Air Fryer/ Chicken & Poultry/ Jamaican/ Main Dishes & Entrées

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

June 23, 2020 (Last Updated: July 29, 2023)

This Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe is bursting with true authentic jerk flavour and flare! Chicken is marinated overnight in a delicious blend of herbs, spices, and jerk seasoning creating the perfect brag-worthy dish! Recipe includes instructions to prepare on the grill, oven or air fryer and serve for lunch, dinner or anytime throughout the day!

a platter of Jamaican jerk chicken.

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Try this Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe bursting with authentic jerk flavour! Chicken is marinated overnight in a delicious blend of herbs, spices, and jerk seasoning creating the perfect brag-worthy dish! Recipe includes instructions to prepare on the grill, oven or air fryer and can be served for lunch, dinner or anytime throughout the day!

If you’re looking for more recipes that use the true and authentic flavours from my homemade Jerk Marinade and seasoning, you’ll have to try my Jerk Turkey Wrap, Honey Jerk Shrimp or Jerk Chicken Sandwich next!

freshly baked Jamaican jerk chicken.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

When you think Jamaican cuisine, one of the first things that most likely comes to mind is jerk chicken, and rightfully so! Jamaica is almost synonymous with all things jerk! If you’ve ever been on an all-inclusive vacation on the island then you’ve probably visited the set-apart jerk hut on the beach. Or, if you’re lucky enough to leave the resort and visit one of the many iconic jerk huts throughout the island then you know this flavourful dish is worth all the hype!

This is one of my favourite ways to eat poultry; it’s aromatic, flavourful, and has beautiful heat from the scotch bonnet pepper. It’s also super simple to prepare yet yields big bold island flavour. It’s just something you have to try!

Here’s Why You’ll Love this Jerk Chicken Recipe:

  • Quick and Easy – this is perfect for a busy weeknight. You can marinate earlier in the day or the night before and then cook. It’s that simple!
  • Perfect for Meal Prep – make enough to get you through the week and you can serve it along with a variety of sides.
  • Customizable – it can be served dry or saucy, spicy or mild, grilled or indoors in the oven or air fryer.
  • Great for Leftovers – not only is this recipe great the day of, but it gets even better the next day. Plus, it reheats very well!
  • Extra Flavourful – this chicken is not only extra flavourful from marinating overnight, but also extra juicy even down to the very last bite!
plated Jamaican jerk chicken.

What is Jerk Chicken?

Jamaican jerk chicken is a very popular and flavourful, spicy, smoky grilled chicken. It’s typically prepared as a whole chicken, or bone-in chicken pieces that’s been marinated overnight and then grilled or baked in the oven.

What does Jerk Chicken Taste Like?

Authentic jerk chicken flavours are bold and pungent with a kick of spice from the scotch bonnet peppers. It’s a delicious blend of warm, smoky and spicy flavours with sweet undertones.

What is Jamaican Jerk?

The word Jerk refers to a style of cooking. Jamaican jerk is a hot and spicy dry-rubbed or wet marinated blend of herbs and spices used on all types of meats, seafood, vegetables and even pasta. It has a spicy, woodsy, smoky flavour and traditionally jerked foods are cooked over a small open coal or wood fire.

What is the Main Ingredient in Jerk?

The main ingredients that make jerk have its authentic taste and flavour are the warm spice blend of allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. As well as, the heat from scotch bonnet peppers.

a glass jar full of jerk marinade.

How to Make Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Prep Chicken (Clean, Rinse and Season)

Trim any excess fat, rinse chicken and thoroughly pat dry with a paper towel to remove any excess water or liquid and place in a large mixing bowl.

In a large bowl, add chicken, drizzle with olive oil and season with jerk marinade, green seasoning (or the additional ingredients listed), browning, all purpose seasoning and seasoned salt.

Mix to coat, and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or preferably overnight.

