This authentic Jamaican Jerk chicken recipe is marinated in a delicious blend of spices and grilled to perfection for the perfect weeknight meal!
No matter what time of year it is, I’m always outside on the grill and if you love doing it all year round as well then for sure check out how to make my Grilled Pork Tenderloin and Ribeye Steak Sandwich.
The term jerk comes from the Spanish word charqui which means dried pieces of meat, just like when you hear “jerky.” It later adapted to “jerking” a protein meaning to poke holes in the meat so that the spices will infuse into it with ease. In the Caribbean jerking, anything means to turn it in the marinade and then cooking it over the open fire.
So, you may be asking, “What makes jerk chicken jerk?” Jerk plainly put refers to a style of cooking in which protein or vegetables are marinated in spices and cooked over a grill traditionally composed of green pimento wood.
There are basically two ways of making a classic marinade and that’s either by using a dry rub or a wet marinade to help season and tenderize the meat. In addition to the rub and marinade, you will also need chicken parts such as breasts, legs, thighs, and wings.
Some of the common dry rub ingredients are:
The wet marinade, which is what I prefer because I believe it provides much more flavor and is closer to the real authentic version. The main ingredients for the wet marinade are:
- sweet onion
- scotch bonnet peppers
- brown sugar
There are more ingredients to be used in each flavoring agent method but these are the basics.
Here is how to make the wet marinade:
Add the onions, garlic, sweet onions, lime zest, lime juice, soy sauce, salt, fresh thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, brown sugar and oil to a food processor and process on high speed until it becomes thick. It will resemble a gazpacho soup inconsistency.
Pour the wet marinade into a plastic bag along with the chicken parts and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or better yet overnight or up to 24 hours before using it.
How to Make Jerk Chicken from Scratch
- Make the marinade by processing together all of the ingredients in a blender on high speed until slightly chunky but runny.
- Add the marinade to a plastic zip bag along with the chicken.
- Move the chicken around to make sure the chicken is coated in the marinade and place in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat 400° to 450°. In most cases, I recommend cooking on high heat but with the sugar and spices in the jerk chicken marinade, it may have a tendency to burn so this should keep it safe from doing that. Remove it directly from the marinade straight to the hot grill.
- Cook it until browned with a light char and when all of it has reached 165° internally. Serve with Caribbean rice and beans and rum sauce.
Other Ways to Cook It
There are a few ways to you can cook jerk chicken outside on the grill and here they are:
- Baked in the oven in a cast-iron skillet or on a sheet tray
- Cooked directly on hot coals outside.
- Pan-roasted in a cast-iron skillet.
Recipe Chef Notes + Tips
Make-Ahead: This recipe is best eaten as soon as it is cooked.
How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will freeze, cooked first, covered for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
How to Reheat: Place on a cooking sheet tray lined with parchment and bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until hot. Likewise, you can heat up in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate until hot.
You can also use this same marinade and method with steak, fish, pork or vegetables.
The longer you can marinate up to 24 hours the more flavorful it will be.
Do not be alarmed if your chicken is lightly charring, it is supposed to happen when grilling jerk chicken.
I usually like to close the door on the grill after the first flip of the chicken to help roast it better.
More Chicken Recipes
- Roast Spatchcock Chicken Recipe
- Chicken Fricassee
- Whole Roast Chicken
- Chicken Piccata
- Italian Chicken Parmigiana
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe
- 1 peeled sweet onion
- 3 green onions
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper or 1 habanero pepper or 2 jalapeños
- 6 garlic cloves
- 6 fresh thyme sprigs
- 1 teaspoon peeled fresh ginger
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup palm or olive oil
- juice of 2 limes
- 1 tablespoon sea salt
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon cloves
- 3 pounds of mixed chicken things and drums or breasts
- Add all of the ingredients but the chicken to a blender and blend on high speed until slightly chunky resembling apple sauce.
- Transfer the mixture to a plastic zip bag, casserole dish or plastic container and completely submerge the chicken.
- Cover and keep in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or up to 24 hours.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat, 400° to 450°.
- Take the chicken out of the marinade and cook on the grill for about 25 minutes turning the chicken every 8 minutes or so to develop a light char. The chicken should reach 165° internally before removing from the grill.
- Garnish with green onions and lime wedges and serve.
- Make-Ahead: This recipe is best eaten as soon as it is cooked.
- How to Store: Cover and keep in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will freeze, cooked first, covered for up to 2 months. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1 day before reheating.
- How to Reheat: Place on a cooking sheet tray lined with parchment and bake at 350° for 8-10 minutes or until hot. Likewise, you can heat up in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate until hot.
- You can also use this same marinade and method with steak, fish, pork or vegetables.
- The longer you can marinate up to 24 hours the more flavorful it will be.
- Do not be alarmed if your chicken is lightly charring, it is supposed to happen when grilling jerk chicken.
- I usually like to close the door on the grill after the first flip of the chicken to help roast it better.