Jamaican Jerk Chicken (Plus VIDEO)

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Jamaican Jerk Chicken – This recipe’s balance of heat and sweetness is sheer perfection! It’s what makes this dish one of my family’s favorite dinners. The bold flavors of this tender, juicy chicken smothered in Jamaican jerk marinade will have you (and your entire family) hooked after just one bite. I guarantee it! 😋

Who doesn’t love a little island flavor to spice up their weekly meal routine? I know I do! And this generously seasoned grilled jerk chicken ticks all the boxes for vibrant Jamaican food. With layers upon layers of flavor – from the spicy peppers and warm cinnamon to the zing of the ginger and the umami of the soy sauce – this is one dish you’ll stop to savor.

Plus, grilled chicken. Need I say more? I don’t, but I will. 😂I love oven-baked and fried chicken just as much as the next chicken lover, but there’s just something about grilled food. That smokey char atop the juicy meat is pretty much unbeatable.

Tearing into grilled jerk chicken

How to Make the Best Jamaican Jerk Chicken Marinade

As with many traditional recipes, there’s no single “right way” to make a jerk chicken marinade. Every Nani or Nana has her recipe, and, of course, I’ve got mine. But here’s why I think my jerk chicken marinade is top-notch:

  1. 🌿 Fresh ingredients make for a flavor explosion! We aren’t just using dry spices here, my friend. Several fresh herbs and spices are involved, which really ups the flavor ante. 
  2. 🧑‍🍳 Perfectly balanced spices. I’ve tried about a million ways to make a jerk chicken marinade before settling on this one as the perfect balance of sweet, savory, and spicy. I’ve done all the legwork, so you can simply whip it up and enjoy!
  3. 🤫 A top secret ingredient, which I’ll reveal later in this post. 😉 

Recipe Ingredients

  1. ChickenA whole chicken goes into this recipe, but this recipe is so delicious a family of four can devour the entire chicken in one sitting. Cut it up into 10 pieces, or use 10 pieces of your preferred chicken cuts.
  2. Dry SpicesHomemade jerk seasoning (the dry kind), onion and garlic powder, and a little S&P get rubbed onto the chicken before we douse it with the wet marinade.
  3. Jerk MarinadeHere’s where things really get flavorful! Blended herbs, including fresh thyme, garlic, green onion, habanero peppers, and ginger, mix with soy sauce, brown sugar, a few warm spices like allspice, and (🚨secret ingredient alert!) pineapple juice come together for an authentic flavor explosion!

How to Make Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Seasoning the fresh meat
Making the marinade and adding the seasoning

Marinate the Chicken

  • Prep Chicken – Trim chicken of excess fat and pat dry with a cloth or paper napkin.
  • Season – Rub the chicken with salt and freshly ground pepper, jerk seasoning, garlic, and onion powder. Set aside while you make the wet marinade.
  • Start Marinade – In a food processor or blender, combine the following: thyme, green onions, garlic, ginger, and habanero pepper. Pulse for about 30 seconds until blended.
  • Marinate – Mix the soy sauce, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, chicken bouillon, and water or pineapple juice and pour it over the chicken. 
  • Spice it Up – Then, add the blended herbs and seasonings to complete the jerk marinade.
  • Chill – After drenching the chicken with jerk marinade, refrigerate it in a Ziplock bag for at least 3 hours, preferably overnight. 
Seasoned jerk chicken ready to grill

Grill the Jerk Chicken

  • Prep Grill – Oil your grill lightly and heat it to a medium-high temperature. 
  • Drain Chicken – Next, remove the chicken from the jerk marinade and place it on the grill. Reserve the remaining marinade.
  • Grill It – Cook the chicken on the prepared grill for 12-20 minutes until juices run clear and each piece has an internal temperature of 165℉/75℃, turning often to optimize cooking and browning. 
  • Make Jerk Sauce – Simmer the remaining marinade from the chicken in a small saucepan for about 7 minutes. 
  • Serve the sauce with the chicken or alongside plantains. 
Insanely good Jamaican Jerk Chicken garnished with Thyme

Recipe Variations

  1. No grill? No problem. Broil or roast your jerk chicken instead. Just make sure you do it using a hot oven. Around 425℉/220℃ should do the trick.
  2. Skip the spicy (if you must 😜). I love the spiciness of this recipe, but I know some people can’t do spicy foods or have little kids to think about. Just skip the habaneros if you need a mild version of this dish.
  3. Make it paleo-friendly. You can easily make this paleo by replacing the sugar with honey or coconut sugar.

