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6 May 2019

This Jamaican jerk chicken recipe is spicy and loaded with Caribbean flavor, marinated in a fiery Scotch bonnet marinade then char grilled or baked. My favorite jerk chicken ever, and so easy to make!

We’re cooking up some Jamaican Jerk Chicken tonight, my spicy food loving friends. Without a doubt, this recipe will satisfy your taste buds. Jamaican cuisine is packed with a huge selection of piquant spices and ingredients. 

As we’ve discussed many times, spicy doesn’t always mean “hot” in cooking, though with Jamaican cooking, as it is with the wonderful Caribbean, it often does bring that heat so many of us crave.

This particular recipe brings the fiery heat in the form of fiery scotch bonnet peppers, some of my favorites in terms of heat and flavor.

You’ll also get an excellent level of overall spiciness. I’m sure this recipe will find a new place in your cooking rotation.

We’re talking Jamaican Jerk Chicken, my friends, and it’s wonderful.

Mike serving spicy Jerk Chicken

What is “Jerk” Cooking?

“Jerk” cooking refers to the style of cooking originally done in Jamaica. It follows the process of poking meats with holes, allowing more flavors to permeate them, reaching deeper within.

This process is called “Jerking”.

Over the years, the term has become more generic for any jerk recipe, referring not only to the original cooking process, but to the familiar spicy rubs and blends, jerk marinade and jerk sauce.

Let’s talk about how to make Jamaican jerk chicken, shall we?

Jerk Chicken on a platter, ready to serve

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Ingredients

  • Peppers. Use fiery Scotch Bonnet peppers, or you can use habanero peppers.
  • Red Onion.
  • Garlic.
  • Scallions. Or green onions.
  • Liquids. Soy sauce, vinegar (either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar), olive oil, orange juice, lime juice.
  • Seasonings. Freshly grated ginger, brown sugar, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, dried thyme (or fresh), salt and black pepper.
  • Chicken. 6 chicken legs or 3 chicken leg-thigh quarters for marinating and cooking. You can use other cuts of chicken to make jerk chicken.

How to Make Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Make the Jerk Marinade. First, add all of the jerk marinade ingredients to a food processor and process until nice and smooth. Like so.

Jerk Chicken marinade in a blender

Pierce the Chicken. Next, pierce the chicken with a knife in several places. This will let the marinade reach deeper into the meat. you can use any type of chicken for the recipe, though cooking times will vary, depending on the chicken chosen. 

Marinate the Chicken. Add the chicken to a large bowl or into a sealable baggie. Pour the marinade over the chicken and rub it down. You want to completely cover the chicken with the marinade.

Marinating pieces of chicken to make Jerk Chicken

Marinate at Least 2 Hours. Cover and refrigerate. Marinate the chicken at least 2 hours, though you’ll get more flavor penetration if you plan ahead and refrigerate overnight.

When you’re ready to cook, heat up your grill to medium high heat or  heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Remove the chicken from the marinade and discard the marinade.

Cook the Chicken. Lightly oil the grill grates and grill your chicken over a hot charcoal grill for 12-20 minutes, until the chicken measures 165 degrees F internally. Alternatively, you can bake the chicken for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. Grilling is more traditional, but baking is easy.

Jerk Chicken on the grill

Again, your cooking times will vary if you use different cuts of chicken.

Serve the Jerk Chicken. Remove from heat and serve them up. I like to squeeze a bit of lime juice over the top of my chicken, though see my tips below for another serving method.

Jerk Chicken on a serving platter with garnish

Boom! Done! Looks wonderful, doesn’t it? I love Jamaican jerk chicken! This is my favorite recipe out there. Works with any cut of chicken – chicken legs, chicken thighs, leg quarters, even whole chicken.

Recipe Tips

  • You can easily make a finishing Jamaican Jerk Sauce from the marinade. Simply make a larger batch of the marinade, then divide it in half. Use half for the marinade. Warm the remaining marinade in a small pot and pour it over the chicken to serve. So good!
  • About the Jerk Marinade. Marinating is all about building flavor and tenderizing. A good marinade adds flavor above and beyond the food you are cooking with. Chicken is an ideal protein for marinades, as it is more of a blank canvas and absorbs a great deal of flavor. It also can be a bit dry if you accidentally cook it too long. A good marinade will help keep the moisture intact, making the recipe a bit more forgiving. It’s a quick and simple way to get a flavorful sauce that truly compliments the meal. Check out my Jamaican Jerk Sauce Recipe here.

