Try this Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe for a deliciously simple version of Caribbean style roast chicken. This super tender, flavorful jerk chicken will quickly become a family favorite. Perfect for meal prep dinners.
In This Article
- Video: Watch Us Make This Recipe
- What is Jamaican Jerk Chicken?
- How This Recipe Stands Out
- Key Recipe Ingredients
- Step-By-Step Instructions
- How to Prepare in Advance
- What to Serve with Jamaican Jerk Chicken
- Commonly Asked Questions
- Did you make this?
- Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe Recipe
- More to Cook and EAt
Video: Watch Us Make This Recipe
What is Jamaican Jerk Chicken?
Here’s a fun fact: the word jerk refers to a way of cooking that’s popular in Jamaica. All varieties of meats and even vegetables are traditionally marinated in a paste or rub that includes allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers. Then it’s slow smoked over long sticks of pimento wood.
Nowadays, you can get authentic Jamaican jerk eats from delicious smelling jerk huts on their island stomping grounds. So if you’re lucky enough travel to Jamaica, send me some tasty pics and I’ll live vicariously through you for a moment.
Since most of us aren’t going to soak our chicken overnight in Scotch bonnet peppers and then slow-smoke it over long sticks of pimento wood, I’m here to share this simplified way of making delicious jerk chicken – lazy but 110% incredibly tasty.
How This Recipe Stands Out
- Your family will come running when the aroma of Jamaican style, smoky chicken fills the air.
- It’s baked in the oven, which means a super hands-off dinner for you. We love oven-baked dinners.
- This dish is extremely tender and juicy; never dry.
- The jerk seasonings can be mixed weeks ahead of time and stored for later use.
- This jerk chicken is fabulous for meal prep; make a big batch and serve it throughout the week.
- You can also freeze marinated chicken to bake later. Freezer meals are a busy cook’s best friend.
Key Recipe Ingredients
- Chicken: to make this recipe as simple as possible, we use chicken legs instead of cut-up whole chicken pieces. Chicken legs are easy to prep and cook up faster.
- Oil: use healthy olive oil for binding the seasonings to the meat and for flavor.
- Brown Sugar: brown sugar adds a molasses-like sweetness to balance out the spices.
- Thyme: plenty of thyme provides an earthy herb essence to this dish. Be sure herbs are fresh, as older herbs have lost most of their flavor.
- Spices: a fragrant mixture of allspice, paprika, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, cayenne lend incredible depth and flavor to the chicken. If you can use smoked paprika, the flavors will be even more complex.
- Seasonings: garlic powder, onion powder, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper are essential for the aromatics and savory aspects of this recipe.
- Prepare Ahead: The spice mixture can be prepared days ahead of time. Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, sugar, thyme, cayenne, allspice, onion, garlic, and smoked paprika can all be combined in advance.
- Dry and Poke: Thoroughly dry chicken pieces with clean paper towels and use a fork to poke holes throughout all the pieces.
- Season: Rub all that aromatic goodness onto and under the chicken skin. That’s always my secret to well-seasoned poultry: get that rub under the skin – wear gloves if you’d like, but absolutely work the seasonings on top and underneath the skin throughout.
- Bake: Place chicken on large rimmed/foil-lined baking sheet, with space in between each piece. For smaller-sized chicken legs, bake about 40 minutes; for larger-sized chicken legs, bake about 50 minutes or until nicely browned.
How to Prepare in Advance
- Marinate in advance: You can opt to marinade raw chicken for several hours, up to overnight, if you’d like to have it ready to bake after work the next day.
- Freezer option: You can also fully prepare the chicken up until baking, and place raw chicken in freezer-safe bags or containers for up to several weeks. Thaw in fridge 2 nights prior to baking.
- Seasonings: You can combine all the dry spices together in an airtight container and keep it in the pantry for several weeks prior to using.
- Meal Prep: Make a large batch of jerk chicken and place in airtight meal-prep containers to keep in fridge or freezer.
What to Serve with Jamaican Jerk Chicken
Rice and Grains
- We 100% recommend and love this Rice and Beans recipe that’s both easy and tasty; it’s great with almost any meal. Even eaters who don’t think they’d like rice and beans surprise themselves by going back for seconds!
- This Coconut Rice is aromatic and delicious with chicken. We love it with any stir fry, vegetable, or protein dish.
- Quinoa with Black Beans has a Tex-Mex flair, but is so delicious with any chicken dish.
- Mango Black Bean Salsa Dip. Good enough to eat with a spoon all by itself, but really refreshing next to jerk chicken.
- Plantains are a delicious side option for jerk chicken! Their easygoing crispness offer the texture you crave.
- Cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash has the same cinnamon flavor profile and is the perfect pairing.
- Can’t resist including this island Mai Tai cocktail; so good…in fact, it’s kind of always a good thing when this tropical cocktail shows up with your meal.
- Big Batch Pineapple Margaritas Recipe – this fruity sweet cocktail pairs perfectly with the spicy kick of jerk chicken.
Commonly Asked Questions
Common throughout the Caribbean, jerk chicken often refers to a spicy grilled chicken dish. Our recipe can be used for grilling or baking.
With spices such as allspice and cumin, the flavor profile tends to be earthy, exotic, and slightly sweet with a bit of sugar in the mixture.
This dish is definitely on the healthy side, especially if you don’t eat the chicken skin. Because it’s grilled or baked and not fried, it doesn’t absorb much oil (plus, we use olive oil for the paste.)
Yes, this is a great recipe for meal prep. Make a large batch at the beginning of the week, along with easy rice and beans, to enjoy for several days.
Though we don’t recommend freezing cooked jerk chicken, it’s definitely okay to freeze marinated raw chicken. Simply defrost in the fridge 2 nights prior to baking.
Did you make this?
Please give us a rating and comment below. We love hearing from you!
Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe
- Preheat oven to 425F with rack on lower middle position. In a bowl, combine all remaining ingredients to form a spice rub/paste mixture. Set aside.
- Use paper towels to thoroughly dry chicken legs of excess moisture. Use fork to poke holes on all sides of chicken legs. Evenly spread the rub mixture underneath the skin of chicken legs – use clean hands to really push the mixture as far underneath skin as you can – as well as on top of skin.
- Place chicken on large rimmed/foil-lined baking sheet, with space in between each piece. For smaller-sized chicken legs, bake about 40 minutes; for larger-sized chicken legs, bake about 50 minutes or until nicely browned. Serve immediately, with drippings from baking pan.
- Jamaican jerk seasoning classically contains ground cinnamon. However, if you’re sensitive to cinnamon, feel free to start with 1/4 tsp the first time making this dish.
- This jerk chicken is delicious served alongside of this easy, super tasty Rice and Beans Recipe or you can make fluffy Jasmine Rice.
- If you like this recipe, be sure to make extra dry spice rub to keep in pantry for easy future use – just add the olive oil only when you’re ready to use.
Nutrition (per serving)
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