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Jerk Chicken
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Juicy, Fall off the Bone, Charred Crispy Jerk Chicken with that addictive taste and just the right Hit of Heat, that you can control. Make it as Mild, Medium, Spicy or Hot as desired. The Jerk Marinade is made up in a Jar in about 5 minutes. With a Homemade Jerk Sauce that brings it all together. Just Marinate, Slow Cook while covered, before raising the heat to Brown & Crisp with nice Charring. Set it aside to rest while you make the Jerk Chicken Sauce.

You can make this recipe at home using your oven for Jamaican Jerk Chicken, inspired by the authentic style. However, for a truly authentic taste, smoking it with Pimento Wood is essential. In this version, you can control how much of a kick you want, keep in mind it suppose to be spicy. But even if you keep it on the side of having very little heat, the flavors still come through for a wonderful Jerk Chicken Platter.

What is Jerk Chicken

Jerk, a traditional Jamaican style of barbecuing meats, involves seasoning or marinating the meat before smoking it with Pimento Wood and grilling it. The Smoking adds a smokey flavor, Color and Aroma. It is this process that refers to Jerking. It was a means of preserving meats for a longer time.

The Jamaican patios word “Jook” means to “prod, pierce, stick or to poke”. So “Jook Chicken” could include or refer to Poking holes in the Chicken or Jerking. Whether or not that is the case, poking a bunch of holes in the Meat does allow for better penetration of the marinade and therefore better flavors throughout the meat as it cooks.

Historical Jerk Seasoning

Historically Jerk Seasoning was made of Bird’s Eye Chilies, Pimento (Allspice Berries), and Pepper Elder. This later evolved into the modern Jerk Seasoning today made of Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Scallions, Pimento, Thyme, Nutmeg, Black Pepper and other ingredients that may vary.

Jerk Chicken Flavor Profile

Jamaican Jerk Chicken is a very Spicy dish. With a Smokey, Sweet & Savory Flavor and Fruity undertones. The heat and fruity undertones comes from the Scotch Bonnets as well as a bit of Sweetness. With most of the sweetness coming from Cane Sugar and Thyme. The Savory Flavors come from the Scallions, and Spices dominant in Allspice & Nutmeg and smoke flavor from the Pimento Leaves and Charcoal, sometimes with Bay Leaves.

Jerk Chicken Ingredients

Walkerswoods is the standard to which all other Jerk Chickens are measured against. Taking a look at their ingredients for Jerk Chicken we see that all the ingredients are native to Jamaica and listed as;

Scallions, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Salt, Black Pepper, Allspice, Nutmeg, Citric Acid, Cane Sugar, Thyme.

For Homemade Jerk Chicken, where we will not be smoking with Pimento Wood and Grilling the Jerk Chicken ingredients are;

Green Onions, Soy Sauce, Oil, Lemon Juice, Scotch Bonnet Peppers, Black Pepper, Allspice, Nutmeg, Sugar, Thyme, Bay Leaves.

Green Onions

Use a good amount of Green Onions to derive those Jerk flavors. About 1 bunch (12 stalks) or 89g or more of chopped Green Onions. The label Green Onions and Scallions are interchangable and refer to the same plant.

Green Onions

Green Onions

Wash and roughly chop to place into the Jar.

Soy Sauce

This recipe utilizes Soy Sauce to achieve the same rich colors as smoked chicken. Because Soy Sauce is included, no extra salt is needed. However, if you feel it needs a touch more salt, you can add some to taste when serving.

Soy Sauce contributes the Salt as well as the coloring effect of the Chicken that is very much needed when cooking this dish without smoking. Otherwise, the Smoking is what colors the Chicken.

Lee Kum Kee Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce

Soy Sauce is used to contribute both Salt & Color to the Jerk Chicken. Especially where these won’t be smoked with Pimento & Coal.

A small amount of Dark Soy Sauce can be added. Which can contribute to that smokey flavor and darker color.


Use either a light tasting Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Coconut Oil or Neutral Oil. The use of Coconut Fat will create a thicker marinade but still works. While the marinade is initially thicker, it thins out as it is being slow cooked because the thickness is coming from a solid fat at room temp.

Marinating Jerk Chicken

Marinating Jerk Chicken

With Oil.

Jerk Chicken Marinade with Coconut Fat

Jerk Chicken Marinade

With Coconut Fat.

Lemon Juice

We opt for fresh lemon juice over the citric acid found in Walkerswood Jerk Marinade. Both ingredients bring a zesty tang to the chicken and serve as effective preservatives.

Lemon Juice

Lemon Juice

Use 1/4 C of Lemon Juice. This can be exchanged with 1-2 Juiced Lemons to get 1/4 C worth.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Peppers contribute those unique fruity characteristic flavors. The seeds contain most of the heat, while the flesh contains those fruity undertones. The seeds can be omitted or only a few included to lessen the heat. About 12 g is used for this recipe.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Use two (2) Scotch Bonnet Peppers with the seeds omitted. Which yeilds about a Medium Heat. You can certainly include some or all of the seeds, which will increase the heat.

A good substitution is Habanero Peppers, since they are both related and equally as hot.

Careful when handling, since Caspsaican Oil is very hard to get off your fingers. Even after washing with soap and water, it will cause burning if you touch sensitive areas like your eyes or mouth. Capsaican is Alkaline so anything Acidic can neutralize it.

Black Pepper

Black Pepper is another heat source used to bring the level of heat to a base level. Without the Scotch Bonnet Peppers and only the use of Black Pepper, you would only have a noticeable heat but nothing of any significance. The Scotch Bonnet Peppers added, is what raises the heat and contributes those unqiue Fruity tones.

Black Pepper

Black Pepper

Black Pepper is used to establish the baseline heat level. Offering a play on heat with its own characteristic notes.


Allspice is a warming spice that taste like a blend of Cinnamon, Clove & Nutmeg, which is why it’s called Allspice. This along with Nutmeg is the main flavoring of Jerk Chicken and what makes it so addicitive.

Allspice Berries

Allspice Berries

Use ground Allspice. Preferrably from Allspice Berries for freshest flavors.


Nutmeg is a warming spice that has a flavor profile of slightly nutty and earthy flavor, with a hint of sweetness.

Usually Nutmeg used in large amounts is too overpowering. But somehow here, whether it is the use of it combined with Green Onions, Thyme or Allspice that reduces the bitterness and allows the other nutty and slightly sweet flavors to come out even more so. It really compliments something else.

Ground Nutmeg


Nutmeg along with Allspice is the main characteristic flavoring for Jerk Chicken and a good amount of it.

Cane Sugar

Can Sugar adds the Sweetness and also the Carmelization factor or Charring when cooking the Chicken. You can use Brown Sugar or Jaggery to substitute. Too much Sugar here will blacken the Meat. You just want a small amount to add sweetness and help with charring.

Cane Sugar

Cane Sugar

Sugar adds Sweetness and Caramelization.


Fresh Thyme will offer up better flavors, adding a Sweet & slightly Peppery Flavor and wonderful aroma. I usually always have ground Thyme and so use this, and a lot of it to really drive those Thyme notes.

Ground Thyme


Use 2 tsp of ground Thyme or about 12 sprigs of Fresh Thyme.

Bay Leaves

This recipe makes use of Ground Bay Leaves, which are sometimes included when smoking Jerk Chicken. It is a very nice addition for Jerk Chicken. Using Bay leaves in the Jerk marinade won’t have the same effect as using Ground Bay Leaves which will offer up a much stronger flavor.

Jerk Chicken Marinade

Place all the ingredients into a jar and blend with an immersion blender. Empty out into a marinating bowl. Add Chicken that has been pierced a bunch of times with a fork. Toss to coat well and let marinate overnight.

Jerk Marinade Ingredients

Jerk Marinade Ingredients

  • 1/4 C Neutral Oil, Lemon Juice & Soy Sauce
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions
  • 2 Whole Scotch Bonnet Pepper
  • 2 tsp ground Allspice, Nutmeg, Thyme, Cane Sugar and Black Pepper, each
  • 1 tsp ground Bay Leaves
Blended Jerk Marinade

Jar Jerk Mariande

Use an Immersion blender and puree until very smooth. Them empty into a marinating bowl or plastic bag, add the Jerked Chicken to marinate overnight.

The marinade is also used to make the Jerk Sauce that is served over top. So reserve 1-2 Tbl of it before adding the Chicken to the Marinade.

Onion, Garlic & Ginger

Common additions are Onions, Garlic and Ginger. These can be added to the Jar to be pureed. You may have to add a bit more Oil so that you avoid getting a Paste like Marinade that would otherwise cook up thick on the chicken, which you don’t want.

Marinating Jerk Chicken

Use Quarter Chicken and clean out of the internal organs within the backbone for better tasting Chicken and trim the excess skin off. Check out my post on How to Prepare Chicken for more information.

Pierce the Chicken a bunch of times with a fork and place it into the marinating bowl. Coat well or place into a Ziploc bag with the Jerk Marinade. Refrigerate overnight. As an additional measure for extra flavor, tuck some of that marinade under the skin.

Marinating Jerk Chicken

Jerk Marinated Chicken

Marinate the Chicken in the fridge overnight in a marinating bowl or Ziploc bag. Take it out to rest at room temp while preheating the oven.

Oven Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken is slow cooked or smoked at first. This gives the Chicken time to dissolve the tendons and cartilage into gelatin that contributues overall to the juiciness of the chicken. The Chicken is then cooked at a higher heat to brown and crisp the skin with charring.

Cook the Jerk Chicken covered at 300 F for 1 hour. Then remove the cover and raise the heat to 400 F to brown and crisp up the Chicken. Flipping it over to brown and crisp all sides.

This higher heat is where the magic of the Soy Sauce really shines through. Referred to as a very old method of cooking called Red Cooking. This Red Cooking is applied here for at home oven Jerk Chicken, so that we can derive the same color as if they were smoked.

Jerk Chicken ready for the oven

Slow Cook Jerk Chicken

Place the Chicken on a broiler pan and cover with tin foil or a roasting pan and cover with a lid to bake at 300 F for 1 hour before uncovering and cooking at 400F to brown and crisp up all sides for about 30 minutes or longer.

You may want to line the pan with tinfoil for easier cleanup.

Jerk Chicken after the 1 hour slow cook

Crisping Jerk Chicken

After 1 hour of the Slow Cooking at 300 F they will look like these. Crank the heat up and start browning these to get a Crisp Charred Skin.

The objective is to slow cook first so that you get juicy tender fall off the bone Chicken. Then Brown & Crisp at a higher heat ensuring all of the chicken is crisp and charring.

Jerk Chicken with Coconut Fat
Jerk Chicken with Coconut Fat

Serving Jerk Chicken

You can serve the Chicken in whole quarter pieces or separate the Leg & Thigh. But I really do think the best eating experience is chopped with some of that Jerk Sauce drizzled over top, just the same in Jamaica. Be careful with small pieces of bones though.

I don’t know what it is, but I really like Chopped Jerk Chicken and the meat just falls off the bone. Maybe it’s the bone marrow, picking through it, or that Jerk Sauce with better coverage. Chopped Jerk Chicken is where it’s at.

Optionally you can hit the Chicken with the back of the butchers knife not to cut through or break the bone, but to break up the Chicken just a bit before drizzling over the Jerk Sauce.

Jerk Chicken Quarter with Rice & Beans

Whole Jerk Chicken

Whole Chicken Quarter with Jerk Chicken Sauce drizzled over top.

Chopped Jerk Chicken Platter

Chopped Jerk Chicken

Chop the Chicken Quarter to separate the Leg from the Thigh and then chop the thigh right through the bone a few times with a Butchers Knife. Drizzle that Jerk Sauce on top and optionally some Hot Pepper Sauce for more heat.

Jerk Chicken Sauce

There are two main Sauces served in Jamaica with Jerk Chicken. These are Cal’s Ketchup & Grace Hot Pepper Sauce in case you want some extra Heat.

CalsKetchup by

Cal’s Ketchup

This is the main sauce drizzled over top Jerk Chicken in Jamaica. With Grace Hot Pepper sauce added if desired for more heat.

Homemade Jerk Sauce

This is the Amazing Homemade Jerk Sauce that just brings everything together! This is served over the Chicken or in a small dipping bowl to dip your Chicken into. Reserve some of the Jerk Marinade to add to this Vibrant Jerk Chicken Sauce.

Any leftover Jerk Sauce can be refrigerated to serve with other recipes. The Ginger taste gets stronger as it ages, not in a pungent way but a very nice and pleasing tone. Optionally you can remove the Ginger slices before refrigeration.

Jerk Chicken Sauce

Jerk Chicken Sauce

Combine the below ingredients into a small saucepot and bring to a boil and keep it there for about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool before serving.

