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Is Jerk Chicken Healthy?

Is Jerk Chicken Healthy? Are you on a health journey but want to continue eating your favorite comfort food? I try to avoid answering questions like, is jerk chicken healthy? Because health means different things to different people. But since you asked, let’s get into the specifics about jerk chicken to see how it can be a part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

Roasted jerk chicken on a wire rack.

What is Jerk Chicken

Jerk tends to be associated with a distinct flavor profile. While Jamaican jerk seasoning often contains certain spices, the term describes a cooking method. “Jerking” refers to a Jamaican culinary technique of preparing food over an open flame.

The jerk flavor we’ve come to know and love comes from a surprising ingredient – pimento wood. Pimento trees are native to Jamaica and the wood of choice for building fires for cooking. And wouldn’t you know it? Pimento trees produce allspice berries (pimento seeds), one of the main ingredients in jerk seasoning. While the wood burns, the natural oils are released, and the smoke infuses the grilled meat with deep aromatics.

What’s in Jerk Chicken

Jerk is a style of cooking in Jamaica, where bone-in chicken is dry-rubbed or wet-marinated with a hot spice mixture called Jamaican jerk seasoning. Other common ingredients include scallions (spring onions), scotch bonnet peppers, and oil.

Is Jerk Chicken Healthy for You?

When focusing on your health, I recommend cooking at home and preparing your jerk sauce from scratch, as many store-bought options contain excessive salt and sugar.

Dry Rubbed Jerk Chicken

All you need to prepare my roasted jerk chicken recipe is bone-in chicken, olive oil, and homemade jerk seasoning. The spice blend I use contains onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne pepper, paprika, red pepper flakes, ground cumin, ground nutmeg, ground allspice (pimento seeds), ground cinnamon, dried thyme, kosher salt, and coarse ground black pepper. Here is the nutritional breakdown for my recipe.

  • Calories: 240
  • Fat: 9 g
  • Sodium: 580 mg
  • Carbohydrates: 2 g
  • Sugars: 2 g
  • Protein: 44 g

Wet-Marinated Jerk Chicken

Prepare a wet marinade for jerk chicken by combining ingredients in a food processor and blending them until smooth. Coat the chicken with the mixture and marinate for several hours to keep the chicken moist and flavorful.

In addition to jerk seasoning, recipes include fresh scallions (spring onion), scotch bonnet peppers, oil, soy sauce, lime juice, orange juice, and white vinegar. Take a look at the wet jerk paste I use to make jerk shrimp tacos

While the ingredients in wet-marinated jerk chicken add flavor and may have potential health benefits, such as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties, most marinades also contain added oil, salt, and sugar.

Is Jerk Chicken Good Protein?

Jerk chicken features juicy skin-on and bone-in chicken. The dish offers a generous portion of protein, essential for supporting muscle growth and repair. Jerk chicken is typically low in fat, making it an excellent option for individuals seeking a well-rounded and nutritious meal.

How to Make Jerk Chicken

Traditional jerk chicken cooks over an open flame, but modern recipes lean toward grilling or roasting the chicken. Opting for one of these cooking methods for preparing jerk chicken is perfect for someone focusing on their health and wellness.

What Goes With Jerk Chicken

Try pairing the chicken with vegetables like roasted carrots, cabbage, collard greens, corn on the cob, air fryer zucchini and squash, or roasted potatoes. Or finish the meal with a whole grain option such as quinoa, barley, or brown rice to create a balanced meal. I love serving jerk chicken with our Jamaican rice and beans, and you can replace the white rice with brown rice.

More Sides For Jerk Chicken:

Frequently Asked Questions

What does jerk chicken taste like?

Jerk chicken is known for its bold flavor profile with a spicy kick balanced by smoky sweetness from warm Jamaican jerk seasoning spices.

Is jerk chicken high in calories?

The calorie content of jerk chicken depends on portion size, ingredients, and the cooking method used to prepare the chicken. The ingredients in the marinade, like oil and sugar, can add extra calories. 

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, eating more calories than you burn and consuming too much sugar is the leading cause of obesity in the United States. 

My recipe for roasted jerk chicken contains 240 calories per serving (2 pieces of chicken) and only has 2 grams of sugar. I consider this meal to be a healthy part of a well-balanced diet.

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