Jamaican Jerk Sauce Recipe

Adjusting the Heat Factor

You’ll definitely get a lot of spice with this recipe, but not a ton of heat. The scotch bonnet peppers  or habanero peppers will bring some heat, though it won’t translate to a lot of heat in the marinade process.

If you’d like more heat, use more scotch bonnet peppers, or save some of the marinade to heat as a finishing sauce. Or, include some hotter peppers or chili powders/flakes into the marinade.

Spice it up, my friends!

Use milder peppers for an overall milder marinade and resulting flavor.

A piece of Jerk Chicken on a serving platter

Side Dish Ideas for Jerk Chicken

Try serving your jerk chicken with steamed rice, or try a more flavorful version, like this complimentary Puerto Rican Arroz con Pollo or this Jamaican Beans and Rice recipe.

It’s also great with a fresh mango salsa. I love it!

That’s it, my friends! I hope you enjoy this Jamaican jerk chicken recipe! So good!

Cookbook Recommendation

If you’d like to learn more about Jamaican cooking, check out the following books, which I have found to be educational and informative:

Try Some of These Other Popular Jamaican Inspired Recipes

Try Some of My Other Spicy Chicken Recipes

Jerk Chicken on a serving platter

If you try this recipe, please let us know! Leave a comment, rate it and tag a photo #ChiliPepperMadness on Instagram so we can take a look. I always love to see all of your spicy inspirations. Thanks! — Mike H.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe
Print Recipe
4.75 from 4 votes

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

This Jamaican jerk chicken recipe is spicy and loaded with Caribbean flavor, with a fiery Scotch bonnet marinade, char grilled or baked. My favorite.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Total Time50 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: chicken legs, jamaican, recipe, spicy
Servings: 6 chicken legs
Calories: 360kcal

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken legs

FOR THE MARINADE

  • 4-6 Scotch Bonnet peppers chopped
  • 1 small red onion chopped
  • 4-6 garlic cloves chopped
  • 4 stalks scallions ends trimmed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup vinegar use white vinegar or apple cider vinegar to your preference
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Juice from 1 large orange about ¾ cup orange juice
  • Juice from half a lime lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme or use fresh if available
  • Salt and pepper to taste I usually use 1 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon black pepper

Instructions

  • For the jerk marinade, add all of the marinade ingredients to a food processor or blender and process until smooth.
  • Next, poke some wholes in your chicken with a knife to let the marinade permeate more deeply.
  • Set the chicken into a large bowl or into a sealable baggie. Pour the marinade over the chicken and rub it down. You can to completely cover the chicken with the marinade.
  • Cover and refrigerate. Marinate the chicken at least 2 hours, though you'll get more flavor penetration if you plan ahead and refrigerate overnight. Discard marinade.
  • TO GRILL THE CHICKEN. Heat a charcoal or gas grill to medium-high heat and lightly oil the grill grates. Grill the chicken for 12-20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. It should measure 165 degrees F internally.
  • TO BAKE THE CHICKEN. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F. Bake the chicken for 35-40 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through. It should measure 165 degrees F internally. Grilling is more traditional, but baking is easy.
  • Remove from heat and serve.

Notes

Heat Factor: Mild-Medium. The scotch bonnet peppers will bring some heat, though it won't translate to a lot of heat in the marinade process. If you'd like more heat, use more scotch bonnet peppers.
Serving Sauce Option. Save some of the jerk marinade before marinating the chicken to heat and serve as a finishing sauce over the chicken.

Nutrition

Calories: 360kcal | Carbohydrates: 9g | Protein: 22g | Fat: 25g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Cholesterol: 119mg | Sodium: 653mg | Potassium: 360mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 260IU | Vitamin C: 13.3mg | Calcium: 39mg | Iron: 1.6mg