Jerk Seasoning


This potent seasoning is the lifeblood of Jamaican jerk—a paste fragrant with allspice and rum and fiery with Scotch bonnet chiles. It will keep for several weeks in a sealed jar in the refrigerator. (Line the lid with plastic so the chile fumes won’t corrode it.)


Jerk Seasoning


For the spice mix:

  • 3 tablespoons imported Jamaican pimento berries or whole allspice
  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 1 whole nutmeg or 2 teaspoons ground
  • 6 dried pimento leaves or 2 bay leaves, crumbled

To finish the jerk paste:

  • 2 to 8 Scotch bonnet or habanero chiles, stemmed
  • 2 bunches of scallions, trimmed and rough chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
  • A 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, scrubbed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (strip them off the branches) or 1 teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup dark rum
  • 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons molasses or brown sugar
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Recipe Steps

Step 1: Make the spice mix: Place the pimento berries, peppercorns, cinnamon, nutmeg, and pimento leaves (or bay leaves) in a spice mill and grind to a fine powder. You may need to work in several batches.

Step 2: Finish the jerk paste: Cut the Scotch bonnets in half. For milder jerk chicken, seed them; for more fiery jerk, leave the seeds in. (Wear rubber gloves.) Cut the scallions crosswise into 1-inch pieces. Rough chop the garlic and ginger. Place the chiles, scallions, garlic, ginger, thyme, and the ground spices in a food processor and finely chop. Add the soy sauce, vegetable oil, vinegar, rum, lime juice, and molasses and process to form a thick paste. Add salt and pepper to taste.