Grilling Instructions

  1. 30 minutes prior, remove chicken from the fridge. Heat bbq to medium-high and spray grates with cooking oil. Place chicken on the grill turning occasionally, until chicken is near done.
  2. Move chicken to a cooler temperature area of the grill and brush with prepared honey jerk sauce or bbq sauce if preferred (do this repeatedly until done). Continue until chicken is cooked through with an internal temp of 165 degrees and nicely charred in some areas. Serve hot and enjoy!

Oven (Baked) Instructions

  1. 30 minutes before baking, remove chicken from the fridge. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and place rack on the lower middle position. Spray wire oven rack with cooking oil (i.e Pam cooking spray) or line an oven sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Arrange chicken on large parchment-lined baking sheet (or rack if using), ensuring space between each piece. Bake, flipping at the halfway point, for 40 minutes or until cooked through with an internal temp of 165 degrees and nicely browned. When chicken near done, turn on the broiler function and roast chicken for 2-5 minutes or until nicely charred in come areas. Serve hot and enjoy!

Air Fryer Instructions

  1. 30 minutes before air frying, remove chicken from the fridge. Preheat air fryer to 380°F (193°C).
  2. Arrange chicken in air fryer basket, ensuring space between each piece and avoiding overcrowding. Air-fry, flipping at the halfway point, for 25 to 35 minutes or until cooked through with an internal temp of 165 degrees and nicely browned. Serve hot and enjoy!
cooked jerk chicken legs on baking sheet.

Ingredients and Ingredient Notes

  • Chicken Pieces – such as chicken legs or bone-in chicken thighs with the chicken skin on. However, feel free to jerk a whole bird or your favourite cut as desired.
  • Olive Oil – used to help the seasoning stick to the chicken skin, as well as to prevent from sticking.
  • Jerk Marinade – use my homemade marinade and make it as hot or mild as you prefer. Alternatively, you can use store-bought; Grace or Walkerswood brand recommended, they also come in hot and mild spice levels.
  • Caribbean Green Seasoning – this is the perfect marinade or flavour enhancer made with fresh ingredients like fresh thyme, fresh ginger, scotch bonnets, habanero peppers or hot peppers and green onions. If not using, see below for additional marinade ingredients.
  • Homemade Browning Sauce – this is used to add flavour as well as the deep brown colour to the jerk chicken, you can also choose to use soy sauce.
  • All Purpose Seasoning – this delicious blend of herbs and spices add a burst of flavour and includes all the necessary seasonings such as garlic and onion powder, paprika/smoked paprika, thyme, allspice, black pepper etc.
  • Homemade Seasoning Salt – can be used interchangeably with all-purpose seasoning depending on the blend, however has a higher amount of salt. Alternatively you can simply use salt.

Additional Ingredients if Not Using Green Seasoning

  • Onion – adds sweet onion flavour, finely chopped.
  • Garlic – adds the pungent garlicky goodness we all love! Use minced or finely chopped.
  • Escallion – also known as scallions, green onions, or spring onions, finely chopped. Use both the white and green parts.
  • Fresh Thyme – this is an essential herb in Jamaican cooking. It adds strong herbal flavour that can’t be missed!
  • Brown Sugar – for a touch of sweetness, as well as to balance the spiciness and other flavours.
  • Pimento Seeds (Berries) – also referred to as allspice berries, and is another key ingredient. You can use crushed whole pimento berries or use store-bought ground allspice.
  • Fresh Ginger – this is optional, but adds a touch of unique flavour to the dish.

Note – if not using green seasoning it is best to toss all these fresh ingredients in a food processor or blender until puréed and then add to the chicken.

Honey Jerk Sauce (optional)

  • Reserved Marinade – use the remaining marinade to make a sauce by cooking it on the stovetop in a saucepan. 
  • Chicken Stock – this adds flavourful liquid to sauce.
  • Butter – adds flavour and richness to the sauce.
  • Honey – for a touch of sweetness and to balance the spice from the jerk seasoning.
  • Hoisin Sauce – I personally like to add this to help thicken the sauce and give it body as well as flavour. You can also use soy sauce. 

