Jerk Chicken

One of my favorite recipes from The Ancestral Table is Jerk Pork. When first writing the recipe for the book, I told myself that eventually I would make a chicken variation of this Caribbean classic and post it on this blog; I think it’s about time to follow through, since it’s a perfect summer grilling recipe. From the book:

Jerk is a cooking method and seasoning from Jamaica that typically involves marinating in a paste of allspice (pimento) and Scotch bonnet peppers (often confused with their cousin, the habañero) and cooking over a fire made with pimento wood. Jamaica was first inhabited by the Arwak Indians from South America more than 2,000 years ago.


The Arwak brought with them a cooking technique of marinating and drying meat over a fire or in the sun, the basis of beef jerky as we know it today. It also served as the origin of jerk cooking, as in this jerk pork recipe, although the two dishes are wildly different today; beef jerky is a dried, preserved meat, while jerk pork is tender and juicy.

As a reminder, I am smack-dab in the middle of my Paleo Takeout book release tour, with events every weekend through August. Click here to see if I’m coming to a city near you, and to RSVP!

Jerk Chicken (Gluten-Free, Paleo, Whole30)

  • Servings: 4-8
  • Time: 1 hour 15 mins plus overnight marinating
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

3 lbs chicken drumsticks and thighs

For the marinade:
5 whole green onions
4 cloves garlic
1 habanero or scotch bonnet pepper, seeds and ribs removed (or 2 jalapeno peppers)
2 tbsp lime juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp whole allspice berries
1 tbsp honey (see note below)
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch ground cloves

1 lime, cut into wedges
fried plantains (see #3 below)

1. Pat the chicken dry with paper towels, then poke all over with a fork, piercing the skin and the meat underneath. Combine the marinade ingredients and blend in a blender until smooth. Transfer the chicken and marinade into a resealable plastic bag; marinate at least four hours, but overnight preferred.

2. Prepare your grill for indirect grilling by igniting the burners on only one side (gas grill) or by banking the coals to one side (charcoal grill). Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Grill the chicken over indirect, medium-high heat (about 400F) until cooked through (internal temp of 165F), about 45 minutes, brushing on the reserved marinade about halfway through cooking. Right as it cooks through, move the chicken to the hot side of the grill to crisp it up a bit. Remove the chicken from the grill and rest for 5 minutes.

3. Serve with lime wedges, fried plantains, and your favorite salad. To make fried plantains, slice some ripe (yellow with some black plantains) and fry in coconut oil over medium heat until browned, about 3 minutes per side, then drain and sprinkle salt over them.

** Bone-in chicken breasts (also called “split breasts”) can definitely be used, but you’ll want to watch them like a hawk (nice bird reference, Russ). I suggest using an instant-read thermometer and pulling the breasts off the grill right as they reach an internal temperature of 160F.

** Replace the honey with 1 tbsp apple juice or applesauce to make this recipe Whole 30 compliant.

22 thoughts on “Jerk Chicken

  1. Sweet, jerk chicken sounds awesome, I’ll make this tonight. Think I could broil it in a broil pan and just rotate it with a similar effect? My grill has died for the moment o_O I’m thinking I want to try this using the extra marinade on some zucchini or yellow squash…

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  2. was that a mistake on the salt? 1.5 tbsp seems like a lot, I just made this, and added way less than that and still found it to be salty. Was that supposed to be tsp? Other than that the marinade was delicious!

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    1. Crap, yes that was a mistake! Good catch. I list my ingredients from largest to smallest so it’s a dead giveaway that I added a “b” when there shouldn’t have been one! Fixed the post, thanks again.

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  3. We tried this last night and give it thumbs up and 5 stars. I was afraid it might be too spicy but it wasn’t hardly spicy at all. (I used 2 jalapenos seeded). I served it with the joloff rice and fried plantains. The whole meal was a big hit!

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  4. Russ, I want to try making this but my grill is set up so as not to allow for much indirect grilling; could I use the oven to cook the chicken at 400 degrees or so, then transfer to the hot grill to crisp up?

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  5. Honey is not whole30 compliant, otherwise sounds like a great marinade. Hubby wanted me to purchase marinade out of a bottle, too much junk inside that plastic bottle!!! Making tomorrow for grilled shrimp.

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