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Easy Jerk Chicken Thighs

These Easy Jerk Chicken Thighs are served seared, baked, grilled, or air fried and are a Jamaican and Caribbean favorite. This dish includes a homemade spice blend and rub with cinnamon, allspice, and more. Drizzle the chicken in a spicy jerk marinade using pineapple, lime, peppers, and ginger. 

Jamaican jerk chicken thighs on a plate with peppers and grilled pineapples

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Jamaican Jerk Cooking

Jerk cooking is native to Jamaica. Meat is either dry-rubbed or marinated with wet ingredients (or a combination of both as I prefer in this recipe) in jerk spices. The style of cooking is popular throughout the Caribbean and West Indies. The meat is typically cooked over coals in a pit.

The main ingredients usually include scotch bonnet peppers and allspice. Scotch bonnet peppers can be really hard to find in the US, so you typically have to use a substitute. Other common ingredients include cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar or sweetener, thyme, garlic, and ginger.

jerk spices in a white bowl
pineapple juice, soy sauce, liquid smoke, habanero, and ginger in separate bowls

Is it Spicy?

Jerk does have a kick to it. The dish is traditionally prepared using scotch bonnet peppers (often called Caribbean red peppers). They are almost impossible to find in the United States. Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville heat units (the measurement of the heat of chili peppers), which is similar to habanero peppers, making it a close substitute.

These peppers are hotter than poblano, serrano, and cayenne peppers. If you don’t like spicy dishes, feel free to modify the servings used or substitute for a pepper that is less hot. The recipe calls for 1 habanero, you can always use half, 1/4th, etc.

jerk marinade in a glass bowl
jerk marinade in a glass bowl

Is it Sweet?

As written, the recipe is more middle of the road. It has a hint of sweetness from pineapple juice and 1 tablespoon of brown sweetener or sugar. If you are looking for sweet chicken, add additional brown sugar or sweetener to suit your taste.

I love to eat jerk dishes with fresh pineapple. That adds an additional touch of sweetness to the meal.

What Type of Chicken to Use

You can use bone-in chicken thighs or boneless chicken thighs for this recipe. In general, chicken thighs are really juicy especially in comparison to something like chicken breast. Bone-in thighs are juicier than boneless and usually have a longer cook time. The instructions in the recipe card below will include details for both.

collage photo of 4 photos with raw chicken thighs and Jamaican jerk rub on the chicken

How to Make Jerk Chicken Thighs

Detailed measurements and full instructions can be found in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.

  1. Add all of the jerk spices, habanero, soy sauce, pineapple juice, lime juice, liquid smoke, and ginger to a blender or food processor. Blend until the mixture is well combined.
  2. Drizzle the marinade and jerk seasoning over the chicken.
  3. Sear, grill, bake, or air fry.
uncooked jerk chicken thighs on a grill pan
cooked jerk chicken thighs on a grill pan
grilled pineapples on a grill pan

Do You Have to Marinate the Chicken?

Jerk chicken, shrimp, etc. is almost always marinated in advance. Marinating will allow the spices and ingredients to penetrate into the cook. This adds additional flavor and will make them juicy as well. You can marinate for up to 24 hours in advance.

If you are strapped for time, you don’t have to marinate in advance, but the chicken likely won’t have as much flavor if you did. When you don’t allow time for the marinade to penetrate the chicken, sometimes the final product will taste like the spices are sitting on top of the chicken, as opposed to tasting like a part of it.

jerk chicken thighs in an air fryer

What to Serve with Jerk Chicken

bone in Jamaican jerk chicken thighs on a plate with peppers and grilled pineapples

More Jerk Recipes

Jerk Shrimp
Jerk Rub and Seasoning
Jerk Marinade

How to Store Leftovers

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge tightly sealed for 3-4 days.

Reheating

I try to avoid the microwave for juicy chicken that is still crisp. I love to use the air fryer to reheat on 350 degrees until warm or I reheat the chicken on the stove.

bone in Jamaican jerk chicken thighs on a plate with peppers and grilled pineapples
Jamaican jerk chicken thighs on a plate with peppers and grilled pineapples

You may also love our Mozzarella Stuffed Chicken Breast recipe.

