Jerk Chicken

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Caribbean jerk chicken full of flavor and and a good amount of heat, using habaneros (or scotch bonnet chili peppers) and allspice.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

I recently had the jerk chicken at a local Davis hangout, the psychedelically inspired Delta of Venus. The place looks a bit scruffy, but my oh my is their jerk chicken good. And hot. My meal there led me to do some research on jerk preparations. Jerk seasoning, if you are unfamiliar with it, is based on two main ingredients – Scotch Bonnet chili peppers (or habaneros) and allspice, and is how they like to cook chicken in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. The following recipe we cooked up isn’t as scorching as the Delta of Venus’, but it is still plenty spicy, and great the next day in a chicken salad. Serve with rice (to spread out the heat) and a very large glass of cold beer. Do you have a favorite jerk seasoning recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Jerk Chicken Recipe

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Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 Tbsp dark rum
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons molasses
  • 1 (5 or 6 pound) roasting chicken, cut in half, lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • Salt and pepper

Safety note. Scotch Bonnet and Habanero chile peppers are very hot and can cause extreme pain if they come in contact with your eyes. We strongly recommend wearing protective gloves while handling the chilies and the jerk paste.

Method

1 Put vinegar, rum, hot peppers, onion, green onion tops, thyme, olive oil, salt, pepper, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and molasses into a blender. Pulse until mostly smooth.

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2 Place chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large roasting pan or baking dish. Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well. Add the jerk paste to the chicken pieces and coat well. Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

3 When you are ready to cook the chicken, remove chicken from the marinade bag or pan. Put the remaining marinade into a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Set aside to use as a basting sauce for the chicken. If you want you can reserve a little of the marinade (once boiled for 10 minutes since it has been in contact with raw chicken) to serve with the chicken or to mix with some ketchup and a dash of soy sauce for a serving sauce.

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4a Grilling Method
Preheat grill to medium high. Sprinkle chicken halves with salt and pepper. Place chicken halves, skin side down on the grill grates. Cover. Cook for approximately one hour, keeping the internal grill temperature between 350°F and 400°F, turning the chickens occasionally and basting with marinade, until the chicken halves are cooked through. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

4b Oven Method
Preheat oven to 350°F. Place chicken halves in a rimmed baking pan, skin side up. Roast until chicken halves are cooked through, about 50-60 minutes. The chicken is done when the juices run clear (not pink) when a knife tip is inserted into both the chicken breast and thigh, about 165-170°F for the breast and 180-185°F for the thigh. Transfer chicken to platter. Tent loosely with foil to keep warm and let stand 15 minutes.

Cut chicken into pieces. Serve with black beans and rice.

Serves 6 to 8.

Recipe adapted from several sources, including Bon Appetit magazine.

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Links:
Jerk chicken from the Domestic Goddess.

Showing 4 of 20 Comments

  • Gary in Massena

    I still remember the first time I had Jerk Chicken. It was in a Jamaican restaurant in Ft. Lauderdale. I was eating alone and remember that the waiter brought me a gallon pitcher of Iced Tea. Funny thing, I drank the whole thing.

    I attribute that lunch to converting me over to be a chili head.

    Hot, but oh so flavorful.

    Gary in Massena

  • bunchi

    The first time I had Jerk Chicken was at Jay’s Cafe in Ithaca, New York [no longer there]. It was fabulous, served with fried plantains, coconut rice…yummy! There’s a recipe posted here: http://www.pepperfool.com/recipes/jerk/jay_jerk.html. Thanks for bringing back good food memories :)

  • Paul Dearing

    We too love Jerk Chicken. This is a recipe we’ve employed and enjoyed for years. It is such a staple in our dinner rotation that my wife Carrie grew me a Habenero plant.

    Jamaican Jerk Chicken

    Don’t let the long list of ingredients scare you, this is easy to make. We recommend a sweet wine as an accompaniment to help put the fire out.

    1 tablespoon ground Allspice
    1 tablespoon dried Thyme
    1 ½ teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
    1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black Pepper
    1 ½ teaspoons ground Sage
    ¾ teaspoon Nutmeg
    ¾ teaspoon ground Cinnamon
    1 tablespoon Sugar

    ¼ cup Olive Oil
    ¼ cup Soy Sauce
    ¾ cup White Vinegar
    ½ cup Orange Juice
    Juice of 1 Lime

    1 Habanero Pepper – seeded and finely chopped
    3 Green Onions – finely chopped
    1 cup White Onion – finely chopped
    10 Garlic Cloves – crushed

    4 to 6 Chicken Breasts

    Combine all of the dry stuff, the first 8 ingredients in a large bowl. Combine all the wet stuff, Olive Oil, Soy Sauce, Vinegar, O.J., and lime juice in a large measuring cup or small bowl. Then slowly pour and whisk the wet stuff into the dry stuff. Once that is all mixed together stir in the vegetables, Habanero, Onions, and Garlic. Add Chicken, cover the bowl and marinate, refrigerated, for at least an hour.
    Cook the chicken on the grill for about six minutes on a side, brushing on more of the marinade while cooking. Bring the leftover marinade to a fast boil for at least 4 minutes and serve as a dipping sauce.

  • Tom

    Our first taste of Jerk chicken was in Jamaica. That’s the place for it.

    I’ve never tried to make it from scratch. We always used WalkersWood Traditional Jamaican Jerk Seasoning. (Which we brought back originally, then found at local Jamaican grocers.) The “Jerk Seasoning” from the local mega-mart had little flavor, just heat.

    We like it with Yeast rolls, Mac & Cheese and Sweet Tea to cool the palate.

  • lazy chef

    For those who are lazy, you can find Walkerswood Jerk seasoning at Cost Plus, and Bevmo in California. It’s actually a pretty good rendition, nice and hot. Recently got the penzey’s jerk powder, just add water – nice and easy too.

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Jerk Chicken