Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

Jamaican Jerk Chicken, served with French Fries and a Salad, in Jamaica. Photo by Veronica Hill.

Jamaican Jerked Chicken, served with salad and French Fries, is a special at Calico Jack’s in the Sea Splash Resort in Negril. Photo by Veronica Hill.

Who doesn’t love a good Jamaican Jerk chicken recipe? I certainly do, and it’s pretty easy to make!

Traditionally, jerked pork was the local’s favorite. It was loaded with a thick paste of peppers and spices, wrapped in plantain leaves and then buried in a hole filled with hot stones where it is baked. The word jerk’s origins are unknown; some believe it to be linked to the Dutch word gherkin, meaning “to pickle or marinate,” while others believe it refers to the jerking motion of turning the meat over the coals. 

The scotch bonnet pepper is what gives the dish its heat. “We use the scotch bonnet peppers for soups and sauces,” said Donnie Dawson, a Kingston native and West Coast regional manager for the Jamaican Tourist Board. “We put the whole pepper in the soup and take it out before it pops. It’s wonderful.” The scotch bonnet is also the key ingredient in jerk, a cooking style which dates back to the Arawak Indians. The natives taught this method of cooking to the Maroons, Jamaica’s runaway slaves who lived in the jungle interior, and now we’re teaching it to you!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe


  • 1/2 cup ground allspice berries

  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar

  • 6-8 garlic cloves

  • 4-6 Scotch bonnet (habanero) peppers

  • 1 tablespoon ground thyme or 2 tablespoons thyme leaves

  • 2 bunches green onions

  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce


  1. Put everything in a food processor and blend until smooth. Increase the amount of hot peppers and garlic if desired.
  2. Rub the meat (chicken, pork or beef) with the seasoning. If using a pork shoulder, score the fat and rub in. With chicken, rub under skin and in cavities.
  3. Marinate overnight. Grill over a low fire until done. Charcoal is best, but not essential. Chop meat into pieces, and serve with Jamaican Red Stripe Beer.
  4. Note: Sauce will keep indefinitely in the refrigerator.