Ainsley's Jerk Chicken Recipe | Authentic Jamaican Flavors

Ainsley's Jerk Chicken

Ainsley's Jerk Chicken Recipe | Authentic Jamaican Flavors
Region / culture: Jamaica | Preparation time: 15 minutes | Cooking time: 50 minutes | Servings: 4


Ainsley's Jerk Chicken
Ainsley's Jerk Chicken

Ainsley's Jerk Chicken is a vibrant and flavorful dish that brings the essence of Caribbean cuisine right to your table. This recipe is not just about cooking a meal; it's about embarking on a culinary journey that tantalizes your taste buds with a blend of spicy, sweet, and savory flavors. The process of marinating and barbecuing the chicken ensures that every bite is infused with the rich and aromatic spices that jerk cooking is renowned for. Whether you're a seasoned chef or a home cook looking to explore international cuisines, this jerk chicken recipe promises a delightful cooking and dining experience.


Jerk cooking has its roots deeply embedded in the history of Jamaica, dating back to the Maroons, escaped African slaves who intermingled with the indigenous Taíno people. The technique of jerk cooking, which involves marinating meat in a spicy mixture and then slow-cooking it over a fire or grill, was originally developed as a way to preserve meat. Over the centuries, this method has evolved into a beloved culinary tradition in the Caribbean, with jerk chicken being one of its most iconic dishes. Ainsley's Jerk Chicken recipe pays homage to this rich history, offering a modern take on the classic flavors that have been cherished for generations.


How to prepare

  1. To make the marinade, place all the ingredients, except the seasoning, into a food processor and pulse until smooth.
  2. Season with a pinch of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.
  3. Make shallow slashes on the smooth side of the spatchcocked chicken to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat. Place the chicken in a shallow dish.
  4. Pour the marinade over the chicken and massage it into the meat. Cover the dish and refrigerate for at least 2–3 hours, preferably overnight, turning the chicken occasionally.
  5. Preheat a barbecue with a lid and let the chicken come to room temperature.
  6. Cook the chicken on the hot barbecue with the lid closed for 40–50 minutes, turning it occasionally and basting it with any remaining marinade. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when a thin metal skewer is inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
  7. Remove the chicken from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes. Serve with a simple mixed salad or a traditional crunchy coleslaw.


  • 1. Pineapple Jerk Chicken: Add chunks of fresh pineapple to the marinade for a sweet and tangy twist.
  • 2. Jerk Chicken Skewers: Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces, marinate, and then thread onto skewers with vegetables for a fun and easy-to-eat version.
  • 3. Vegan Jerk "Chicken": Substitute the chicken with jackfruit or tofu for a plant-based alternative that still packs a punch of flavor.

Cooking Tips & Tricks

1. Marinate the chicken for as long as possible, ideally overnight, to ensure the flavors fully penetrate the meat.

2. Make shallow slashes on the chicken to help the marinade seep into the meat more effectively.

3. Keep the barbecue lid closed as much as possible to maintain a consistent temperature and to infuse the chicken with a smoky flavor.

4. Baste the chicken with the remaining marinade during cooking to keep it moist and flavorful.

5. Let the chicken rest for a few minutes after cooking to allow the juices to redistribute, ensuring a juicier and more flavorful dish.

Serving Suggestions

Serve the jerk chicken with a side of mixed salad or coleslaw to add freshness and crunch to the meal. For a more filling option, pair it with rice and peas or roasted sweet potatoes. A refreshing tropical fruit salad or a scoop of mango sorbet would make for a delightful dessert, perfectly complementing the spicy flavors of the chicken.

Cooking Techniques

Barbecuing with a lid is the recommended cooking technique for this recipe, as it helps to maintain a consistent temperature and infuses the chicken with a smoky flavor. For those without access to a barbecue, baking in an oven preheated to 375°F (190°C) for 45-50 minutes or until the juices run clear can be a suitable alternative.

Ingredient Substitutions

1. Scotch Bonnet Chillies: If scotch bonnet chillies are too spicy or not available, habanero peppers or jalapeños can be used as substitutes.

2. Fresh Turmeric: Ground turmeric can be used in place of fresh turmeric at a ratio of 1 teaspoon of ground for every 1-inch piece of fresh.

3. Dark Soy Sauce: Tamari or coconut aminos are great alternatives for those avoiding soy or gluten.

Make Ahead Tips

The chicken can be marinated up to 24 hours in advance, allowing the flavors to meld and deepen. Simply prepare the marinade, coat the chicken, and store it in the refrigerator until ready to cook. This not only saves time but also enhances the taste of the final dish.

Presentation Ideas

Serve the jerk chicken on a platter garnished with fresh lime wedges, thyme sprigs, and slices of chili for a pop of color and flavor. Accompanying dishes can be presented in vibrant serving ware to complement the lively essence of Caribbean cuisine.

Pairing Recommendations

A light and crisp beer or a fruity white wine, such as a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc, pairs wonderfully with the spicy and aromatic flavors of jerk chicken. For a non-alcoholic option, a ginger beer or a limeade can provide a refreshing contrast to the heat.