Jamaican jerk chicken thighs on a plate with peppers and grilled pineapples
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5 from 4 votes

Easy Jerk Chicken Thighs

These Easy Jerk Chicken Thighs are served seared, baked, grilled, or air fried and are a Jamaican and Caribbean favorite. This dish includes a homemade spice blend and rub with cinnamon, allspice, and more. Drizzle the chicken in a spicy jerk marinade using pineapple, lime, peppers, and ginger. 
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword Caribbean jerk chicken thighs, Jamaican jerk chicken thighs, jerk chicken thighs
Servings 5 servings
Calories 321kcal

Ingredients

Jerk Seasoning and Rub (You can also use a store-bought rub)

Jerk Marinade

  • 1 habanero Authentic Jerk uses scotch bonnet peppers. If you have access to these feel free to use them. Habanero is a close substitute
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce You can substitute liquid aminos or coconut aminos.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger Can substitute liquid aminos or coconut aminos.
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke Optional for smoky flavor

Instructions

  • Add all of the jerk spices, habanero, soy sauce, pineapple juice, lime juice, liquid smoke, and ginger to a blender or food processor. Blend until the mixture is well combined. I typically add the ingredients to a bowl and combine using a hand immersion blender.
  • Drizzle the marinade and jerk seasoning over the chicken. You can marinate the chicken in the fridge if you wish, it's optional, but yields the best results. (30 minutes to overnight)

Pan-Seared Chicken

  • Heat a skillet (I use a cast iron) on medium-high heat with olive oil.
  • When hot, add the chicken. For boneless chicken thighs, cook for 5 minutes and then flip and cook for an additional 3-5 minutes until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
    For bone-in thighs use an oven-safe skillet (like a cast iron), Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Sear the chicken on each side for 4 minutes each to get the skin crispy. Once crisp, bake the chicken for 18-20 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
  • Remove and cool before serving.

Air Fryer Chicken

  • Add the chicken to the air fryer basket.
  • Bone-in Thighs: Air fry the chicken on 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Open the air fryer and flip the chicken. Cook for an additional 10-12 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.
    Boneless Thighs: Air fry the chicken on 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Open the air fryer and flip the chicken. Cook for an additional 6-7 minutes or until the chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Video

Notes

  • If you have a favorite Jerk spice blend or rub, feel free to use it. It can be hard to find one that tastes exactly like what I’m used to eating when I visit Jamaica, so I like to make my own.
  • Avoid touching the marinade with your hands or wear gloves, especially if you have to touch your eyes, wear contact lenses, etc.
  • Jerk does have a kick to it. The dish is traditionally prepared using scotch bonnet peppers (often called Caribbean red peppers). They are almost impossible to find in the United States. Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 100,000–350,000 Scoville heat units (the measurement of the heat of chili peppers), which is similar to habanero peppers, making it a close substitute.
  • These peppers are hotter than poblano, serrano, and cayenne peppers. If you don’t like spicy dishes, feel free to modify the servings used or substitute for a pepper that is less hot. The recipe calls for 1 habanero, you can always use half, 1/4th, etc. You can make it less hot by omitting the seeds.
     
  • The recipe has a hint of sweetness from pineapple juice and 1 tablespoon of brown sweetener or sugar. If you are looking for sweet chicken, add additional brown sugar or sweetener to suit your taste.
  • Jerk chicken, shrimp, etc. is almost always marinated in advance. Marinating will allow the spices and ingredients to penetrate into the chicken. This adds additional flavor and will make them juicy as well. You can marinate for up to 24 hours in advance.
     
  • If pan searing I recommend a cast iron skillet or stainless steel pan. A non-stick pan likely won’t give you the crust on the chicken you want for jerk chicken.
Recipe Tools Used in this RecipeAs an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 0.3pound | Calories: 321kcal | Carbohydrates: 3g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 24g
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Recipe Rating




Lindsey

Thursday 19th of May 2022

Made this tonight for dinner and WHOA the flavor is just amazing. My whole house smelled phenomenal thanks to all the spices. I had almost everything I needed in my pantry already, so it was really fast. I substituted habanero hot sauce for the fresh pepper, and cooked bone-in thighs using the oven method. Another perfect recipe, I can’t wait to make it again.

staysnatched

Tuesday 24th of May 2022

Wonderful! I'm glad you enjoyed it!

Ashley

Thursday 3rd of March 2022

Finally made these for dinner tonight and they’re so good! Full of flavor yet easy to make. I can’t wait to have leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

staysnatched

Friday 4th of March 2022

These are great for leftovers!

Linda

Wednesday 2nd of February 2022

Amazing taste, simple ingredients another great recipe

staysnatched

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

I'm so glad you enjoyed them.

Felicia

Monday 31st of January 2022

I have never made my own jerk chicken. I’ve used jerk seasoning but I definitely knew something was missing. This recipe has the perfect combination of the marinade and dry seasoning. It really gives a perfect flavor. I doubled up the recipe using chicken drumsticks and boneless thighs. If you are on the email list you know why I needed those extras 😂. The chicken was so flavorful and juicy. I was worried the habanero would be too hot, but it was just right. After I blended the marinade it did have a strong spicy scent. But after 6 hours of marinating I think it settled and the heat was just right. Note: I doubled all of the ingredients except the habanero as the one I had was quite large. Thank you for this recipe!!

staysnatched

Thursday 3rd of February 2022

You're welcome! Thanks for sharing.