Jamaican Jerk-Style Grilled Chicken Breasts

5 from 3 votes

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These chicken breasts are so flavorful, and pack a little bit of heat, but not too much. The marinade is vibrant with ginger, chilis, garlic, and spices, and they only take 10 minutes to grill up after marinating!

Sliced Jamaican jerk chicken breasts on plate with veggie sides.

In this grilled chicken breast recipe, it’s not so much the cooking method that earns it the name jerk-style, but rather the marinade. Jerk marinades are often wet and jerk rubs are dry; either way they contain a wonderfully flavorful layering of spices. This is a wet jerk marinade, infusing the chicken with flavor and moisture.

Jerk spice blends and marinades usually contain a mix of spicy peppers and allspice, and, here, lime juice, garlic, ginger, and a nice dose of black pepper. This jerk grilled chicken would be excellent paired with any simple pasta salad, and some grilled vegetables like romaine, onions, and peppers. Also, think about Kale Crunch Salad, and Simple Couscous Salad.

Grilled Jamaican jerk chicken breasts on plate with veggies.

Jamaican Jerk-Style Grilled Chicken Breasts: These chicken breasts are so flavorful, and pack a little bit of heat, but not too much. The marinade is vibrant with ginger, chilis, garlic, and spices, and the chicken only takes 10 minutes to grill up after marinating!

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FAQs

What is jerk chicken?

The word jerk can be used both to define a spice blend or a style of Jamaican cooking with African roots. Traditional jerk cooking involves smoking, though now grilling is a commonly used cooking method. Jerked foods are most commonly associated with Jamaica. According to The Around the World Cookbook by Sheila Lukins, the jerk tradition goes back to the 17th century when the Maroons combined their skills for slow-pit roasting with the Arawak Native Americans’ use of allspice and hot peppers.

Is jerk chicken hot?

Some jerk-style foods are blazingly hot, and some just provide a low, slow tingle of a burn. This one is fairly gentle. If you want a spicier mixture, leave some or all of the seeds in the jalapeño, and think about raising the amount of garlic or black pepper up a notch or two.

What kind of peppers are used in jerk marinades?

Scotch bonnet peppers are the most commonly used hot pepper in Jamaican jerk seasoning, but here I call for a jalapeño because that’s what I usually have in the fridge. Definitely use a Scotch bonnet, or another type of hot pepper, if you prefer!

Grilled Jerk Chicken Ingredients

  • Chicken breasts – I used boneless, skinless breasts in this recipe, but you can also use boneless, skinless thighs (see Variations)

For the Marinade

These are ingredients in the Jamaican Jerk-Style Marinade recipe.

  • Oil – Use a neutral oil here, like vegetable, grapeseed, or canola.
  • Lime juice – Fresh, if possible!
  • Garlic – Fresh and minced finely.
  • Jalapeno pepper – Adds heat! Seed the pepper before mincing, unless you are looking for a hotter jerk chicken.
  • Ground allspice – A classic jerk spice, actually the ground unripe, dried berry from a pepper tree.
  • Ground ginger – Adds warmth.
  • Brown sugar – Just a touch to balance out the spice.
  • Freshly ground black pepper – Add as little or as much as you like.
  • Nutmeg – Ground nutmeg is a very classic spice in jerk seasoning, but I am allergic so I made it optional.
  • Scallions – Adds color and flavor; l use both the white and light green parts, finely chopped.

Variations

  • If you have fresh ginger and want to use that instead of ginger powder, that’s another great way to go (about 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh minced ginger for 1 teaspoon powdered).
  • Use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts. Just add about 5 to 8 minutes to the cooking time, depending on their thickness.

How to Make Jamaican Jerk-Style Grilled Chicken Breasts

  1. Make the marinade.
  2. Marinate the chicken: Pour the marinade into a large shallow container. Add the chicken breasts, turning to coat them. Refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  3. Prepare the grill:
  4. Grill the chicken: Turning once about halfway through the cooking time (a total of about 10 minutes) for simple grill marks on each side. Or, turn the chicken a total of three times, for cross-hatch grill marks.
Marinated chicken breasts cooking over flames on hot grill.
  1. Serve: Let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving, sliced or whole.
Picnic table with plate of grilled Jamaican jerk chicken and veggies.

Leftovers and Storage

Leftover grilled chicken will be useful for other meals for days to come. Add it to salads of all stripes: grain salads, green salads, and vegetable salads. You can keep the chicken covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

What to Serve With Jamaican Jerk-Style Grilled Chicken Breasts

Grilled Jamaican jerk chicken and veggies on plate at picnic.

More Grilled Chicken Recipes

5 from 3 votes

Jamaican Jerk-Style Grilled Chicken Breasts

These chicken breasts are so flavorful, and pack a little bit of heat, but not too much. The marinade is vibrant with ginger, chilis, garlic, and spices, and they only take 10 minutes to grill up after marinating!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 25 minutes
Servings: 8 People
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Equipment

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Make the Jamaican Jerk-Style Marinade and pour it into a large shallow container. Add the chicken breasts, turning to coat them well with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for 12 to 24 hours.
  • Just before grilling, heat the grill to medium-high. Carefully oil the grill rack.
  • Grill the chicken for a total of about 10 minutes, depending on the thickness of the breasts, turning once about halfway through the cooking time for simple grill marks on each side. Or, turn the chicken every two minutes or so, a total of three times, so that you achieve cross-hatch grill marks (turn the chicken breasts a quarter turn as you flip them). Grill until the chicken is cooked through, at an internal temperature of 165 F.
  • Remove the chicken from the grill to a cutting board and let sit for at least 5 minutes before serving, sliced or whole.

Notes

  • Leftover grilled chicken will be useful for other meals for days to come. You can keep the chicken covered in the fridge for up to 5 days. 
  • Add it to salads of all stripes: grain salads, green salads, and vegetable salads.
  • If you have fresh ginger and want to use that instead of ginger powder, that’s another great way to go (about 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh minced ginger for 1 teaspoon powdered).
  • Use boneless skinless chicken thighs instead of breasts. Just add about 5 to 8 minutes to the cooking time, depending on their thickness.

Nutrition

Calories: 129kcal, Carbohydrates: 0.04g, Protein: 24g, Fat: 3g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g, Monounsaturated Fat: 1g, Trans Fat: 0.01g, Cholesterol: 72mg, Sodium: 133mg, Potassium: 418mg, Sugar: 0.04g, Vitamin A: 34IU, Vitamin C: 1mg, Calcium: 6mg, Iron: 0.4mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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