Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout

Photo of author

By Christopher Spiker

Dive into the flavors of summer with the “Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout.” You’ll discover mouthwatering combinations that bring together the vibrant spices of Caribbean jerk seasoning with the satisfying crunch of tacos. These recipes are perfect for adding a tropical twist to your summer gatherings, ensuring you and your guests enjoy an unforgettable cookout. So, get ready to fire up the grill and tantalize your taste buds with the best jerk tacos that will have everyone coming back for seconds. Have you ever wondered what could elevate your summer cookout to legendary status? The answer might just lie in a flavorful fusion that combines the spice of Caribbean cuisine with the format of a classic taco. Yes, we’re talking about Jerk Tacos—a culinary marriage made in heaven that’s sure to wow your guests!

Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout

What is Jerk Seasoning?

Before diving into recipes, it’s crucial to understand what makes jerk seasoning so special. Originating from Jamaica, jerk seasoning is a unique blend of spices like allspice, thyme, cinnamon, and Scotch bonnet peppers, among others. This seasoning paste or dry rub brings a fiery heat and robust flavor that’s characteristic of Caribbean cuisine.

Key Ingredients in Jerk Seasoning

Here’s a quick rundown of essential ingredients:

Ingredient Description
Allspice Often called pimento, delivers a warm flavor
Thyme Adds a fragrant, woodsy essence
Scotch Bonnets Contribute the heat and fruitiness
Cinnamon Offers a sweet, warm undertone
Garlic For pungency and depth
Ginger Adds zing and a slight sweetness
Nutmeg Enhances spice complexity
Brown Sugar Balances the heat with sweetness
Green Onions Offers a mild, herby taste

Why Jerk Tacos?

Combining jerk seasoning with tacos can be a game-changer for your cookout. Imagine the smoky, spicy flavors of jerk seasoning melding with the crisp freshness of taco toppings—all wrapped up in a soft tortilla. Here’s why jerk tacos are an unbeatable choice:

  1. Unique Flavor: The marriage of jerk spices with taco ingredients creates an irresistible, complex flavor profile.
  2. Versatility: You can use various proteins like chicken, beef, shrimp, or even tofu.
  3. Customizable: Offer a taco bar, and let your guests build their own creations.

Essential Tips for Your Jerk Tacos

Choosing Your Protein

Your choice of protein can make or break your jerk tacos. Here are some tips for the best outcomes:

  • Chicken: Thighs are more flavorful and tender than breasts.
  • Beef: Flank or skirt steak works best.
  • Shrimp: Large, deveined, and tail-off are ideal.
  • Tofu: Extra firm to hold up to grilling and seasoning.

Marinating Time

One of the secrets to flavorful jerk tacos is allowing enough marinating time.

Protein Marinating Time
Chicken Minimum 2 hours, ideally overnight
Beef At least 4 hours, preferably overnight
Shrimp 1-2 hours max to avoid ‘cooking’ the meat
Tofu 2 hours minimum

Grilling Techniques

Grilling brings out the best in your jerk-seasoned protein. Here are some tips:

  • Preheat Your Grill: Make sure your grill is hot before you start.
  • Oil Your Grill Grates: To prevent sticking.
  • Don’t Overcrowd: Give your protein space to cook evenly.
  • Use Indirect Heat: For thicker cuts to avoid burning the outside before the inside cooks.

Classic Jerk Chicken Tacos Recipe


  • For the Jerk Chicken:
    • 2 lbs chicken thighs, boneless and skinless
    • 2 tablespoons jerk seasoning (store-bought or homemade)
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
    • 3 garlic cloves, minced
    • 1 inch fresh ginger, grated
  • For the Toppings:
    • Soft tortillas
    • Shredded cabbage
    • Sliced avocados
    • Fresh cilantro
    • Lime wedges
    • Mango salsa (optional but highly recommended)


  1. Prepare the Marinade:

    • In a large bowl, mix jerk seasoning, olive oil, soy sauce, lime juice, brown sugar, minced garlic, and grated ginger.
  2. Marinate the Chicken:

    • Add chicken thighs to the bowl. Toss well to coat each piece thoroughly.
    • Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Grill the Chicken:

    • Preheat your grill to medium-high heat.
    • Lightly oil the grill grates.
    • Grill the chicken for about 7-8 minutes per side until fully cooked. Use a meat thermometer to ensure it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F.
  4. Assemble the Tacos:

    • Slice the grilled jerk chicken.
    • Warm the tortillas on the grill for 30 seconds on each side.
    • Layer each tortilla with sliced chicken, shredded cabbage, avocado slices, and fresh cilantro.
    • Squeeze lime juice over the top and add mango salsa if desired.

Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout

Spicy Jerk Shrimp Tacos Recipe


  • For the Jerk Shrimp:
    • 1 lb large shrimp, deveined and tails removed
    • 1 tablespoon jerk seasoning
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • For the Toppings:
    • Corn tortillas
    • Pineapple salsa
    • Shredded lettuce
    • Diced red onion
    • Fresh cilantro
    • Lime wedges


  1. Prepare the Marinade:

    • In a bowl, combine jerk seasoning, olive oil, lime juice, and minced garlic.
  2. Marinate the Shrimp:

    • Add shrimp to the bowl and mix until thoroughly coated.
    • Let it marinate for about 1 hour.
  3. Grill the Shrimp:

    • Preheat the grill to medium-high.
    • Skewer the shrimp for easy grilling.
    • Grill the shrimp for about 2-3 minutes per side, until pink and opaque.
  4. Assemble the Tacos:

    • Warm the corn tortillas on the grill.
    • Layer each tortilla with grilled shrimp, pineapple salsa, shredded lettuce, diced red onion, and fresh cilantro.
    • Squeeze lime juice over the top.

Vegan Jerk Tofu Tacos Recipe


  • For the Jerk Tofu:
    • 1 block extra firm tofu, pressed
    • 2 tablespoons jerk seasoning
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Juice of 1 lime
    • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon agave syrup
  • For the Toppings:
    • Flour tortillas
    • Sliced bell peppers
    • Diced mango
    • Fresh spinach
    • Cilantro-lime sauce (blend of cilantro, lime juice, and vegan mayo)
    • Lime wedges


  1. Prepare the Marinade:

    • Combine jerk seasoning, olive oil, lime juice, soy sauce, and agave syrup in a bowl.
  2. Marinate the Tofu:

    • Slice the pressed tofu into thick strips.
    • Add the tofu to the bowl and toss to coat.
    • Let it marinate for at least 2 hours.
  3. Grill the Tofu:

    • Preheat the grill to medium-high.
    • Grill the tofu strips for about 3-4 minutes per side, ensuring grill marks appear.
  4. Assemble the Tacos:

    • Warm the flour tortillas on the grill.
    • Layer each tortilla with grilled tofu, sliced bell peppers, diced mango, and fresh spinach.
    • Drizzle with cilantro-lime sauce and squeeze lime juice over the top.

Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout

Sides and Extra Flavors

No taco is complete without some ideal side dishes. These can include:

Caribbean Rice and Beans

A simple mix of rice, black beans, and coconut milk seasoned with garlic, thyme, and scallions.

Grilled Plantains

Sweet and savory, plantains are a perfect addition to your Jerk Tacos spread. Slice them and grill until tender.

Coleslaw with a Twist

Add a dash of jerk seasoning to your regular coleslaw for a unique, spicy kick.

Desserts to Complete the Meal

After the spicy, flavorful jerk tacos, you’ll need something to cool down your palate. Let’s consider a couple of dessert options:

Coconut Rum Cake

Moist, sweet, and a bit boozy, this cake is a Caribbean favorite.

Grilled Pineapple

Sprinkle pineapple slices with brown sugar and a dash of cinnamon. Grill until caramelized for a simple, delicious dessert.

Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout

Beverages to Complement Your Jerk Tacos

Pairing the right beverages with your jerk tacos can elevate your whole dining experience. Here are some recommendations:

Refreshing Cocktails

  • Mango Mojito: Fresh, minty, and fruity to balance out the spicy tacos.
  • Pineapple Margarita: A tropical twist on a classic, perfect for summer.

Non-Alcoholic Options

  • Ginger Beer: Its spicy and sweet profile pairs well with jerk seasoning.
  • Coconut Water: Hydrating and refreshing, a great option for all ages.

Additional Tips for Your Summer Cookout

Setting the Scene

  • Reggae Playlist: Set a relaxed, fun atmosphere with some classic reggae tunes.
  • Colorful Decor: Brightly colored tablecloths, napkins, and plates can bring a festive vibe.

Prepare Ahead

Make sure to prep as much as you can the day before your cookout. Marinate your proteins, chop your veggies, and get your sides ready. This saves you time on the day, so you can focus on grilling and entertaining your guests.

Safety First

Especially when dealing with spicy ingredients like Scotch bonnet peppers, wear gloves and avoid touching your face. Also, ensure your grill is safely managed, especially if kids are around.

Best Jerk Taco Recipes For A Summer Cookout

Final Thoughts

Jerk tacos offer a remarkable and bold twist for your summer cookout. They combine the heat and allure of Caribbean cuisine with the beloved format of tacos, making for a dish that’s both unique and crowd-pleasing. By following these detailed recipes and tips, you’re bound to create a memorable and delicious experience for all your guests.

So, the next time you’re planning a summer cookout, dare to be different. Go for the spice and full-bodied flavors of jerk tacos. Your guests will be talking about it for the rest of the summer!