Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Jamaican jerk chicken on a chopping board
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Ratings (11)
  • Total: 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1/2 cup seasoning (24 servings)
Nutritional Guidelines (per serving)
8 Calories
0g Fat
2g Carbs
0g Protein
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Jamaicans are proud of their trademark jerk seasoning, also known as Caribbean seasoning. Jerk is a method of cooking and seasoning meat that can be traced to the Arawak Native American tribe that was living in Jamaica when it was found by Christopher Columbus in 1492. They used a specific technique to smoke and dry meat in the sun or over a low fire and this method is still used today to make what's called jerky.

In the 18th century, a group of slaves called the Maroons hid in the mountains to escape from the British, who were then in control of Jamaica. The Maroons used salt, pepper, and spices like allspice (called pimiento in Jamaica) and scotch bonnet peppers (habanero in Jamaica) to preserve meat. It was spiced, wrapped in leaves and then cooked over a lattice fire. This is the origin of the famous and iconic Jamaican jerk seasoning now used as a dry rub or as a marinade for pork, chicken, seafood, and beef. In Jamaica today you'll find jerk huts right on the beach, where vendors build fires in the traditional way. 

This home version of Jamaican jerk seasoning mix is great on fish, shrimp, pork, and chicken. It will keep for quite a while if stored properly, so it's easy to always have some on hand.

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, depending on preferred spice level)
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Steps to Make It

  1. In a small bowl, thoroughly mix together all of the ingredients.

Kitchen Tips and Variations

  • It's a good idea to make a batch with 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, cook something with it, and then adjust, adding a bit more cayenne if you want it spicier. 

  • The seasoning can be stored in a lidded jar or container in a cool, dark place for up to six months.