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FoodJerk Chicken Recipe (Grilled or Oven Baked)

Jerk Chicken Recipe (Grilled or Oven Baked)

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This authentic Jamaican jerk chicken is deliciously spicy, smokey and full of flavor from spices like allspice, fresh ginger and cinnamon. Pair this Caribbean favorite with with rice and peas and a cold beer. Use the leftovers to make my Jerk Chicken Sandwich with Jicama Slaw.

Jerk Chicken on big plate with limes and cilantro. Jerk Chicken on big plate with limes and cilantro.

For me summer is about cooking outside. I love my food FLAVORFUL. My Grilled Mediterranean Chicken is a favorite, as are my Grilled Portobello Burgers and Grilled Lamb Chops with Chimichurri. But when I am craving the flavors of the Caribbean, I turn to this recipe.

Chicken on a baking sheet. Chicken on a baking sheet.

What is Jerk Chicken?

Jerk Chicken is a dish from Jamaica, either marinated or dry rubbed and seasoned with warm spices like allspice, cinnamon, and ginger. Jerk refers to the way it’s cooked: coated in spices and slow-cooked over a fire or grill that is usually green pimento wood.

Obviously since I don’t have access to green pimento wood, we’re using a traditional grill or grill pan (and finishing it in the oven). I also find it really hard to get scotch bonnet peppers in California so to substitute I used habaneros.

Ingredients for Jerk Chicken. Ingredients for Jerk Chicken.

Ingredients You’ll Need to Make Jerk Chicken:

  1. Chicken (skin-on). I like using a combination of pieces. I used three total pounds of a combination of thighs, drumsticks and wings. Feel free to use whatever pieces of chicken you like.
  2. Peppers. Scotch bonnets are authentic to Jerk Chicken. And they’re available a lot on the East Coast but in California they’re nearly impossible to find. So you can use habaneros in place of them.
  3. Thyme. Critical to authentic Jerk Chicken. This adds such a nice and subtle flavor to the chicken.
  4. Brown Sugar. The molasses in the brown sugar caramelizes the marinade and gives a nice balance of flavor.
  5. Lime. I love the acidity that this adds to the chicken.
  6. Scallions. We have two types of onions in this marinade. But scallions are really gentle and delicious.

For the rest of the ingredients, please see the recipe index card below!

How to Make Jerk Chicken:

  1. Make the marinade: Add all of the marinade ingredients to a blender. We want to
  2. Toss the chicken in the marinade: Place the chicken in a large bowl and pour the marinade over the chicken. Make sure the chicken is coated completely in the marinade. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the fridge to marinate, for at least eight hours, ideally overnight.
  3. Preheat your outdoor grill: If you’re using an outdoor grill, preheat it. Rub the grates with oil. Cook the chicken over medium flame for about five minutes per side. Feel free to move the chicken around depending on how it’s responding to the flame.
  4. Preheat your oven and grill pan: If you’re cooking inside, open all the windows. The marinade creates a HOT vapor.
  5. Cook the chicken in the pan. I like to get a good sear on both sides, about 4 minutes per side. Transfer it to a baking sheet and place in the oven for an additional 30 minutes. This will finish the cooking.
  6. Garnish with slices of lime and cilantro leaves.
Jerk Chicken on big plate with limes and cilantro. Jerk Chicken on big plate with limes and cilantro.

Tips and Tricks:

Use plastic gloves. Whether you’re using habaneros or scotch bonnet peppers, they’re both very spicy so you’ll want to use plastic gloves when handling them. And do not touch your eyes!

To use boneless skinless chicken breasts: I always have these in the freezer. To ensure even cooking, I recommend cubing up the chicken breasts OR pounding the chicken breasts into one even layer. Marinate them as per the recipe below and grill or cook in a pan.

To make this less spicy: Use half or a quarter of the amount of peppers! If you’re serving these to kiddos, you leave the peppers out completely.

Jerk Chicken on big plate with limes and cilantro. Jerk Chicken on big plate with limes and cilantro.

Recipe FAQs

Is Jerk Chicken Spicy?

Traditionally, yes! However, I’ll warn any Jamaicans, this isn’t MELT-UR-FACE-OFF-SPICY. It’s more American tongue-friendly. It’s hot, there’s a kick, it wouldn’t be Jerk Chicken without that spice, but it won’t send you running for water or bread or a glass of milk.

Why do you add brown sugar to the Jerk Chicken marinade?

I find that a bit of brown sugar balances out the super spicy flavors. It doesn’t taste sweet at all; instead it just tastes like a balanced flavor.

What would you serve with Jerk Chicken?

Jamaican sides that complement Jerk Chicken are festival (fried bread), plantains, rice and peas, Jamaican coleslaw and mango chutney.

More Delicious Chicken Recipes

If you tried this Jerk Chicken Recipe or any other recipe on my website, please leave a 🌟 star rating and let me know how it went in the 📝 comments below. Thanks for visiting!

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • Juice and zest from 2 limes
  • 5 to 8 scotch bonnet peppers or 10 habanero or serrano, stems removed
  • 1/2 yellow onion, roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 scallions, pale green and white part only
  • 2 tablespoons light or dark brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, (from 5 sprigs of thyme)
  • 1 (2-inch) knob fresh ginger, peeled
  • 2 teaspoons kosher
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 3 pounds chicken (skin-on) , I had a mix of dark meat: wings, drumsticks and thighs
  • 1 lime, for garnish
  • 10 cilantro leaves, for garnish

To Make the Marinade:

  • In a blender, add the olive oil, soy sauce, lime zest and juice, peppers, onion, garlic, scallions, brown sugar, thyme leaves, ginger, salt, cinnamon and allspice. Pulse until smooth, about 30 seconds. Add the chicken to a large bowl. Pour the jerk marinade over the chicken, cover with plastic wrap, and transfer to the fridge to marinate for at least 4 hours, ideally overnight.

To Grill the Jerk Chicken:

  • To Cook on a Grill: Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. Rub the grill with oil. Place the chicken on the grill over a medium flame, and cook for about 10 minutes per side. I like to check on them to make sure they’re not getting too much heat. Feel free to move them away from the flame if this happens and cover. Cook until the internal temperature reaches 165F.

To Cook the Jerk Chicken in a Grill Pan:

  • First step is to open all your windows. You’ll need proper ventilation because the cooking of the marinade creates some intense vapors.

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Spray a grill pan, set over medium-high heat, with cooking spray or rub a light coating of canola oil all over.

  • When hot, add the chicken, skin-side down, cooking on each side until browned for about 5 minutes. You may need to do this in batches, depending on how big your pan is. Transfer the chicken to the baking sheet and place in the oven to bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until cooked throughout. Garnish with wedges of lime and cilantro leaves.

Tips and Tricks: 

  1. Heat Levels: Five scotch bonnet peppers will give you jerk chicken with a kick (I love spicy food). While eight scotch bonnet peppers will give you super spicy jerk chicken. Heat enthusiasts should 6-8 scotch bonnet peppers. 


Serving: 6g | Calories: 198kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 12g | Fat: 2g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 20mg | Sodium: 2mg | Potassium: 20mg | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 21IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 9mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

*This post was originally published on June 15th, 2015. It’s since been updated with new copy.


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