Spicy, sweet, smokey, crispy around the edges, tender BBQ chicken; we don’t need to go into how good Jerk chicken is. Jerk refers to the way in which meat, fruit or veggies are seasoned and then cooked. It’s roots? The third largest island in the Caribbean Sea – Jamaica. 

Disclaimer: this is not my recipe. This is the recipe of legendary Kwame Onwuachi, an American chef based in Washington, D.C. After trying this recipe for myself, I knew that there was no way that I’d be able to better this. I haven’t changed a thing and you shouldn’t either.

Thank you Kwame for this amazing recipe and for writing such an amazing, great, super, crazy powerful memoir. Notes from a Young Black Chef: A Memoir. 

Jerk Chicken

Jerk Chicken

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Course: Dinner, Lunch, BBQCuisine: Caribbean, JamaicanDifficulty: Medium


Prep time


Brining time



This is the recipe of legendary Kwame Onwuachi – I can’t and won’t attempt to beat it!


  • Brine
  • 75 g kosher salt

  • 60 g granulated sugar

  • 1 tbsp whole allspice

  • 5 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 habanero/ Scotch bonnet pepper, halved

  • 1 3 inch-piece ginger, roughly chopped

  • 1 chicken, broken down into 6 pieces (2 breasts, 2 whole legs and 2 wings)

  • Jerk paste
  • 250 ml soy sauce

  • 12 g thyme leaves

  • 225 ml Worcestershire sauce

  • 75 g tamarind paste

  • 1 tbsp ground allspice

  • 1 tbsp light brown sugar

  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves

  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

  • 3 fresh bay leaves

  • 2 bunches spring onions, roughly chopped

  • 2 habanero/ Scotch bonnet peppers, halved

  • 1 3-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

  • Barbecue sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1/4 cup minced ginger

  • 10 garlic cloves, minced

  • 3 yellow onions, roughly chopped

  • 1.9 kg ketchup

  • 300 g dark brown sugar

  • 300 g jerk paste


  • Brine the chicken: Heat the salt, sugar, allspice, garlic, habanero, and ginger with 1 gallon water in a large saucepan over medium until the salt and sugar have dissolved. Add 1 pound of ice and cool completely. Add the chicken and cover. Refrigerate overnight.
  • Make the jerk paste: Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and purée until smooth. After the chicken has been brined for 24 hours, remove from the brine and pat dry. Place in a shallow dish and coat in ¾ cup of the jerk paste. Cover directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours.
  • Make the barbecue sauce: Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and onions and cook until soft, about 8 minutes. Add the ketchup, brown sugar, and jerk paste and cook, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 1 hour. Cool, then transfer to a blender and purée until smooth. Makes about 6 cups.
  • To grill the chicken, light a charcoal grill. Sprinkle wood chips that have been soaked in water over the coals. Place the chicken on the grill grate and grill flipping once, until charred on each side and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the chicken reads 165°F, about 40 minutes. Brush with some of the barbecue sauce and cook until a little more charred. Transfer to a cutting board to rest for 10 minutes, then chop into 2-inch pieces. Serve with more barbecue sauce and white bread.

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