.
- Freezer – You can freeze your leftover chicken for up to 4 months.
- Let the frozen chicken thaw overnight inside the fridge.
- You can also use the microwave using the “defrost” setting.
- Place the chicken inside a waterproof and leak-proof ziplock bag and submerge it in cold water until it thaws.
- Oven – transfer to a baking dish and add chicken stock or water enough to have a thin layer of liquid. Cover with foil to trap the steam, to keep the chicken moist and not dry. Bake for about 10-15 minutes at 350°F or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Note: baking time varies on the kind and part of the chicken you’re using.
- Stovetop – on medium heat, heat the skillet and add water or chicken broth enough to cover the skillet or pan. Add the chicken as soon as little bubbles come up, and lower the heat. Gently stir the chicken until warm or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
- Microwave – add a drizzle of water and olive oil or butter to keep the moisture and flavor. Loosely cover and heat for about 2 minutes. If not warm enough, flip the chicken and heat again for another 30 seconds or so until warm enough.
Enjoy this authentic jerk chicken recipe by serving it with these equally delicious sides below.
More Caribbean Recipes to Love
- Jerk Barbecue Ribs
- Fried Rice Caribbean Style
- Carribean Grilled Whole Red Snapper
- Grilled Caribbean Coconut Shrimp
- Jamaican Festival (Caribbean Dumplings)
How to Make Jerk Chicken
Season the Chicken
- Prep the chicken. Trim chicken of excess fat and pat dry with a cloth or paper napkin. (Photo 1)
- Season and set aside. Rub with salt and freshly ground pepper, jerk seasoning, garlic powder, and onion powder. Set aside while you make the marinade. (Photo 2)
Make the Jerk Marinade
- Pulse until blended. In a food processor or blender, combine the following: thyme, green onions, garlic, ginger, habanero pepper. Pulse for about 30 seconds until blended. (Photos 3-5)
- Soak the chicken. Soak the chicken with a mixture of soy sauce, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, chicken bouillon powder, and water or pineapple juice, and then add the blended herbs and seasonings to complete the jerk marinade. (Photos 6-8) Note: You can combine and blend all the ingredients all at once, especially when making the Jerk Marinade ahead of time. No need to separate the soy sauce mixture.
- Prep to refrigerate. Drench the chicken with jerk marinade, place in a zip lock bag and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Try not to touch the jerk blend with your hands because it is extremely spicy hot. If possible, use gloves.
Grill the Chicken
- Prep to grill. When ready to grill, remove chicken from the jerk marinade and place on medium to high lightly oiled grill. Reserve the remaining marinade. (Photo 9)
- Start grilling. Cook chicken on the prepared grill for 12- 20 minutes, until juices run clear with an internal temperature of 165 degrees F, turning often to optimize cooking and browning. You may also broil or roast the chicken in a hot oven (425 degrees F). (Photo 10)
- Simmer and serve. In a small saucepan simmer the remaining marinade and the one from the chicken for about 7 minutes. Serve with the chicken or mix it before serving with the plantains.
Watch How to Make it
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
- 1 whole chicken, cut in 10 pieces
- salt and ground pepper, to season
- 1 tablespoon or 15g Jerk Seasoning
- ½ tablespoon or 5g garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon or 6g onion powder
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 3 green onions, green and white parts chopped
- 6-8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 1½ tablespoon fresh ginger, chopped
- 2-4 habanero pepper, chopped
- 1½ tablespoon or 22.5ml soy sauce
- 2-4 tablespoon or 30 - 60g brown sugar
- 2 tablespoon or 12g allspice, coarsely ground
- 1 tablespoon or 8g cinnamon powder
- ½ tablespoon or 3.5g nutmeg
- 1 tablespoon or 6g chicken bouillon powder, optional
- ¼-½ cup or 60 - 120ml water or pineapple juice, adjust to a desired consisteny
- 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 a mixture of 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 all 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 zip lock bag and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. Try not to touch the jerk blend with your hands because it is extremely spicy hot. It's best to use gloves if possible.
- When ready to grill, remove chicken from the jerk marinade and place on medium to high lightly oiled grill. Reserve the remaining marinade.
- Cook chicken on the prepared grill for 12-20 minutes until juices run clear with an internal temperature of 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 and the one from the chicken for about 7 minutes. Serve with the chicken or mix it before serving with the plantains.
Tips & Notes:
- Dried seasoning powders like onion and garlic powders are best to use for chicken rubs for the best absorption of flavors.
- Use fresh ingredients in making the jerk marinade to achieve 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 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 the chicken.
- Remember to wear gloves when cutting chili peppers like habanero and scotch bonnet peppers.
- You can easily make this paleo by using water instead of pineapple juice and omitting the sugar and using honey and/ or coconut sugar instead.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only. Please keep in mind that it is a rough estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary greatly based on the products used.
This was first published on Publish on Jul 1, 2018
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