This homemade Jerk Marinade is bursting with Jamaican flavour, you’ll never go store-bought again! It’s a classic all-purpose marinade is loaded with aromatics, fresh ingredients, a delicious spice blend, and scotch bonnet pepper for a kick of heat. Use jerk marinade on poultry, meats, fish, seafood, vegetables or in pasta, the options are endless!
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Jamaican Jerk Marinade is a classic seasoning that combines all of the flavours of the island. Jerk is bold, spicy, fresh, and flavourful! You can always find it on a Jamaican restaurant menu and I often recommend my favourite brands for Caribbean recipes.
But nothing beats jerk marinade made from scratch! It’s so gratifying to chop up fresh herbs and grind your own spices. Jerk marinade contains the very essence of the island and the quintessential herbs and spices used in Jamaican cuisine. I love it because it elevates every dish!
Here’s Why You’ll Love this Recipe
- Quick – this easy jerk marinade comes together in less than 15 minutes. You just gather your ingredients (most are probably already in your pantry) and blend!
- Made with Fresh Ingredients – most prepackaged marinades have additives and preservatives so why not make your own? Then you know exactly what goes into it!
- Easy to Customize – whether you like your jerk on the sweeter side or packed with heat, you can modify it accordingly. (So feel free to adjust the measurements in this recipe!)
What is Jamaican Jerk?
Jerk is a hot and spicy dry-rubbed or wet marinated blend of herbs and spices used on all types of meats and seafood. Traditionally, jerked foods would be cooked over a small open coal or wood fire. Jerk has a spicy, woodsy, smoky flavour.
Jamaican Jerk History
It’s been said that the Maroons (descendants of Africans who formed settlements away from slavery in the Western world) jerked wild pigs in Portland, Jamaica while on the run from the British. It’s been a part of Jamaican culinary traditions for centuries, and now evolved in various unique dishes.
What is Jerk Marinade Made Of?
Jerk marinade often is made using onions, garlic, ginger, pimento, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, scotch bonnet pepper, and brown sugar. However, there are many variations, some which include citrus, vinegar, and various sweeteners such as honey and molasses.
Uses for Jerk Marinade
Use jerk marinade on poultry, meats, fish, seafood, vegetables or in pasta, the options are endless. Wherever you need a spicy, earthy kick to your recipe, just add this marinade.
What Does Jerk Marinade Taste Like?
Jerk marinade 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 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.
What is the Difference Between Jerk Seasoning and Jerk Marinade?
Jerk seasoning is made from a blend of dry herbs and spices whereas jerk marinade is more of a wet blend. The spice blend is often used as a dry rub, whereas the marinade is often used to marinate meats overnight as the flavours soak in more effectively. Jerk marinade is also used in a variety of other ways, such as in this Rasta Pasta. Both are used very similarly, and is all up to preference.
Difference Between Marinades, Seasonings, Rubs and Sauces
Seasonings, marinades, rubs, and sauces all add great flavour to dishes. However, they do vary. See below for an explanation:
Marinades: a liquid mixture in which you soak your meat in, before cooking. They have two purposes, to either add flavour and/or to tenderize your meat before cooking. Marinades typically contain something acidic whether vinegar or citrus which is the tenderizing agent.
Seasonings: a blend of herbs and spice ground into small, even-sized particles. Season food before cooking.
Rubs: a blend of herbs and spices applied to the surface of meats/foods. However, they are usually coarser in texture than seasonings and can be applied more liberally.
Sauces: are typically thicker in consistency. It’s usually added to dishes that are done or nearly done. It enhances flavours but also adds moisture.
How Long Should Meats Marinate in Jerk Marinade?
Marinating your meats such as chicken, lamb, pork, beef, goat etc. for just 15 to 30 minutes makes a significant difference and often leads to maximum flavour. If you have the time, it’s highly recommended. However, generally speaking you shouldn’t marinate meat for more than 24 hours.
Ingredients and Ingredient Notes
- Onion – this aromatic is sharper and crisper than yellow onions and tastes great raw or cooked. Use one large white onion, chopped into quarters.
- Garlic – this adds an incredible pungent taste and flavour to the seasoning. Use an entire head of garlic or about 12 to 15 cloves.
- Escallion – also known as scallions, green onions, or spring onions; add them to the processor or blender roughly chopped with roots removed.
- Thyme – use fresh thyme. Ensure the hard stems are removed before adding them to the food processor.
- Ginger – a little of this goes a long way. Add a small amount as you do not want it to overpower the other ingredients.
- Allspice – this brings an aromatic quality to the dish as well as a depth of flavour.
- Cloves, Cinnamon & Nutmeg – these warm spices round out the taste and are essential.
- Pimento Seeds – also known as allspice berries, you can add them whole or crushed.
- Brown Sugar – added for sweetness and to mellow of the heat from the scotch bonnet peppers.
- Honey – provides a sticky sweetness that complements the spicier tones.
- Soy Sauce – this adds a pleasant umami flavour.
- Browning – this dark liquid has a savoury taste and adds a depth of colour to the marinade.
- Scotch Bonnet Peppers – if you like heat, add the entire scotch bonnet pepper. You can also remove the seeds and add the flesh or cut off your desired amount and add it to the processor or blender.
- Natural Citrus Juices – jerk marinade includes lime juice, lemon juice, and orange juice. All these citrus flavours brighten the taste and also add liquid.
- Smoked Paprika – for a hint of smokiness.
See My Story Below for Step-by-Step Instructions
What You Need to Make this Recipe
- Large Cutting Board – use this to prep your fresh ingredients.
- Knife – to prep ingredients.
- Food Processor – you can also use a traditional high-speed blender to blend the ingredients together into a marinade.
