Jerk Chicken: No Problem, Mon

The Flavours of Jamaica

Flavours of Jamaica: nutmeg, whole pimento (allspice) berries, scotch bonnet peppers, lime and rum.

Does this picture immediately make you think of Jamaica?

The scotch bonnets and Appleton Estate Rum are likely to get you headed in the right direction. But did you know that allspice berries are also quintessentially Jamaican? It’s true! Jamaica is one of the leading producers of allspice, but it’s called pimento or Jamaica Pepper there. The spice came to be called allspice because it displayed the flavour and aroma of cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon and pepper–all combined in one spice. Nutmeg is another spice commonly grown in Jamaica and it is encased in a hard shell which is easily cracked to get to the nugget of spice within.

So why the sudden interest in Jamaica? You’ve probably guessed that I’ve just returned from a Jamaican get-away . . . and as usual, you are right. Boy, the world looks a whole lot different after you’ve had a restful vacation, doesn’t it? I can’t begin to tell you what a difference it has made in so many ways. The best part was spending time as a family without cell phones, computers or television. We really connected and enjoyed our time together, but our favourite family experience was climbing Dunns River Falls. (Our tour guide Tammy made it her personal mission to get both of our girls to the top of the falls safely. They sure were in good hands with Tammy.)

The trip was a big success on all fronts. Beyond all the wonderful experiences, I was happy because I was able to load up on Jamaican spices and Rum Cream Liqueur . . . and the girls were happy because they came home with a souvenir that they love: braids!

Ponytails in jamaica

One of the trip’s highlights was our daily lunches at the hotel’s jerk pit, which overlooked the ocean. Of course I had hot dogs all week. Just kidding! It was all jerk, all week long for me.  I gradually worked my way up to the hell fire jerk sauce and boy was it spicy! They say that Jamaican jerk burns you twice: once on the way down and once on the way out. (Sorry!)

Jerk Pit at Grand Bahia, Jamaica

The Jerk Pit at the Gran Bahia Principe

After getting to know jerk so well in Jamaica, I had to recreate it for you when I got back home.

Jerk refers to both the cooking technique and the spice seasoning. I’ve opted for a wet marinade because it is known to produce jerked meat that is much moister and sweeter than dry rubs. Recipes for jerk marinades vary according to tastes and regional traditions. I’ve included all the key ingredients that are common in jerks–allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon, scotch bonnets and soy sauce (yes, this is authentic and reflects the longstanding influence of the Chinese emigrants in Jamaica).

Jerk Chicken

My oldest ponytail helped with all steps involved in making this jerk chicken and side dish (red beans and rice), as she was working on one of her Brownie badges. But don’t worry, I didn’t let her touch the scotch bonnets!

A little helper

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dark rum
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, seeds removed and minced (be sure to wear gloves!) *
  • 6 green onions, chopped
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tsp ground pimento (allspice)
  • 2 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 tsp ground ginger
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 3 to 4 lb whole chicken, backbone removed and quartered (see instructions for spatchcocking a chicken to learn how to remove the backbone)

* increase to 2 scotch bonnets if you like your jerk spicy


Mix all ingredients together in a food processor until well blended.

Pour the marinade over chicken pieces and rub in well. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of one hour, preferably overnight.

Preheat barbeque; grill chicken on low-medium heat for 45 minutes, turning once for the last 10 minutes, until juices run clear.

If using the oven, cook at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes until juices run clear. (Note: if you are cooking in the oven, you could add a bit of liquid smoke to your marinade to give the jerk chicken that authentic smoking flavour that comes from the barbeque.)

Source: I used this recipe from Epicurious as a starting point in developing this recipe.

NOTE: I marinated the chicken overnight and reserved some of the marinade to serve with the chicken when cooked (as you’ll note in the photo). However, while the flavour of the marinade was lovely, I didn’t like the consistency of the marinade the next day. I recommend that you eat the marinade the same day if you want to serve it with your cooked chicken.

