How to Make Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

How to Make Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

You cannot mention jerk chicken without tracing its origin to Jamaica. Although there might be slightly varying recipes for preparing jerk chicken, you absolutely need to try preparation of jerk chicken in the Jamaican style to get the full juicy, rich flavor.

There is no cooking authentic Jamaican jerk chicken without acknowledging the use of pimento wood in the grilling process. While merely using coal for grilling might still give you a rich taste, it robs your taste buds of the unique flavor of oils extracted from the green woods as well as the overall flavor this imparts to the chicken.

Pimento wood is not just used for this but also serves as the source of allspice berries, which is a key ingredient in making the marinade for the jerk chicken.

However, since pimento wood is native to Jamaica and may not be found for regular use by nonnatives, a regular barbeque grill can also be used without the pimento wood. While it might not have a certain flavor that this adds to the overall traditional Jamaican jerky, it’s still bound to give you the sweet, spicy, and smoky flavor that makes it highly enjoyable.

The process of making Jamaican jerk, first of all, begins with seasoning and marinating before the grilling of the chicken. Jerk seasonings are available to purchase but it’s also possible to make use of homemade jerk seasoning.

Below, we’ll discuss how the marination of the chicken is done.

How to Make Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Edidiong Abraham
The process of making Jamaican jerk, first of all, begins with seasoning and marinating before the grilling of the chicken.
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 55 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Jamaican Food
Servings 5 people
Calories 430 kcal


Ingredients for the Marinade

  • 2.2 lbs Chicken
  • 2 count Scotch Bonnet Pepper
  • 2 tbsp Salt
  • 3 tbsp Ground Allspice Berries
  • 1 tbsp Black Pepper
  • 1 tbsp Ground Thyme
  • 1 tbsp Garlic Powder
  • 1 tbsp Ground Ginger
  • 1 tbsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tbsp Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • ¼ tbsp Cinnamon
  • ¼ tbsp Nutmeg


To Prepare the Marinade

  • Mix the black pepper, scotch bonnet, ground allspice berries, thyme, ginger and garlic, chili powder, soy sauce, cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, olive oil and salt in a small bowl. If your ingredients are in fresh or whole form, blend it in a food processor.
  • Taste the mixture for adequate seasoning and if the seasoning is perfect, it's time to pour the marinade on the chicken and apply it all over. Make sure to apply it in every crevice and that it touches every part of the chicken.
  • Allow it to marinate for at least 12 hours to ensure the meat properly absorbs all of the marinade. You can leave it overnight but you must leave it for a while to get the flavor of the marinade into the chicken.


Note: If the Scotch bonnet peppers might be too spicy for you, use jalapeno or habanero peppers instead. Also, retain a bit of the marinade to prepare the sauce that usually goes together with the jerk chicken. This sauce is traditionally the scotch bonnet sauce. 
After marination, it's time to cook the chicken. The typical grill setup for the Jamaican jerk chicken goes like this:
  • Charcoal is placed under metal grates and continually tended to keep the fire hot
  • Logs of pimento wood are placed over the grates
  • The marinated chicken is placed on top of the wood and covered with a metal sheet and allowed to cook for about 40 minutes. You'll need to turn it intermittently to allow for perfect cooking of all sides.
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Keyword Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Jerk Chicken

How to Prepare the Scotch Bonnet Sauce

Preparation of this sauce is rather simple. The ingredients used are:

  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper (chopped)
  • 1 chopped clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp. of brown sugar
  • 1 small sized onion (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. salt
  • 1 juiced lime
  • ¼ cup of pineapple juice
  • ⅛ white vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. of the marinade remained

To make the sauce, mix all of these ingredients together and simmer in a saucepan on low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes. When the chicken is ready, the sauce is served with it.

How is Jamaican Jerk Chicken Served?

Typically, it can be served with a variety of side dishes to make it quite a delicacy. Some of these are:

  • Jamaican Rice and peas
  • Fried ripe plantains
  • Cajun rice
  • Caribbean coleslaw

Storage of Jerk Chicken

Since more jerk chicken than can be finished in one meal is often prepared, you’ll need to know the various ways to store it for later use.

Sometimes, the marinade is prepared days earlier than when it is needed and stored for later use. It needs to be stored in an airtight container before refrigeration. It can last for up to a week. To keep it longer, maybe even for up to three months, it should be frozen.

The marinated chicken itself can also be stored before grilling. It has to be covered and put in a refrigerator where it can last for up to 2 days. If there’s a need to keep it much longer, it can also be frozen.

Leftovers can also be refrigerated and typically last for a couple of days. They can also be frozen for much longer storage and can last like this for up to four months.

To use after, allow the frozen chicken to thaw inside a fridge overnight before reheating.


This can be done using a microwave, stove, or oven, depending on which equipment is available.

Reheating in a microwave: Add a little bit of water and oil or butter, cover it, and heat for about 3 minutes. The purpose of the water and oil is to ensure that some of the original flavors are retained. Also, you should not use an airtight container while microwaving.

Reheating in an oven: Place the chicken in the baking pan and add a little water, cover it with a foil to be able to trap some of the steam, and bake for 10 minutes at a steady temperature of 350°F.

Reheating on a Stove: Place water in a pan and heat it. You can also use chicken stock for this. When the water or stock has been heated, add the jerk chicken to the water in the pan and allow it to warm.

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