Jamaican jerk chicken is something I first had when I was at university in Bristol, SW England. There’s an area of the city that has a fairly large Caribbean population which holds an annual carnival with lots of music and, of course, food. Growing up in Scotland, it was a type of food I’d never been exposed to and I immediately loved the flavors.
Jerk chicken is a classic Jamaican dish, with some of the core flavors being allspice and chili. I’ve made this version a little more ‘family friendly’ by reducing the heat – using cayenne pepper rather than the traditional Scotch bonnet pepper – but you can easily substitute back in the chili if you’d prefer the heat of the traditional dish.
How to make jerk chicken
Jerk chicken is really easy to make:
- blend up the marinade ingredients;
- marinade the chicken for a good few hours;
- grill the chicken.
If you prefer not to or can’t grill, then you can also bake the chicken in the oven, but there’s something about getting those delicious grill flavors in there along with all the spice. You’d typically make this with chicken on the bone, but I have used boneless thighs as they are both quicker to cook and easier to eat.
I searched through a number of recipes before deciding what exactly to add, and while I have ended up using a fairly broad range of spices in here, that seemed to be typical of the more traditional recipes. Plus, I am always one for adding things like cinnamon and nutmeg so I wasn’t going to miss them out. I’ve stuck to ground spices to make things easier. You can also grate the ginger, garlic and onion if you don’t have a blender that will work with a relatively small quantity. Alternatively, just chop them all pretty small as a slight texture won’t matter.
Apparently it’s barbecue month, so this seemed like the perfect way to kick things off. Jerk chicken is full of fantastic flavor and takes on that great taste only a barbecue can give. (I’ve got a vegetarian grill meal balance things out too! My Cuban quinoa bowl is worth trying.) You can have this with a range of sides, but some of the more traditional are grilled corn and coconut rice, as we had, or peas/beans and rice as well as grilled or fried plantain. For a great taste of summer, this is the way to go.
Jamaican jerk chicken
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp ginger approx a 1in/2.5cm piece
- 1/2 red onion small, or around 3-4 scallions/spring onions
- 2 tsp ground allspice
- 2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 lime juice and zest ie from 1 lime
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper for mild, or 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, stem removed, for hot
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1.5 lb boneless chicken thighs 700g, approx, 4-6 thighs
- If using a blender/small food processor, peel the garlic, ginger and onion then put in the machine with the allspice, thyme, soy sauce, honey, lime, cayenne/chili, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Blend until fairly smooth. Alternatively chop the garlic, ginger and onion finely or grate them them mix with the other ingredients.
- Pour the marinade mixture over the chicken thighs. Make sure the chicken is well covered and leave refrigerated overnight or for at least 8 hours.
- Grill over a medium heat until the chicken is cooked through, around 10 minutes on each side, turning every few minutes to avoid them sticking.