Jamaican-style Peas and Rice (Red beans and Rice)

  • 2, 19-oz tin red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1 cup long grain white rice
  • 2 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt


Combine rice, water and salt in a medium sized microwave-safe bowl. Cook for 10-13 minutes in microwave until water is absorbed (I start with 10 minutes and then cook in one minute intervals until all the water is absorbed). On the stove top, combine kidney beans and coconut milk in medium sauce pan; simmer on low for 10 minutes. Add cooked rice and cook on low for 5 minutes until well incorporated. (Alternatively you could substitute 1 cup of the water with 1 cup of coconut milk when cooking the rice, rather than adding the coconut milk to the cooked rice. I prefer the former method because I find the rice has a creamier texture this way. You could also add sauteed onions and other spices, but my daugther preferred to omit the onions.)


87 Comments on “Jerk Chicken: No Problem, Mon”

  1. A_Boleyn says:

    I love the cornrows on the Ponytails … and jerk anything, fish, pork or chicken is terrific.

  2. I love jerk chicken. So spicy and flavorful!

  3. Sounds like a fantastic and grounding vacay, Barb. I LOVE that the ponytails have their braids and you have your spices…looks like immersion in the culture as well as the time spent…my fave way to vacation! I also love your recipe and the fact that it is spiced and grilled outdoors. I remember my first exposure to jerk was somewhat like blackened…which resulted in the pan, the drapes and everything being blackened. So I avoided jerk for a while, but later realized it’s a different and happy thing…even happier with the peas and rice, which are pretty happy by themselves. Bookmarked for my spring grilling adventures. Those ponytails of yours are the cutest! Welcome home.

    • Thanks Betsy. That is too bad that your first exposure was so “dark” and resulted in a black kitchen. Hopefully “jerk” has a chance to redeam itself with you, as it does result in very juicy and tasty meats. It was nice that everyone came home from the vacation happy — and I’m pleased to report that the positive effects of the vacation have lasted for a little while…we all continue to be less stressed than before we went ,,,mom and dad anyway 🙂

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    Sounds like you had a great family vacation and going to the Caribbean is a good way to cure cabin fever. I’ve always steered clear of jerk recipes in the past because of the heat factor but my tolerance is much better now than it once was. It’s time I give it a go and your recipe sounds like a great place to start, especially since I prefer a marinade over rub. Welcome home, Barb, and thanks for sharing your recipe.

    • Hey there John. You are right — the Caribbean is a good way to cure cabin fever and get you through a long winter. You know, you might be surprized with the jerk — as the meat itself isn’t spicy at all. I removed the skin for the girls and that completely removes any spice, but even with the skin on there is just a subtle hint of the scotch bonnets. However, a big puddle of sauce on the meat would be a different story! You wouldn’t have liked the hell fire sauce we tried in Jamaica, but you would have enjoyed the jerk chicken on its own.

  5. Saskia (1=2) says:

    Welcome back Barb and ponytails. What an AMAZING vacation. Love family holidays for all the reasons you’ve mentioned, especially for the re-connecting. Life gets SO busy. Jamaica sounds incredible. Definitely on my bucket list, but not so easy to get to from over here! LOVE jerk chicken but have never made it myself. We have a restaurant near us called Yeah Maan that serves it, but I’m very keen make it. I’m sure my boys will love the beans and rice too. Great post!

    • Sounds like we agree that vacations of all kinds are so important to modern day families. Jamaica is lovely, particulary because of the warm people there, but not easy to get to from Australia. It’s the same as Fiji for us. (Have you been there?) I hadn’t made jerk chicken either but it’ll definitely be on the menu quite a bit this coming summer. The meat on its own (without sauce) is quite manageable for kids — although I did remove the skin for the girls. The beans and rice are a good kid-friendly accompanyment for the jerk. Do you still do lots of grilling in winter there?

      • Saskia (1=2) says:

        Hi Barb. Haven’t been to Fiji, but we love Bali which is a hop, skip and jump away. Yes, we still love our grilling, right through Winter; although I occasionally resort to the indoor grill plate (which makes a disgusting mess of the kitchen).