Tips and Tricks

  1. Avoid touching the jerk blend with your hands because it is extremely spicy hot. It’s best to use gloves if possible.
  2. Marinate your chicken for 3-24 hours for the best-tasting Jerk Chicken. Just don’t forget about it in the back of your fridge. Marinating it for more than 2 days may make your chicken mushy because the acids of the marinade start to break down the fibers of the chicken. 😬
  3. Rub some jerk marinade underneath the chicken skin carefully to maximize the flavor.

Make-Ahead Instructions

IMO, the best way to make this ahead is to prep the marinade ahead of time, which is probably the most time-consuming part of this recipe. There’s nothing like Jamaican jerk chicken fresh off the grill y’all. You can make the marinade 4 days in advance, mixing all the ingredients and storing them in an airtight container in the fridge. You can also freeze this jerk marinade for up to three months. 

That said, you can definitely make the chicken a day or two ahead of time and reheat it. Then reheat the chicken in a baking dish and add a bit of water or chicken stock (just enough for a thin layer of liquid on the bottom).

Cover it to trap the steam and keep the chicken moist, and bake for 10-15 minutes at 350°F/177℃ or until internal temperature reaches 165°F/75℃. Remember that baking time will vary depending on the cut of the chicken you’re reheating. You can also reheat it in the microwave if pressed for time.

Serving and Storage Instructions 

Serve Jamaican jerk chicken fresh off the grill for maximum tastiness, and drizzle it with extra jerk sauce, if you please.

Store leftover jerk chicken in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. Reheat it in the oven or microwave, as noted above in the make-ahead section. 👌

jamaican jerk chicken with rice and peas and fried plantains


What does Jamaican jerk chicken taste like?

Allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg give jerk chicken a warm, earthy taste, but there’s a definite tang from the pineapple juice and ginger. You’ll also get a subtle sweetness from the brown sugar and a savory, smoky flavor from the grill. It’s complex, and it’s wonderful! 🤤

Is Jamaican jerk chicken spicy?

Yes! It’s definitely a good dish for anyone who loves recipes that bring the heat. It can be modified, though, if you prefer a milder dish.

What’s the difference between jerk marinade and jerk seasoning?

Jerk marinade is usually a wet sauce you douse meats in before cooking. It usually involves blending fresh herbs and spices, but there are store-bought versions. However, there’s nothing like homemade. Jerk seasoning, on the other hand, is a dry spice rub that includes several different spices to get that classic Jamaican jerk flavor. 

Is jerk chicken Jamaican?

This dish is generally associated with Jamaica, but it’s popular all over the Caribbean. (Another reason why there are lots of recipe variations.)

What Goes With Jamaican Jerk Chicken

My all-time favorite sides for this authentic Jamaican jerk chicken recipe are coconut rice and fried plantains. Add a side of Caribbean coleslaw to get a little freshness in the mix.

As for drinks, try serving it with sorrel drink to cool down the heat from those habaneros. Or, if you feel more like having an adult beverage, a pina colada will do the trick.

More Jammin’ Jamaican Recipes to Try

  1. Fried Dumplings
  2. Shrimp Curry
  3. Carrot Juice
  4. Rice and Peas
  5. Meat Pies
  6. Jerk Salmon


Grab your grilling gear and prepare for an island experience like no other! 🏝️Do you have a secret sauce for your Jamaican jerk chicken? Share the love by spilling the beans in the comment section below. 😅

Watch How to Make It

This blog post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

This well-seasoned grilled chicken with Jamaican jerk marinade has the perfect balance of heat and sweetness. Amazingly tender, moist, and juicy chicken bursting with savory flavors on every bite. You’ll want to make this all year round!