Jerk Seasoning: Spice From the Caribbean

Jamaican jerk chicken on chopping board
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  • 5 mins
  • Prep: 5 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 1/2 cup seasoning (24 servings)
Ratings (10)

This jerk seasoning mix is great on fish, shrimp, pork and chicken. It will keep for quite a while if stored properly, so it's easy to always have some on hand. It's a good idea to make a batch with 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne, cook something with it, and then adjust, adding a bit more cayenne if you want it spicier. 

What You'll Need

  • 3 tablespoons paprika (sweet)
  • 3 tablespoons garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon allspice (ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg (ground)
  • 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less, depending on preferred spice level)
  • 1 tablespoon salt (kosher)
  • 3/4 teaspoon pepper (freshly ground)

How to Make It

  1. Thoroughly mix all ingredients.
  2. Store in a jar or container with a lid in a cool, dark place for up to six months.

About Jerk Seasoning

Jamaicans are proud of their trademark jerk seasoning. It's as much a hallmark of their country as reggae, its beautiful beaches, and sparkling water. Its origin and history weave through hundreds of years. Jerk is a method of cooking and seasoning meat, and it's traced to the Arawak Native American tribe, which was living in Jamaica when it was found by Christopher Columbus in 1492.

They used a specific technique to smoke and dry meat in the sun or over a low fire, and this method is still used today to make what's called jerky.

In the 18th century, a group of slaves called the Maroons hid in the mountains to escape from the British, who were then in control of Jamaica. The Maroons used salt, pepper, and spices like allspice (called pimiento in Jamaica) and scotch bonnet peppers (habanero in Jamaica) to preserve the meat they killed. It was spiced, wrapped in leaves and then cooked over a lattice fire. This is the origin of the famous and iconic Jamaican jerk seasoning now used as a dry rub or as a marinade for pork, chicken, seafood and beef. Pork is the traditional meat used. (Besides making your own Jamaican jerk seasoning, you can find marinade in your grocery store, big box retailers, online or in specialty groceries if you have a recipe that calls for that.)

 In Jamaica today you'll find jerk huts right on the beach, where vendors have built a hut right over the fire in the traditional way. It's said the fragrance in the air is just about heaven. 

If you just can't get enough of the history of Jamaican jerk seasoning, "Jerk From Jamaica: Barbecue Caribbean Style," by Helen Willinsky, tells you everything you ever wanted to know about this hot seasoning.