  6. What an incredible holiday that must have been my friend, thanks for sharing it with us and with such an incredible recipe too 😀


  7. Welcome back! Your holiday sounds amazing, I want to go to Jamaica and sample some true jerk! Bum…for now I’ll just HAVE to make yours. God it looks amazing! I love it!!

  8. gotasté says:

    Thank you for sharing your wonderful trip. I really enjoyed reading it. And this is a recipe not to be missed. Totally delicious!

  9. Sounds like a fabulous holiday. I am going to save this recipe for the summer – it sounds the perfect bbq dish. The picture of the girls on the beach is lovely they look so happy.

  10. Norma Chang says:

    Your ponytails are so cute in their braids. How long will the braids last? To think that they sat still through the whole braiding process, amazing. Glad you had a wonderful vacation and shopping, did you bring back Tia Maria?
    Delicious looking jerk chicken, saving recipe.

    • Norma the braids last a little while. We kept them in almost two weeks — and finally took them out before figure skating lessons because the girls were worried that the beads would hurt with their helmets on. I must thank you for educating me about Tia Maria. I’d always thought that it was from Mexico…but was quite intrigued to learn about it and how it came to be named Tia Maria (thank wikipedia!) That is one of the things that I love about blogging…I’m always learning!

  11. Holidays, Jamaica, rum and jerk meat! I love an exotic destination and I can see from the big grins in your two ponytails they are more than happy too. Holidays are meant to be exactly that! Time to get away, recharge and reflect. And Yes, the world always looks much better for it too 🙂

  12. Debi Sereda says:

    I can’t WAIT to try this! Thanks for another delicious recipe (and great story behind it).

  13. chef mimi says:

    Did this taste like what you had in Jamaica? Adorable gals!

    • It really did Mimi. The marinade on its own didn’t taste exactly like the sauces that we had, but I think that can be attributed to the slight difference between sauces and marinades. That is the next phase of my research though — to try to make the perfect sauce and see if it can be used as a marinade too.

  14. Tandy says:

    I was wondering where you had gone! Sounds amazing and thanks for this ‘from scratch recipe 🙂

  15. Eva Taylor says:

    Can hardly wait to see photos of your trip Barb when we see you next. Did you get this recipe from Jamaica? When I worked at Boor and St. Clair, there was Alberts Real Jamaican and we’d go there about twice a month to get his roti’s; I’ve had other roti’s but non as good as Alberts! Jerk was my second favourite with the beans and rice…so flavourful. What was wrong with the marinade the next day? If it was too runny, could you have cooked it down?

    • Looking forward to catching up with you guys soon. I didn’t get the recipe from Jamaica — it is based on research that I did after the fact. I asked around, but everyone I talked to bought the jarred version of jerk because it is so much easier. This recipe combines all of the key flavours that are found in a jerk. As I mentioned to you, there was nothing wrong with the marinade the next day but it wasn’t the same as a jerk sauce.

  16. marydpierce says:

    OMG. This looks delicious. I love Jerk chicken.

  17. So glad you had a great time and how fun is to bring the flavors of the trip back home with you! Yum.

  18. cookazido says:

    Your girls are so cute! I have never had Jerk Chicken. I love dishes with lots of spices, so hope to try it sometime. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

  19. ohlidia says:

    Love Jamaican Jerk! Your chicken looks super delicious and your girls look adorable with their braids!

  20. What a wonderful vacation, so glad you were able to go and enjoy some R&R! Your girls are just adorable 🙂 Your Jerk Chicken looks wonderful. Thank you for sharing!

  21. Pony-tales in braids and pony-tales, adorable! I tried many Jerk Chicken recipes (even bought the ready made spices) but never came out right. With this recipe, I am encouraged to try it again. When I do, I will report back. 😀 Fae.

    • Thanks Fae! I found this very close to what we tried in Jamaica in terms of being juicy and tender with a hint of the unique spices jerk is known for. I still want to try to recreate some of the many sauces we had at the hotel, but this will take a bit more research.

  22. sybaritica says:

    That looks and sounds terrific…. and the Appleton Estates is a lovely rum, isn’t it?

  23. Karen says:

    Welcome home…I know you and your family must have had a terrific time. Jerk is one of my favorite dishes and I’m sure the flavors in your chicken are terrific.

