This classic Jerk chicken recipe is sweet, tangy, spicy, and hot!
Make a big batch of this homemade jerk seasoning mix so you have it on hand, marinate your chicken with it, and grill or bake for an easy dinner. This is also a perfect recipe for a big group because the quick prep happens ahead of time.
What is Jerk Chicken?
Jerk refers to a style of cooking in which the main ingredient is coated in a spice mix or paste, marinated and slowly cooked over a fire. The method comes from Jamaica, and must include allspice (also called pimento). If you go to Jamaica you will see jerk grillers all over the place and the taste is unforgettable. The result is a nice smoky tender flavor.
Homemade Jerk Seasoning is easy with the added benefit of knowing there are no artificial flavors or additives.
How to make Jerk Seasoning:
Jerk seasoning is simple to make and you can use it on all kinds of foods. Chicken is the most traditional but try it on beef, pork, fish, or vegetables. We love it on chicken wings too!
Most of the ingredients in my Jerk Seasoning Mix are pantry staples. I measure them into a jar (or mortar and pestle), seal the jar, shake to mix it up, and it’s ready to use. It keeps well for about 3-months.
- Paprika (use mild or hot – I use hot!)
- Garlic Powder
- Allspice (or pimento)
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- Cinnamon or nutmeg (or both!)
- Habanero powder (optional)
Traditional Jamaican Jerk mix includes Scotch Bonnet Peppers but they are extremely hard to find outside of the Caribbean. You can substitute habanero powder, but you can also leave it out altogether since it can be hard to locate, as well. I make Jerk chicken without it most of the time. Feel free to increase or decrease the heat to your personal taste with the cayenne, paprika, or habanero.
How to make Jamaican Jerk Chicken:
Once you make your homemade jerk seasoning mix you are ready for your 5-minute prep for Carribean Jerk Chicken. It’s best to use bone-in, skin on, chicken thighs and legs for this recipe.
Making the Jamaican Jerk Marinade is simple:
- Whisk together the olive oil, lime juice, and jerk seasoning until well combined. It should look like a loose paste. FYI: The seasoning gets stronger as it marinates, and as it cooks.
- Add chicken, massage into the chicken, and marinate (see below for timing)
- Cook on the grill or make baked jerk chicken in the oven – (see specific directions for each below) and enjoy!
Marinate jerk chicken for best flavor:
If you have the time we recommend marinating the chicken because it really enhances the flavor.
- Add chicken to a large bowl, baking dish, or airtight freezer bag.
- Add Jerk marinade, and be sure to massage into the chicken.
- Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
- Remove chicken from the refrigerator before cooking, to remove the chill, while the grill or oven is preheating.
How to cook Jerk Chicken on the grill:
This jerk chicken recipe tastes amazing on a charcoal grill to replicate the true Caribbean jerk flavor but is delicious on a gas grill or in the oven, if easier.
- On a Charcoal Grill – heat coals to medium-hot, and use the “two-zone cooking” method, which means the charcoal is not directly beneath the chicken, but off to one side. Cook skin side down, for about 20 minutes, and then flip to the other side and cook an additional 20-minutes.
- On a Gas Grill – heat to medium-heat – about 350°F, start cooking skin side down as with charcoal method and then flip halfway through.
- Baked Jerk Chicken in the oven – heat oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on the top of the baking sheet. Arrange chicken in a single layer on the baking rack and bake for about 45 minutes total. No need to flip the chicken over.
- Remove and serve. We love to serve a combo of jerk chicken and rice.
Can I use boneless chicken?
Yes, you can! But make sure you marinate for 6 hours or less, and the grill and baking time should be adjusted. If in doubt, always cook the chicken to an internal temperature of 165° F. Keep in mind boneless chicken always cooks faster than bone-in.
Try these fun side dishes with this Jerk chicken recipe:
- Strawberry Spinach Salad with Candied Pecans
- Tricolore Salad with Oranges
- Grilled Artichokes with Lemon Dill Aioli
- Braised Leeks with Parmesan
- Baking Powder Biscuits with Orange Honey Butter
Jerk Chicken Seasoning Recipe
JERK SEASONING MIX:
- 3 Tbsp Paprika
- 3 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tbsp Allspice
- 1 Tbsp Kosher Salt
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp cayenne
- 1 tsp black pepper, freshly ground
- ½ tsp habanero powder, optional
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp lime juice
- 4 Tbsp Jerk Seasoning Mix, more to taste
- 5 Bone-in chicken thighs, with skin
- 5 Bone-in chicken legs, with skin
Jerk Seasoning Mix:
- Combine all ingredients in a jar. Close and shake well. Store in an airtight container for up to 3-months
Jerk Seasoning Marinade
- Add all ingredients to a bowl and whisk until well combined. Add more jerk seasoning to taste depending on how spicy you like it.
Making Jerk Chicken:
- Wash chicken pieces and place in a large baking dish or bowl (or an airtight freezer bag). Pour marinade over the chicken and then massage into the skin. Make sure all pieces are well coated. Cover.
- Refrigerate for 2-24 hours.
- Remove chicken from refrigerator about 30-minutes before grilling. Preheat grill or oven
- For a Gas Grill: Heat to medium-high (about 350°F)For a Charcoal Grill: Heat coals to medium-hot. The coals should be off to one side for indirect "two-zone cooking". The chicken will cook on the other side, so not directly over the coals.For an Oven: Heat to 375°F
- Place chicken on preheated grill and cook for about 20 minutes per side. Only turn once if possible to get the best sear on the skin. If cooking in the oven: line a baking sheet with foil and place a rack on the top. Arrange chicken in a single layer and bake for about 45 minutes total. No need to flip the chicken over.
- Serve warm