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Jamaican Jerk Marinated Chicken

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Are you looking for an easy, homemade recipe to try? Then this Jamaican Jerk Marinated Chicken is for you!

Jamaican Jerk Marinated Chicken

Caribbean cuisine is incredibly diverse, but one thing remains true, Jamaican jerk marinated chicken hits the top of the flavor list every time. The mixture of herbs, earthy spices, and piquant flavors is amazing. We’ve even used this Jerk marinade on pork and turkey, which does not disappoint!

What is Jamaican Jerk?

Jerk is a cooking style native to Jamaica. Normally, meats like chicken or pork are marinated in a blended spicy mixture of earthy spices, Scotch Bonnet peppers, herbs, and green onions. The meat is then slow-roasted or grilled over pimento wood, and served with rice, plantains, and a fruit-based salsa. While marinating is the top method for making Jamaican jerk, some home chefs use a dry rub instead. One method isn’t necessarily better than the other. We recommend the rub for shorter cooking items like seafood, thin cut pork chops, kebabs, and chicken breasts. The marinade is great for larger or tougher cuts of meat like dark meat chicken, pork roasts, beef, thick cut pork chops, and turkey.

How spicy is Jamaican Jerk?

Traditional Jamaican Jerk typically includes Scotch Bonnet Peppers which are flavorful but incredibly hot! They are similar to habanero peppers in both heat and flavor. Unless you are well acclimated to hot chilis, we recommend starting with a milder pepper like jalapeno or serrano, then working your way up to cayenne peppers before considering Scotch Bonnets. As always, wear food-safe gloves when handling chilis. Remove the seeds and white “veins” located around the seeds to reduce the spiciness. Leave them intact for a spicier marinade.

Ingredients:

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • Onion: Use white or red for a sharper finish or yellow for a mellow onion flavor.
  • Green Onion (scallions)
  • Garlic
  • Ginger (minced fresh or 1/4 teaspoons powdered ginger)
  • Chili Pepper: jalapeno, serrano, cayenne, habanero, or scotch bonnets
  • Soy sauce (tamari or coconut aminos)
  • Vegetable oil
  • White vinegar, distilled
  • Fresh thyme
  • White sugar (or brown sugar for more caramelized flavor)
  • Sea salt
  • Allspice (This is an important spice for Jamaican Jerk chicken)
  • Black pepper
  • Nutmeg
  • Cinnamon
  • Hot sauce (optional)
Marinating chicken drumsticks

How to make Jerk Marinade:

  • Place all marinade ingredients into a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth. Depending on the size of your blender, this process might need to be split into two batches. 
  • Jerk marinades have the same consistency as blended salsa. However, it should not be too thick. Add 1-2 tablespoons of extra water to thin out the ingredients as they blend. 
  • Use Jamaican jerk marinade right after blending. 
  • If made ahead of time, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. We recommend making it the day before so that the flavors have time to combine.

What is the best way to use jerk marinade?

Jerk marinade can be relatively thick once blended. We recommend making 2-3 small gashes in the meat with a sharp knife or using a jaccard meat tenderizer before marinating. Use the knife method on chicken legs, bone-in thighs, beef and pork roasts, and whole chicken. Use the jaccard method on chicken breasts, boneless chicken thighs, steaks, and chops. Fish, seafood, vegetables, and meat substitutes do not need piercing. Just submerge in the marinade and cook as directed.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken on a plate with lime slices

Making Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • Trim away any excess skin or fat from the chicken. Do not remove all the skin, but tidy it up a bit.
  • Make two 1/4″ deep slits into each drumstick.
  • Place them into a zip-top bag, and pour jerk marinade on top. Work the drumsticks around for even coverage. Release air from the bag, and seal tightly.
  • Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
Grilling jerk chicken

Grilling

  • For the most authentic flavor, we recommend using a charcoal grill for this Jamaican jerk chicken recipe with pimento (allspice) wood or leaves. However, a pellet grill and cherry wood will work in a pinch!
  • Prepare your grill for an indirect cooking temperature of 325 degrees F. Add wood chips about 5 minutes before cooking time.
  • Place chicken on the grill, cover, and cook for 35-40 minutes.
  • Check the internal temperature of the meat. Once it reaches 170 degrees F, transfer over the direct cooking space of your grill. Sear them for 1-2 minutes, rotating the drumsticks as needed.
  • If using a pellet grill, sear according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also broil the chicken in the oven.
  • Serve Jamaican Jerk chicken with rice, beans, and grilled vegetables.
Plated Caribbean Chicken

Storing leftovers

Store leftover Jamaican Jerk marinated chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes until heated to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. 

Jerk marinade

Marinating Times:

This marinade is delicious on all types of proteins and vegetables. This recipe makes 1 cup of marinade or enough for 1 1/2-2 pounds of meat. Increase the recipe amounts to suit your needs.

  • Chicken, whole cut-up: 12-24 hours
  • Chicken breasts: marinate for 8-12 hours. 
  • Pork chops and roasts: marinate for 8-24 hours. 
  • Beef: 12-24 hours
  • Vegetables and Meat Substitutes: 30-40 minutes.
  • Fish and Seafood: Marinate in Jamaican jerk marinade for no more than 30 minutes.

More recipes to enjoy!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken on a plate with lime slices

Jamaican Jerk Marinated Chicken

Are you looking for an easy, homemade recipe to try? Then this Jamaican Jerk Marinated Chicken is for you!
5 from 1 vote
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Caribbean
Keyword: BBQ jerk chicken, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Jerk marinated chicken
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 6
Calories: 148kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 medium onion roughly chopped
  • 5 whole scallions (green onions) roughly chopped
  • 1 chili pepper seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger minced
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1-2 tablespoons water add more if needed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 teaspoons white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot sauce optional

Instructions

  • Place all marinade ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Depending on the size of your blender, this process might need to be split into two batches.
  • Jerk marinades have the same consistency as blended salsa. However, it should not be too thick. Add 1-2 tablespoons of extra water to thin out the ingredients as they blend.
  • If made ahead of time, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. We recommend making it the day before so that the flavors have time to combine.
  • Trim away any excess skin or fat from the chicken. Do not remove all the skin, but tidy it up a bit.
  • Make two 1/4″ deep slits into each drumstick.
  • Place them into a zip-top bag, and pour jerk marinade on top. Work the drumsticks around for even coverage. Release air from the bag, and seal tightly.
  • Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 12-24 hours.
  • Prepare your grill for an indirect cooking temperature of 325 degrees F. Add wood chips about 5 minutes before cooking time.
  • Place chicken on the grill, cover, and cook for 35-40 minutes.
  • Check the internal temperature of the meat. Once it reaches 170 degrees F, transfer over the direct cooking space of your grill. Sear them for 1-2 minutes, rotating the drumsticks as needed.
  • If using a pellet grill, sear according to the manufacturer’s instructions. You can also broil the chicken in the oven.
  • Serve Jamaican Jerk chicken with rice, beans, and grilled vegetables.
  • Store leftover Jamaican Jerk marinated chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Freeze for up to 6 weeks. Reheat in a 350-degree oven for 15 minutes until heated all the way through.

Nutrition

Calories: 148kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 15g | Fat: 7g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 70mg | Sodium: 977mg | Potassium: 278mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 242IU | Vitamin C: 15mg | Calcium: 30mg | Iron: 1mg
Derrick Riches
Derrick Riches

I began writing about Barbecue & Grilling in 1997 with one mission, to help the backyard chef have the best experience possible.

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