How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning From Scratch

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By Christopher Spiker

If you’re eager to bring the vibrant flavors of Jamaica right into your kitchen, you’re in for a treat! In “How to Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning from Scratch,” you’ll learn the secret to crafting this aromatic blend of spices that will elevate your culinary creations. From the fiery heat of Scotch bonnet peppers to the earthy notes of allspice, this article guides you step-by-step in transforming simple ingredients into an unforgettable seasoning that will have your taste buds dancing. Get ready to impress your friends and family with an authentic taste of the Caribbean. Have you ever tasted that unique blend of spices that dances on your tongue and leaves you craving more? If you have, you were probably enjoying the complex, fiery flavors of Jamaican jerk seasoning. Ready to bring that delightful taste into your own kitchen? Let’s dive into how you can make Jamaican jerk seasoning from scratch!

How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning From Scratch

What is Jamaican Jerk Seasoning?

Jamaican jerk seasoning is a rich and flavorful combination of spices and herbs, traditionally used in Caribbean cuisine. Famous for its bold, spicy profile, this seasoning goes beyond a simple mix; it’s a cultural expression steeped in history.


The origins of jerk seasoning can be traced back to the indigenous Taino people of Jamaica. When African slaves were brought to the island, they combined their own cooking techniques and spices with those of the Taino people. The result? An explosion of vibrant, tantalizing flavors that have stood the test of time.

Essential Ingredients

Before you get started, it’s important to get familiar with the essential ingredients involved. Here are key elements you’ll need to create authentic Jamaican jerk seasoning.


  • Allspice (Pimenta): Known as “pimento” in Jamaica, this spice brings a warm, sweet flavor akin to cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.
  • Thyme: A classic herb with a strong, earthy flavor.
  • Cinnamon: Adds sweetness and warmth.
  • Nutmeg: Provides a rich, fragrant aroma.
  • Cloves: Adds an intense burst of aroma and flavor.
  • Paprika: Delivers a mild, sweet peppery taste.


  • Scotch Bonnet Peppers: These fiery peppers are essential for authentic jerk seasoning. They contribute a significant amount of heat along with a fruity undertone.
  • Black Pepper: Offers a less-intense spiciness.

Additional Flavor Builders

  • Garlic: Adds pungency and depth.
  • Ginger: Provides warmth and a slight sweetness.
  • Onion: Brings a mild, slightly sweet flavor.
  • Brown Sugar: Balances the heat with a hint of sweetness.
  • Salt: Essential for bringing out all the flavors.

The Basic Recipe

Crafting your homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning is easier than you might think. Here’s a simple, straightforward recipe to get you started.

Ingredient Measurement
Dried Allspice 1 tablespoon
Dried Thyme 2 teaspoons
Ground Cinnamon 1 teaspoon
Ground Nutmeg 1 teaspoon
Ground Cloves 1 teaspoon
Paprika 1 tablespoon
Scotch Bonnet* 1-2 peppers
Ground Black Pepper 1 teaspoon
Garlic Powder 1 tablespoon
Ground Ginger 1 teaspoon
Onion Powder 1 tablespoon
Brown Sugar 1 tablespoon
Salt 2 teaspoons

*Note: Adjust the number of Scotch Bonnet peppers to your heat preference.

Steps to Prepare

  1. Gather Your Ingredients: Ensure you have all the spices, herbs, and additional ingredients on hand.
  2. Toast the Spices: Lightly toast the allspice, cloves, and black pepper in a dry pan over medium heat to release their oils and enhance the flavor.
  3. Grind the Spices: Use a spice grinder or mortar and pestle to grind the toasted spices into a powder.
  4. Combine Ingredients: In a bowl, mix all the freshly ground spices with the remaining ingredients.
  5. Store the Seasoning: Transfer the seasoned mix into an airtight container. It will stay fresh for up to six months.

Using Your Jerk Seasoning

Now that you’ve crafted your seasoning, it’s time to put it to use! Jamaican jerk seasoning is incredibly versatile. Here’s how you can incorporate it into your meals.


Marinating is the most traditional way to use jerk seasoning. It allows the flavors to fully penetrate the meat, making every bite a burst of Caribbean goodness.


  1. Prepare the Meat: Rinse and pat dry your chicken pieces.
  2. Season: Rub the jerk seasoning all over the chicken, ensuring it gets into all the crevices.
  3. Marinate: Let the chicken marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, or overnight for best results.


  1. Prepare the Meat: Choose your cut of pork; pork shoulder or tenderloin works well.
  2. Season: Apply the jerk seasoning generously.
  3. Marinate: Allow the pork to marinate in the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.


You’ve marinated your meat; now it’s time to cook. Jerk dishes are traditionally cooked over a wood-burning fire, but you can cook them in various other ways.


Grilling offers a smoky flavor that’s closest to the traditional method.

