Jerk Chicken is bone-in chicken thighs and legs marinated in a savory and spicy sauce and baked in the oven. Try my Copycat Chipotle Chicken for another chicken recipe with a kick.
The term jerk, when it comes to food, anyway, comes from the Peruvian word, ‘charqui’. Charqui refers to dried sticks of meat (think jerky). It was a technique to cook the meat and make it last longer, resulting in a smokey flavor. Later, Jamaican Jerk referred to the blend of spices and herbs used to season wild game. Jerk seasoning is generally a blend of allspice, thyme, nutmeg, and other herbs and spices, along with peppers like Scotch bonnet peppers or habanero peppers. Yes, it does have a kick to it!
Onions: I prefer a yellow onion in the jerk seasoning, along with some scallions (green onions).
Peppers: As I stated above, scotch bonnet peppers are often used in jerk seasoning. I used habanero peppers, which are similar in overall heat (yes, they are both on the hotter side) and taste. The bonus of using habanero peppers is that they are much easier to find at local grocery stores and supermarkets. If you don’t want so much heat in the seasoning, you could use jalapeno peppers. I will explain more about the spiciness later.
Herbs and Spices: Be sure to have the following herbs and spices on hand: ginger, thyme, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and black pepper.
Chicken: I used bone-in chicken thighs and legs in this recipe. This resulted in the most tender and flavorful chicken.
How to Make Jerk Chicken
The first thing you have to do in this recipe is to marinate the chicken in jerk seasoning. The chicken should marinate for a minimum of 3 hours, up to overnight. The longer the chicken is marinated, the more flavor it will have. To make the marinade, add all of the ingredients (besides the chicken) to the bowl of a food processor. Process until the mixture is smooth.
After you have made the marinade, place the chicken into zipped plastic bags. Pour the marinade over the top of the chicken; then, move the chicken around to make sure it is coated in the sauce. Tightly seal the bag (or bags) of chicken and place them in the refrigerator. Again, marinate the chicken for at least 3 hours. I prefer overnight to get the most out of the seasoning.
When ready, preheat the oven and place the marinated chicken on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 40-50 minutes, or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 165°F. If you want a nice char to the meat, set the oven to broil for the last 2-3 minutes. Serve garnished with parsley and a side of rice or sweet potatoes with a wedge of lime.
Is Jerk Chicken Spicy?
Yes, it is spicy! The peppers are what make the chicken so hot. As I stated earlier, I used habanero peppers as opposed to scotch bonnet peppers, which you will usually see in a jerk recipe. The two peppers are similar on the heat scale (the Scoville Scale) when it comes to peppers. Scotch bonnet peppers are a tad sweeter in taste, but the two are even close in that category.
You can always just use one pepper for less heat or substitute jalapeno peppers for the habanero or scotch bonnet peppers. For reference, scotch bonnet and habanero peppers have a range of 100,000-350,000 Scoville Heat Units while a jalapeno pepper ranges from 2,500-5,000 Scoville Heat Units. Yes, that is quite a difference!
Air Fryer Jerk Chicken
To make this recipe in an Air Fryer, set your air fryer to 350°F. Set the chicken in the basket in a single layer, and start with skin side down. Start air fryer and cook for 15 minutes, then flip the chicken so that the skin side is up. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165°F. (25-30 minutes total) Chicken may appear darker in color than from the oven method below.
If you want to use this recipe for Jerk Chicken Wings, follow the directions in the recipe up to step #3. When ready to cook, set the Air Fryer to 400°F. Place wings in a single layer and cook for 10 minutes. Flip the wings over and cook for another 8-10 minutes. (20 minutes total.) Air fryers can be different, so check on your wing’s internal temperature to make sure they reach 165°F.
More Chicken Recipes
Jerk Chicken Marinade
- 1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
- 2 medium habanero peppers, or scotch bonnet peppers, seeded and chopped
- 3 medium scallions, roughly chopped
- 6 cloves garlic
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and legs, about 8-10 pieces
- parsley, for garnish
- To the bowl of a food processor add onion, habanero peppers, scallions, garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, ginger, thyme, salt, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and pepper. Process until smooth.
- Place chicken into a large ziplock back and pour the sauce over the top. Seal the bag and move the chicken around to ensure that all sides are coated.
- Transfer to the refrigerator for 3 hours, up to overnight.
- When ready, preheat the oven to 375°F and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Transfer the marinated chicken to the baking sheet.
- Bake 40-50 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken is 165°F.
- Set the oven to broil for the last 2-3 minutes if you prefer a good char.
- Serve with rice. Garnish with limes and fresh parsley.
Did you make this recipe?
You can tag me at @iamhomesteader.
Made this jerk chicken for dinner tonight and we both loved it! I marinated chicken thighs overnight and used 2 habaneros. We love hot and spicy, but honestly this was a great heat level — just warming enough to know the peppers were in there, but more aromatic with all of the warm spices used. Absolutely will get this into rotation! I even forgot to broil at the end and still loved it!
My family does not like hot. Is there anything I can substitute for the habanero peppers?
I made this the other night! Huge hit with a family, especially my husband! Super easy to make and it is delicious. I made ours with red beans and rice.
I like the recipe as is but my wife only eats the breast meat I’m sure it will work don’t you?
Should the chicken be skinless?