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Easy Jerk Shrimp

This Easy Jerk Shrimp is a Jamaican and Caribbean favorite. This dish includes a homemade spice blend and rub with cinnamon, allspice, and more. Drizzle the shrimp in a spicy jerk marinade using pineapple, lime, peppers, and ginger. 

jerk shrimp on lettuce with pineapples, limes, and fresh peppers

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pineapple juice, soy sauce, lime juice, liquid smoke, habanero pepper, and ginger in separate bowls

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.

spices for jerk seasoning and rub in separate white 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.

Is it Sweet?

As written, the recipe is more middle of the road. It has a hint of sweetness from pineapple juice and 1/2 tablespoon of brown sweetener or sugar. If you are looking for sweet shrimp, 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.

jerk marinade in a glass measuring cup
jerk marinade in a glass measuring cup

What Type of Shrimp to Use

Shrimp can be found at the grocery store in a few different ways. There is raw, pre-cooked, raw and frozen, deveined, tails on, tails off, etc.

I never use pre-cooked shrimp. There is an obvious difference in taste due to the lack of quality. The shrimp is cooked and then frozen and you have to cook it/warm it up again. This usually overcooks the shrimp. Raw shrimp only takes minutes to make, just buy it raw.

Always look for deveined, that’s my preference. The black vein that runs along the back of the shrimp is the digestive intestinal tract. Is this shrimp poop, yes.

You can buy it with the vein and remove it using a sharp paring knife to make a slit along the back and lift out the vein with the tip of the knife.

Check out tips on How to Peel and Devein Shrimp here.

How to Thaw Frozen Shrimp

Place the frozen shrimp in a large bowl of cold water. The shrimp will thaw within minutes and will be ready to peel.

Do You Leave the Tails on the Shrimp?

This is completely up to you and is a matter of preference. Often the tails are left on for presentation purposes only. The shrimp simply looks nicer and will have a nice curve to it when the tails are left on.

How to Make Jerk Shrimp

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, food processor, or a bowl and use a hand blender.
  2. Blend until the mixture is well combined.
  3. Drizzle the marinade and jerk seasoning over the shrimp.
  4. Sear or air fry.
raw shrimp in a glass bowl with jerk marinade

Do You Have to Marinate the Shrimp?

Jerk chicken, shrimp, etc. is almost always marinated in advance. Marinating will allow the spices and ingredients to penetrate into the shrimp. 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 shrimp likely won’t have as much flavor if you did. When you don’t allow time for the marinade to penetrate the shrimp, sometimes the final product will taste like the spices are sitting on top of the shrimp, as opposed to tasting like a part of it.

raw jerk shrimp in glass bowl with jerk marinade
raw jerk shrimp in air fryer basket

How to Tell When the Shrimp Have Finished Cooking

Raw and frozen shrimp are translucent gray. When it’s cooked, it should be an opaque white with some pink and bright red accents. This is the best indicator of whether or not shrimp is fully cooked.

When shrimp cooks, the muscle contracts, so the shrimp shrinks and curls. I find that it’s perfectly cooked when it has a C shape. I remove the shrimp from heat immediately when it reaches this shape. Often, if it reaches an O shape, and completely curls in, it will taste overcooked.

jerk shrimp in skillet
jerk shrimp in air fryer

Overcooked Shrimp

If your shrimp is dry, rubbery, or mushy, you cooked it too long. Shrimp cooks fast, it’s another reason why it’s one of my favorites for quick meals. The key is to remove them from the heat right when the flesh is uniformly pink. Watch shrimp closely as it cooks, do not wander away, especially if you are cooking it in a pan and searing it on the stove.

What to Serve with Jerk Shrimp

My favorite way to enjoy this recipe is to serve the shrimp on a salad, as a stir fry with rice and vegetables, or on tacos. Here are other pairing ideas:

How to Store Leftover Shrimp

The shrimp can be stored tightly sealed and covered for 3-4 days in the fridge.

Freezer Tips

You can freeze leftover shrimp for up to a few months.