  1. Preheat the Grill: Set up your charcoal or gas grill for indirect cooking.
  2. Grill the Meat: Place the marinated meat on the grill, away from direct heat. Cover and cook until it’s fully cooked, turning occasionally.


If grilling isn’t an option, baking is a convenient alternative.

  1. Preheat the Oven: Set your oven to 375°F (190°C).
  2. Bake: Place the marinated meat on a baking rack over a baking sheet. Bake until it’s fully cooked, turning as needed.


For a quick option, you can pan-sear smaller cuts of meat.

  1. Heat the Pan: Add a little oil to a skillet and heat over medium-high heat.
  2. Sear the Meat: Add the marinated meat to the pan and cook until it’s browned on all sides and cooked through.

Pairing Your Meal

Pair your jerk-seasoned meat with traditional Jamaican sides to make a complete meal.

Rice and Peas

This classic side is made from rice cooked with kidney beans, flavored with coconut milk, garlic, and thyme.

Ingredient Measurement
Rice 2 cups
Kidney Beans 1 can
Coconut Milk 1 cup
Garlic 2 cloves, minced
Fresh Thyme 2 sprigs
Salt 1 teaspoon
Water 2 cups
  1. Combine Ingredients: In a large pot, combine rice, beans, coconut milk, garlic, thyme, salt, and water.
  2. Cook: Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the rice is tender, about 20 minutes.


Sweet and caramelized, fried plantains are a perfect complement to the spiciness of jerk seasoning.

  1. Peel and Slice Plantains: Cut them into diagonal slices.
  2. Fry: In a frying pan, heat oil over medium heat. Add plantains and cook until golden brown, flipping once.

How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning From Scratch

Customizing Your Jerk Seasoning

One of the best things about making your own seasoning is that you can customize it to suit your taste.

Adjusting Heat Levels

Scotch Bonnets are incredibly spicy. If you love heat, stick with them. To tone it down, you can replace them with milder peppers like jalapeños.

Alternative Sweeteners

Not a fan of brown sugar? Honey or molasses can be used as alternatives to add a unique twist to your seasoning.

Herb Variations

While thyme is traditional, experimenting with other herbs like oregano or rosemary can give your seasoning a different flavor profile.

Cooking Beyond Meat

Jerk seasoning isn’t just for meat. Here are some creative ways to use your seasoning in everyday cooking.


Roast vegetables like potatoes, bell peppers, and carrots with a sprinkle of jerk seasoning for a flavorful side dish.


Fish and shrimp also pair well with jerk seasoning. Marinate your seafood for a couple of hours and then grill or pan-sear.


For a vegetarian twist, marinate tofu in jerk seasoning and bake it to create a delicious, protein-packed meal.

How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning From Scratch

Tips for the Perfect Seasoning

Creating the perfect jerk seasoning takes a bit of practice. Here are some expert tips to ensure your seasoning is top-notch.

Freshness Matters

Using fresh, high-quality spices can make all the difference in flavor.

Balance is Key

Jerk seasoning is all about balance. Ensure your seasoning has a good mix of heat, sweetness, and fragrant spices.

Taste as You Go

Don’t be afraid to taste and adjust your seasoning mix as you go. Everyone’s palate is different, so tweak it to match your preferences.

Preserving Your Seasoning

After going through the effort to make your seasoning, you’ll want to ensure it stays fresh and flavorful.

Storage Recommendations

Store your seasoning in an airtight container in a cool, dark place.

How Long Does It Last?

For maximum flavor, use your seasoning within six months.

How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning From Scratch

Beyond Traditional Recipes

Jerk seasoning is incredibly versatile. Here are some innovative ways to use your seasoning in non-traditional dishes.

Jerk Chicken Pizza

Use jerk chicken as a topping for a homemade pizza. Add some pineapple, red onion, and mozzarella for a unique and tasty combination.

Jerk Seasoned Popcorn

Sprinkle a bit of jerk seasoning on your popcorn for a spicy, addictive snack.

Jerk Mayo

Mix jerk seasoning into mayonnaise for a zesty spread that’s perfect for sandwiches or dipping.

The Cultural Significance

Jerk seasoning is more than just a mix of spices; it’s a cultural staple that tells a story of resilience and creativity.

Celebration of Heritage

Every time you prepare and enjoy jerk seasoning, you’re participating in a tradition that reflects the history and culture of Jamaica.

Community Connection

Jerk dishes often bring people together, whether at a family meal or a community gathering. It’s a symbol of unity and shared heritage.

How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning From Scratch


There you have it – everything you need to know to make Jamaican jerk seasoning from scratch. From understanding the essential ingredients to customizing and using your seasoning, you’re now ready to bring a taste of the Caribbean into your kitchen. So roll up your sleeves, gather your spices, and get ready to impress your taste buds and your guests with delicious, homemade jerk dishes. Enjoy the journey, and happy cooking!