gluten free, dairy free, grain free, sugar free paleo diet recipes

Caribbean Jerk Chicken

Jerk is a traditional Jamaican dish that involves marinading chicken or pork in a spice mix, before cooking over a charcoal fire and smoking with pimento wood from the allspice tree. Typical marinade ingredients include scotch bonnet chillies, allspice berries, thyme, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and spring onions. The result is a sweet and aromatic smokiness, tempering a warm punch of chilli.

Many recipes also include soy sauce, which adds a salty-umami flavour. As many people are unaware that soy sauce contains gluten, you need to be careful about ordering jerk when eating out if you are gluten-intolerant. You can replace the soy sauce with fish sauce for a similar effect, but I don’t find the flavour necessary amongst the aromatic spices and the fiery but fruity heat of scotch bonnet chillis.

serves cooking time
4 1 hour 35 minutes
Caribbean Jerk Chicken
Ingredients Instructions

meat ingredients:

  • 4 whole chicken legs, bone in and skin on (about 330g each)

fresh ingredients:

  • 2 scotch bonnet chillis
  • thumb-sized pieces of root ginger (20g), peeled
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 6 spring onions, ends trimmed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only

dried ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon allspice berries
  • 4 black cardamom pods, broken open by crushing with the broad side of a heavy knife, seeds shaken out and husks discarded (optional – adds smokiness)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

liquid ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons runny honey
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) orange juice (about 1 orange)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) light olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) white wine vinegar
  1. Make the marinade. Put the allspice berries and black cardamom seeds (if using) into a spice grinder and grind until finely ground (if you do not have a spice grinder, then use a pestle and mortar or the small bowl of a food processor). Set aside.
  2. Put the fresh ingredients in the small bowl of a food processor (scotch bonnet chilli, garlic, fresh ginger, spring onion and thyme). Blitz until smooth. If the paste needs loosening up, add a bit of the olive oil.
  3. Add the ground allspice and cardamom seeds to the food processor, and the remaining paste ingredients (cinnamon, ground ginger, nutmeg, salt, pepper, honey, orange juice, olive oil and white wine vinegar). Blitz until fully combined. You can make this marinade up to a month ahead of time, provided you keep it in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
  4. Marinade the chicken. Place the chicken legs in a non-reactive container such as a glass or ceramic dish. Use the tip of a small, sharp knife to make a small incision in the skin of each thigh, stopping before you reach the meat. Slide a finger into the incision and gently separate the skin from the meat, working slowly to stop the skin from tearing. Once you have created a pocket, spoon in some of the marinade. Massage from the outside to distribute evenly under the skin.
  5. Rub the remaining marinade all over the outside of the chicken. Cover, and leave to marinade in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours, but preferably overnight.
  6. Cook the chicken. The next day, remove the chicken legs from the refrigerator 30 minutes before cooking, so they have time to come up to room temperature. Arrange skin-side up in a single layer in an ovenproof dish. Cover the whole dish snugly with a double layer of tin foil.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180°C/355°F. Cook the chicken for 1 hour. Remove the tin foil, and return to the oven to cook, uncovered, for another 20 minutes. When done, the juices should run clear and an internal meat thermometer should read 75°C/165°F.
  8. Reduce the sauce. Once the chicken legs are cooked, lift out and place on a plate, scraping off any marinade with a spatula. Leave to rest for 15 minutes, covered by a double layer of tin foil to keep warm. This is essential, as it evens up the temperature of the meat and relaxes the muscles fibres, allowing the juices to be redistributed and reabsorbed.
  9. Meanwhile, pour the marinade into a saucepan. Skim off the oil from the top and discard. Heat over a high heat and boil rapidly until reduced to a thick sauce – about 15 minutes.
  10. Transfer the chicken to a plate and pour over the sauce.


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