Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Active Time:
30 mins
Total Time:
9 hrs
8 servings

In 2018, Food & Wine named this recipe one of our 40 best. There are as many takes on jerk chicken in Jamaica as there are cooks on the island, but most share the same method: Chicken is coated in a seasoning mixture dominated by spices and chiles, then grilled. This version comes from Paul Chung, a self-taught cook of Chinese and Jamaican descent who worked in the mail room at Food & Wine. It's wonderfully spicy, smoky, and fragrant — everything you want jerk chicken to be. But what puts this one above all others? The key is including Chinese five-spice in the marinade: "This spark of cinnamon enhances the rich clove flavor imparted by the allspice berries," former F&W Test Kitchen Supervisor Marcia Kiesel wrote. For best results, let the chicken marinate overnight, so the seasoning has time to thoroughly penetrate the meat. The chicken can also be roasted in the oven if desired.


  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped

  • 3 medium scallions, chopped

  • 2 Scotch bonnet chiles, chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped

  • 1 tablespoon five-spice powder

  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries, coarsely ground

  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • Two 3 1/2- to 4-pound chickens, quartered


  1. In a food processor, combine the onion, scallions, chiles, garlic, five-spice powder, allspice, pepper, thyme, nutmeg and salt; process to a coarse paste. With the machine on, add the the soy sauce and oil in a steady stream. Pour the marinade into a large, shallow dish, add the chicken and turn to coat. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Bring the chicken to room temperature before proceeding.

  2. Light a grill. Grill the chicken over a medium-hot fire, turning occasionally, until well browned and cooked through, 35 to 40 minutes. (Cover the grill for a smokier flavor.) Transfer the chicken to a platter and serve.

    Jamaican Jerk Chicken
    Photo by Greg Dupree / Food Styling by Mariana Velasquez / Prop Styling by Thom Driver
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