  • 1-2 Tbl or more of the reserved Jerk Chicken Marinade
  • 1 Cup each of Ketchup & Water
  • 1 Maggi Chicken Bouillon Cube
  • 1 inch of sliced Ginger or more depending on taste
  • 1/4 C Sugar
Coconut Fat Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas
Coconut Fat Jerk Chicken with Rice and Peas

This is such an wonderful sauce that can be used in many other places. Use for Fries, Hash Browns, Chicken Nuggets, Hot Dogs, Sausages, Burgers and Chicken Burgers/Sandwiches.

Jerk Chicken can also be used for a Jamaican Christmas dinner with a Roasted Turkey.

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

Juicy, Fall off the Bone, Charred Crispy Jerk Chicken with that addictive taste and just the right Hit of Heat, that you can control. Make it as Mild, Medium, Spicy or Hot as desired. The Jerk Marinade is made up in a Jar in about 5 minutes. With a Homemade Jerk Sauce that brings it all together. Just Marinate, Slow Cook while covered, before raising the heat to Brown & Crisp with nice Charring. Set it aside to rest while you make the Jerk Chicken Sauce.
This recipe is in the style of Jamaican Jerk Chicken that can be made at home with an oven. For Authentic Jerk Chicken, it must be smoked with Pimento Wood. In this version, you can control how much of a kick you want, keep in mind it suppose to be spicy. But even if you keep it on the side of having very little heat, the flavors still come through for a wonderful Jerk Chicken Platter.
Servings: 4 servings
Prep10 minutes
Cook 1 hour 30 minutes
Marinate1 day


  • 1 Immersion Blender
  • 1 Glass Jar with a mouth opening large enough to fit the Immersion Blender
  • 1 Marinating Bowl & Broiler Pan
  • 1 Small Saucepan for the Jerk Chicken Sauce


  • 4 Quarters Chicken - Cleaned & Trimmed

Jerk Marinade

  • 1/4 C Neutral Oil, Lemon Juice & Soy Sauce
  • 1 Bunch Green Onions - or about 89g+
  • 2 Whole Scotch Bonnet Peppers - or about 12g, all seeds removed. See notes for heat level.
  • 2 tsp Ground Allspice, Ground Nutmeg, Ground Thyme, Cane Sugar and Ground Black Pepper - each
  • 1 tsp Ground Bay Leaves

Jerk Sauce

  • 1 C Water & Ketchup - each
  • 1/4 C Cane Sugar - or Brown Sugar
  • 1-2 Tbl Reserved Jerk Marinade - Depending on taste
  • 1 inch Sliced Ginger - or more depending on taste
  • 1 Cube Maggi Chicken Bouillon - Optional


  • Combine all the Ingredients for the Jerk Marinade into the Glass Jar and Purée with the immersion blender until very smooth. Empty out into a marinating bowl, reserving 1-2 Tbl for the Jerk Sauce.
  • Clean the Chicken and trim off any excess skin. Pierce the Chicken all over with a fork on both sides and place into the bowl with the marinade. Toss to completely coat the Chicken. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
    For extra flavor, tuck some of that marinade under the skin.
  • Transfer the Chicken to a broiling or roasting pan, presentation side down, and cover with tin foil or lid. Leave out on the counter while preheating the oven to 300 F. Bake for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, turn the heat up to 400 F and remove the cover. Continue to cook, flipping it over as needed, for about 30 minutes, or until nice Browning & Crisping of the Skin with Charring. Remove and let rest.
    While the Chicken is resting, combine into a small pot the ingredients for the Jerk Sauce and bring to a boil and keep it boiling for about 5 minutes while mixing.
  • Either serve the chicken in whole pieces with sauce drizzled over top or served on the side in a small dipping bowl. Or chop the Chicken right through the bone with a Butchers Knife into small pieces and drizzle the sauce over top to serve.



Jerk Chicken Heat level

It’s the seeds that really pack a punch, and including even just some of the seeds can significantly raise the heat. Use the below as a guideline.
Mild: Use 1 Scotch Bonnet Seeds removed.
Medium – Hot: Use 2 Scotch Bonnet with all or most seeds removed. 
Hot:  Use 2 Scotch Bonnet with all seeds.
Jamaican Hot: Use more than 2 Scotch Bonnet, with seeds.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Carribean, Jamaican
Keywords: Hot Jerk Chicken, Jamaican Jerk Chicken, Jerk Chicken, Jerk Chicken and Sauce, Jerk Chicken Marinade, Jerk Chicken Sauce, Medium Jerk Chicken, Mild Jerk Chicken, Spicy Jerk Chicken
Author: JAH

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