How to Make Jerk Seasoning (2024)

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Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is quick and easy to make at home, easy to customize and tastes fabulous on just about everything!

This Jerk Seasoningrecipe adds complex warm, sweet, smoky, salty, fiery, fruity dimension to everything it touches – making it taste like a million bucks! It’s easy to whisk together with pantry friendly spices such as garlic, onion, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, allspice, ginger, and thyme – saving you time and money. Best of all, homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning eliminates MSG, anti-caking agents and is easy to customize to make it perfect for YOU. Use this Jerk Seasoning to instantly elevate chicken, seafood, meat, pasta, vegetables, etc. (and my Jerk Chicken Tacos coming soon!). You will love having this recipe on hand!

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How to Make Jerk Seasoning (1)

How to Make Jerk Seasoning (2)

Why you’ll love this jerk seasoning

Jerk Seasoning = no more boring anything!Jerk Seasoning is famous for a reason and will elevate your everyday culinary creations from ordinary to extraordinary. It’s packed full of aromatics, complex warm, earthy notes, sweet yet smoky nuances, and kicking heat from spices from across the globe AKA this spice blend has it all!

This Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is quick, easy and pantry friendly. All you need is a handful of spices you likely already have in your spice rack and 5 minutes to make this easy recipe. Then, you’ll always have it at your fingertips to shower on anything…and everything.

You are in charge of the heat!Your personal Jerk Seasoning can be as mild or as fiery hot as you like by using more or less cayenne pepper. So, don’t be fooled into thinking this spice blend has to be super spicy – just flavorful!

This recipe is healthier and less expensive than store-bought. Making your own Jerk Seasoning gives you complete control over its flavor, eliminates MSG, anti-caking agents, and other additives and tastes so much better than store-bought. It’s also can be less expensive, especially if you purchase bulk spices from Costco.

It’s 100% customizable. Jamaican Jerk is a versatile spice blend with lots of seasonings you can adjust to your taste. Don’t like heat – reduce the cayenne pepper. Watching your sodium? Reduce the salt. Make this recipe perfect for YOU!

How to Make Jerk Seasoning (3)

WHAT IS JERK seasoniong?


Jerk Seasoning is a dry spice blend from Jamaican, but also popular in the Cayman Islands and throughout the Caribbean. Jerk seasoning is unapologetically bold, packed with aromatic onion and garlic powder, laced with smoky-sweetness from the smoked paprika, herbaceous earthiness from the parsley and thyme, spicy pungency from the ginger, warm, nutty, notes from the allspice, cinnamon and nutmeg, a kiss of sweetness from the brown sugar all punctuated by fiery heat from the cayenne pepper (or ground habanero pepper if you live for heat).
The combination of seasonings may seem odd, but expertly walks the tightrope of heat, dimension, and complexity.

How to Make Jerk Seasoning (4)

How to Make Jerk Seasoning (5)

WHAT ISJERK?

Jerkrefers to a style of cooking in which the main ingredient (anything from chicken to beef to seafood to vegetables) is either coated in jerk seasonings or marinated with jerk seasonings. In the traditional method, the protein is then cooked over the aromatic wood of the pimenta dioica, Jamaica’s allspice tree native to the Caribbean, imbuing it with smoky undertones and enhancing the heat.

The namejerk,is the Spanish version of an Andean dialect word for dried meat,ch’arki,meaning dried strips ofmeatsimilar to the modern-day jerky.

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WHERE IS JERK seasoning FROM?

The origins of Jerk Seasoning are twofold, starting with the jerk method of cooking. The native people of the Caribbean, the Taíno people, used the aromatic pimento wood from local island trees to cook and smoke their food, imparting that authentic allspice flavor.

The method of cooking Jerk Chicken in smoking pits and the distinctive seasonings of native Scotch bonnet peppers, sweet allspice berries, thyme and ginger, however, is credited to escaped African slaves in the 1600s, today referred to as Maroons. Groups of African slaves had been brought to Jamaica by both the English and Spanish to work the sugar plantations. When they escaped, they mingled with the Taínos, who taught them the jerk way of cooking.

Today, Jerk Seasoning celebrates the flavors of the Caribbean and strives to approximates the flavors produced by grilling over pimento wood in a quicker, easier spice rub. Scotch bonnet peppers are traditionally swapped for ground habanero peppers, although we are using tamer cayenne and black pepper in this recipe, and the pimento wood is replicated with the ground allspice, combined with other warming spices of cinnamon and nutmeg, and of course, plenty of ginger, thyme and smoked paprika. The resulting earthy, sweet, and spicy blend of exotic flavors will whisk you away to the Caribbean!

