International Recipes and Cooking Around the World

Jerk Chicken

Grilling Jamaican jerk chicken

(Jamaican spicy grilled chicken)

Image Creative Commons by Matt Spurr

Average: 4 (26 votes)

Jerk is a method of cooking meats that comes from the original inhabitants of Jamaica, the Arawaks. They roasted meats over fires of pimento wood from the allspice tree. Pimento wood gave a distinctive flavor to the meat and is still used for jerk grilling in Jamaica.

Jerk marinades and rubs are often quite spicy with Scotch bonnet peppers. Recipes vary widely, but true jerk seasoning contains allspice. This recipe is for chicken, but pork, goat and even fish are also jerked.

4 to 6 servings


  • Chicken, cut into serving pieces -- 3 pounds
  • Scallions, minced -- 1 bunch
  • Garlic, minced -- 3 to 6 cloves
  • Ginger, minced -- 1 or 2 tablespoons
  • Scotch bonnet chile peppers, minced -- 2 to 6
  • Brown sugar -- 1/4 cup
  • Salt -- 1 tablespoon
  • Ground allspice -- 1 tablespoon
  • Ground cinnamon -- 2 teaspoons
  • Pepper -- 2 teaspoons
  • Thyme -- 1 teaspoon
  • Soy sauce -- 1/4 cup
  • Lime juice -- 1/4 cup
  • Water -- 1/4 cup
  • Oil -- 1/4 cup


  1. Add all the ingredients to a large, non-reactive bowl, refrigerate and marinate for at least 2 to 3 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Wipe off excess marinade and grill the chicken pieces over a slow fire until cooked through. Or the chicken can be grilled until browned on outside and then finished in a 350°F oven. Baste with the marinade during cooking if you like.

Jamaican Jerk Variations

  • Substitute pork, goat or firm white fish for the chicken if you like. The fish will not need to be marinated as long.
  • If grilling isn't possible, roast the pieces in a 350°F oven until cooked through, 30 to 45 minutes.
  • A true Jamaican would use habanero or Scotch bonnet peppers, the hottest peppers there are. But you can lower the Scoville units in your marinade by using jalapeños or serranos instead.

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