Jerk Chicken

Jerk, a spice rub and paste used all across the beautiful tropical Island of Jamaica, originates with the Taino – the indigenous people of the Caribbean.  

The locals will tell you that it is all about the seasoning and the smoke. 

Every home cook, grandmother, restaurant and local vendor will have his or her own complex rub and paste, making their own unique Jerk.

The paste traditionally includes scotch bonnets and allspice. My take on Jerk also has a healthy dose of ginger, which helps to balance out and digest the heat of the rub.  With a Red Stripe chaser, this is the perfect way to transport yourself to the slow-pace, sun-soaked tropics.

Jerk Chicken and Paste

This rub is especially delicious on bone-in chicken but can be used with bone-out chicken as well.  It can be served with a mango salsa or yoghurt sauce to cool the spice, or even simply with slices of avocado.  


For the Jerk Paste

  • 14 whole cloves or ½ tsp ground
  • 4 tap allspice
  • 2 medium onions cut in half
  • 4 green onions white and green parts, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 scotch bonnet chilies cores, seeds, and ribs removed, or another kind of hot fresh chili
  • ½ tsp round nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • inch piece fresh ginger washed (but not peeled), sliced
  • 2 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic

For Chicken

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 chickens bone in skin on, cut in ⅛ths (or the equivalent of 6 pounds of chicken, I use only thighs and legs)


For the Jerk Paste

  • Put all the ingredients in a food processor.  Process for a few minutes until a coarse paste is formed.  Scrape down the sides as necessary.  Set aside.

For the Chicken

  • Mix about half of the paste (save the rest of the paste, refrigerated for up to 3 weeks) with the vegetable oil in a bowl, rub the paste all over the chicken even under the skin.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile heat the grill to high.  When the grill is hot, make a multilevel fire but leaving the back side of the grill on high and the rest on med-low.  Place the chicken on the cooler part of the gill skin side up and close the cover of the grill. Cook about 20 minutes on the first side and then 15-20 minutes on the skin side.  Move the chicken around a little so that all the pieces cook evenly.
  • Let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving.

How to Store

  • Store the paste in a non-reactive container (I like glass) and it will keep in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.  Or freeze for up to six months.