    • Thanks so much Karen. You know I have been back more than a week and I’m still struggling to get caught up on my blogging. I hadn’t had a lot of jerk before we went to Jamaica, but now I’m hooked. I’ll be making this a lot in the summer. I can see why it is one of your favourites!

  24. Charles says:

    Wait, you went to Jamaica too? Kelly from InspiredEdibles just came back from Jamaica as well. Was it purely coincidental?

    I’m so jealous (or as cool kids might say: “I’m mad jelly”) – it sounds like such a lovely trip and your kids look absolutely adorable with the hair-does! Love the look of the chicken – fiery, yum, and the name “jerk-pit” is so cool too :D.

    Did you know you can eat the shell of nutmeg too? It’s called mace. (sorry if you knew this already, it seems some people don’t and it’s not that common here).

    • Yes, it was purely coincidental. Eva mentioned it too, but I didn’t know that Kelly was there. I’ll have to pop by her blog and see how she liked it.

      I didn’t know that you can eat the shell of nutmeg or that it was called mace. I’ll need to follow up and see how I can use it. I love these little exchanges of information — they really make blogging worthwhile. Hope you are enjoying your vacation Charles!!!

  25. azita says:

    Those scotch bonnet peppers are mighty cute and so are your adorable girls. It’s lovely how happy they look!

  26. Hey Mon….Love the ponytails braids. Have you had to take them out yet? This jerk chicken has some punch. I love when you travel as I love to see your recipes change with your new ideas. Do the ponytails like spicy foods? Gorgeous little meal. Take care, BAM

    • Hey mon! Yes, I took the braids out on the weekend and they weren’t too bad this time. They were way worse to take out when the girls did the full braids last year (from Mexico). I love when you travel too Bam. I need to make my way over to your site in the next day or so, as I’m sooooo behind in my reading. The girls don’t like spicy food, but the nice thing about this recipe is that the chicken without the skin isn’t spicy — just juicy and flavourful.

  27. Ali says:

    So glad you had a great, relaxing time away! Good on you for truly switching off and really enjoying your holiday. That photo of your girls is gorgeous. The jerk chicken looks great! I love how travelling inspires new taste buds!

  28. Sounds like you had the most beautiful time together, wonderful! A perfect way to relax and recharge!
    That chicken look divinely good! Thank you for sharing the recipe – I have never made jerk before. Looking forward to trying!

    • Oh you’ll really have to try making jerk Anne! I’m pleased to say that the effects of the vacation have not worn off….which is sooo nice. Life sure can get hectic! Hope things are going well with you. You always have such inspiring posts!

  29. glamorous glutton says:

    Isnt it great being able to get away from our technology which seems to have become a modern ball and chain. I remember the braids from my first holidays when the Glam Teens, were little. Being boys with short hair, there wasn’t the appeal to have their hair done themselves. The ponytails look really cute. The jerk recipe looks really good and the chicken really juicy. I haven’t cooked jerk, perhaps it should be on the list for this summers BBQs. GG

    • Ball and chain is the perfect way to describe it! I can see how boys with short hair wouldn’t go for the braids. 🙂 I highly recommend adding jerk to your summer line up. It is a refreshing way to cook chicken that is full of flavour. So nice to hear from you. I quickly read your guest post over at Coffee and Crumpets today and I always enjoy your posts. You bring so much creativity to your blogging — it really is a treat to follow you! (Even though I haven’t been very good at the consistent commenting recently!)

  30. Sissi says:

    It seems that my last week’s Chicken Terrine with Nutmeg is as much Polish as Jamaican 😉 (There are actually lots of Polish dishes spiced with quite a lot of nutmeg and… allspice! which is obligatory in many Polish pickles… the world seen from the kitchen is sometimes so surprising!). Your holidays seem extraordinary. I wish I could be there and taste all the fiery food I am crazy for. Although I’m not sure about getting away from the technology 😉 Your jerk chicken looks terrific! Hot, spicy and complex! I also love the moist marinade over the dry because, I suppose I might use it with skinless chicken… I must make it soon, especially since I have all the ingredients. I buy Scotch bonnet chilies in my local supermarket and I think they are the hottest chilies I have ever tasted (but they have a lovely aroma, that is as long as one can feel it 😉 ).

