Jamaican Jerk Chicken


This jerk chicken recipe is from Paul Chung, who grew up in Jamaica and sampled jerk throughout the island. It's fragrant, fiery hot, and smoky all at once.

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 five-spice powder in the marinade, a Chinese spice blend made of cinnamon, fennel seed, cloves, Sichuan peppercorns, and star anise. "This spark of cinnamon enhances the rich clove flavor imparted by the allspice berries," former F&W test kitchen supervisor Marcia Kiesel wrote.

How to make Jamaican jerk chicken

For all the depth of flavor this dish provides, Jamaican jerk chicken is fairly simple to prepare. Once you've gathered all your ingredients, everything but the chicken gets whizzed in the food processor to make a marinade. It's important to let the chicken marinate overnight, so the seasoning has time to thoroughly penetrate the meat. Then, all that's left to do is bring the chicken up to room temperature and grill it until well-browned. 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 black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled

  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/2 cup soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil

  • 2 (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 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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