Jerk-Grilled Lobster

The first time I visited Jamaica was in 2012. Close friends who had been going there on vacation for years invited my husband and me to the cliffs of Negril, in the westernmost corner of the island. Among the many features of the area they extolled was a local jerk shack just down the road from the small hotel where we were staying. But, they cautioned us, don’t go too hungry, and be prepared to wait. After all, great jerk cannot be hurried, nor can island time. I was familiar with jerk seasoning from my childhood, when walks home from my public school in Toronto would take me through a Caribbean neighborhood where I devoured beef patties and jerk chicken thighs as an after-school snack. But that was the extent of my knowledge of Jamaica’s distinctive cuisine. The chance to get to know it better while sitting on the beach, eating chicken and seafood laced with Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and garlic, and washing it all down with an ice-cold Red Stripe was one I could not pass up.That first jerk shack did not disappoint, nor have any of the others we’ve frequented on our many subsequent visits. In the years since our first foray we have perfected our timing to arrive midafternoon, still full from a late lunch and happy to linger for a few hours sipping cold drinks while our dinner is prepared. After trying every item that can be basted or drizzled in the flavors of jerk, from shrimp to chicken to whole fish and even cocktails, hands down my favorite incarnation is lobster, where the jerk paste is stirred into butter and used to baste the crustacean while it cooks over the flames. My streamlined version is one that you can make all year round, but grilling the lobsters outside, beer in hand, is always encouraged.

jerk grilled lobster
Photo: Christopher Testani
Active Time:
20 mins
Total Time:
35 mins


  • 1 1/2 bunches scallions (about 12 scallions), divided

  • 3 tablespoons chopped peeled fresh ginger

  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

  • 1 garlic clove, chopped

  • 1 Scotch bonnet chile, stemmed, seeded, and chopped

  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (4 ounces), cubed

  • 1 tablespoon canola oil

  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

  • 4 (1 1/2-pound) live lobsters, halved lengthwise and cleaned, claws detached and reserved

  • 1 lime, cut into wedges


  1. Coarsely chop 6 of the scallions. Place chopped scallions, ginger, lime juice, thyme, garlic, chile, allspice, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor. Pulse until a coarse paste forms, 6 to 7 times, scraping down sides a few times between pulses to evenly incorporate.

  2. Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium-low. Whisk in jerk paste until combined, and remove from heat. Reserve 1/4 cup jerk butter in a small bowl for serving.

  3. Preheat grill to medium-high (400°F to 450°F). Toss together canola oil and remaining whole scallions in a large bowl; season with pepper and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place scallions on oiled grates, and grill, uncovered, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and tender, about 5 minutes. Set aside.

  4. Using long metal or wooden skewers, skewer lobster body halves lengthwise. (This will help keep them straight while grilling.) Brush lobster meat evenly with about 2 tablespoons remaining jerk butter. Place skewered lobsters, meat sides down, and reserved lobster claws on oiled grates, and grill, uncovered, until shells begin to turn red, about 4 minutes. Flip claws and bodies, and brush cut sides of tails with remaining jerk butter. Continue grilling until meat is cooked through, about 4 more minutes for bodies and 5 to 6 more minutes for claws, turning claws occasionally. Remove from heat, and remove skewers.

  5. Arrange lobsters and charred scallions on a platter. Gently rewarm reserved 1/4 cup jerk butter, if needed. Serve lobster tails and claws with jerk butter and lime wedges.

Make Ahead

Jerk butter may be made up to 2 days ahead. Cover and chill until ready to use.

Related Articles