Big, big, BIG flavours. Spicy. Punchy. Salty. Sweet. ♥ I can’t transport you to the Caribbean. But I can give you a taste of the tropics in your own home! Happy days!
One of the best nights I remember from my holiday to the Bahamas was at a beach bar where we drank cheap beer, danced barefoot on the sand and lined up in long queues for dinner served on paper plates. It was an extensive banquet consisting of peas ‘n rice, corn on the cob, a green salad and jerk chicken…..
No one was complaining about lack of choice, believe me! That was my first jerk chicken experience and I’ve never looked back. It hits my sweet spot perfectly – big, punchy, spicy flavours.
Look at the thick sticky marinade on the chicken!
I’ve tried quite a few jerk chicken recipes, including from celebrity chefs. But this Oven Baked Jerk Chicken recipe by Imma from Immaculate Bites is my favourite. As soon as I saw her recipe, I knew I would try it and I’ve made it twice already. Recipes for jerk chicken, like many signature dishes of cuisines from around the world, vary wildly though they have common ingredients. What I love about Imma’s recipes is that she shares home cook versions of Caribbean recipes. Real ingredients that ordinary people can find and cooking methods for ordinary folks like me.
I would love to be able to make real jerk chicken over charcoal with pimento wood. But that just ain’t gonna happen in my backyard! So I’m sticking with Imma’s oven baked version. I made these in the photo in the oven, but I’ve provided directions for the grill/BBQ as well.
I served the jerk chicken with Imma’s Caribbean Rice with Red Beans. It’s sensational, the kind of rice that is so flavourful you can eat it plain.
- 8 chicken drumsticks (about 2.5lb / 1.2kg) (Note 1)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 lime (or ½ lemon), juice only (about 2 tbsp)
- 1 onion, coarsely chopped (brown, yellow or white)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, chopped (or 1 tsp dried ginger powder)
- 1 or more scotch bonnet pepper or substitute with other chili (Note 2)
- 6 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp salt
- 2 tsp black pepper
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- ½ tbsp cinnamon powder
- ½ tbsp allspice powder
- ½ tsp nutmeg powder (preferably freshly grated)
- ½ tsp dried thyme or 1 sprig of fresh thyme
- Fresh cilantro/coriander leaves
- Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel and place in a large ziplock bag.
- Place Marinade ingredients in a food processor and whizz until smooth. Try not to touch the Marinade with bare hands to avoid getting chili on your hands.
- Pour the Marinade into the ziplock bag. Close the bag, squeezing out excess air. Massage the bag from the outside to disperse the Marinade throughout the chicken. Marinate for at least 4 hours, or up to 24 hours.
- When ready to cook, remove the chicken from the Marinade but reserve the Marinade.
- Preheat the oven to 180C/350 (fan forced).
- Place a wire rack on a baking tray lined with foil. Place the drumsticks on the rack and baste the top with half the Marinade. Bake for 25 minutes.
- Turn the drumsticks and baste the top with the remaining Marinade. Bake for a further 20 to 25 minutes, until the drumsticks are very dark brown.
- Rest for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with coriander/cilantro if using.
- Preheat the grill side of the BBQ on medium (or medium low if your BBQ is strong). Brush the grill with oil, if required.
- Place the chicken on the grill. Brush the top with ½ the Marinade. Cook for 10 minutes, then turn.
- Brush the top with the remaining Marinade and cook for a further 5 to 8 minutes.
- Then turn the chicken again (to cook the side that you just brushed Marinade on) and cook for a few minutes. (Total cook time around 20 minutes in total)
- Remove from the BBQ and rest for 5 minutes before serving, garnished with coriander/cilantro if using.
If you use boneless chicken thigh fillets, you can also cook this on the stove.
2. The original recipe calls for 1+ scotch bonnet peppers (adjust according to taste). Scotch bonnet peppers are a very hot chili that are commonly used in African and Caribbean cooking. On the chili "heat" scale, it is about 50% spicier than birds eye chili.
The best substitute is habanero peppers which is about the same level of spiciness. Otherwise, birds eye or any other spicy chili is an adequate substitute. Just do a taste test of the marinade to get the spiciness to your taste.
You can get dried habaneros in Australia from Herbies or Fireworks Food. Just soak in a bit of warm water for 15 minutes or so, then put it straight into the food processor without sautéing.
I find 2 habaneros / 3 birds eye chillis give it a nice kick. If I'm cooking for someone who can't handle spicy food, I reduce it to 1 birds eye chilli.
If you are using scotch bonnet or habanero peppers, be aware that they are very hot! Use gloves if you can, and wash your hands, food processor and anything else that has come into contact with them. DO NOT rub your eyes!! Or any other sensitive part of your body! ;)
3. The original recipe calls for using the Marinade to make a sauce by simmering it on the stove for 7 minutes with the juices from the chicken. I changed it to use all the Marinade on the chicken so the drumsticks are coated with thicker flavour, rather than sauce on the side. The other reason I did this is that drumsticks in Australia don't drop enough juice and fat to be able to create enough liquid to turn the remaining Marinade into a sauce, and also I like the thicker, stronger flavour on the chicken.
4. Jerk Chicken goes fabulously with Caribbean Rice and Beans (see recipe below).
- 2 tbsp oil (canola, vegetable, peanut, olive oil)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ½ onion, diced (brown, white, yellow)
- ½ tsp dried thyme or 1 small fresh thyme sprig
- 1 cup long grain rice (uncooked)
- 14oz / 400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 cup coconut milk
- ¾ cup water (or 1 cup if you like your rice very soft)
- 1 small bay leaf
- 2 tsp cajun spice mix (Note 1)
- ½ tsp paprika
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium high heat.
- Add garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Add onion and thyme, and sauté for 3 minutes until translucent and just starting to turn golden brown.
- Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine. Put the lid on and bring to boil, then turn the heat down to low.
- Cook for around 20 minutes, until all the water is absorbed (tilt the saucepan - if there is no water, then it is ready).
- Remove from the stove and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. During this time, any residual water will be absorbed and the rice will continue to cook.
- I served this with Jamaican Jerk Chicken Drumsticks.
2. The original recipe called for 1 Scotch Bonnet to be finely diced and sautéed with the garlic. I omitted it because I serve this rice as a side dish for Jerk Chicken which is very strong flavoured and spicy.
Nutrition for the Jamaican Jerk Chicken Drumsticks based on 4 servings.
Nutrition for the Caribbean Rice with Beans based on 6 servings (as a side).