What is Jerk Chicken?
Jerk Chicken is a dish from Jamaica, either marinated or dry rubbed and seasoned with warm spices like allspice, cinnamon, and ginger. Traditionally it get’s its bite from scotch bonnet peppers but those can be hard to find, so we’re using habañeros.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken is usually grilled over an open flame of burning pimento wood, however, that is next to impossible to find here so we’re grilling them on the stove and finishing them in the oven.
Is Jerk Chicken Spicy?
Traditionally, yes! However, I’ll warn any Jamaicans, this isn’t MELT-UR-FACE-OFF-SPICY. It’s more American tongue-friendly. It’s hot, there’s a kick, it wouldn’t be Jerk Chicken without that spice, but it won’t send you running for water or bread or a glass of milk.
How to Make Jerk Chicken:
- This is actually super easy with low effort for high impact, my favorite!
- Make the Marinade. Start by adding all the marinade ingredients to a blender and blending until smooth.
- Marinate the Chicken. Add the marinade with the chicken to a bowl or zip top bag and move the chicken around to full coat all the pieces. Let marinade for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight/8 hours. As a result, the chicken will be flavorful and delicious.
- Grill the chicken! Cook over an open flame or in a grill pan and finish in the oven.
- Serve the chicken with cilantro, limes, and cold beer.
Tips and Tricks:
- I always garnish with lime and cilantro, the acidity from the lime brightens the flavors of the chicken even more.
- Bread and Rice are always good options to help cool down the tongue if the heat is too much for you!
- Ice cold beer also helps!
- You can make the marinade a day ahead and keep in the refrigerator.
- Allspice and cinnamon might seem a little weird but trust me, they’re crucial to the flavor!
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- Juice and zest from 2 limes
- 5 to 8 scotch bonnet peppers or 10 habanero or serrano, stems removed
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 8 garlic cloves, peeled
- 3 scallions, pale green and white part only
- 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon from 5 sprigs fresh thyme leaves
- 1 2-inch knob fresh ginger, peeled
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 3 pounds chicken, I had a mix of dark meat: wings, drumsticks and thighs
- 1 lime, for garnish
- 10 cilantro leaves, for garnish
- In a blender, add the olive oil, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, peppers, onion, garlic, scallions, brown sugar, thyme leaves, ginger, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken to a large bowl. Pour the jerk marinade over the chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.
- Over the grill directions: cook the chicken over a medium flame, about 20 minutes, until cooked, being sure to flip them halfway through and moving them away from the flame if they’re getting too high. (This marinade shouldn’t be cooked at too high of a temperature or else you’ll burn it.)
- In a grill pan directions: Open all your windows. You’ll need proper ventilation because the cooking of the marinade creates some intense vapors. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Spray a grill pan, set over medium-high heat, with cooking spray or rub a light coating of canola oil all over. When hot, add the chicken, skin-side down, cooking on each side until browned for about 5 minutes. You may need to do this in batches, depending on how big your pan is. Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet and place in the oven to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked throughout. Garnish with wedges of lime and cilantro leaves.
If you make the Jerk Chicken let me know on Instagram!
Looking for more chicken recipes? Here are some other favorites: