If you want to try a Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe from scratch that will blow your mind, then listen up! This post is for you!

I discovered Jamaican food when I first moved to the greater Miami area back in 2008 and was mesmerized by melting pot of flavors of this area! Miami has an influx of cultures based on it’s proximity to islands and Latin America and it definitely heightened my senses to new ways of cooking, including my favorite cuisine- “Floribbean”. The definition of Floribbean cuisine, according to Wikipedia, is the fusion cuisine found in Florida that is influenced by Caribbean cuisine, Cuban cuisine, Jamaican cuisine, Puerto Rican cuisine, Haitian cuisine, and Bahamian cuisine.
 

What is Jamaican Jerk Exactly? 

Jamaican “Jerk” originally referred to the historic process of cooking the meat over the fire and descended from the term “jerky” which came from the Spanish term “Char Qui”. However, these days, it refers to the actual spice paste that is applied to the meat (usually chicken or pork) that is then slow roasted over a fire. Historians often cite the Jamaican method of slow roasting meat over a fire to cook and dry and preserve it as the foundational roots of today’s modern Barbecue. This historic process came from the Natives on the Island of Jamaican known as the “Taino”. 
 

Jamaican Jerk, which will vary according to household, is usually a mix of “spice” with “spicy”- with fragrant ingredients like allspice, cloves, cinnamon, ginger, thyme, garlic, onions and hot chilis, usually scotch bonnet or habaneros, combining to form a “spice paste” flavor bomb. 

I fell in love with Jamaican Jerk flavors and have been honing my skills since my move to South Florida in 2008. I’ve recently updated this Jamaican Jerk spice paste recipe just a touch – the lime juice and zest is a game changer in this recipe- it brightens all the flavors and makes them sing!! This spice paste is fragrantly intoxicating and works on chicken and pork -try this rub on ribs and it will equally blow your mind.
 
A spice paste is a rub mixture with a bit of liquid mixed in- the oil in the mixture helps the spice mix adhere to your protein while also moisturizing your meat!
 
I highly recommend you make your spice paste from scratch to get the full sensory experience of all these various fragrant ingredients coming together, BUT, if you have run out of time I recommend Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk Spice Paste for when you don’t have time make it from scratch.
 
 
 

PRO TIP: Did you know that Allspice berries come from the Pimento tree? In Jamaica, Jerk chicken is cooked over Pimento wood. For a more authentic Jamaican Jerk experience, throw some allspice berries on your grill to add the flavor of Pimento wood to your fire.

jamaican jerk chicken

Ingredients to Make This Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

  • Whole chicken (typically spatchcocked)
  • Jamaican jerk seasoning
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh scallions (green onions)
  • Garlic cloves
  • Scotch bonnet peppers (or habanero peppers)
  • Allspice berries (pimento)
  • Soy sauce
  • Olive oil
  • Lime juice
  • Brown sugar (optional for sweetness)
  • Salt and pepper
Jamaican Jerk Chicken

This is what all the ingredients for the Jamaican Jerk Spice Paste look like before they’re blended up! I love how colorful it looks.

 

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

This spice paste is so fragrant! Make a double batch and put it in ice cubes in your freezer so you can have Jamaican Jerk Spice paste whenever the mood hits you!

 

How to Make Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  1. Prepare the Marinade:
    • In a blender or food processor, combine fresh thyme, scallions, garlic cloves, Scotch bonnet peppers (adjust the number to your preferred level of spiciness), allspice berries, soy sauce, olive oil, lime juice, brown sugar (if using), and a pinch of salt and pepper. Blend until you have a smooth marinade.
  2. Spatchcock the Chicken:
    • To spatchcock the chicken, use kitchen shears to cut out the backbone. Once the backbone is removed, flatten the chicken by pressing down on it with your hands. This allows for even cooking.
  3. Marinate the Chicken:
    • Place the spatchcocked chicken in a large, resealable plastic bag or a shallow dish.
    • Pour the Jamaican jerk marinade over the chicken, making sure it’s well-coated. You can use your hands to massage the marinade into the chicken. Using your index finger, create a pocket between the skin and the meat of the chicken and put spice paste under the chicken skin so the spice paste is fully absorbed into the meat.
    • Seal the bag or cover the dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least a few hours or preferably overnight to allow the flavors to penetrate the meat.
  4. Grilling:
    • Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
    • Add your smoke chips and all spice berries. I am really loving Bourbon Barrel Chips but use a fruit wood or oak if you don’t have these.
    • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat with a direct and indirect zone. This means the coals are moved to one side creating two distinct zones. 
    • Brush the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking.
    • Grill the chicken on indirect heat for 30 minutes, letting it smoke and absorb flavor from the grill on indirect heat while coming up to temp slowly. Once the internal temp has reached 150 degrees in the breast of the chicken, get ready to grill it on both sides on direct. 
    • Grill the chicken, skin side down, for about 5 minutes, or until the skin is crispy and well-charred. Flip the chicken and continue grilling for another 5 minutes minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat.
  5. Rest and Serve:
    • Once done, remove the chicken from the grill and let it rest for a few minutes before carving.
    • Carve the chicken into pieces and serve with your favorite side dishes.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken

You want to create a direct and indirect zone on your grill when making this Jamaican Jerk (Spatchcocked) Chicken.

