If you like spicy food and Caribbean vibes then you’ll love this authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe! It’s packed full of flavour, is slow cooked to perfection and will take you straight to Jamaica without ever having to get on an airplane!
Yeah Mon! Grab your bathing suit and sandals because your taste buds are heading straight to the Caribbean with this authentic recipe for Jerk Chicken. Perfect for your next barbecue or cookout, this Jerk Chicken Recipe is the only one you’ll ever need. It’s got simple and fresh ingredients, is absolutely bursting with flavour and definitely packs the perfect punch. Even those who don’t normally like spicy food rave about this Jerk Chicken. So, are you ready to turn up the heat and experience a little bit of Jamaica right inside your mouth?! I know I always am!
Ok, I gotta admit. I’m definitely a little bit ashamed it actually took me *this* long to add this recipe for Jerk Chicken up on the blog. FUN FACT: It would be one of the boyfriend’s signature dishes if he were to ever compete against Bobby Flay (IYKYK). It’s a recipe he’s been making for all of the (almost) 7 years we’ve been together. I ain’t bias or anything but Bobby may as well pack up and go home now because Bae has allllways got this one down pat. There was even a point where I vowed never to make Jerk Chicken myself because he’d set the bar waaay too high. But, then I started blogging about food. And, well, take the responsibility of sharing good food with the world REAL serious. And I just don’t have it in me to keep the ultimate Jerk Chicken recipe away from y’all.
TRUE STORY – going back that almost 7 years ago, the boyfriend and I actually had one of our first dates in Jamaica. We were living long distance at the time. Me in Toronto and him in Vancouver. Him still largely unaware of my dire constant desire to travel and me unaware of his spontaneity and craziness to actually join me. He was planning to fly to Toronto to come and see me. And of course, the free spirit in me, suggested we meet up somewhere tropical instead. Having never been to Jamaica before, there seemed like no better way to explore it than with a practical stranger in a week long getaway. Fortunately, I wasn’t wrong. We rented a car and drove from here to there to everywhere making every possible stop along the way for Beef Patties (obviously) and Jerk Chicken.
And believe me when I tell you, this recipe for Jerk Chicken is as close to those versions as we’ve ever come. Jamaica is calling with this authentic and flavourful recipe for Jerk Chicken. And we’re answering!!!
WHAT IS JERK CHICKEN?
If you don’t already know the answer to this question, then you are SERIOUSLY missing out. Jerk Chicken is what you need in your life! And if you’re not lucky enough like I was to actually go to Jamaica and get some from the big ol’ BBQs on the streets, don’t worry, Bae and I are bringing that experience to you!
Jerk actually refers to the style of cooking which is native to the Jamaican culture. Traditionally, meat (usually chicken or pork) is coated in spices then slow-cooked over an open fire or grill. And if we’re talkin’ real traditionally, the grill is composed of green pimento wood heated by burning coals. The smoky taste of jerked meat as a result of the burning smoke is what really makes this method of cooking unique. Typically, the meat is marinated in a Jerk Sauce or Rub who’s main ingredients are scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, onions, garlic and lime. Basting and constantly flipping (or jerking) the meat throughout the low-and-slow cooking process is how we achieve maximum flavour.
A good ol’ serving of Rice and Peas and Coleslaw often accompany this famous Jamaican dish.
WHAT YOU’LL NEED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE FOR JERK CHICKEN
The most important part of this Jerk Chicken Recipe is the best Jerk Chicken Sauce on the planet! But don’t worry, I OBVIOUSLY got you covered for that one, too 😉
- The Chicken: Honestly, you can really slather whatever part of the chicken you want in some Jerk Sauce and end up with an amazing and flavourful meal. Whatever you do, I highly recommend using bone-in and skin-on to get the best results. The skin will lock in the flavour of the sauce. The bone helps keep the meat moist as it cooks low and slow. Normally, we go for a mixture of chicken drumsticks and thighs. But chicken legs, breasts or wings work great as well. A whole chicken, if you’re confident enough to break it up yourself, is also a good option.
- The Jerk Sauce: Well, well, well. You didn’t think I would try getting away with not providing you with the Ultimate Jerk Sauce alongside the Ultimate Jerk Chicken recipe, now did you? After all, they go hand in hand. You can find the full recipe here with tips and tricks for how to make it. But, generally speaking, the sauce consists of scotch bonnet peppers (if you’re lucky enough to find them), garlic, onions, lime, allspice, thyme, salt, pepper, sugar, orange juice, vinegar, soy sauce and olive oil. Aka a pure FLAVOUR BOMB. And I think it goes without saying that you can’t have good Jerk Chicken without a good Jerk Sauce.
