Despite growing up on an island so close in proximity to Jamaica, I do not recall ever eating Jerk chicken in The Dominican Republic. The blend of herbs and hot spices used to make this popular Caribbean smoky chicken is very native to Jamaica. Super spicy, yet sweetly aromatic, it is now one of my favourite things to grill as soon as the warm weather hits.
About Jerk Chicken
This simplified version for Jamaican Jerk is of course not truly authentic since the term “jerk” refers not only to the sauce that is applied to the meat, but to the style of cooking. To get that really authentic flavour, Jamaicans cook their meat over fires made from the aromatic pimento wood that comes from the island’s allspice trees. With the abscense of this wood (and fire pit) I focus on achieving the smoky jerk flavour with a highly spiced and fragrant sauce that is blissfully addictive.
About The Ingredients
Without getting too chatty about why each ingredient is essential to this recipe (in other words, they aren’t optional) I will emphasize that without the allspice and fiery scotch bonnets, you will not have jerk. You can taper back (somewhat) on most of the seasonings — soy sauce, lime juice, sugar, scallions, hot peppers, thyme, garlic and ginger — according to your taste and preference, but the allspice is essential, and it is what gives this dish it’s distinctive flavour. This recipe makes a lot of sauce so you can double the chicken (highly recommend it for large crowds, or lunches/picnics the next day) without doubling the sauce.
In keeping with the Caribbean vibe, I always make a grilled pineapple salad to serve alongside this dish; the fresh sweetness of the pineapple is wonderful on it’s own but just heavenly beside the spiciness of the jerk chicken. When you grill a pineapple you take it to a whole new dimension; char it a bit and serve it sliced as is or, our preference, chopped into a salad which makes it more of a complete side and we all love it. Feel free to add lettuce, avocados, or micro greens to the salad, it all works.
A little reminder that aside from being a very delicious tropical fruit, pineapples are also low in calories and rich in vitamins and antioxidants. I build the meal even further by serving it with coconut cilantro rice which makes me happier than it probably should. It is super easy and straightforward but is deserving of it’s own post so I will post a recipe for it soon.
Put this menu on your summer lineup and give it a try, I guarantee it will quickly supersede all your other favourites. Enjoy!
Jamaican Jerk Chicken with Grilled Pineapple Salad
For the Chicken
- 1 small onion coarsely chopped
- 3 Scotch bonnet peppers stemmed*, adjust to taste
- 4 scallions white and green parts, coarsely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
- 1 Tablespoons fresh ginger chopped
- 4 garlic cloves chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- 1 1/2 Tablespoon ground Allspice
- 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg optional
- 2 Tablespoons cane sugar or brown sugar
- 1 Tablespoon honey
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 3 Tablespoons Soy sauce
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 Tablespoon Kosher salt adjust to taste
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper adjust to taste
- 3 pounds chicken thighs and drumsticks see notes if doubling
- 4 scallions white and green parts, finely chopped, for garnish
- 1-2 limes sliced into wedges for serving (optional)
For the Pineapple Salad
- 1 whole large pineapple outer rind and core removed and sliced in wedges lengthwise
- 1 Tablespoon unrefined coconut oil melted (or any neutral oil)
- 1 large english cucumber peeled, seeded and sliced
- 1/2 red onion sliced
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lime juiced
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- a few grinds freshly ground pepper
- In a food processor or blender, combine all the marinade ingredients and process to a coarse paste. Alternatively, chop all ingredients finely by hand or use mortar and pestle. Pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish, add the chicken and turn to coat well. Cover and refrigerate overnight or for at least one hour. Bring the chicken to room temperature before proceeding.
- Heat grill to medium-hot. Place chicken, skin side down first, on grill rack, cover, and grill until chicken is cooked through, turning occasionally and adjusting heat if browning too quickly, about 45 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter and let it rest a few minutes.
- Approximately 15 minutes before the chicken is done, brush the pineapple wedges with the neutral oil and place on the grill alongside the chicken (if you don't have room on the grill, grill the pineapple while the chicken rests).
- Grill the pineapple until lightly charred and starting to soften, about 5-6 minutes per side.
- Chop grilled pineapple into bite-sized chunks, toss with cucumber, red onion, olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper.
- Garnish the chicken with chopped scallions, and serve with pineapple salad and lime wedges.
Join the Conversation