Note – you can allow the sauce to simmer until reduced to desired thickness, or you can add in a 1:1 teaspoon cornstarch slurry of 1 tsp cornstarch and 1 tsp cold water.

What You Need to Make this Recipe (Kitchen Tools and Equipment)

  • Large Bowl – to season and marinate the chicken in.
  • BBQ – if using the grilling method, to cook chicken.
  • Baking Sheet fitted with or without a Wire Rack– if using the oven method, use this to bake the chicken on and ensure it is lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup.
  • Instant Read Thermometer: this is the best way to determine chicken doneness (whether or not it is throughly cooked).

How to Prep Chicken for Cooking

Here are some general tips to keep in mind when prepping:

  • If using from frozen, place in fridge overnight to fully thaw.
  • If using a whole bird, cut and toss any wire or twine used to hold it together (usually around the legs) and remove the giblets, internal organs usually packaged inside.
  • Trim excess fat and skin around the neck and tail (if whole) with a knife or kitchen scissors as well as remove any feathers that may have been missed.
  • Rinse/wash using vinegar or lemon/lime juice, then pat dry and set aside.

How is Jerk Chicken Traditionally Cooked?

Traditionally, charcoal is placed in a pit under large heavy grill grates which are then topped with pimento wood (some use pimento leaves). Next, the seasoned jerk chicken is placed directly on top of the pimento wood, then covered with large sheets of zinc metal.

Nowadays, it is common to see people using large steel drums known as a “jerk pan” with charcoal or pimento wood instead of pits. Alternatively, many now prepared jerk chicken on a regular household barbecue (gas, wood or charcoal), air fryer or in the oven.

Jamaican Jerk History

The origins are credited to the native people of the Caribbean, the Taíno people, for their jerk method of cooking (using the aromatic pimento wood to impart smoky flavour). As well as the Maroons (descendants of Africans (African slaves) who formed settlements away from slavery in the Western world) jerked wild caught boars (pigs) in Portland, Jamaica while on the run from the British. They would dig pits with charcoal, adding the meat, then burying them to prevent the smoke from revealing their locations to those who sought their capture. 

It’s been a part of Jamaican culinary traditions for centuries, and has now evolved in various unique dishes.

An interesting and fun fact is that the name “jerk”, is said to come from charqui or ch’arki, a Spanish term for dried meat, or dried strips of meat similar to what we know now as “jerky”.

plate of jerk chicken.

Recipe Notes and Tips for Success

  • Jerk Marinade – the jerk marinade sometimes called jerk sauce, does the majority of the heavy lifting for this recipe! Make sure you use my homemade version, or a good quality store-bought one!
  • The Grace Jerk Seasoning (mild) as well as Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning (hot and spicy) are the two brands I stand by. They come in both mild and hot, so choose depending on preference.
  • Slit Chicken and Marinate – create small slits in your chicken and ensure the marinade gets inside, then cover and marinate for a few hours or overnight.
  • Don’t Waste the Marinade – add the reserved marinade to a small saucepan along with some add butter, honey, chicken stock, and hoisin sauce. Thicken with cornstarch and water (cornstarch slurry) or simmer until reduced! Delicious!
  • Season Generously – a key component to flavourful chicken, is the seasoning. Apply the dry rub and marinade liberally and allow to soak into the meat of the chicken.
  • Marinate – it’s most beneficial to allow the chicken to marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours to overnight, covered, if time permits. This will allow the seasoning to penetrate the skin and get into the meat. Although it is not required for this recipe, it is recommended.

