Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
Save money and customize your own Jamaican Jerk seasoning right at home! This is spicy, sweet, and utterly irresistible, thanks to a simple blend of cayenne, paprika, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more.
Making homemade seasoning blends is such an easy way to start doing more in the kitchen, and it has so many benefits. For starters, it almost always saves money, since you typically already have most of the ingredients sitting in your spice cabinet — and special blends tend to be pricey!
With homemade blends, you can also make as much or as little as you want, and completely customize them to your own tastes. More heat? Less heat? More salt? Less garlic? No problem.
Plus, it’s fun. And for a 5 minute project, it’s pretty darn rewarding!
What is jerk seasoning?
Jamaican jerk seasoning is an incredibly versatile addition to your spice cabinet, one that adds heat, dimension, and complexity to everything it touches.
The basic elements of this blend come from Caribbean cooking, as does the term “jerk”, which may have originally referred to a technique of poking holes in meat so it can absorb more flavor, or simply to the process of slow-roasting meat wrapped in peppers and spices or a marinade.
Over time, “jerk” has become associated with the spice rub used on those meats, and today can refer to jerk spice blends, marinades, or the techniques themselves.
What’s in jerk seasoning?
The key to jerk seasoning is a combination of elements you may not normally use together: you need a mix of spicy, smokey, sweet, and savory. That’s why the ingredient list is a little long. It’s worth it!
- Aromatics. Powdered garlic and onion.
- Heat. Red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper.
- Herbs. Dried parsley and thyme. These also give the finished blend some great texture.
- Spices. Ground allspice, cinnamon, cumin, nutmeg, and paprika all contribute depth. Smoked paprika, if you have it, adds that unique smokey flavor.
- Sugar. Brown sugar rounds out the flavors and also makes the texture sing.
- Salt. Brings out the best in everything else.
A more traditional jerk blend or marinade would most likely include dried and powdered habanero or Scotch Bonnet peppers. I consider both of those specialty ingredients, and also need to keep this blend something that kids will at least try, so red and cayenne pepper work for me. 🙂
How to use it
The real reason to love this spice blend is that there are so many great ways to use it!
- Chicken and Pork Rub. Mix 2 Tablespoons seasoning with an equal amount of olive oil, rub onto chicken breasts or pork chops, and grill, sauté, or bake as desired. We love making jerk chicken with mango salsa and jerk chicken lettuce wraps!
- Seafood. Sprinkle seasoning directly on shrimp, salmon, or any white fish for a quick and easy shot of flavor. Finish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.
- Veggies. Sprinkle this on for out-of-this-world corn-on-the-cob, rub it into cauliflower steaks and roast, dust it lightly over grilled zucchini and squash.
How to store it
Store Jamaican jerk seasoning tightly covered with your other spices for up to 6 months. If your spices were very fresh to begin with, you could probably stretch it to a year, though the flavor may fade slightly with time.
More spice blends to make yourself
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Jamaican Jerk Seasoning
- 1 Tablespoon onion powder
- 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 Tablespoon dried parsley
- 1 Tablespoon brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons table salt
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper less or more to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes less or more to taste
- Combine all ingredients together in a small bowl. Mix well with a fork or small whisk to blend.
- Store tightly covered with other spices for up to 6 months.
- Heat: I especially love making jerk seasoning because it’s so easy — and important — to adjust the heat level to taste. The two primary spices that contribute heat are cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes, so dial both of those up or down as desired. The amounts listed deliver a seasoning that my husband and I find mildly and enticingly spicy; consider dialing back to 1/4 teaspoon cayenne and just a pinch of red pepper for kids and those with sensitive palettes.
- Yield: This recipe will yield about 1/2 cup total. For a simple rule of thumb, I usually use about 2 Tablespoons to season 4 chicken breasts, so this will easily last over several meals.
2 Comments on “Jamaican Jerk Seasoning”
When making dishes of a particular, it’s important to note when you are Americanizing them. There are no red pepper flakes or cayenne in true Jamaican jerk seasoning or marinades. We use scotch bonnet peppers and the taste is quite different.
Thanks for highlighting that, Paige!