My jerk pork Jamaican ribs have a mouthwatering sweet and spicy seasoning of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and thyme. This spicy baby back ribs recipe is not for the faint of heart!
What is Jamaican Jerk?
Jerk seasoning has three primary ingredients: chile peppers, allspice berry, and thyme. After researching and testing many different recipes, I learned that allspice berries and Scotch Bonnet peppers are key to the authentic flavor of Jamaican jerk.
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.”Peggy Trowbridge Filippone
She also 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.
Jerk Pork Jamaican Ribs
Beware, the seasoning is VERY spicy and not for the faint of heart (or taste buds)! After testing several renditions, here is my favorite version.
Because I already have a recipe for One Pan Jerk Chicken and Rice, I decided to make baby back Jamaican ribs this time. I prefer pork loin ribs (aka baby back), but you can use spare ribs (also known as country ribs) if you’d like.
The ribs marinate overnight, which allows the flavors to penetrate deep into the meat for maximum flavor. These do not disappoint and can be cooked on the grill or in the oven.
Jerk Seasoning Substitutions
In addition to spicy heat, there’s a lot of flavor in Jamaican jerk pork. If you don’t tolerate spicy food well, you can always cut the amount of peppers to suit your tastes. You can’t remove peppers after the fact, so start with a small amount and scale up if it isn’t spicy enough to suit your tastes.
- Scotch bonnet chili peppers–
Scotch bonnets are hardly the hottest peppers in the world, but they have a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating of anywhere between 100,000 and 550,000! To put this into perspective, most jalapeño peppers have a rating of 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.
If you want something with less kick, look for a sweet variety of scotch bonnets, called cachucha peppers. They’re grown in the Caribbean, so they may or may not be available in your area.
If you’re unable to find cachuchas, substitute habanero peppers for the scotch bonnets.
Jerk Pork Marinade
CAUTION: Please protect your skin!
If you aren’t careful, the oils in chili peppers can and will burn your skin. To help prevent this from happening, I recommend that you wear kitchen gloves when you clean the peppers.
- Clean the peppers. Rinse the peppers under water, cut off and discard the tops, then transfer the peppers to the bowl of a food processor.
- Add remaining marinade ingredients. Place all other ingredients in the food processor bowl and blend until smooth. Scrape down the insides of the bowl to gather up the marinade and pour it into a small bowl.
- Trim the ribs.
Clean the ribs up by removing the back membrane. Use the tip of a knife to make a slit that you can use to grab a hold of the membrane, then pull to remove. Don’t worry if you can’t remove it all; it’s edible, but very chewy.
- Rub and marinate the ribs. With clean kitchen gloves on, 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.
Video: How to Cook Jerk Pork
To watch the process from start to finish, check out the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
If you’re unable to grill outdoors these can be made in the oven, see instructions in the recipe card below.
- Prep the grill and optional wood chips.
Preheat your grill to 350°F. For some smoky flavor, soak wood chips in water for at least 30 minutes.
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.
- Add ribs to the grill.
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.
At this point, the Jamaican jerk pork ribs should be tender enough to pull apart with your fingers. You want the ribs to have an internal temperature of 145°F. Allow the meat to rest 5-10 minutes prior to cutting.
Want to make more Caribbean food?
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.
If there are any leftover ribs, strip the jerk pork from the bones and make BBQ Pork with Cheesy Grits. The leftover pork is shredded and simmered in BBQ sauce and served over cheesy grits for a Southern inspired dinner that’s sure to satisfy.
This recipe post, originally published on Kevin Is Cooking on September 2013, was last updated on May 5, 2021.
Jerk Pork Jamaican 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 salt
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- 3-4 lbs pork loin ribs (baby back) or spare 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
- For low and slow cooking, set up the grill and preheat to 225°F. Add smoker chips per manufacturer's instructions if desired.
- When the wood begins to smoke, unwrap the ribs and place, bone side down, meaty side up, on a sheet of aluminum foil. Put the ribs and aluminum foil directly on the grill. Cover the grill and and cook the ribs 4 to 5 hours for baby backs or 5 to 6 hours for spare ribs. 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.
- Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest 10 minutes, then cut the ribs (See Note 2).
- For faster cooking: 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. 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.
- Remove from the grill and let the ribs rest for 10 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.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.