I was really tempted to call this my ‘don’t be a jerk, chicken recipe’ but decided not to. While this may not be a 100% authentic jerk chicken, it’s slightly simplified and contains a lot of the fresh elements of Jamaican jerk chicken. The beauty in this recipe is loads of fresh ingredients and spices. It’s truly a flavor-packed chicken recipe made with so many of my favorite spices.
My grilled jerk chicken is made with a slew of dried herbs and fresh produce. The secret is balancing the heat with cinnamon, brown sugar, and lime juice. While typical jerk chicken is made with hot peppers like habanero, I opted for jalapeno for less intense heat. I’ll leave this up to you if you’re more of a heat fanatic.
The end result is a mildly spicy and well-seasoned chicken recipe with notes of ginger, garlic, and nutmeg. It tastes similar to blackened chicken but with a more complex flavor and more elements going on. I love this recipe because it’s so easy to make and everything is just thrown in a blender for the freshest-tasting marinade ever.
Ingredients in Jerk Chicken
You’ll notice the recipe contains some atypical meat spices like allspice, ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon (apple pie anyone??). While these may seem like spices you could easily omit, they lend so much character and carry much of what makes jerk chicken unique.
These spices are pretty common in your typical kitchen so I’m guessing the majority of folks already have them on hand. They’re worth buying for this recipe if you don’t!
- Yellow onion
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lime juice
- Jalapeno, habanero, or scotch bonnet chiles
- Green onion
- Low-sodium soy sauce
- Brown sugar (light or dark)
- Dried or fresh thyme
- Salt and pepper
- Ground ginger or fresh
- Ground cinnamon
Best Chicken for Jerk Chicken
The marinade is really versatile and can be used on just about any cut of chicken. Bone-in skin-on chicken is my favorite as the rub pairs nicely with crispy skin. I’ve made this recipe with wings, drumsticks, and chicken thighs. All work really well and are perfectly suited for grilling. I love pairing this with my lemon butter couscous or pesto pasta salad.
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My spin on grilled jerk chicken—a flavor-packed grilled chicken recipe marinated in a slew of spices and fresh produce like cinnamon, nutmeg, garlic, jalapeno, ginger, brown sugar, soy sauce, and fresh lime juice.
- 3 pounds of chicken drumsticks or wings
- 1/2 yellow onion
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 lime, juiced
- 1 jalapeno, sliced and seeded (habanero pepper, or scotch bonnet chiles are traditional)
- 3 green onions
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon dried or fresh thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (can also use fresh)
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- Combine all ingredients (minus the chicken) and blend until smooth. Place chicken with the sauce in a large covered container or Ziploc bag and mix well. Marinate for at least 1 hour. For best results, marinate overnight.
- Preheat the grill to medium-high heat and clean the grates well. Grill chicken for 12-15 minutes, rotating every 3-4 minutes until chicken is fully cooked through and nicely browned. Chicken should be cooked until internal temp reads 165ºF. Serve immediately.
While I like to use jalapeno in this recipe, you can substitute with hotter peppers like habanero for more authentic heat. If you’re worried, start with half a jalapeno and taste the marinade before adding the second half. Not all jalapenos are created equal in terms of heat.
- Serving Size: 3 drumsticks
- Calories: 747
- Sugar: 3.3g
- Sodium: 867mg
- Fat: 36.3g
- Saturated Fat: 7.6g
- Carbohydrates: 6.4g
- Fiber: 0.9g
- Protein: 94.6g
- Cholesterol: 299mg
Keywords: Jamaican jerk chicken, grilled jerk chicken, simple jerk chicken, grilled chicken