Recipe Variations and Substitutions

  • Replace Scotch Bonnet Peppers with Habanero Peppers – if you don’t have scotch bonnet peppers, you can use habaneros instead. They have similar spiciness levels but scotch bonnets are slightly sweeter. If you love the flavour of scotch bonnets but want to tone down the spice, remove the seeds and veins of the pepper. Some may also opt for chili peppers and although chili peppers are not traditional it can work.
  • Honey Jerk Sauce – although jerk marinade has a slightly sweet undertone, honey jerk sauce has a bolder sweetness that compliments the dish well. If that’s the taste you’re going for, add butter, honey, chicken stock, and hoisin sauce to your marinade and cook on the stovetop.
  • Jerk Wings – dark meat has more fat and is therefore juicier but, you can definitely make jerk wings on the grill or in the oven, using these same steps and seasonings.
  • Jerk Seasoning – if you’re looking for a dry rub version of the jerk marinade try my jerk seasoning blend!
grilled jerk chicken on the grill outdoors.

Serving Suggestions and Tips

This Caribbean jerk recipe is a great foundation for a hearty meal. Here are some side dish options to considering pairing it with:

Can I Make this Ahead of Time?

Absolutely! It can definitely be made ahead of time… it’s actually encouraged! The jerk marinade needs time to set into the chicken for at least two hours but preferably, overnight. This shortens the time it takes to prepare the chicken on the day you plan to serve it.

Storage Instructions

Store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to one week.

Reheating Instructions

The best way to reheat is in the oven. Preheat the oven to 350°F, then wrap the chicken in foil with a tablespoon of water or chicken stock. Let it warm for 10-15 minutes, unwrapping the foil for the last two minutes. This method ensures that the meat retains moisture without the skin becoming soggy.

See My Story Below for Step-by-Step Instructions

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How do you defrost chicken quickly?

If you’re in a rush place chicken in a bowl of cold water, replacing the water every 30 minutes.

How long do you cook chicken in the oven for?

Depending on the cut, size and thickness of your chicken, when cooking at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, it can take anywhere from 40 to 60 minutes to cook a whole chicken. Cut your chicken in half, pieces or spatchcock/butterfly for quicker cooking.

What chicken is best used for jerk chicken?

It is best to use dark cuts of meat such as the chicken legs, quarters, thighs, and wings! However, you can use whichever part of the chicken you most prefer.

Is Jamaican jerk chicken healthy?

This is a healthier dish because it’s grilled or baked, not fried. If you don’t eat the chicken skin, it’s even better for you.

Can I use chicken breasts?

You can use any meaty part of the chicken, including the breasts. However, I prefer chicken thighs and legs which are naturally more moist. If using breasts, pound the meat to an even thickness before marinating. As well, only marinate the chicken breasts for up to 12 hours.

Can you marinate jerk chicken for too long?

Don’t marinate jerk chicken for more than 24 hours. Any longer than that, and the jerk marinade can begin to break down the fibers of the chicken, making it mushy.

Interested in more Jamaican Recipes? Check These Out!

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plated Jamaican jerk chicken.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

Taneisha Morris
This Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe is bursting with true authentic jerk flavour and flare! Chicken is marinated overnight in a delicious blend of herbs, spices, and jerk seasoning creating the perfect brag-worthy dish! Recipe includes instructions to prepare on the grill, oven or air fryer and serve for lunch, dinner or anytime throughout the day!
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Marinating Time 8 hours
Total Time 55 minutes
Course Chicken & Poultry, Main Dishes & Entrees
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 5 servings

Equipment

  • Large Mixing Bowl to season and marinate the chicken.
  • Baking Sheet fitted with or without a Wire Rack optional, if using the oven method, use this to bake the chicken on and ensure it is lined with aluminum foil or parchment paper for easier cleanup.
  • Outdoor Grill optional, if using the grilling method, to cook chicken.
  • Air-Fryer optional, if using the air-fryer method.
  • Instant Read Thermometer this is the best way to determine chicken doneness.

Ingredients
  

  • 2 lbs Chicken Legs or Thighs bone-in, skin-on
  • 2 tbsp Jerk Marinade or if using store bought, mild or hot grace or walkerswood brand recommended
  • 2 tbsp Caribbean Green Seasoning if not using, see below additional ingredients
  • 1 tbsp Browning
  • 1 tbsp All-Purpose Seasoning
  • 2 tsp Seasoned Salt or salt

Additional Ingredients if Not Using Green Seasoning

  • 1/2 med Onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic minced or finely chopped
  • 1 stalk Escallion finely chopped
  • 2 sprigs Fresh Thyme roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp Brown Sugar
  • 5 Pimento Seeds allspice berries, crushed

Honey Jerk Sauce (optional)

  • Reserved Marinade
  • 1 cup Chicken Stock
  • 1 tbsp Butter
  • 1 tbsp Honey
  • 1 tbsp Hoisin Sauce

Instructions
 

Prep Chicken

  • Thoroughly pat dry the chicken with a paper towel to remove any excess water or liquid and place them in a large mixing bowl. Add olive oil then season with jerk marinade, green seasoning (or the additional ingredients listed), browning, all purpose seasoning and seasoned salt . Mix to coat, and let marinate in the fridge for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Grilling Instructions

  • 30 minutes before grilling, remove chicken from the fridge. Heat bbq grill to medium-high and spray bbq grates with cooking oil. Place chicken on the grill turning occasionally, until chicken is near done.
  • Move chicken to a cooler temperature area of the grill and brush with prepared honey jerk sauce or bbq sauce if preferred (do this repeatedly until done). Continue to grill until chicken is cooked through and nicely charred in some areas. Serve hot and enjoy!

Oven (Baked) Instructions

  • 30 minutes before baking, remove chicken from the fridge. Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C) and place rack on the lower middle position. Spray wire oven rack with cooking oil (i.e Pam cooking spray) or line an oven sheet with parchment paper.
  • Arrange chicken on large parchment-lined baking sheet (or rack if using), ensuring space between each piece. Bake, flipping at the halfway point, for 40 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned. When chicken near done, turn on the broiler function and roast chicken for 2-5 minutes or until nicely charred in come areas. Serve hot and enjoy!

Air Fryer Instructions

  • 30 minutes before air frying, remove chicken from the fridge. Preheat air fryer to 380°F (193°C).
  • Arrange chicken in air fryer basket, ensuring space between each piece and avoiding overcrowding. Air-fry, flipping at the halfway point, for 30 to 35 minutes or until cooked through and nicely browned. Serve hot and enjoy!

Video

Recipe Notes

Jerk Marinade – the jerk marinade sometimes called jerk sauce, does the majority of the heavy lifting for this recipe! Make sure you use my homemade version, or a good quality store-bought one!
Grill Flame – it’s best to grill your chicken under a medium high flame, as this slow grilling process allows the flavours to infuse into a smoky, fragrant plate of deliciousness!
Use the Broil Function – you can choose to broil your chicken for the last few minutes to allow the sauce to caramelize and skin to crisp up as well as allow the chicken to get to that golden bright colour we all love to see!
Doneness Temperature – the chicken is cooked when it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees°F, cooking times will vary and use medium heat to medium-high.

Note, the nutritional information is calculated using a nutrition facts calculator. It is a rough estimate and can vary based on products used.

DID YOU MAKE THIS RECIPE?Leave a star rating and a comment below! You can also tag @theseasoned.skillet and use #theseasonedskillet on Instagram!
Keyword(s) authentic jamaican jerk chicken recipe, authentic jamaican jerk chicken recipe oven, authentic jerk chicken, caribbean jerk chicken recipe, how to make jerk chicken, jamaican grilled jerk chicken, jamaican jerk chicken, jamaican jerk chicken ingredients, jamaican jerk chicken seasoning, jamaican style jerk chicken, jerk chicken, saucy jerk chicken recipe

2 Comments

  • Reply
    Jennie
    October 15, 2023 at 11:36 am

    5 stars
    This recipe is a must, followed it as per direction came out perfect👌👌

    • Reply
      Taneisha Morris
      October 15, 2023 at 6:36 pm

      That means so much! Thanks so much Jennie! I appreciate your feedback! 🙂

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