These Jamaican Jerk Pork Ribs are rubbed with a mouthwatering sweet and spicy paste made namely of three main jerk ingredients like chile peppers, allspice, and thyme. The ribs marinate over night which allows the flavors to penetrate the meat for maximum flavor. These do not disappoint and can be made on the grill or in the oven, too.
Beware this is hot stuff, not for the faint of heart with weak tastebuds! Lots of flavor in these, but you can always cut the amount of peppers to suit your tastes. I would try this and scale up or back if need be to suit your tastes.
Wanting something different on the grill I decided to do a little research on Jamaican Jerk. The seasoning has three main ingredients: chile pepper, allspice berry, and thyme. In reading different blogs and recipes it appeared that the Allspice berries and Scotch Bonnet peppers were key. Beware this is hot stuff, not for the faint of heart and tastebuds! After several renditions, here is my favorite version. I like to serve this alongside a refreshing Watermelon and Jicama Salad dressed with orange honey, lime and mint.
Peggy Trowbridge Filippone wrote a great description of what Jamaican “jerk” is in About.com’s cooking section, “Jerk is the process of spicing and grilling meats, poultry, and even vegetables, although the most popular are jerk pork and jerk chicken. The resulting food yields a spicy-sweet flavor and a tender texture.”
She wrote that the history of the term jerk is said to come from the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English. Like most Caribbean islands, Jamaican foods are derivative of many different settlement cultures, including British, Dutch, French, Spanish, East Indian, West African, Portuguese, and Chinese. The origins of jerk pork can be traced back to the pre-slavery days of the Cormantee hunters of West Africa through the Maroons, who were Jamaican slaves that escaped from the British during the invasion of 1655.
Using gloves, cut the tops off the Scotch bonnet or habanero peppers and put in a food processor. I highly recommend you don’t handle without gloves. Place all other ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape inside of processor to get all of the rub mix and pour into a small bowl. This is a thick paste reminiscent of molasses to me.
Clean the ribs up by removing the back membrane then with gloves, rub jerk sauce all over ribs. Wrap the ribs back up in the butcher’s paper (it has a great wax interior side to keep juices from dripping out or plastic wrap), and seal with aluminum foil. Place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.
Soak the wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes if you choose to have a little smoke flavor, too. Preheat grill to 350°F. Brush the cooking grates clean with a wire brush. Add the soaked wood chips to the smoker box of your gas grill and close the lid.
When the wood begins to smoke, unwrap the ribs and place on a sheet of aluminum foil bone side down. Put the ribs and aluminum foil on the grill. Close the lid, adjust the temperature to 250°F and cook for 1 1/2 hours, depending on thickness of ribs.
If you’re unable to grill outdoors these can be made in the oven, see instruction in recipe.
If you like Jamaican food, try my Jamaican Pepper Sauce or this Caribbean inspired Tropical Pineapple Chicken. For more ribs recipes check out my Sweet and Sour Sticky Ribs or these Pineapple Five Spice Pork Ribs.
What to do with any leftovers?
If there are any leftover ribs, I typically make my BBQ Pork with Cheesy Grits. Leftover pork ribs get shredded and simmered in your favorite BBQ sauce and top creamy, cheesy grits for a Southern inspired dinner that’s sure to satisfy.
This recipe first appeared on Kevin Is Cooking on September 2013 and has been updated with new photos and a video.
Jamaican Jerk Pork Ribs
- 4 Scotch bonnet peppers (See Note 1)
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tbsp allspice
- 1 tbsp ground thyme
- 1 tsp nutmeg
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 3-4 lbs of pork baby back or loin ribs
- Using gloves, cut the tops off the Scotch bonnet peppers and put in a food processor. Do not handle without gloves. Place all other ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Scrape inside of processor to get all of the rub mix and pour into a small bowl.
- Clean the ribs up by removing the back membrane then with gloves, rub jerk sauce all over ribs. Wrap the ribs back up in the butcher's paper (it has a great wax interior side to keep juices from dripping out), and seal with aluminum foil or in a re-sealable plastic bag. Place in the refrigerator for 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
For the Grill
- If you like it low and slow, set up the grill and preheat to 225°F. Add smoker chips per manufacturer's instructions if using.
- When the wood begins to smoke, unwrap the ribs and place on a sheet of aluminum foil bone side down, meaty side up. Put the ribs and aluminum foil directly on the grill. Cover the grill and and cook the ribs about 4 to 5 hours for baby backs or 5 to 6 hours for spare ribs.
- Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the ribs (See Note 2).
- If you don’t have the time: Set up the grill and preheat to medium (325° to 350°F).
- Place the ribs, bone side down, in the center of the grate, cover the grill and cook the ribs for 2 1/2 to 3 hours for spare ribs or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for baby back ribs.
- Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for a few minutes, then cut the ribs.
For the Oven
- Preheat oven to 325°F.Place the ribs, bone side down, on top of a wire rack set in an aluminum foil lined baking tray and roast for 2 1/2 to 3 hours for spare ribs or 1 1/2 to 2 hours for baby back ribs. Halfway through, cover ribs with aluminum foil to protect them from drying out.At this point they should be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 145°F. Allow to rest 5-10 minutes prior to cutting.
- If Scotch Bonnet peppers are not available, substitute with habaneros.
- As the ribs cook, the meat shrinks and exposes the bone at the thinner end of the rib. When 1/4 inch of bone is exposed, the ribs should be done. If you want fall off the bone tender meat you take the internal temp up to 180°F to 200°F, that's when the collagens and fats melt and make the meat more tender and juicy.