Jerk Chicken

JamaicanLow CarbChickenJerk

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

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

What is Jerk Chicken?

Do you like heat? As in chili heat? If you do, then jerk chicken is made for you.

Jerk chicken is how they like to cook chicken in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. Jerk seasoning is based on two main ingredients—Scotch Bonnet chili peppers (or habaneros) and allspice.

Jerk Chicken Tip

Scotch bonnet and habanero chili peppers are HOT. As in be-really-careful hot, and as for goodness sake do not touch your eyes or anything sensitive after handling them hot.

how to make jerk chicken in oven or grill

The following jerk chicken recipe isn’t blazing hot, but it is still plenty spicy, and great the next day in a chicken salad. Serve it with black beans and rice (to spread out the heat) and a very large glass of cold beer. You can choose to make jerk chicken in the oven, or make grilled jerk chicken.

Do you have a favorite jerk seasoning recipe? Please let us know about it in the comments.

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Jerk Chicken Recipe

  • Yield: Serves 6 to 8

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


  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum
  • 2 Scotch bonnet peppers (or habaneros), with seeds, chopped
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin 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


1 Make jerk marinade: Put the 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.

2 Marinate the chicken: Place the chicken in a large freezer bag, or in a large non-reactive bowl or baking dish. Pour lime juice over the chicken and coat well.

Rub the jerk paste over the chicken pieces and coat well (it helps to use gloves!). Seal the bag or cover the chicken in the pan with plastic wrap. Refrigerate overnight.

3 Remove chicken, simmer marinade: 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.

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 about 40-50 minutes, 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°F for the breast and 170°F for the thigh when checked with a meat thermometer.

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 40-50 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, or a meat thermometer reads about 165°F for the breast and 170°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.

Recipe adapted from several sources, including Bon Appetit magazine.

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Elise Bauer

Elise Bauer is the founder of Simply Recipes. Elise launched Simply Recipes in 2003 as a way to keep track of her family's recipes, and along the way grew it into one of the most popular cooking websites in the world. Elise is dedicated to helping home cooks be successful in the kitchen. Elise is a graduate of Stanford University, and lives in Sacramento, California.

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30 Comments / Reviews

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Did you make it? Rate it!

  1. Jon Nilsen

    This is the Jerk marinade I’ve been looking for! Absolutely delicious. I found some Chocolate Habenero peppers at the farmers market and right away knew I’d be making Jerk Chicken. The only changes I made were using fresh ginger instead of powdered, grating fresh nutmeg, and adding a tsp. of orange zest. I made a double batch of marinade and froze half. It’ll be a great way to warm up after shoveling snow this winter.


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  2. Eloise

    I found this tasted like it had way too much powder in… allspice is a spice that is already made up of cinnamon and nutmeg – so shouldn’t need the extra 4 teaspoons of cinnamon and nutmeg on top of that surely?

    The taste was OK but the powdery taste kinda spoilt it for me- will try one or the other next time


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  3. Skye

    This was SO good. Followed the recipe as is and everyone loved this….even my DD17 who doesn’t like spicy foods and my DD13 who is just a picky eater. The marinade had a great kick and was very flavorful. We might add an extra habanero next time to kick up the heat a bit more. Thanks for the awesome recipe that we will use over and over.


  4. Priti

    Turned out way too bitter. Something not right :(


  5. Kyle F. New Orleans

    I used a variation of this recipe twice to make jerk pulled chicken sandwiches . The step by step recipe was delicious.
    But, If you are short on time or not super handy in the kitchen, I suggest what I did the second time preparing this dish. I bought a couple rotisserie chickens from my local grocery store and a pre-blended jerk spice, Gustus Vitae Taste of Jamaica while at the same time using a few of the ingredients and tips of the original recipe. Added the deboned chicken to a slow cooked and all the spices with a large chopped onion, a can of Rotel Tomatoes and the juice of a whole lime, simmered for about three hours and served on chianatta bread garnishing each sandwich with fresh spinach and thinly sliced purple onions.


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