 

Substitutions and Variations for Jamaican Jerk Chicken 

  • Protein: If you don’t have a whole chicken, you can use chicken pieces like thighs, drumsticks, or bone-in breasts.
  • Jamaican Jerk Seasoning: If you can’t make your own Jamaican Jerk spice paste, use Walkerswood Jamaican Jerk paste.
  • Peppers: Scotch bonnet peppers can be very spicy. You can substitute with milder peppers like habanero or jalapeño if you prefer less heat.

Variations:

  • Mango Jerk Chicken: Add a tropical twist by incorporating mango puree or diced mango into the jerk marinade for a sweet and spicy flavor.
  • Smoked Jerk Chicken: Use a smoker to cook the chicken low and slow for a smoky, tender result.
  • Vegetarian/Vegan Option: Marinate tofu, tempeh, or a medley of vegetables in jerk seasoning and grill for a delicious plant-based alternative. You can also use jamaican jerk seasoning to make compound butters for veggies like grilled corn- so good!
  • Jerk Pork: Apply the jerk marinade to pork cuts, like pork shoulder or ribs, for a different flavor profile.
  • Serve with Traditional Sides: Accompany your jerk chicken with classic sides like rice and peas, fried plantains, or my Caribbean coleslaw for an authentic meal.

Jamaican jerk Chicken

Tools Needed for Jamaican Jerk Chicken

  • Meat ThermometerThermoworks is the gold standard. I also came out with my own limited edition TEAL Digital Thermometer that gives 3 second readings for $29.99
  • Grill Grates (optional but I highly recommend for even cooking and getting epic char marks!)
  • Tongs
  • Wood Chips for smoking
  • Extra Allspice berries

If you are looking for sides, I have a Caribbean coleslaw with coconut and pineapple recipe that is pairs perfectly with this recipe. If you love “Floribbean Inspired” recipes, check out my Authentic Brick Grill Cuban Sandwiches you can easily make on your grill- they’re perfect when grilling for a crowd! 

 

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Jamaican Jerk Spatchcocked Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Spatchcocked Chicken


  • Author: Robyn
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minues
  • Yield: 4-6 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe is so fragrant you are going to wish you made an extra batch of this tasty Spice paste! This authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken recipe combines the flavors of the Caribbean to give you moist, juicy chicken with crispy skin. This recipe calls for Spatchcocked Chicken but this paste can be used on any kind of chicken or pork.


Ingredients

Scale

Jamaican Jerk Spice Paste:

  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 4 scallions
  • 1 tbsp allspice berries (ground is okay too)
  • 1 tbsp black pepper corns
  • 2 tsp dried thyme (fresh is even better)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • dash hot sauce
  • 1/4 tsp chopped habanero or scotch bonnet pepper with seeds removed (if you cannot handle heat, you can omit this part, but please still add the dash of hot sauce)
  • zest and juice of one large lime (don't skip this step, the lime zest adds a lot of flavor)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Instructions

Puree all the ingredients in the order they are listed, gradually adding the olive oil at the end. Puree until the paste reaches a uniform consistency.

How to Prepare and Grill a Spatchcock Chicken:

1) Butterflying the chicken: I'd recommend buying the chicken at a butcher where you can ask them to do this for you! If you don't have them do it, you will need to use kitchen shears to cut out the backbone and then press down on the chicken with the palm of your hand to help flatten the bird.

2) Use your finger and loosen the skin on the bird, but be careful not to tear it. Rub the spice paste under the skin all over the chicken and then repeat on the outside of the skin. Cover the bird or put in a ziplock and let it marinate in the fridge for at least 24 hours.

3) GRILLING:

  • Remove the marinated chicken from the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes.
  • Add your smoke chips and all spice berries. I am really loving Bourbon Barrel Chips but use a fruit wood or oak if you don't have these.
  • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat with a direct and indirect zone. This means the coals are moved to one side creating two distinct zones.
  • Brush the grill grates with oil to prevent sticking.
  • Grill the chicken on indirect heat for 30 minutes, letting it smoke and absorb flavor from the grill on indirect heat while coming up to temp slowly. Once the internal temp has reached 150 degrees in the breast of the chicken, get ready to grill it on both sides on direct.
  • Grill the chicken, skin side down, for about 5 minutes, or until the skin is crispy and well-charred. Flip the chicken and continue grilling for another 5 minutes minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C) in the thickest part of the meat.

Serve with your favorite coleslaw, grilled romaine or favorite grilled veggies and Texas toast. If you make this for your family, they will think you are a grilling goddess!

Notes

“Spatchcocked” is really just a funny way of saying grilled butterflied chicken. Much like you need to butterfly a Cornish game hen (which is a small chicken) so it will lay flat on the grill, you need to do the same with a whole chicken. Removing the backbone allows the bird to lay flat so the bird can cook more evenly on the grill.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Category: Jamaican Jerk
  • Method: Grill
  • Cuisine: Jamaican Jerk

Keywords: Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Want more Grilled Chicken Recipes? Check out our Grilled Chicken category page for more grilling inspiration!

Did you try this recipe? Leave me a comment below and let me know your thoughts! Tag me on instagram @grillgirlrobyn – I love hearing from you!

Check out these related posts!

Caribbean Coleslaw with Pineapple and Shredded Coconut

Jamaican Jerk BBQ Sauce

Pineapple Ginger Grilled Chicken

 

The Complete Guide to Jamaican Jerk Chicken: A Culinary Trip to the Caribbean!
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