This jerk chicken marinade is the most flavorful chicken marinade you’ll ever have! This jerk chicken recipe can be made with whole chicken breasts or you can skewer them with your favorite vegetables! Spicy, full of flavor, this jerk chicken marinade is a must try.
Jerk was taught by Taino (indigenous people of the Caribbean) to African slaves, whom then translated it into jerk chicken in Jamaica. Traditionally cooked over a smokey fire pit, which gave it that delicious smokey taste and enhanced the spices. The seasoning mainly consisting of all spice, scotch bonnets, and either chicken or pork. Throughout the Caribbean, each island makes their jerk a bit different. Some do just a dry jerk rub and others make a wet jerk marinade.
Every year we go to St. Lucia for vacation and I always eat half my body weight in jerk chicken. I don’t think there is such thing as a more flavorful piece of meat. For this recipe, I did a wet marinade to infuse as much flavor into the chicken and keep it juicy. Jerk seasoning has many influences not just from the Caribbean, but Africa, Europe, and most recently Asian influences. All of these flavors blend together to make such a flavorful marinade.
Scotch bonnet peppers, also known as Caribbean red peppers, are named because they resemble a Scottish tam’o shanter hat. Scotch bonnets are around 100,000-350,000 on the scoville heat unit. I get mine at the local Jamaican market, but if you’re in a pinch and can’t find them you can substitute with a habanero pepper. If you like your jerk very spicy you can add two peppers, we did two and it was perfect for our taste. If not, just stick with one to be safe.
Making the jerk marinade
- For the marinade, I use 2 scotch bonnet’s, but we like our jerk very spicy. You can use just one, or even remove the seeds depending on your spice preference (but jerk should definitely have some heat!). I recommend using gloves when handling them and washing your hands thoroughly after.
- Add all the marinade ingredients to a food processor.
- Blend on high until all ingredients are fully chopped and combined.
Once the jerk marinade is blended, you can proceed to marinate your chicken immediately, or store the jerk marinade. Store the jerk marinade in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
You can use this marinade for whole chicken breasts or skewer them. To skewer, cut the chicken breasts into 1 inch cubes prior to putting in the marinade. Cover the marinade container and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours. For maximum flavor I recommend overnight.
Jerk skewer accompaniments
To go with the jerk chicken, I also add pineapple, bell peppers, and red onion. Since the jerk chicken is so spicy, the pineapple cuts the spice with sweetness and is absolutely delicious grilled.
Assembling the skewers
If you’re going to use wooden skewers, soak them for 10 minutes prior to skewering (this will keep them from burning). You can also use metal skewers. I also wear gloves with skewering due to the spicy marinade. Alternate between the vegetables and the marinated jerk chicken. I do not recommend leaving the pineapple on the side, because it tends to slide off while grilling.
Grilling the jerk chicken
We grilled it on our gas grill, but I can only imagine how amazing it would taste over a charcoal grill. Grill over medium/high heat (425F) and cook until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165 degrees F. Cook time can vary due to thickness and size of chicken, so best to use a thermometer.
The jerk marinade will give you delicious charred crispy bits that are packed full of flavor! Once the chicken is fully cooked through, remove from the grill and I finished it off with some chopped scallions.
My favorite way to enjoy these grilled jerk chicken skewers is with my fried okra coconut rice. The coconut rice helps cool down the heat of the jerk chicken and they make the perfect pair.
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- 2 lbs boneless skinless chicken breast, sliced into 1 inch cubes
- ½ yellow onion, peeled and quartered
- 6 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme (or 1 tbsp dried thyme)
- ⅓ cup chopped scallions
- 2 inches fresh ginger root, skin peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 tbsp ground all spice
- ½ tsp ground nutmeg or freshly grated
- 2 tbsp dark brown sugar
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 2 limes, juiced
- 1 scotch bonnet pepper or habanero, stems removed (if you like really spicy add 2)
- ½ cup vegetable or canola oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
- 3 bell peppers, stem/seeds removed, cut into 1 inch squares
- 1 red onion, peeled and cut into 1 inch squares
- 2 cups cubed and peeled pineapple
- Okra Fried Rice
- Chopped scallions
- In a food processor, combine all the marinade ingredients and blend on high until all ingredients are evenly chopped and combined. Once the jerk marinade is blended, you can proceed to marinate your chicken immediately, or store the jerk marinade. Store the jerk marinade in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- In a bowl or large ziplock, add cubed chicken and pour the marinade over the chicken, mix chicken with marinade so all chicken is coated. Cover the bowl or seal bag, place into the refrigerator, marinate overnight or minimum 4 hours (overnight is recommended for max flavor).
- If using wooden skewers, soak them in water 10 minutes prior to using, you can also use metal skewers. After chicken has marinated, alternate skewering the chicken, pineapple, bell peppers, and red onion. Do not leave the pineapple on the end of the skewer, they tend to fall off when grilling. I also wear gloves when skewering the chicken, thoroughly wash hands afterwards.
- Preheat and clean your grill. Grill the jerk skewers over medium/high heat (about 425F degrees) rotating every few minutes so all sides get cooked/charred. Cooking time will depend on thickness of chicken and grill heat. You are looking for an internal temperature of 165 degrees F for the chicken.
- Remove from grill and garnish with chopped scallions and serve with a side of rice or side of choice.
Scotch bonnet peppers
- I buy my scotch bonnet peppers at a local Jamaican market, if you cannot find them in a pinch you can use habanero peppers
- I use 2 scotch bonnets for very spicy jerk, you can use just one for regular spicy, or even remove the seeds for a mild spice. Jerk should be spicy though!
- I recommend using gloves when handling the peppers and thoroughly wash your hands afterwards
- Once the jerk marinade is blended, you can proceed to marinate your chicken immediately, or store the jerk marinade. Store the jerk marinade in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
- This recipe can also be used to marinate whole chicken breasts
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Serving Size:2 skewers
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 524Total Fat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gCholesterol: 93mgSodium: 83mgCarbohydrates: 10gFiber: 5gProtein: 34g
*Note: Nutrition information is an estimate. Values vary based on different brands and ingredients*