Jamaican Jerk Sauce

Jamaican jerk recipe

The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

  • Total: 15 mins
  • Prep: 15 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Servings: 6 to 8 servings
  • Yield: 1 cup
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
101 Calories
1g Fat
25g Carbs
2g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6 to 8
Amount per serving
Calories 101
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 1g 1%
Saturated Fat 0g 1%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 286mg 12%
Total Carbohydrate 25g 9%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Protein 2g
Calcium 101mg 8%
*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.)

Jerk is an important part of Jamaican history, tracing back to the middle of the 17th century and possibly even earlier. The term "jerk" is thought to be from the Spanish word for dried meat, charqui, which has been transformed into the English "jerky." It is likely connected to the way the meat gets poked, prodded, and jerked around the grill as it cooks.

Although Jamaican chefs and cooks keep their recipes close to their chests, all of them can agree on a few jerk sauce ingredients. Key components like allspice, scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, and garlic are necessary to get the right flavor. Other seasoning blends might include scallions, onions, salt, black pepper, and more. Jamaican jerk sauce should be challengingly spicy, so it's important to not skimp on the peppers. Keep in mind that the peppers tend to mellow a bit during the cooking process.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup ground allspice berries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (packed)
  • 2 bunches scallions
  • 6 to 8 garlic cloves
  • 4 to 6 scotch bonnet peppers (seeded and cored)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce ​(to moisten)
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme (or 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Kosher salt (to taste)
  • Black pepper (to taste)

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for Jamaican jerk
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  2. Add the allspice berries, brown sugar, scallions, garlic cloves, scotch bonnet peppers, soy sauce, thyme, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and pepper to a food processor or a blender.

    Jerk sauce ingredients in food processor
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  3. Process until smooth.

    Jerk sauce being blended in a food processor
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga
  4. Use to marinate the meat of your choice.

    Jamaican jerk sauce being slathered onto raw chicken
    The Spruce / Diana Chistruga

How to Use

Although Jamaican jerk sauce has been traditionally used with pork, all types of meat are now seasoned this way. For example, cooks can rub this spicy jerk sauce on chicken, pork, beef, or fish.

  • For pork shoulder, you can score the fat and rub the sauce into the cuts.
  • For chicken, loosen the skin on the whole or cut up the bird before brushing the sauce underneath and into the cavity.
  • This preparation style can also be used deliciously on a firm-fleshed fish such as grouper.
  • It's important to marinate most meat for at least eight hours or overnight. When marinating fish, leave the sauce on for up to one hour and on steaks or fillets for no more than half an hour.
  • Meat or fish can be grilled slowly over a low fire, preferably charcoal, until it's done. The meat should look "pinkish" with dark skin.
  • For an added authentic flavor, cooks can find pimento wood (from the tree that yields the allspice berries), which is available online and at some specialty food stores.
  • For an authentic presentation, chop the meat into pieces and serve it island-style with fresh jerk sauce on the side, traditional hard dough bread, and plenty of cold Jamaican beer.

Tips

  • You can put whole allspice berries straight into the food processor or blender. If this process is used, be sure to use the equivalent of 1/2 cup ground.
  • Adjust the number of peppers according to your tolerance for heat.
  • Wear gloves when you work with scotch bonnet or other hot peppers.
  • Store the jerk sauce in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 months or freeze for up to a year.