This Homemade Jerk Marinade is so simple and flavorful, full of Jamaican spices. Comes together in minutes and is great with chicken, steak, or shrimp!
Years ago during my college days, one of my roommates was Jamaican. And man, could he cook! He was a way better roommate than the other ones who were loud, left their crap everywhere, and never cleaned.
The dishes he would make somewhat regularly that I remember were curry chicken, rice and peas, banana fritters, and jerk chicken. And he always – ALWAYS – made a fresh batch of jerk seasoning and jerk marinade.
what are jamaican flavors
The flavors are deep and complex, and almost hard for me to describe. Allspice, cinnamon, thyme, cayenne pepper, and ginger are not spices I would ever think to pair together, but somehow they just work beautifully. A great combination of spicy and subtle sweetness.
I can’t remember how he made his jerk marinade, so I just sort of guessed, tasted, and adjusted until it reminded me of his. For my Jerk Marinade recipe, I also added lime juice, soy sauce, brown sugar, and some other spices.
No, this is not authentic at all. But it has that great Jamaican jerk flavor and is super easy!
why is it called jerk?
Jerk is a style of Jamaican cuisine that refers to a way meat, fish, or vegetables is seasoned and cooked. The cooking style typically uses a marinade or paste that includes pimento (often called allspice), and scotch bonnet peppers (also known as habenero.)
According to most food historians, jerk is a Spanish word that comes from the Peruvian word charqui, which describes dried strips of meat like what we call “Jerky” in the U.S. The word originated as a noun and then evolved into a verb as in “Jerking” which meant to poke holes in the meat so the spices could seep through. Jerk cooking expert and native Jamaican, author Helen Willinsky, says that the name Jerk might also have something to do with the turning of the meat in the marinade or from the way some folks will just jerk a strip from the roast on the BBQ.
Either way, my kids love that they’re allowed to say it! HA.
One of my favorite ways to use this marinade are with these Jerk Steak Mango Lettuce Cups
and these Jerk Turkey Burgers
You could also use this marinade on shrimp or vegetables. It lends such amazing flavor to all these dishes!
other homemade dressing recipes we love!
- 1/2 medium sweet onion , roughly chopped
- 2 whole scallions , chopped
- 1 large jalapeno pepper
- 3 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 3 teaspoons ginger paste
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- Combine all the ingredients in a food processor in the order listed; whirl and pulse many times until blended and smooth.
- Taste and adjust the heat level and spice to suit you. Refrigerate until ready to use.
- Pour over chicken, steak, or shrimp and marinate for at least 2 hours or overnight.
- If you like your marinade more spicy, kick up the heat with a small Habanero pepper, instead of the jalapeño. Or add some cayenne pepper.
- Be sure to wear latex gloves when working with really hot peppers!