    • It is interesting to see the world through the kitchen, isn’t it? In fact, I feel like I ask so many more questions about where some of my friends are from through conversations about food. I love how it has brought me closer to some of my friends this way. The scotch bonnets sure are hot! I bought my first pair of rubber gloves so that I could work with them and I’m so glad that I did. Fortunately for the girls, this dish isn’t hot if you don’t eat the skin and I kept it pretty tame with one one pepper in the marinade. Hope you are having a good week Sissi!

  31. Your ponytails look amazing in those braids.
    I love how refreshing a vacation can be! I really need one 🙂
    I am not one for heat but I love getting to know new recipes from different cultures

  32. Aww your ponytails are the cutest! Love the braids. I don’t have enough hair for those tight braids. Tyler loves jerk chicken. It should be on my to do list!

  33. Sophie33 says:

    I only tried jerk chicken once & fell in love with it! This recipe sounds so tasty too! I must makenthis soon! 🙂 Yummm!

  34. zocomummy says:

    I’ve never had anything jerk. Seems I’m going to have to try it now! Sounds delicious! And I agree with your ponytail: omit the onions! 🙂

  35. Your daughters are adorable!! And so pretty in their braids. I was in Jamaica (when I was probably not much older than your girls;) and loved those falls as well! I’ve been intrigued by jerk chicken for a long while, thank you for sharing a recipe that takes the mystery out of it for me! xx

    • The falls is a special place, isn’t it Barb? Nice that you got to visit there when you were younger. It is a lot of travel time to get to the Carribean from Western Canada so I imagine that you vacation in warm spots that are a little closer to home — like your cottage in the Okanagan? I remember loving the pictures you posted from there last year.

  36. Awh so nice to see the girls so happy. I’m really glad you enjoyed your time there 🙂
    I’m guessing I can do this w/out the rum? Or is there a non-alcoholic substitution I can use?

  37. laurasmess says:

    Gorgeous braids! Haha, I remember when I was that age, I was obsessed with them too! So glad that you guys had a beautiful time away (love that Jerk chicken recipe, argh… definitely trying it!) x

  38. azita says:

    waiting impatiently for new post, mon

  39. Kristy says:

    First of all, the braids are AWESOME! I had those when we went to the Dominican before we had the kids. Talk about easy beach hair! I’m so glad you got away and had a great time Barb. The girls look so happy. There’s nothing like unplugging from the world for a while. We all need to do that every now and then. It really does make you look at life differently. This chicken sounds wonderful. I have a packet of jerk spice from my sister and I haven’t had any idea what to do with it. Now I do! 🙂

    • Good for you! I’ve never tried the braids myself as I’m afraid that ship has sailed (they just wouldn’t look good on someone my age). I agree with your unplugging comment . . . it is time definitely well spent! You’ll definitely have to use the spice from your sister, mon. Hope things are going well with you guys. I’m enjoying your french toast series.

  40. Purely.. Kay says:

    Just the thought of making or eat jerk chicken right now just makes my mouth water and my mind estatic lol. Estatic because I would love to make this at home. Thanks for the recipe mon

  41. Chef Randall says:

    Looks wonderful Nice you have your helpers in the kitchen as well. Your 4th image down is delectable (chicken, rice beans and salsa). Yummy!!

    Thanks for sharing!!

    Chef Randall

  42. Glenda says:

    That recipe sure sounds good. I might give it a go. I love marinated chicken and it is always good to explore new flavours.

  43. What a great blog here! Thank you for visiting, and following my blog! I think I have to make this jerk chicken. I’ll comment back with the results…. 🙂

  44. Hello, thank you so much for the follow! I will check you out, really enjoy jerk chicken. Had the real deal in Jamaica.

    peace, Linda

  45. Lovely kick’in spicy chicken…
    i guess ‘m not add nutmeg when i used all spice,,,

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