Jerk Chicken

If you’ve never made Jerk Chicken, you’re in for a surprise—it’s really easy and reeeeeally good!

If you’ve never made Jerk Chicken, you’re in for a surprise—it’s really easy and reeeeeally good!


Have you been to Jamaica? If so, you know that jerk chicken is everywhere, from corner cafes to roadside joints. And it’s delicious—really flavorful with a unique combination of tastes that’s hard to put your finger on.

It turns out that three ingredients are key—allspice, Scotch bonnet (super spicy!) chiles, and thyme. Other ingredients that are relatively common include garlic, brown sugar, onions, scallions, soy sauce, citrus juice, rum, pepper, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Bottom line—the ingredients list is sometimes long, but most of the items are things you probably have on hand.

And putting them together is as simple as pushing a button—you just puree them in a blender or food processor! The result is a sweet, spicy, tangy mixture that’s a little bit herbal, a little bit earthy, and a little bit caramel-y. As I said, jerk is a combination of flavors that are really unique.

The pureed mixture becomes a marinade for your chicken (although I like to save a little so I can enjoy some with my chicken once it’s cooked). And once the chicken is marinated, you grill it.


My recipe uses a whole cut-up chicken—that way, everybody can have the pieces they like. I start over direct heat on the grill, to get some charring, and then I finish over indirect heat with the lid closed. That’s basically using the grill as an oven.

If you want, you could reverse the process and use your actual oven, baking the chicken first, then finishing it on the grill. This can be a good strategy if you’re cooking for a party and don’t want to spend the party at the grill. To use that method, check out my recipe for How to Grill Chicken Perfectly, then use this recipe for making the jerk sauce and marinating the chicken, then switch over that one for the cooking instructions.

Either way, it’s all good. And simple.



Jerk Chicken

  • Author: Allie McDonald
  • Prep Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 2 hours 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings


If you’ve never made Jerk Chicken, you’re in for a surprise—it’s really easy and reeeeeally good!


  • 6 scallions
  • 1 onion, cut into chunks
  • 2 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, halved, stemmed, and seeded
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and cut into 4 or 5 pieces
  • 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
  • 3 Tbsp. cooking oil
  • 3 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 3 Tbsp. packed brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. ground allspice
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 1 5 1/2- to 6-pound chicken, cut into pieces (breasts cut into 2 pieces)


  1. Cut 4 scallions into rough 1-inch pieces and put them in a blender or food processor. Thinly slice the remaining 2 scallions and set aside.
  2. Add the onion, chiles, garlic, ginger, lime juice, oil, soy sauce, sugar, allspice, thyme, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to the blender or food processor and puree.
  3. Set aside 3/4 cup of the sauce. Pour the rest of the sauce in a resealable bag and add the chicken. Refrigerate for at least an hour and as long as overnight.
  4. One hour before you’re ready to cook, remove the chicken from the fridge and set it aside at room temperature.
  5. Prepare a grill to medium heat, with areas for direct and indirect cooking, and lightly oil the grate. Cook the chicken over direct heat, skin side down, until it has nice grill marks, about 5 minutes.
  6. Move the chicken to indirect heat and close the lid on the grill. Cook to an internal temperature of 165°F, 35 to 40 minutes. (The thinner and smaller pieces might be done sooner.) While you’re cooking, check the grill every 10 minutes or so and adjust the heat as needed to maintain an “oven” temperature of about 350°F.
  7. Serve the chicken sprinkled with the sliced scallions, with the reserved sauce on the side.
Jerk Chicken

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