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How to Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Carolee is a passionate writer with a love for learning and teaching. She is a published author, poet, blogger, and content creator.

Check out these recipes and tips to make an authentic Jamaican dish at home!

Check out these recipes and tips to make an authentic Jamaican dish at home!

Authentic Jamaican Flavor

How do you make Jamaican jerk seasoning or jerk sauce? Do you know what jerk is and where it comes from? If you have ever been to Jamaica and had it, then certainly you would have been hooked on this authentic Jamaican flavor.

Jamaica jerk is very popular. There are several sauces that can be served with the meat after it is jerked but the spice used on the meat before cooking and how the meat is cooked is what makes it a jerk chicken, pork, or whatever meat you prefer.

The marinade is known as jerk seasoning or spice, not a jerk sauce. In this article, I have provided the recipes for:

  • jerk sauce, served with prepared meat and seafood
  • jerk marinade (wet rub)
  • jerk spice (dry rub)
  • variations

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning, Spice or Marinade

Jerk is not just a spice but a method of cooking. Without certain ingredients in the spice and the meat cooked a certain way, you cannot truly call it a jerk.

After seasoning or marinating the meat it is usually cooked over a pit or fireplace. Pimento wood is placed over the hot coals and the meat is placed directly on top of the wood. To steam the meat so that it remains moist with its own juices, you can place some pimento branches on top of the meat. (Pimento is also known as allspice)

The wood and branches must be green so they can hold the moisture and won't catch fire. After the meat is steamed then the branches are removed and the meat continues to cook until it gets a nice brown color.

The method for cooking the meat over the pit is now only done in a few places still, and a grill replaces the pit, but adding a few wood chips help to give that smoky flavor. The spice has not changed.

Notes:

  • The Jamaican jerk seasoning/spice does not have soy sauce.
  • The Jamaican jerk spice does not have sage.
  • The Jamaican jerk spice does not have cinnamon.
  • The Jamaican jerk spice does not have orange juice
  • The Jamaican jerk spice does not have olive oil!
  • The Jamaican jerk spice does not have lime juice!
  • The Jamaican jerk spice may have black pepper, only by your choice, but not as a general rule.

Using olive oil or soy sauce will change the authenticity of the spice. When marinating your meat use coconut oil or vegetable oil.

Follow these directions to a delicious destination!

Follow these directions to a delicious destination!

The Wet Jerk Spice: Marinade

Ingredients

(good for a whole chicken)

  • 2 medium onions, shredded
  • 3 large stalks of scallion, mashed in a mortar
  • A large branch of fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried thyme leaves (if using fresh thyme break up the sprigs and get off as many leaves as possible)
  • 1 scotch bonnet pepper, de-seeded or your preferred hot pepper finely minced (use more pepper if that suits you)
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled and crushed to a paste
  • 3 tablespoons pimento seeds, ground coarsely or ½ tablespoon ground pimento
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut or vegetable oil

Instructions

  1. Shred onion, then mash garlic to a paste and place in a medium bowl.
  2. Pull off thyme leaves if using fresh thyme or add dried thyme to the bowl.
  3. Grind the pimento seeds to the consistency of cracked black pepper.
  4. Finely mince hot pepper and add to bowl.
  5. Crush the scallion and add it to the bowl.
  6. Finally, add salt and oil, and mix thoroughly to combine. Use all the spice.

If using a blender:

  1. You can use a blender to blend everything.
  2. Chop the onions, garlic and scallion and add to blender with salt and oil and pulse slowly until you get a smooth paste. You will now get a nice puree.
  3. Add garlic and puree, then add whole pimento seeds and pulse three times.
  4. Add fresh thyme with stalks and other ingredients, then pulse a couple of times.
  5. This will be smoother than the handmade version but still effective. I personally prefer the handmade version.

Tip: Don't remove the skin from the chicken. Cut chicken into desired sizes, or quarter a whole chicken, rinse chicken with a vinegar solution and pat dry. Use your fingers to rub the marinade into each piece of chicken. Using your fingers, rub some of the seasoning under the skin of the chicken. Do the same with pork.

You can use a mortar and pestle to grind some of the seasoning ingredients.

You can use a mortar and pestle to grind some of the seasoning ingredients.

The Dry Jerk Spice: Rub

Ingredients

(easy to put together)

  • 3 tablespoons cracked pimento seeds
  • 2 tablespoons whole pimento seeds
  • 1 tablespoon dry pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon garlic flakes
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 3 tablespoons dried onion flakes
  • 2 tablespoons paprika (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon nutmeg powder
  • 2 tablespoons salt

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and use three tablespoons for a whole chicken.
  2. Store the rest in an airtight container.

The Jerk Sauce

Jamaica has also developed fruit-flavoured sauces that you can have with anything, but there are so many flavours. These sauces are not specifically for jerk but if you like a sauce with your meat you can have them.

Here is a simple recipe for a sauce.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 can cranberry sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce (or finely minced hot pepper)
  • 1 level teaspoon finely ground pimento
  • Pinch of salt (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a saucepan heat cranberry sauce on low and stir in your honey.
  2. The sauce should not bubble but should be heated right through so that flavours blend.
  3. Stir in pimento and pepper.
  4. Add a pinch of salt if needed.
  5. Serve with jerk chicken or jerk pork.

Variation:

Any fruit purée or nectar can be used for your jerk sauce, such as mango, guava, or any of your favourite tangy, flavourful fruit.

Alternative Sauce

This is the Jamaican sauce used with jerk chicken on the street.

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup catchup
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 scotch bonnet pepper minced
  • 2 tablespoons water (more if needed)

Instructions

Whisk everything together and you are ready.

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© 2012 Carolee Samuda