Grilled Jerk Chicken

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This Jerk chicken is a breeze to make and has distinct Caribbean flavor without being too spicy for less adventurous eaters.

jerk chicken

I recently made this jerk chicken recipe for a big family gathering and everyone — from my picky six-year-old daughter right on up to my 93-year-old grandfather — enjoyed it. It’s a crowd-pleaser for all ages.

Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica. Some people believe the term comes from the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English; others claim it’s related to the constant turning or jerking of the meat to load it with the spice blend and cook it thoroughly.

What You’ll Need To Make Jerk Chicken

ingredients to make jerk chicken

As you can see from the ingredients — like soy sauce, all spice, nutmeg, Asian 5-spice powder and a Scotch bonnet pepper — Jerk chicken is a perfect example of Caribbean cooking, which is a unique blend of African, European, Indian and Asian flavors.

How To Make Jerk Chicken

marinade ingredients for jerk chicken in food processor bowl

Begin by making the marinade. Combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken in a food processor and process until the vegetables are finely pureed.

blended ingredients for marinade in food processor bowl

Place the chicken and marinade in a Ziploc freezer bag and let it marinate in the refrigerator at least eight hours or overnight.

chicken marinating in bag

When you’re ready to eat, preheat your grill to medium-high. Cook the chicken until the skin is brown and crispy, then turn the heat down or move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill to finish cooking.

how to make jerk chicken

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Grilled Jerk Chicken

This Jerk chicken is a breeze to make and has distinct Caribbean flavor without being too spicy for less adventurous eaters.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 1 small yellow onion, cut into large chunks
  • 2 scallions, quartered
  • 1 Scotch bonnet or Habanero chili pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon Asian five-spice powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce (use gluten-free if needed)
  • 1/2 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2-1/2 to 3 pounds bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (thighs, drumsticks or breasts)

Instructions

  1. Make the marinade: In the bowl of a food processor, combine all of the ingredients except for the chicken. Process until the vegetables are finely puréed and the mixture is relatively smooth (the texture will be slightly gritty). Place the chicken pieces and the marinade in a large Ziploc bag; squeeze air out and seal tightly. Mash the chicken around to coat evenly with the marinade. Place the bag in a bowl (in case of leakage) and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours or overnight. Allow the chicken to come to room temperature before grilling.
  2. Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Lightly dip a wad of paper towels in vegetable oil and, using tongs, carefully rub over the grates several times until glossy and coated. Place the chicken on the grill skin side down, making sure it is well coated with marinade for maximum flavor (discard any leftover marinade). Cover and cook, turning occasionally, until the skin is browned and crisp but not charred, about 10 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces skin side up and either turn the heat down to medium-low or move the chicken to a cooler part of the grill. Continue cooking, covered, until the chicken is cooked through, about 15 minutes more. Serve immediately.
  3. Note: Be extremely careful when working with Scotch Bonnet or Habanero peppers. They are extremely hot and if you touch your eyes, it will be very painful. Wear disposable gloves or be sure to wash your hands well when you’re done. You can use more or fewer peppers depending on how fiery you like your chicken.
  4. Note: I recommend using bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks for this recipe, mostly because the flavor is better but also because they are much easier to cook on the grill. Bone-in chicken breasts can be tricky; if you want to use them, look for smaller ones so they won't burn on the outside before the inside is fully cooked. Or you can start them on the grill and finish them in the oven.

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Reviews & Comments

  • WHOA this was so good!! I took others advice and marinated 24hours, and used boneless skinless chicken. The chicken had so much flavor. I served it with fried green plantains and a citrus slaw from this website too!

    • — Christie Weaver on September 1, 2020
    • Reply
  • So good and so easy! Funny, I have no trouble finding five spice everywhere (here in Canada). Sometimes I have trouble finding scotch bonnet, but when I do, I get several and freeze them. Since I often puree them in marinades, the texture isn’t important but the flavour certainly is. For me, it doesn’t quite taste like jerk unless the scotch bonnet is there. When I read all the ingredients, I knew this was going to work!

    • — Minky on August 20, 2020
    • Reply
  • Sad disappointment, I’m sorry to say. I’ve loved nearly every recipe I’ve tried of yours, but this one is a miss. Chinese five spice was too forward. It wasn’t spicy enough. Maybe ‘Caribbean Chicken’ or something. This isn’t jerk chicken.

    • — Barbara Ridge on July 18, 2020
    • Reply
  • I have had great success to date with your recipes and just purchased your cookbook. This jerk chicken recipe, however, turned out very bland. I used low salt soy sauce and a jalapeño pepper. Could that have made the difference? Did I undermine the recipe? I could not find a scotch bonnet or habanero pepper.

    • — Debbie on June 16, 2020
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, I suspect it was the low salt soy sauce. The dish probably just didn’t have enough salt. (The pepper may have made a slight difference but not significant.) Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on June 16, 2020
      • Reply
  • Unfortunately I did exactly what you said not to do and got on a phone call and my chicken skins scorched even at the 15 min mark so make sure you check on it. I was able to manage the grill so the other side cooked beautifully. Although we had to remove the skin as it was inedible (sigh) the flavor from the marinade on chicken was perfect and can only imagine how this would have been even more delicious if I would have cooked the skin just to crispy stage. Not spicy but just great flavor profile. I couldn’t find the chinese five spice anywhere and went to 4 different stores so had to order through Amazon as I didn’t want to try it without it. Will cook again for sure…so so good!

    • — Nancy A on May 27, 2020
    • Reply
  • Would love to tackle this recipe…
    Is Asian 5 spice the same as Chinese 5 spice ?

    • — Joojoo on May 13, 2020
    • Reply
    • Yep – hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on May 13, 2020
      • Reply
  • ***** This was AMAZING! Thank you Jen! I love your website and recipes! I made this chicken last night! The only thing I would change is to marinade it for 24 hours instead of only 8. The flavors were so delicious! I was hesitant at first, because I don’t like real spicy foods, but it was totally perfect! THANK YOU SO MUCH! I will definitely put this on my chicken rotation!

    • — Rhonda on April 30, 2020
    • Reply
    • So glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

      • — Jenn on April 30, 2020
      • Reply

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