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Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Ingredients

Jerk Seasoning is one of the most flavorful seasonings out there made with easy-to-find, pantry friendly seasonings. If you don’t already own all of the seasonings called for, I highly suggest you add them to your pantry – they are staples you will useallthe time! Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Aromatics: onion powder and garlic powder
  • Heat:cayenne pepper
  • Spices: smoked paprika, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground ginger
  • Herbs:dried parsley and dried thyme
  • Seasonings: salt and pepper
  • Sugar: light brown sugar

DIY Jerk Seasoning recipe

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder. Garlic powder is made from dehydrated garlic and lends the signature, garlicky flavor that compliments the heat.
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder. Onion powder is dehydrated, ground onion to bring the pungent onion flavor.
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar. This balances and compliments the heat and warm spices.
  • 2-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper. Really spicy blends use dried habanero peppers, but we are sticking with more palatable cayenne pepper. 2 teaspoons is medium spicy and 3 teaspoons is probably more of what you think of as spicy Jerk Seasoning.
  • 2teaspoonsblack pepper. This adds a peppery kick without the fiery heat of cayenne pepper.
  • 2teaspoonssalt. Use regular table salt. Enough salt is crucial to enhance the rest of the seasonings or your spice blend will taste bland no matter how much it’s loaded with spices!
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika. Smoked paprika isrich, mild, sweet, and smoky made from smoked pimento peppers dried over oak fires then crushed. It is not spicy, just flavorful.
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger. Adds a spicy, zingy depth.
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley. The bright, herbaceous, clean and slightly bittertaste cuts through the warm earthiness of the spice blend.
  • 2teaspoonsdried thyme. The minty earthiness with sharp grass, wood, and floral notes cuts through the warm spices.
  • 1/2teaspoonground allspice. The people of the Caribbean named the berries from pimenta dioica, Jamaica’s allspice tree, allspice because they thought they tasted like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper. Allspice is crucial to the authentic Jerk Seasoning taste because it replicates the pimento wood Jerk seasoned meat is usually cooked on so please don’t skip it!
  • 1/2teaspoonground cinnamon. Spicy, sweet, warm and woody that’s pungent and slightly bitter. You use it commonly in baked goods, now see how it adds that something-something to savory dishes as well!
  • 1/2teaspoonground nutmeg. Just a little goes a long way with nutmeg. It’s nutty, warm and slightly sweet, rounding out the warming spices in a big way.
How to Make Jerk Seasoning (8)

How to Make Jerk Seasoning

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is easy to make in 5 minutes! See detailed measurements in the printablerecipe card at the bottom of the post.

  • Gather seasonings.Measure out the seasonings and add them to a small bowl. This is the step when you can double or triple the recipe – measure once and enjoy many times over!
  • Mix the seasonings.Whisk the seasonings together with a fork or wire whisk until thoroughly combined. That’s it!

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HOW TO STORE Jamaican Jerk SEASONING

This recipe will make about ½ cup which is perfect to fit in an empty spice jar, small sealable bag or any airtight container. Once your seasoning is secure, label and store it in a cool, dry place away from heat and moisture like the pantry.

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How long will jerk seasoning last?

If you make this Jerk seasoning with newly purchased spices, it has the potential to last up to 3 years, but will gradually lose potency over time. If you if make the recipe with spices that have been sitting in your pantry for a while, it will last closer to 1 to 2 years.

As a general rule, ground spices will last for about 2 to 3 years and dried herbs for 1 to 3 years. So, this recipe will last as long as your oldest spice is fresh.

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How to Make Jerk Seasoning (12)

HOW TO TELL IF YOUR SPICES ARE STILL FRESH

To see if your Jerk Seasoning is still fresh, you’ll want to pay attention to the appearance and smell. The spices should be as vibrant as when it was whisked together. If they are starting to fade and look dull, your seasoning may be starting to lose flavor.

If you suspect your blend is going stale, it’s time for the sniff-test. Crush or rub a small amount in the palm of your hand. It should smell bright and fragrant. If the scent is weak and the flavor is lackluster, then it’s time to whip up a new batch.

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Jerk Seasoning Recipe Variations

  • Adjust measurements:While we love this recipe as written, it’s super flexible to adjust the ratios to suite your personal taste. Bump up the garlic, add more or less cayenne, increase the allspice, etc.
  • Go spicier: Increase the cayenne pepper or use powdered Scotch Bonnet or habanero, both local to Jamaica, or try super-hot Moruga or Reaper powder.
  • Use your own Peppers: Dehydrate Scotch bonnet peppers or habanero peppers then grind them into a powder for this recipe. You will need much less than the cayenne pepper called for in the recipe card because they are both much spicier. Both Scotch bonnet peppers and habaneros range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, whereas cayenne pepper ranges from 30,000-50,000 SHU.
  • Make it paleo: Use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.
  • Scale up or down:This Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is perfect to make in bulk because it lasts for so long. Double triple, quadruple, the recipe by increasing the quantity on the sliding scale.
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How to Make Jerk Seasoning (15)

HOW MUCH JERK SEASONING DO I NEED FOR 1 POUND OF MEAT?

If strictly rubbing on meat, use 1- 1 ½ tablespoons per 1 pound. If combining in a marinade/wet rub with olive oil and lime juice, then use 1 ½-2 tablespoons.

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What Can I Use Jamaican Jerk Seasoning On?

There are so many ways you can use this Jerk Seasoning! The better question is what can’t you use this delicious spice blend on? Here are just a few ideas to try:

Protein rub:The spice blend creates a quick and flavorful rub for any protein. Drizzle your chicken thighs, steak, pork, shrimp or fish with olive oil then rub with Jerk Seasoning and let rest for 20-30 minutes at room temperate. Finish off your protein with a nice squeeze of lime after cooking.

