While volunteers for Great Shape! Inc. do many different things while in Jamaica, help fill cavities, administer vision tests, work with students or teachers, there is one thing they all have in common by the end of their projects. All volunteers will leave Jamaica knowing what jerk chicken is and most will have tried jerk chicken at least once during their trip.

Jerk chicken is a Jamaican favorite and can be found served all over the island including for dinner at Sandals or for lunch at primary schools. Jerk chicken is an important part of the Jamaican cultural experience and also makes for a delicious meal. If you’re scratching your head for dinner ideas for tonight or just want to try something new, put your cooking skills to the test and try this recipe for jerk chicken. It’s the next best thing to having dinner on the island. So, crank up your favorite tunes and get cooking!

Total Time: 25 Hours

Prep: 30 minutes

Marinate: 24 hours

Cook: 30 minutes

What You’ll Need:

  • 5 pounds chicken pieces
  • 2 cups distilled white vinegar, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 cups finely chopped scallions
  • 2 Scotch bonnets, seeded and minced (wear gloves)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 5 teaspoons ground allspice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 ½ teaspoons dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 cups Jamaican Barbecue Sauce to serve, recipe follows

Jamaican Barbecue Sauce:

  • 1 ¼ cups ketchup
  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Jamaican hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Jerk marinade (reserved from associated recipe)
  • 3 scallions, minced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1/3 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons dark rum

Let’s Get Cooking:

  1. Rinse chicken pieces well in 2 cups of the vinegar, drain, transfer to 2 sealable plastic bags and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a food processor combine remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar, scallions, Scotch bonnets, soy sauce, lime juice, allspice, bay leaves, garlic, salt, sugar, thyme, and cinnamon. Reserve 2 tablespoons of the jerk marinade for the Jamaican Barbecue Sauce
  3. Rinse chicken pieces well under running water and pat dry with paper towels. Divide chicken pieces between 2 heavy-duty gallon plastic sealable bags and divide marinade evenly between the 2. Turn bags over to evenly distribute marinade and refrigerate chicken for 24 hours (the longer the better).
  4. On an oiled grill rack, set about 6 inches above red-hot coals, grill chicken (in batches if necessary) covered for 10-15 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Transfer to a warm platter and keep warm until serving.
  5. Serve with Jamaican Barbecue Sauce, alongside fried plantains, rice, or bread of choice.

Jamaican Barbecue Sauce:

In a medium non-reactive saucepan combine all ingredients except rum and bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar. Reduce heat to a simmer and continue to cook another 12 minutes, until sauce is thick and flavorful and coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat and stir in rum. Cool sauce to room temperature before serving.

Yield: About 2 cups


Recipe courtesy of Emeril Lagasse: