Jerk chicken

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Native to Jamaica, the tradition of jerk chicken (or pork) began with the indigenous Taíno people who would cook their meat over fires made from the aromatic wood of the island’s allspice trees – still the only way, devotees claim, to get that really authentic flavour. Jerk’s distinctive seasoning – hot peppers, sweet allspice berries, thyme and ginger – however, is credited to the African slaves brought to the island by its Spanish and British colonisers, who also introduced the cooking pits which were traditionally used for jerk until the advent of the modern oil drum. The name, apparently, is the Spanish version of an Andean dialect word for dried meat, ch’arki – presumably because the original jerk would have been smoked to preserve it. To get more authentic jerk experience, add some wood chips to your barbecue and cook your chicken thight or legs over slow indirect heat for the best flavour. Alternatively enjoy a beautiful jerk chicken breast cooked over a high heat – it should be ready in 10 minutes or less.


12 chicken thighs, bone in, or 8 large chicken breasts

For marinade:

1 large bunch spring onions, or 2 smaller bunches

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tbsp salt

juice of 1 lime

½ tsp dried thyme, or 1 tbsp fresh thyme

1 tbsp allspice berries

1-10 scotch bonnets (start with a small amount and add more later if you think it needs it)

1 thumb-sized piece ginger

3 garlic cloves

½ small onion

2-3 tbsp of brown sugar

jerk chicken


To make the marinade, put all the ingredients in a blender and process until you have a purée. Don’t add more water if you are having trouble getting it all blended, just keep turning of the blender, stirring it up with a spatula, and trying again. Eventually it will start to blend up nicely. Now taste it. It should taste pretty salty, but not unpleasantly puckeringly salty. You can also now throw in more chillies if it’s not spicy enough for you. If you think it tastes too salty and sour, try adding a bit more brown sugar until things seem good and balanced.

Put the chicken pieces in the bowl, cover with the marinade and leave overnight. Next day, cook the chicken over a smoky fire for 15 to 20 minutes, turning about six times during cooking.