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Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning comes together quickly, and it tastes great on everything from beef to poultry and seafood. Save your money and use simple pantry ingredients to make the spice blend from scratch, or turn the rub into a Jamaican jerk paste by adding fiery scotch bonnet peppers and spring onions.

A spoon of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning spilled on the table.

What is Jerk?

“Jerk” is associated with a distinct flavor profile, but the term describes a Jamaican cooking technique of roasting meat and vegetables over an open flame. The popular jerk flavor comes from a surprising ingredient – pimento wood! Pimento trees are native to Jamaica and the wood of choice to build a fire.

And wouldn’t you know it? Pimento trees produce allspice berries (or pimento seeds), one of the main ingredients in Jamaican jerk seasoning. As the wood burns, the natural oils release from the wood to produce smoke that infuses the meat with deep aromatics.

What is Jamaican Jerk Seasoning?

This crave-worthy spice blend varies from region to region. Jerk seasonings and wet sauces provide a similar smokey flavor without preparing your meal over an open flame, making the delicious flavor accessible to home cooks everywhere.

The main ingredients are allspice, dried thyme, and fresh scotch bonnet peppers. While I don’t include scotch bonnet peppers in this recipe, I add cayenne and red pepper flakes for more heat. You can also dehydrate scotch bonnet peppers and grind them into a powder.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Onion Powder: Use onion powder, not onion salt.
  • Garlic Powder: Garlic powder adds garlicky flavor with a hint of sweetness.
  • Cayenne Pepper: Build heat that doesn’t overwhelm using cayenne.
  • Paprika: Smoked paprika provides warm, smoky heat.
  • Red Pepper Flakes: Add more heat and a bit of smokiness with red pepper flakes.
  • Cumin: Cumin lends a warm, citrusy flavor to the spice blend.
  • Nutmeg: Nutmeg rounds out the other spices in the mixture with its nutty sweetness.
  • Allspice: For a signature flavor and a nod to the pimento trees, include ground allspice (ground pimento seeds).
  • Cinnamon: Cinnamon provides color and imparts sweetness that counteracts the heat.
  • Thyme: Dried thyme blends with the other ingredients and adds earthiness.
  • Salt + Pepper: Use Kosher salt and coarse ground pepper.

How to Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

The full recipe with measurements is in the recipe card below.

Step 1: Combine the spices for the seasoning in a mixing bowl.

Mix the spices for jerk seasoning together in a bowl.

Step 2: Transfer the spice blend to an airtight container.

Store leftover jerk seasoning in an air-tight jar.

Expert Tips

  • I recommend using fresh spices and herbs, as spices lose their potency over time.
  • Taste the jerk seasoning and adjust the spices to your liking. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, add some brown sugar or honey. If you want it spicier, add scotch bonnet peppers.
  • Store the jerk seasoning in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Use the spice blend to marinate your favorite meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables for a delicious and authentic Jamaican flavor.

If you enjoy this seasoning, try one of these spice blend recipes!

Roasted jerk chicken on a plate.

Serving Suggestions

Historically, Jamaican jerk seasoning is for chicken, pork, and fish, but the versatile seasoning is the base for many recipes, such as:

Storage

  • Store the spice blend in an airtight jar in your pantry or cabinet for 2-3 months.

Frequently Asked Questions

What’s in jerk seasoning?

Making the spice blend at home is the best way to get bold flavors catered to your taste buds, and all you have to do is add your favorite meat or vegetable and start cooking. Here is what we put in ours:

Herbs – Dried thyme
Aromatics – Onion and Garlic Powder
Spices – Cumin, Nutmeg, Allspice (Ground Pimento Seeds), and Cinnamon
Heat – Cayenne, Red Pepper Flakes, and Smoked Paprika
Seasoning – Salt and Pepper

What does jerk seasoning taste like?

The seasoning has a sweet, smoky, earthy heat. The best part about making the spice blend at home and not just buying one at the store is that you can alter the spices to cater to your taste buds. Classic jerk seasoning often contains allspice (ground pimento seeds), onion powder, garlic powder, and cumin. We added other spices to the base, resulting in a salty, sweet, and smokey spice blend.

What is a good substitute for jerk seasoning?

Honestly, there isn’t one. It’s a delicious and versatile spice to have in your pantry. If you don’t feel like making a homemade spice blend, I recommend purchasing the store-bought version. Another replacement option is to use a Cajun (like our Slap Ya Mama Seasoning recipe) or Creole seasoning and add brown sugar, nutmeg, and allspice.

More Jamaican Recipes:

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A spoon of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning spilled on the table.

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Tressa Jamil
Our recipe for Jamaican jerk seasoning is a perfect dry rub for chicken, pork, or fish. You can turn it into a paste or add it to soups and stews.
5 from 2 votes
Prep Time 5 minutes
Total Time 5 minutes
Course Spice Blends
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 8 Tablespoons
Calories 17 kcal
Equipment
Ingredients
  
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper, coarse ground
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg,
  • ½ tablespoon ground allspice
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
Instructions
 
  • Combine the spices for the seasoning in a mixing bowl.
  • Transfer the spice blend to an airtight container.
Notes
Expert Tips:
  • I recommend using fresh spices and herbs, as spices lose their potency over time.
  •  Taste the jerk seasoning and adjust the spices to your liking. If you prefer a sweeter flavor, add some brown sugar or honey. If you want it spicier, add scotch bonnet peppers.
  •  Store the jerk seasoning in an airtight container in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months. Use the spice blend to marinate your favorite meats, poultry, seafood, and vegetables for a delicious and authentic Jamaican flavor.
Nutrition Disclosure:
  • The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for professional advice.
Nutrition
Serving: 1 Tablespoon | Calories: 17 kcal | Carbohydrates: 4 g | Protein: 1 g | Sodium: 607 mg | Fiber: 1 g
Did you make this recipe? Let me know how it turned out for you! Leave a comment below and follow @thejamilghar or tag #thejamilghar on Instagram!
Recipe Rating