Storage and Reheating Instructions

Leftover jerk chicken can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, place the chicken in a preheated oven at 350°F (175°C) for 10-15 minutes or until heated through. Alternatively, the chicken can be shredded and used cold in salads or wraps.

Nutrition Information

Calories per serving

A single serving of Ainsley's Jerk Chicken contains approximately 280 calories. This makes it a moderate-calorie dish that can fit into a balanced diet, especially when served with a side of fresh salad or vegetables.


This jerk chicken recipe is relatively low in carbohydrates, with the primary sources being the onions and the small amount of sugar present in the dark soy sauce. The total carbohydrate content per serving is approximately 10 grams, making it a suitable option for those following a low-carb diet.


The fat content in this recipe comes mainly from the chicken skin. Using skinless chicken pieces can significantly reduce the fat content. However, the total fat per serving, with the skin, is roughly 14 grams, of which about 3.5 grams are saturated fats. The use of fresh ingredients for the marinade keeps the added fat to a minimum.


Chicken is an excellent source of high-quality protein. This recipe provides about 35 grams of protein per serving, making it a great option for muscle repair and growth. The protein content also contributes to the feeling of fullness, aiding in weight management.

Vitamins and minerals

This jerk chicken is rich in various vitamins and minerals, thanks to the fresh ingredients used in the marinade. The chicken itself is a good source of B vitamins, particularly niacin and vitamin B6, which are essential for energy metabolism and neurological health. The herbs and spices, especially thyme and turmeric, contribute antioxidants and have anti-inflammatory properties.


The primary allergen present in this recipe is soy, found in the dark soy sauce. Individuals with a soy allergy can substitute the soy sauce with a soy-free alternative or simply omit it, adjusting the seasoning to taste.


Ainsley's Jerk Chicken is a nutritious and flavorful dish that offers a good balance of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. It is rich in vitamins and minerals, making it a healthy option for a main meal. The recipe is low in calories and can be easily modified to accommodate various dietary needs and preferences.


Ainsley's Jerk Chicken is a celebration of Caribbean flavors, offering a delicious and nutritious meal that's sure to impress. With its rich history, vibrant taste, and versatile serving options, this recipe is a testament to the enduring appeal of jerk cooking. Whether you're looking to spice up your weeknight dinners or planning a themed feast, this jerk chicken is a perfect choice.

How did I get this recipe?

The first time I saw this recipe, I was immediately drawn to it. It was a warm summer day and I was visiting my friend Ainsley in her cozy little farmhouse on the outskirts of town. Ainsley had always been a fantastic cook, and she had a knack for creating delicious dishes from scratch.

As soon as I walked into her kitchen, I caught a whiff of the tantalizing aroma of spices and herbs mingling in the air. Ainsley was busy at the stove, basting a plump chicken with a rich, fragrant marinade. The smell was so enticing that I couldn't resist asking her what she was making.

"Oh, it's just a little something I whipped up," Ainsley replied with a smile. "It's my special jerk chicken recipe. Would you like to try some?"

I eagerly accepted her offer and sat down at the kitchen table as she plated up a generous portion of the chicken. The first bite was a revelation - the meat was tender and juicy, with a perfect balance of heat and sweetness from the spices. I couldn't get enough of it.

"How did you come up with this amazing recipe?" I asked, still savoring the flavors on my tongue.

Ainsley chuckled and waved me off. "Oh, it's nothing special, really. I picked up a few tips and tricks from some friends when I was traveling in Jamaica a few years ago. They showed me how to make jerk chicken the traditional way, with all the right ingredients and techniques."

I was intrigued. "Could you teach me how to make it as well?" I asked, hoping to learn the secrets behind Ainsley's delicious creation.

Ainsley nodded enthusiastically. "Of course! Cooking is all about sharing and passing on knowledge. I'd be happy to show you how to make jerk chicken from scratch."

And so, that day marked the beginning of my journey into the world of Caribbean cuisine. Ainsley patiently guided me through the process of marinating the chicken in a fiery blend of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, and other aromatic spices. She explained the importance of letting the meat soak up all the flavors overnight, so that it would be perfectly seasoned and tender when cooked.

The next day, Ainsley showed me how to grill the marinated chicken to perfection, imparting a smoky charred flavor that added depth to the dish. As we sat down to enjoy our meal, I marveled at how such simple ingredients could come together to create such a complex and delicious dish.

Over the years, I honed my skills in making Ainsley's jerk chicken, experimenting with different spice blends and cooking techniques to suit my own tastes. I shared the recipe with my family and friends, who were always delighted by the bold flavors and vibrant colors of the dish.

Each time I made Ainsley's jerk chicken, I was reminded of the warm summer day when I first tasted it in her farmhouse kitchen. The memories of that shared meal and the knowledge she imparted to me would forever be etched in my heart.

Now, whenever I cook this dish, I think of Ainsley and the wonderful time we spent together, bonding over our shared love of good food and great company. And I am grateful for the culinary legacy she passed on to me, a gift that continues to bring joy and satisfaction to all who taste it.


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