- Spatula – you’ll need this in order to scrape down the side and remove the marinade from the base.
- Airtight Glass Storage Jar – or ice cube trays for storage.
How to Make Jerk Marinade
Step One: Prep Ingredients – wash, cut, slice, and chop all the ingredients then set them aside – this saves time.
Step Two: Add Ingredients to Food Processor – add all ingredients to a food processor or blender. Then pulse until finely chopped, pureed, or desired texture is reached.
Step Three: Use – as a marinade for meats, poultry, fish, and seafood or as a flavour enhancer for savoury sauces, stews, curries, and soups.
Step Four: Store – store in an airtight glass jar in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Alternatively, you can freeze them in ice cube trays and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen.
Variations and Substitutions
- Make it a Sauce – the marinade can be made into a sauce by bringing it to a boil and then letting it simmer until it reaches your desired consistency. Just remember that used marinade should not be used as a sauce to prevent cross-contamination.
- No Scotch Bonnet? You can use habanero peppers instead.
- Comparable Store-Bought Versions – although I prefer to make my own jerk marinade, you can save some time and purchase it instead. If you must use store bought then I recommend Grace Jerk Seasoning (Mild), or Walkerswood Jerk Seasoning (Hot). Both brands have mild and hot heat levels, so if spice isn’t your thing, you can opt for the mild selection.
Recipe Notes and Tips for Success
- Add Onions First – add the chopped onion to the base of the processor or blender first, as it has the most water content and will help things along.
- Amount of Herbs – feel free to add more or less of each herb to suit your taste.
- Rinse and Pat Dry Herbs – rinse off the herbs and then pat dry before adding them to the blender or food processor.
- Glass and Metal – if using a glass mason jar, ensure you use a metal lid and not plastic.
- Use Gloves – when handling and cutting the scotch bonnet peppers use gloves to prevent burns.
- Back of Fridge – store in the rear of the refrigerator to ensure temperatures remain stable when resting.
How to Prep Ahead
You can make jerk marinade up to two to three days before you plan on using it if you stored in the fridge. However, it is best to make and use this recipe on the same day for maximum freshness and flavour. You can also prep your herbs and veggies ahead of time and blend on the day of use.
Serving Suggestions and Tips
Use jerk marinade to add Jamaican flair to your favourite foods. Here are some tasty ideas:
- Burgers – Upgrade your burgers. Try this Jerk Burgers with Pineapple Mango Salsa.
- Chicken – The best jerk marinade will pair perfectly with chicken. Check out my recipes for Jerk Chicken Poutine, Quick & Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken, and Jerk Chicken Cobb Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing.
- Seafood – Spice up your shellfish with jerk! This would taste great with shrimp or salmon.
- Pork – Jerk adds a delicious smoky flavour to tender, juicy pork.
- Pasta – It’s not just for protein; jerk marinade boosts the flavours in this Jamaican Rasta Pasta.
- Veggies – Toss your vegetables in this marinade and they’ll be devoured in seconds!
Fridge Instructions – I recommend storing it in an airtight glass jar, in the coldest part of your fridge (usually on the bottom shelf, towards the rear of fridge), to keep fresh the longest.
Freezer Instructions and Tips – alternatively, you can also freeze approx. a tbsp or more of jerk marinade in each slot of an ice cube tray. Once frozen, remove from the tray and keep frozen in a freezer-safe bag.
Store it frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw by defrosting overnight in the fridge, then stir to mix the ingredients together before using.
Best Jars for Preserving Freshness
For optimal freshness, here are some features you should look for in a jar for storing jerk marinade:
- Glass – durable, food-safe and reusable.
- Air-Tight Seal – to all for maximum freshness.
- Flip Lid Design – makes opening and closing the jars easier.
- Wide Mouth Opening – allows for easy filling, removing, and cleaning of jar.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Most jerk marinade recipes contain onion, garlic, ginger, pimento, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, scotch bonnet pepper, and brown sugar.
Jerk marinade seasons and tenderizes whatever it is added to.
Jerk seasoning is a dry spice blend whereas jerk marinade is a wet marinated blend. Jerk seasoning acts as a dry rub and marinates overnight. Jerk marinade takes less time than jerk seasoning.
For the best taste, jerk marinade should be used within a week of making it. Freeze for longer storage.
Use olive oil, or any light and neutral oil.
Interested in more Condiments, Marinades and Seasonings? Check These Out!
- Caribbean Green Seasoning
- Jerk Seasoning
- All Purpose Seasoning
- Seasoned Salt
- Jamaican Pickled Vegetables (Escovitch Sauce)
- Homemade Tzatziki
- Easy Instant Pot Apple Butter
- 1 Large Cutting Board
- 1 Knife
- 1 Food Processor
- 1 Airtight Glass Storage Jar
- 1 med Onion chopped in quarters
- 1 head Garlic 12 – 15 cloves
- 5 stalks Escallion cut in half
- 1 bunch Thyme hard stems removed
- 1 pinch Ginger (23g)
- 1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
- 1/8 tsp Ground Cloves
- 1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- 1 tsp Ground Nutmeg or freshly grated
- 2 tsp Smoked Paprika
- 10 Whole Pimento Seeds allspice berries
- 2 tbsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tbsp Honey
- 2 tbsp Soy Sauce
- 1/2 tbsp Browning
- 2 Scotch Bonnet Peppers more or less, depending on preference
- Juice from 1/2 Lime
- Juice from 1/2 Lemon
- Juice from 1/2 Orange
- Add all ingredients to a food processor or blender. Pulse until finely chopped, pureed, or desired texture is reached.
- Store in an airtight glass jar in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Alternatively, you can freeze in ice cube trays and transfer to a freezer bag once frozen.