Boldly flavored, sweet-and-spicy, this jerk chicken recipe takes the "boring" out of chicken!
It's an easy weeknight recipe that I make over and over again because it's so wonderfully flavorful. Even the leftovers are excellent.
I cook chicken fairly often for my family. It's tasty and affordable, and everyone around here seems to like it. So I am always looking for new and interesting ways to make it (besides the always reliable baked chicken drumsticks)!
The idea to make this wonderfully flavorful chicken recipe came to me while reading the fascinating memoir by chef Marcus Samuelsson, "Yes Chef." Mr. Samuelsson mentions "jerk seasoning," and of course, I was intrigued.
A quick internet search taught me that it's made of an interesting list of various spices. The following jerk chicken recipe is my own interpretation of the classic preparation. My Jerk seasoning recipe is based on this recipe by Aaron McCargo Jr.
You'll only need a few simple ingredients to make this jerk chicken recipe. The exact measurements are included in the recipe card below. Here's an overview of what you'll need:
- Coconut oil: Refined oil is best given the oven's temperature. You can also use avocado oil. It's a neutral-tasting oil with a high smoke point.
- Honey: I haven't experimented with a sugar-free substitute so I don't know if that would work, but it's certainly an option if you need to keep your carbs to a minimum.
- Spices: I use allspice, cinnamon, red pepper flakes, ground cloves, and ground cumin. Make sure they are fresh! A stale spice can easily ruin a dish.
- Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use by half, or the dish could end up too salty.
- Chicken drumsticks: Skin on or off, it's up to you. I leave the skin on. You can also use chicken thighs or chicken legs, possibly baking them for 5-10 minutes longer (loosely cover the top with foil if you do bake them for longer).
- You can use skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs in this recipe. They'll need around 40-45 minutes in the oven, depending on their size. Check with a thermometer to make sure they are done, aiming for an internal temperature of 165°F when not touching the bone.
- You can replace the coconut oil with ghee or avocado oil.
- Maple syrup is a good substitute for honey in this recipe.
Jerk Chicken Instructions
Scroll down to the recipe card for detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps for making this recipe:
- Combine all the ingredients except for the chicken to make a very flavorful seasoning paste. (Photos 1-2).
- Spread the paste all over the chicken. (Photo 3).
- Bake the chicken until cooked through, 35-45 minutes in a 400°F oven, basting it midway through baking. (Photos 4-6).
- If the seasoning paste hardens on the cold chicken pieces and is impossible to spread, bake the chicken for 10 minutes and then spread the paste, as shown in the video. Then continue baking, basting one more time midway through, until the chicken is cooked through (the internal temperature should reach 165 ºF), 25-35 more minutes.
- In my old oven, this recipe took 45 minutes. In my new and hotter oven, it takes 35 minutes and I need to loosely cover the chicken with foil after the first 30 minutes. So ovens do greatly vary in their temperature!
It's a spice blend that typically includes allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, brown sugar (I use honey), and salt. It's bold, sweet and spicy, and full of flavor.
Despite the honey in the marinade, a serving of this recipe has just 8 grams of carbs. And the honey does add great flavor and balances out the other flavors in this dish.
However, if you need this dish to be even lower in carbs, you could try using a sugar-free honey substitute. I haven't tried it myself, though. The nutrition info for this option is included below in the recipe card.
You can keep the leftovers in the fridge, in an airtight container, for 3-4 days. To avoid drying out the chicken, reheat them very gently, covered, in the microwave at 50% power.
This is a truly versatile main dish that pretty much goes with anything. I tend to serve it with mashed cauliflower or with cauliflower rice, often with a leafy green vegetable such as steamed spinach or steamed broccoli.
It's also convenient to serve jerk chicken with a side dish that needs a 400-degree oven, such as roasted frozen cauliflower.
More Chicken Recipes
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Jerk Chicken Recipe
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil melted
- 2 tablespoons honey or a liquid sugar-free substitute
- 1 tablespoon allspice
- ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 10 (4 oz each) chicken drumsticks skin on
- Preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil and grease the foil well. It's important to line the pan to prevent some major cleanup as the honey caramelizes.
- In a small bowl, using a fork, combine the first nine ingredients (all of them except the chicken) to make a paste.
- Arrange the chicken pieces in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon the paste on top, spreading it all over the drumsticks. (See important comment in the Notes section below).
- Bake until the chicken is fragrant, well-browned and cooked through, 35-45 minutes, depending on your oven. Baste the chicken midway through baking, and keep a close eye on it after it's been 30 minutes in the oven. If it's darkening too much on top, loosely cover it with foil and continue baking until it's cooked through. Aim for an internal temperature of 165 ºF.