Caribbean jerk chicken is a one pan meal flavored with exotic spices, herbs and citrus flair. Make this quick and easy Jamaican chicken recipe for the perfect midweek meal!
Some people are beginning to feel safe enough to travel again, which is great, but not everyone feels the same way. If you’re not quite ready to hop on a plane to the Caribbean, that’s okay! You can simply cook up this quick Jamaican chicken recipe, then sit down to a delicious Caribbean meal at home instead!
What is jerk?
Jerk is a style of cooking native to Jamaica, but popular in countries throughout the caribbean. In jerk-style cooking, the meat first marinates in either a wet marinade or a dry rub. The marinade is very spicy, but the addition of citrus juice helps to balance the flavors.
Authentic Jamaican jerk flavors are big and bold! If jerk seasoning had a personality, you wouldn’t find it sitting alone in a corner waiting to be noticed.
The flavor is extroverted and spicy, but not in an overpowering way, with a hint of sweetness from tropical citrus fruits. Depending on the recipe, jerk dishes can have spicy, sweet and sour notes, all in one bite.
What does Caribbean jerk chicken taste like?
My version of Caribbean jerk chicken delivers the authentic sweet and spicy flavors, but in a milder way. The chicken is perfectly tender and juicy, and because we use boneless skinless chicken breast, it’s a healthy meal, too!
As mentioned above, authentic jerk dishes are much spicier than this chicken dish. If you like super spicy Caribbean food, make my Jamaican jerk pork ribs. I use a thick, paste-like rub that includes scotch bonnet peppers, so you’ll definitely feel the heat!
That isn’t the case for this Caribbean jerk chicken recipe, though. With savory aromatic herbs and spices, plus citrus for the marinade, it’s a comforting dish with noticeable island flavor.
The seasoning for this jerk recipe is a spicy concoction of herbs and spices like thyme, nutmeg, allspice and cinnamon.
For some recipes like spicy rotisserie chicken stuffed peppers and garlic chili spicy edamame, I use a hot chile sauce. My homemade Jamaican pepper sauce is fantastic for adding spicy heat, but to be honest, this dish doesn’t need it. The tantalizing flavors from the jerk seasoning and citrus marinade are perfect on their own.
If you’re a fan of extra spicy food, feel free to serve the pepper sauce on the side.
In this dish, white rice gets substituted with healthy long grain brown rice. Brown rice is actually white rice that has not been stripped of its nutrients. Two of those nutrients are fiber and magnesium, both of which have been shown to help regulate blood sugar. As a result, replacing white rice with brown can reduce your risk of diabetes by up to 16%. (source)
If you aren’t a fan of rice, you can substitute it with a healthy grain like barley, farro, or even quinoa.
Marinating the chicken
This recipe for Caribbean jerk chicken marinade is super simple to make; it’s just a combination of dry jerk seasoning and orange juice. If you’re able to use freshly squeezed orange juice, do so; the flavor of fresh juice is always the best.
🎯 Important tip on marinating chicken:
Please, forget everything you’ve ever been told about chicken needing to marinate for hours or days on end; it isn’t necessary!
The purpose of marinating chicken is not to tenderize the meat, it’s to create flavor. Sadly, the longer chicken sits in an acidic marinade, the more likely it is to become chewy, rubbery, and/or mushy.
To summarize, for the best Caribbean jerk chicken, do not marinate the boneless chicken breasts for longer than 1 hour. That’s all it takes!
After removing the chicken from the marinade, shake off any excess, then immediately discard the used marinade.
It contains bacteria from the raw chicken, so it is not safe to eat or to use as a marinade again.
Jerk Chicken Recipe Video
Watch the video in the recipe card below to see the entire cooking process from start to finish!
Frequently Asked Questions
This Jamaican chicken recipe creates a light and healthy meal. It tastes delicious with authentic Caribbean side dishes like Jamaican rice and peas or roasted sweet potatoes. To cool down the flavor, add a dollop of mango salsa. You could also serve it with some grilled pineapple or grilled watermelon and shrimp skewers.
Spicy grilled chicken dishes pair well with light, fruity drinks. If you’re serving wine, make sure it’s a white variety like Pinot, because the tannins in red wine can make a spicy dish taste even spicier!
Other Caribbean Chicken Recipes
Caribbean Jerk Chicken + Video
- 1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts
- 2 tbsp olive oil divided
- 1/2 each green, red and yellow bell peppers diced
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 1 cup brown rice
- 1 1/2 cups chicken stock
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 oranges sliced for garnish
- chopped cilantro to garnish
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp ground allspice
- 1/2 tsp onion powder
- 1/2 tsp ground thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- In a small bowl, whisk together jerk seasoning ingredients. Place chicken in a Ziploc plastic bag or bowl and add half the spice rub and the orange juice. Massage the chicken, spices and juice inside bag or bowl. Marinate for 30-60 minutes.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Remove chicken from marinade, and discard marinade. Heat one tablespoon olive oil over medium high heat in a cast iron skillet, or any oven-safe skillet or pan. Place chicken in pan and cook until browned, then flip chicken over and cook until browned. Remove chicken from pan and set aside on plate.
- Heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil in same skillet over medium high heat. Add chopped bell peppers and onion. Sauté for a few minutes, then add brown rice and toast for 2 minutes. Add chicken stock and remaining half of jerk seasoning.
- Bring to a boil and add the browned chicken thighs. Nestle the chicken on top of rice and press down slightly. Cover with lid or aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
- Caramelize/brown orange slices in a dry saute pan over medium high heat. Set aside.
- Remove the lid or foil and continue to cook for 5 minutes. Check to see if all of the liquid has been absorbed. If not, continue to bake for 5 minutes, uncovered. Internal temperature of chicken needs to be 165°F.
- Remove pan from the oven, fluff the rice and serve garnished with the caramelized orange slices and chopped cilantro leaves.
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.