Reheating Shrimp

The best way to reheat leftover shrimp is in a pan on medium heat with butter or oil. You can also reheat in the air fryer on 350 degrees until warm. Be careful, because the same rules regarding overcooking apply. If you heat it for too long it will be rubbery. I avoid the microwave for this reason.

jerk shrimp on lettuce with pineapples, limes, and fresh peppers

More Jerk Recipes

Jerk Chicken Thighs
Jerk Rub and Seasoning
Jerk Marinade

More Shrimp Recipes

Air Fryer Frozen Shrimp
Grilled Shrimp Skewers
Lemon Pepper Shrimp
Cedar Plank Grilled Shrimp
Cajun Shrimp Pasta
Shrimp and Crab Quiche
Shrimp Egg Rolls
Healthy Pad Thai with Chicken and Shrimp

Shrimp Parmesan (Parmigiana)

jerk shrimp on lettuce with pineapples, limes, and fresh peppers
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5 from 3 votes

Easy Jerk Shrimp

This Easy Jerk Shrimp is a Jamaican and Caribbean favorite. This dish includes a homemade spice blend and rub with cinnamon, allspice, and more. Drizzle the shrimp in a spicy jerk marinade using pineapple, lime, peppers, and ginger. 
Save this recipe here.
Course dinner, lunch
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Keyword Caribbean shrimp, Jamaican jerk shrimp, jerk shrimp
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4 servings
Calories 130kcal

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 Can substitute liquid aminos or coconut aminos.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger You can use 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger.
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke Optional for smoky flavor

Shrimp

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 shrimp. You can marinate the shrimp in the fridge if you wish, it's optional. (30 minutes to overnight)

Pan Seared Shrimp

  • Heat a skillet on medium-high heat with olive oil.
  • When hot, add the shrimp.
  • Cook for 3-4 minutes on each side or until the shrimp are opaque.
  • Remove and cool before serving.

Air Fryer Shrimp

  • Add the shrimp to the air fryer basket.
  • Air fry the shrimp on 370 degrees for 4 minutes.
  • Open the air fryer and flip the shrimp. Cook for an additional 4-6 minutes or until the shrimp are opaque.
  • Remove and cool before serving.

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 1/2 tablespoon of brown sweetener or sugar. If you are looking for sweet shrimp, 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 shrimp. 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 shrimp you want for jerk shrimp.
  • Raw and frozen shrimp are translucent gray. When it’s cooked, it should be an opaque white with some pink and bright red accents. This is the best indicator of whether or not shrimp is fully cooked.
  • When shrimp cooks, the muscle contracts, so the shrimp shrinks and curls. I find that it’s perfectly cooked when it has a C shape. I remove the shrimp from heat immediately when it reaches this shape. Often, if it reaches an O shape, and completely curls in, it will taste overcooked.
  • If your shrimp is dry, rubbery, or mushy, you cooked it too long.
 
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Nutrition (displayed with net carbs)

Serving: 4oz | Calories: 130kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 2g
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Recipe Rating




Abiola

Thursday 20th of January 2022

I just made this and it's so good. Flavourful and delicious. Thanks for sharing 👌🙌

staysnatched

Thursday 20th of January 2022

You’re welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

Julie Faughnan

Thursday 13th of January 2022

So easy to make and very flavorful! I love the heat so I use the whole habanero pepper and definitely raw shrimp so it isn't overcooked. This is so easy to make for a quick dinner or even a delicious appetizer.

staysnatched

Friday 14th of January 2022

Wonderful! I'm so glad to hear that.

Tahona Epperson

Thursday 13th of January 2022

OMG delicious...I made this shrimp last night for dinner. It was a super easy recipe and I did start the shrimp marinating the night before. I've learned with jerk on anything, the longer it marinates the better. The only difference we did, was we left the shells on to create a peel and eat shrimp version. Loved your recipe for the homemade jerk seasoning. It was awesome. Thank you.

staysnatched

Thursday 13th of January 2022

I love that idea! Thanks for sharing.