Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Something I have noticed about other expats, as well as myself, if that when we move overseas, we tend to identify ourselves more strongly to the culture or region we are from.  I am from two places in the US:  southern Colorado and the Pacific Northwest.  There are times when I flaunt my cowboy boots, drape myself with turquoise jewelry, and cook up a big vat of pinto beans with tamales on the side.  Other times, I am a Northwest coastal hunter/gatherer, living the San Juan Islands life of subsistence, consisting of dungeness crab, grass-fed lamb, and locally cultivated vegetables and berries.  I love putting on those identities.  They tie me to my childhood, my family, and my memories.

My friend Geoffrey and I were umming together over plates of Tanzanian chicken and rice at the recent International Day celebration at our school in Tunis.  He is Canadian-Jamaican and started telling me about the specialties his mom had taught him to cook.  They sounded mouth-watering so we made a cooking date so he could teach me to make his (mama’s) jerk chicken.

He is such a teacher.  When I arrived, at 3:00 PM, he had a finished dish braising in the oven and everything set up to take me through the entire process.

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Serves 8


  • 5 yellow potatoes, peeled, cut into ½” slices
  • 13 chicken pieces, boneless, skinless, legs and thighs, preferably cut into 3 sections each (This may require one to buy a new, expensive, Japanese cleaver)
  • ½ cup white vinegar
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 ½ heads garlic, chopped
  • Garlic powder
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 2 small hot peppers, cut in ½
  • 3 tablespoons black pepper, ground
  • 2 tablespoons Jamaican spice blend (www.iriespices.com)
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • ½ teaspoon  black pepper corns
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 ½ teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon seasoning salt or salt


 Preheat oven to 350 degree F.

 Brown the potatoes on both sides, leaving them to drain on paper towels while preparing the chicken.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry.  Place chicken in a large mixing bowl.  Sprinkle with approximately ½ cup of white vinegar and toss chicken to coat.  Rinse chicken with water and return to clean mixing bowl.  Cover chicken with the juice of 1 lemon, again tossing to coat.  Rinse the chicken with water and allow to  drip-dry in a strainer.

Return chicken to a clean mixing bowl.   To the bowl of chicken add the garlic, garlic powder, onion, tomatoes, and peppers.  Toss to distribute.  Add all spices and seasonings and toss with hands to coat.


Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Remove chicken pieces a few at a time and brown on both sides.  Layer chicken pieces into a 9” x 12” baking dish, topped with browned bits from the skillet.  Cover chicken with the entire marinade.  Rinse the marinade bowl with ½ cup hot water, swirl, and pour over contents of baking dish.

Cover baking dish tightly with aluminum foil, shaking a little to settle the ingredients.

Place dish into oven, immediately reducing heat to 300 degrees F.  Cook for at least 1 hour or until chicken is completely tender.

Serve over a loose-grained rice, like basmati.


Mrs. Smith, you’ve got a good boy.

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