- Time: Yup. I’m not gonna lie. You arrrre going to need a little bit of time (and some patience) to make this recipe for Jerk Chicken. Not only is the cooking method low and slow but for best results, the chicken should definitely marinate for at least 8 hours or overnight. But trust me, it’s SO worth it!
HOW TO MAKE JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN (KEY TIPS)
- Use bone-in and skin-on chicken. The skin helps to keep all the flavours packed in nicely. And the bone helps in preventing the meat from drying out as it cooks low and slow on the BBQ.
- Don’t be shy when it comes to marinating the chicken pieces. You want to slather every inch and crevice with the Jerk Sauce. Use your hands! Get under the skin!
- Allow the chicken to marinate for at least 8 hours but up to 24. The longer you allow the chicken to marinate in the Jerk Sauce, the more opportunity for the flavour to penetrate the meat. Which is basically just a fancier way of saying your chicken will be tastier the longer it marinates!
- Don’t set the heat/cook temperature of the grill to any more than medium. The key for this recipe for Jerk Chicken is low and slow cooking. High heat will burn the marinade and crust the chicken skin before the inside cooks. Start with the grill on medium heat. Then reduce it to low throughout cooking if you notice burning or the chicken cooking too quickly.
- Continuously baste the chicken with the marinade and flip it frequently throughout cooking. This packs in flavour and allows the chicken to cook evenly and achieve a smoky and delicious flavour without burning.
- Keep a close eye on it throughout grilling. All grills are different so just keep an eye to make sure nothing burns as it cooks. A good Jerk Chicken will be charred and browned all over. However, remember there is quite a difference between charred and burnt. The chicken is ready when an instant meat thermometer reads 165° without touching the bone. EXTRA TIP: Some chicken pieces (i.e. the drumsticks) might be smaller than others (i.e. the thighs). Be mindful that they may take a slightly shorter time to cook. Keep an eye as they’re nearing the end of the cooking process and simply move them to the top or side part of the grill or to a tented cutting board while waiting for the rest to finish.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Although grilling is the more traditional way of cooking Jerk Chicken (I meeean, nothing beats those iconic grill marks!), it’ll still come out nice and flavourful if you decide to bake it instead. Arrange the marinated pieces on a rimmed baking sheet without touching. Bake in a 400° oven for 35-40 minutes, basting and flipping halfway, or until the chicken is cooked through (an instant-read thermometer will read 165° when done).
Yes, Jerk Chicken definitely has some heat, especially for those who can’t handle much of it. If you’re like me and love spicy food, you’ll find that Jerk Chicken has just the right amount of heat! If you ask me, it’s more flavourful than spicy. With that being said, the boyfriend, whose signature dish this is and who normally can’t handle too much heat, absolutely loves it in this recipe. You can always opt to make the jerk sauce less spicy by using a milder pepper such as habaneros or jalapeños.
The Jerk Sauce used here consists of scotch bonnet peppers, garlic, onions, lime juice, allspice, thyme, salt, sugar, pepper, olive oil, orange juice, vinegar and soy sauce which is pretty typical for a Jerk Sauce or Marinade. Sometimes, a dry Jerk Spice consisting of ginger, thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar and cloves will be used to coat/marinate the chicken instead.
The traditional way of serving Jerk Chicken and what you’ll get on your plate if you order one in Jamaica is Rice and Peas and sometimes Coleslaw and Plantains. It’ll also go good with some roasted or mashed potatoes, a tossed side salad, some grilled or roasted veggies like this broccoli or cauliflower, potato salad, cucumber salad, these cabbage steaks… Heck, anything really.
For a refreshing and lighter meal, try it with my Mango Habanero Salsa.
- ~3 lbs Bone-in, Skin-on Chicken Pieces (I like using a mixture of drumsticks and thighs)
- ~1 cup Jerk Sauce per pound of Chicken*
- Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and place it in a large bowl or ziploc freezer bag. Add the Jerk Sauce on top and toss to evenly coat the chicken. Allow to marinate in the fridge for at least 8 hours but preferably overnight.
- Heat an outdoor grill to medium heat* and lightly oil the grill grates. Grill the chicken*, basting and turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, 30-40 minutes. The chicken is done when an instant-read thermometer reads 165° without touching the bone. Transfer to a platter and serve.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 503Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 240mgSodium: 471mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 58g
Nutrition is only an estimate and calculated using Nutritionix.
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