Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Prep: 15 mins
Cook: 35 mins
Marinate: 6 hrs
Total: 6 hrs 50 mins
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
482 Calories
27g Fat
10g Carbs
48g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 482
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 27g 35%
Saturated Fat 7g 34%
Cholesterol 152mg 51%
Sodium 897mg 39%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 4%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 6g
Protein 48g
Vitamin C 58mg 289%
Calcium 60mg 5%
Iron 3mg 18%
Potassium 624mg 13%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

When speaking of Jamaican cooking, the term “jerk” comes from the term “jerky,” which comes from the Spanish “Charqui” (char-key). This is meat cooked over a slow wood fire. In modern cooking, "jerk" doesn’t refer to the cooking method, but the fiery spice mix rubbed on the meat before it’s grilled.

While originally from Jamaica, jerk chicken is a popular recipe among spicy food fans all over America. 

Back in the day on Caribbean islands, meat was seasoned with peppers and spices and hung over a fire to cook slowly. This process of drying meat is considered by many to be the origin of modern barbecues. The fire served two purposes: It cooked the meat and is kept insects away while smoking the meat. This preserved the meat well and allowed it to be stored for long periods. 

There isn't just one recipe for jerk seasoning, but there are a few basic ingredients that most chefs agree are crucial to creating the jerk flavor. These include chilies, thyme, cinnamon, ginger, allspice, cloves, garlic, and onions. This combination gives jerk seasoning the hot and savory flavor.

If your spice cabinet isn't well-stocked, however, any combination that includes peppers, garlic, onion and at least some of the spices could be considered Jerk. But purists will consider a recipe to be truly jerk if it has the chilies, and either allspice or cloves for a savory flavor. 

"Absolutely delicious! When preparing the marinade, I added the habanero a little at a time and stopped to taste it after each addition. I surprised myself by using the entire pepper. The marinade was spicy and flavorful, but not overly hot. The chicken was moist and tender. I’ll definitely be making this again." —Diana Andrews

Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken/Tester Image


A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped

  • 1/2 cup chopped scallion

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons sugar

  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 small habanero or Scotch bonnet (very hot), or jalapeno (milder), seeded, finely chopped

  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 1 whole chicken, cut into 8 pieces

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken ingredients

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  2. Combine all ingredients (except chicken) in a food processor, and process until a smooth puree forms.

    Combine all ingredients (except the chicken) in a food processor

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  3. Put chicken in a large bowl and pour marinade over. Stir chicken pieces to coat completely; cover and marinate at least 6 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator.

    Put the chicken in a large bowl and pour over the marinade

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

  4. Prepare a gas or charcoal grill on medium heat (350 F to 375 F) for direct/indirect grilling. Remove chicken from jerk marinade. Place chicken skin-side down on the direct side of the grill. Cover and cook for 15 minutes until the skin is charred and crisp, controlling any flare-ups on the grill. Turn the chicken over and move to the indirect side. Close the lid, and cook an additional 10 to 20 minutes, removing pieces as they become done.

    Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken on the grill

    The Spruce / Maxwell Cozzi

Glass Bakeware Warning

Do not use glass bakeware when broiling or when a recipe calls to add liquid to a hot pan, as glass may explode. Even if it states oven-safe or heat resistant, tempered glass products can, and do, break occasionally.

Recipe Variation

You may also broil or roast the chicken in a hot oven, but this will produce a slightly different flavor than grilling.