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Grilled Jerk Chicken Recipe

This Grilled Jerk Chicken recipe is full of fragrant, bold, smoky flavors that are ideal for grilling for BBQ’s.  All the prep work is done ahead leaving only grilling while your guests are there.

Grilled Jerk Chicken Breast sliced over salad on your picnic table!

BBQ season is upon us causing us to break out of the doldrums and seek out new flavorful foods.  This Grilled Jerk Chicken Recipe certainly fits that requirement. With its mixture of cloves, allspice and sugars combined with the fiery habanero mixed with citrus you have a full flavor chicken that is both delicious and healthy.  Easily adapted levels of heat make this an excellent choice for entertaining!

What does it mean to jerk chicken?

Jerk is a Jamaican concept and refers to how you spice and flavor the chicken. The spice mixture is called Jerk.  Often called Jamaican Jerk Chicken in restaurants, it usually includes allspice and habanero chilis or scotch bonnets.  In Jamaica, it is cooked over wood over an open flame, although in my recipe its made over a regular grill.

Grilled Jerk Chicken is full of flavor but low on calories.  You can choose whether to share how easy this recipe is to make when your guests request the recipe!

How to make jerk chicken?

  1. Make a jerk spice mixture:  using spices you probably have in your pantry you create a jam-packed flavor profile.  (allspice, cloves, brown sugar, salt, pepper )
    Close up of the jerk chicken spices needed: cloves, allspice, salt, pepper, thyme
  2. Add those spices along to wet ingredients:  stir them well. (garlic, onions, rum, olive oil, lime juice and vinegar) The wet ingredients make it so that the marinade can really soak into the chicken easily.
  3. Marinate in a zip-lock bag: Into the bag, you’ll add the chicken you plan to grill and pour the marinade over it making sure to get it all coated.  Then you seal that bag and let it marinate for a minimum of 1 hour. I have you covered if you are afraid of the heat of the habanero.  You clean out the seeds and just put the sliced peppers in while it marinates.  Some heat moves over but not so much that your mouth will be on fire.  
    Easy ziplock bag marinating for delicious grilled chicken.
  4.  Grill the chicken low and slow:   By grilling it on low, the marinade doesn’t burn off and the flavors really stay in the chicken.

Tips for making this Grilled Jerk Chicken recipe:

  1.  Use gloves when handling the peppers.  They are hot and they can burn if your skin is sensitive.
  2. To get a little smokier flavor, cook with the lid on the grill it will allow the smoky flavor to penetrate back into the chicken.
Tzatziki Sauce in a black bowl next to chicken in the background

I’m showing this easy grilled chicken sliced over simple salad greens but it also works well over rice and you can serve it with a Greek Yogurt Tzatziki Sauce like this one over the top.  The cucumber yogurt sauce is also low in calories and it will also cool the heat of the habanero pepper if you need it too! 

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Are you looking for other easy, healthy grilled recipes?  Check out these flavorful recipes!

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Grilled Coconut Lime Chicken Skewers just off the grill on parchment paper

Coconut Lime Skewers

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Flank Steak with chimichurri sauce sliced on a cutting board.
Chimichuri Steak

Chicken seasoned with jerk seasoning in a grilled jerk chicken salad
Yield: 4 servings

Grilled Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe

Grilled Jerk Chicken Salad with thick slices of jerk seasoned chicken breast.

This Grilled Jerk Chicken recipe is full of fragrant, bold, smoky flavors that are ideal for grilling for BBQ's.  All the prep work is done ahead leaving only grilling while your guests are there.

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Marinating time (minimum) 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes


  • 1 tablespoon thyme
  • 1 tablespoon allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 small onion, minced
  • 3 tablespoons rum, optional
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • juice from 2 limes
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 habanero chili, seeds removed, cut in half
  • 4 8 ounce skinless chicken breasts


  1. Into a small bowl add dry ingredients (thyme, allspice, cloves, salt, pepper and brown sugar.) Stir until well combined.
  2. Add to that bowl the minced garlic, minced onions, rum (optional) olive oil, water, lime juice and soy sauce. Mix well.
  3. Place chicken pieces into a ziplock bag then dump the spice/liquid mixture over the top.
  4. Add the habanero chili pieces to the bag. (See notes about level of heat.)
  5. Press out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Using your hands, move the marinade so that it covers all areas of the chicken.
  6. Place ziplock bag into the fridge for a minimum of one hour. (You can also let it marinate overnight.)
  7. When ready to cook, remove the ziplock from the fridge while you preheat your grill to low to medium heat.
  8. Using tongs, place the chicken breasts on the grill when hot and cook until either the juices run clear when cutting into them or the internal temperature reaches 165°.
  9. Every grill is different in terms of temperature, but the cooking time on my grill was 30-40 minutes on low heat. Resist the urge to turn the heat to high to have the chicken cook more quickly. The marinade will burn.
  10. Cooking low and slow gives you moist on the inside and a flavor crust on the outside.


*** This recipe is an adaptation of a newspaper clipping from the Omaha World Herald in the mid 1980's. ** If you want your jerk chicken spicier, you can mince the habanero and not remove the pepper before grilling. The heat will be much more present when you take a bite!

I first published this recipe as a contributor for Yellow Bliss Road.

Nutrition Information:



Serving Size:

4 servings

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 112Saturated Fat: 1gSodium: 837mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 1gProtein: 1g

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Kathy McDaniel

Thursday 5th of April 2018

This grilled Jerk Chicken looks and sounds amazing! Such a great spice blend, I think I could add that spice blend to fish and steak as well. So many possibilities! I will make this on the spicy side as we love us some heat! Yum!!

Nellie Tracy

Thursday 5th of April 2018

This recipe is my new favorite! I make it for dinner and everyone loves it and I make sure there is extra for my lunch! So good!

Robin Gagnon

Thursday 5th of April 2018

Such a great authentic jerk seasoning blend!

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