Marinade: Make a quick wet rub marinade by whisking together 2 tablespoons Jerk Seasoning, 2tablespoonsolive oil, zest and juice of one lime and 1tablespoonreduced sodium soy sauce. Use for 1 to 1 ½ pounds of protein.

Jerk anything: After you have your jerk protein, eat it plain or add it to tacos, salads, pasta, quesadillas, grain bowls, nachos, etc.

Vegetable seasoning: This spice blend is fabulous with sautéed peppers and onions, roasted with cauliflower, potatoes, butternut squash, sweet potatoes,broccoli,etc. and sprinkled on any of your favorite skillet veggies.

Pasta: Instead of Cajun pasta, make Jerk Pasta! I have a recipe for this coming soon 😉.

Rice: Add a sprinkling to your favorite rice to pump it with flavor. You can also go with low carb cauliflower rice or quinoa.

Beans: Flavor black beans, kidney beans, green beans, etc. with a dash of Jerk Seasoning.

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JERK SEASONING FAQS

What is the difference between Cajun and Jerk Seasoning?

Both Cajun and Jerk Seasoning are spicy seasoning blends containing cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper. Cajun Seasoning also contains oregano and Jerk Seasoning also contains allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar, infusing it with warm, woody, spicy depth with a hint of sweetness.

What is a good substitute for Jerk Seasoning?

There isn’t a good substitute for Jerk Seasoning – nothing tastes as good as the real thing with its complex spicy, warm depth. That is why this homemade recipe is ideal to have on hand! That being said, if you are unable to find specific ingredients, take aCajun Seasoningand add the following spices: allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

Is Jerk Seasoning spicy hot?

Yes, Jerk Seasoning is meant to be spicy, replicating the Scotch bonnet peppers used in authentic versions which is one of the hottest peppers out there! However, the beauty of making your own version is you can add as much or as little cayenne pepper as you like, making it less spicy if you’d like.

What are the primary ingredients in jerk seasoning?

The defining distinctive ingredients in Jerk Seasoning are cayenne pepper (or habanero pepper for the brave), allspice, and thyme. Garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, parsley, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg also round out the spice blend.

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How to Make Jerk Seasoning (19)

Looking for more spicy recipes?

Jerk Chicken
Chipotle Chicken
Chipotle Sauce
Blackened Chicken
Chimichurri Chicken
Cajun Chicken
Cajun Shrimp Pasta
Korean Spicy Noodles
Spicy Korean Chicken
Spicy Shrimp Tacos

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How to Make Jerk Seasoning (20)

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Recipe

This Jerk Seasoningrecipe adds complex warm, sweet, smoky, salty, fiery, fruity dimension to everything it touches – making it taste like a million bucks! It’s easy to whisk together with pantry friendly spices such as garlic, onion, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, allspice, ginger, and thyme – saving you time and money. Best of all, homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning eliminates MSG, anti-caking agents and is easy to customize to make it perfect for YOU. Use this Jerk Seasoning to instantly elevate chicken, seafood, meat, pasta, vegetables, etc. You will love having this recipe on hand!

Servings: 0.5 cup

Total Time: 5 minutes mins

Prep Time: 5 minutes mins

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Ingredients

  • 1 TBS EACH onion powder, garlic powder, brown sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsps EACH smoked paprika, ground ginger, dried parsley, dried thyme, salt, black pepper
  • 1/2 tsps EACH ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Whisk all of the ingredients thoroughly together in a medium bowl.

  • Transfer to an empty spice jar or airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place (like the pantry) for 1-2 years. Use as a dry rub for chicken, steak, pork, seafood, to season vegetables, rice, beans, eggs, etc.

Notes

  • Protein rub: The spice blend creates a quick and flavorful rub for any protein. Drizzle your chicken thighs, steak, pork, shrimp or fish with olive oil then rub with Jerk Seasoning and let rest for 20-30 minutes at room temperate. Finish off your protein with a nice squeeze of lime after cooking. Use 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons as a dry rub for 1 pound of protein.
  • Marinade: Make a quick wet rub marinade by whisking together 2 tablespoons Jerk Seasoning, 2tablespoonsolive oil, zest and juice of one lime and 1tablespoonreduced sodium soy sauce. Use for 1 to 1 ½ pounds of protein.

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2 Comments

  1. Jennifer Fulk says

    This looks awesome! If I was to use the spicier ground habanero powder , how much would I use and would I omit the cayenne ? I am excited to try this as we have never had jerk anything. I’ll bet this would be good rubbed on pork tenderloin.

    Reply

    • Jen says

      Mmmm, that would be fabulous! Both Scotch bonnet peppers and habaneros range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, whereas cayenne pepper ranges from 30,000-50,000 SHU, so habaneros are 3 to 7 times hotter! So I think that calculates to about 1/4 to 3/4 tsp. Please let me know how it goes!

      Reply

How to Make Jerk Seasoning (2024)

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