A Guide To Jamaican Jerk Cooking

JoJos Jerk Pit, Kingston
JoJo's Jerk Pit, Kingston | © Caribbean Cables
Culture Trip

Across Jamaica, bellowing smoking pits and portable grills heavily scent the air with the delicious aroma of spiced meats. This can mean only one thing – jerk. From street food vendors to upmarket restaurants, jerk is an important aspect of Jamaican life and one of the most recognisable Jamaican exports. Jerk-pits across the island have their own traditional and often secret proprietary jerk recipes. Most contain a combination of thyme, fresh ginger, scallions, scotch bonnet and pimento. Chicken remains the most popular jerked meat with pork a close second. However, anything can be jerked including fish and even conch. Dry rubbed or marinated it is then slow-smoked in a jerk pit for up to three hours over pimento wood. Culture Trip sets foot on the Jamaican spice trail in search of all there is to know about jerk cooking, Jamaica’s greatest culinary export.


In the 1700s, whilst fleeing capture from the British army in the Blue Mountains, the Maroons developed jerk seasoning as a method of meat preservation. With food scarce, the Maroons developed a technique in which meat was spiced and wrapped in banana leaves. When it was ready to be eaten the spiced meat would be cooked over hot rocks or barbecued over wood. Over the years other cultures have added their influence to this national dish, including Asian immigrants and even European colonisers.

Jamaican jerk

Jerk Today

How To Make Jamaican Jerk At Home

Jamaican food offers a real eclectic mix of cultures and people and its combined history has created some of the most exciting and best tasting food in the Caribbean. But if you can’t wait until your next Caribbean vacation to eat some jerk, making authentic Jamaican jerk at home isn’t as difficult as you might think.

Vendors in Jamaica and across the Caribbean prefer dry rubbing and slow smoking over sweetwood, but let’s face it, not everyone has the time or the equipment to do that at home. It is still perfectly possible to create good jerk food at home though. Those who are really pressed for time could try a jerk seasoning from a jar or a powder, but it isn’t difficult to make. Besides, it is far more rewarding to make your own, and much more fun. So, why not try Culture Trip’s recommended Jamaican jerk recipe?

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Recipe


2 Ibs. chicken (wings, thighs and drumsticks work best)

2 oz. roasted pimento berries (crushed)

6 escallion stalks

4 cinnamon leaves

1 teaspoon of nutmeg (grated)

2 cloves of garlic

3 scotch bonnet peppers

3 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons of salt

1 tablespoon of black pepper

1 tablespoon of oil

2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar


Place the chicken into a bowl and set aside (this can be a whole chicken, butterflied breasts, thighs and drumsticks (our favourite) or diced pieces). Then blend all the other ingredients into a smooth paste. If your paste needs thinning, add more vinegar. Yes, it really is that simple to make authentic jerk seasoning. Rub the paste into the chicken and leave to marinate overnight. If time is an issue, just leave as long as your stomach will permit. The longer the better, but even a short marinade will create a nice jerk edge to the meat.

Once marinated/rubbed, place the chicken over a slow charcoal fire preferably made from pimento wood. If you’re using a barbecue at home, do not place over a direct flame – cook as slowly as possible with the lid closed to seal in the flavours. You can also bake it in an oven at 360 degrees for 45 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown and cooked through. Serve jerk alone or with any combination of rice and peas, breadfruit, bammy or festival.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article