This Authentic Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe begins with a highly seasoned and flavorful spice marinade that infuses chicken thighs before they are grilled (or baked) to perfection. With a flavor slightly different from my Jamaican Jerk Seasoning or my Mango Jerk Wings, you can actually bake these! Pair with Rice and Peas and Fried Plantains or serve along side Jerk Salmon, Brown Stew Chicken and my Pineapple Rum Cake for a truly authentic Caribbean meal.
A HUGE THANK YOU to Collards Are The Old Kale for guest posting and providing this wonderful recipe!
I’m sure you’ve heard of the Mediterranean Diet and maybe the Okinawan Diet. But have you heard about the African Heritage Diet? It is a healthy way of eating based on the food traditions of people of African descent. African slaves brought their knowledge of cooking to the Eastern and Southern United States, Central and South America and the Caribbean.
I created Collards Are The Old Kale to celebrate the rich heritage of our ancestors throughout the Diaspora. Many people migrated from the Caribbean to the United States during and after slavery. My great-grandmother Jemima Studivant was one of them. She left Jamaica alone between 1880 and 1890 during the collapse of the British controlled sugar industry. Legend has it that Great-Grandmother Jemima was a descendant of the Maroons, a group of Africans who escaped slavery to establish independent settlements that remain to this day.
What is Jerk Chicken?
In addition to being fierce warriors, the Maroons are also famous for giving the world Jerk Chicken.
Today, most Jamaican cooks make their own unique jerk sauce with allspice (or pimento as it is called there), thyme, and scotch bonnet peppers (also referred to as habaneros in Spanish speaking countries) being standard.
How to Make Jerk Chicken
Tips: Like many of African descent, I grew up eating hot sauce so I love the heat. However, for novices I strongly suggest using a jalapeno or no pepper at all when first attempting to make Jerk Chicken. You can always add more heat later with a dash of hot sauce or a pinch of cayenne, according to your taste buds. But if you start off with scotch bonnet peppers, there will be no turning back!
I recommend using the freshest ingredients you can find in your area. If you can find locally grown thyme, use that. I cook with antibiotic and hormone free chicken – kosher chicken is a great option if you can’t find organic.
What is Jerk Sauce?
Jerk Sauce is the blend of the African and European influences that represent Jamaica. Anchovy sauce, tamarind paste, garlic and onions are actually the basis of British condiment Worcestershire Sauce which was created in 1836. I found most of the ingredients, along with the Red Palm Oil, at a Chinese grocery store that specializes in international foods. Jamaicans keep jerk sauce on hand to use on pork, beef, lamb, fish, shrimp and vegetables. It’s so delicious, you’re going to want it around too!
How to Bake Jerk Chicken: Jerk Chicken Recipe Oven
I like to bake my jerk chicken at 350 degrees. Once the oven reaches 350 degrees, place the chicken into the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove chicken and baste with the liquid that has drained from the jerk sauce and turn down the oven to 325 degrees. Cook for approximately 1 hour basting every 30 minutes. This really adds a lot of flavor from the marinade.
Jamaican Jerk Chicken
- 2 Organic Chicken Leg Quarters thawed
- 1 tbsp Red Palm Oil
- 1/2 cup Megachef Premium Anchovy Sauce
- 1/8 cup Tamarind Paste
- 1 1/2 tbsp Whole Jamaican Allspice
- 2 tbsp minced Red Onion
- 1 tbsp minced Garlic Clove
- 2 tsp Thyme
- 2 tsp Grace Hot Pepper Sauce
- 1 tsp Fresh Grated Ginger Root
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/2 tsp Nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp ground Vietnamese Cinnamon
- 1 small Scotch Bonnet, Serrano or Jalapeno Pepper (Optional, in order from hottest to mildest)
- Begin by massaging chicken with the red palm oil, making sure every surface is coated.
- Place the allspice into a mortar and pulverize it; then place the thyme into the mortar and do the same. (You may use an electric coffee grinder or a food processor for this step, however your grinder should be one only used for spices otherwise the quality of your coffee may suffer.)
- Finely mince the garlic, onion, and pepper if you like it hot, then combine with the allspice and thyme. To minimize the heat remove the pith before mincing – it is the white rib of peppers not the seeds that are the hottest.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients and slather 1½ Tablespoons of the mixture over the chicken, turning it over to coat the underside as well. Set aside any remaining sauce in a covered container and refrigerate.
- Place the chicken in a glass baking dish, cover with plastic wrap (you may also use a sealable, gallon size plastic storage bag) and place into the refrigerator overnight.
- The next day, remove the baking dish with the chicken from the refrigerator approximately 45 minutes before cooking to allow the meat to reach room temperature. You can either bake or grill the chicken.
To Bake Chicken
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the oven reaches 350 degrees, place the chicken into the oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove chicken and baste with the liquid that has drained from the jerk sauce and turn down the oven to 325 degrees.
- Cook for approximately 1 hour basting every 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to slightly cool. Serve with the reserved jerk sauce as a condiment if desired.
To Grill Chicken
- In Jamaica, the grate of the traditional BBQ grills keeps the meat at least 6 inches away from the coals allowing the meat to cook slowly at a lower temperature. Therefore, I recommend you set the grill to a low heat, place chicken skin-side up and cook covered for at least 30 minutes.
- Turn chicken over and cook for at least 30 more minutes. Baste chicken with the reserve jerk sauce during the last 10 minutes of grilling and serve.