Jerk seasoning is a combination of spices used traditionally in Jamaica. It’s the perfect way to add flavor to almost anything you may be cooking, meat or not. And the great part is — it’s super easy to make!

 

Tired of the same boring seasonings? Not sure how to add a little extra pizzazz to your next meal?

I can help.

This jerk seasoning is the perfect way to add some extra kick to your next meal. With an infusion of spices from the Caribbean, it’s guaranteed to be just what you’re looking for!

As a Jamaican, I grew up with Jerk seasoning being added to Jamaican jerk chicken and the meat being slowly roasted on open pits. But, being a plant-based eater, I get to experiment with jerk seasoning on different plant-based ingredients.

Recipes like my Jamaican Jerk Sauce, Jamaican Jerk Cauliflower, Jerk Tofu, and Jamaican Jerk Butternut Fries are a hit. Therefore, I’m sharing with you my jerk seasoning recipe.

Whether you are a vegan or a meat lover, you can use this spice mix without any hesitation. Try this jerk seasoning today, and you won’t stop using it, ever!

What Is Jamaican Jerk Seasoning?

Jamaican jerk seasoning is a special blend of spices that makes up a rub or a mix. Jerk spice is the most common type of spice mix used in Jamaica. It is made from about eight to ten spices and has a depth of flavor.

Jerk seasoning marinates and enhances the flavor of various ingredients. Jamaica’s unique cooking technique is responsible for the term “jerk.” In this technique, traditionally, holes are poked in the meat so that the spices can go deep down and give flavor to the meat.

The Jamaican jerk marinade works perfectly fine on basically anything you are cooking. It is among Jamaica’s most loved spice mixes and is a must in every kitchen. The term ‘Jamaican Jerk’ is even internationally trademarked.

Jamaican jerk seasoning in glass jar on a white background

A Brief History of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning!

Jerk seasoning is a fascinating blend of African meat-cooking techniques with indigenous Jamaican ingredients and flavors used by the Arawak Indians. Smoking meat in Jamaica served two purposes: to keep insects away from raw meat and to increase the shelf life of cooked meat, while also adding a unique smokiness to the meat.

The word “Jerk” is thought to have originated from the Spanish word “Charqui,” meaning dried pieces of meat similar to “jerky.” The Arawak Indians arrived in Jamaica from South America around 2500 years ago and practiced similar meat-smoking techniques as those in Peru. During the 17th century, the British sent slaves to Jamaica to cultivate crops, including sugar, cocoa, coffee, and pimento.

The Maroons were a group of slaves who escaped and hid in the mountains. They blended herbs and spices that they used to marinade and cook wild game, primarily wild boar, which gave birth to the famous “Jamaican Jerk.” Scallions, scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, black pepper, and other locally grown spices make up the blend of herbs and spices in jerk seasoning. Boston Beach, located on Jamaica’s northeastern coast, is a famous spot for jerks.

Most of the sellers build cottages over fires right on the beach, similar to the Maroons. They cook meat on griddles made from pimento wood or metal sheets, occasionally wrapped with plantain leaves. The meat is typically marinated with a paste consisting of pimento (allspice) and scotch bonnet (habanero) peppers, and then slowly smoked over pimento wood. Jerk seasoning has become famous for pork, but it is used to season chicken, seafood, and beef.

Components of Jamaican Jerk Spice

Now, because the jerk spice is made from several spices, you can’t pick them up randomly. Every spice has its own unique taste. So, if you randomly pick up and mix spices, you are not doing justice to the individual flavor. Therefore, the spices in the jerk seasonings are not picked up randomly.

There is a science behind it! Every spice is carefully picked so that when these spices are mixed together, every single spice shines through. You won’t find a single flavor to take over others. Every spice has its own place in the mix. And above all, there is a balance of sweet, salty, spice, and tart. It is truly amazing!

Here are the necessary components that make up the Jamaican jerk seasoning:

  • <strong>Herbs: herbs bring in freshness and a distinct strong flavor. The most commonly used herbs are dried oregano, parsley, and thyme.
  • Seasoning: The most commonly used include onion powder and garlic powder.
  • Spice: Jamaicans love their spices. Especially cinnamon and nutmeg. So, these two are compulsory! Other than these, you can also use allspice, cumin, etc.
  • Sugar: Sugar is another important flavor you can’t miss. It balances out the heat. You can use any type of sugar. For instance, use organic cane sugar. If you want to add more depth to sugar flavors, use brown sugar.
  • Heat: Now, a little heat is good. There are many options here. Use paprika, cayenne, chili powder. And if you want to make the heat to the next level, use dried scotch bonnet powder.

Why Make Jerk Spice At Home?

You can buy premade jerk spice from any grocery store. You can ever find it online! So why bother making your own? Well, there are several reasons you should make your own jerk spice. But the one main reason is that you can’t customize a premade jerk spice according to your liking. Let’s say you don’t like clove in it, and you just have to compromise on that if you are buying premade spice mix.

However, if you are making your own jerk spice at home, you can choose your own ingredients and give it your flair. You can adjust the heat or sugar according to your liking. Furthermore, as long as you keep the balance, you can choose whatever spice you like. It is a luxury you can’t get in a store-bought jerk seasoning.

jerk seasoning ingredients

How Does Jamaican Seasoning Taste?

The flavors of jerk spices are rich and pungent. Jerk seasoning has a distinctly warm, piquant flavor with sweetness, smoke, and saltiness notes.

Why Will You Love This Jerk Seasoning?

  • It’s easy to prepare and takes less than 10 minutes to prepare.
  • There’s no need to dig out a food processor or handle scotch bonnet peppers.
  • It is highly customizable (Scroll down to see different options).

Why Make Jerk Spice At Home?

You can buy premade jerk spice from any grocery store. So why bother making your own? Well, there are several reasons you should make your own homemade Jamaican jerk spice. But the one main reason is that you can’t customize a premade jerk spice according to your liking. For example, let’s say you don’t like clove in it, and you just have to compromise on that if you are buying premade spice mix.

However, if you are making your own jerk spice at home, you can choose your own ingredients and give them your flair. You can adjust the heat or sugar according to your liking. Furthermore, as long as you keep the balance, you can choose whatever spice you like. It is a luxury you can’t get in a store-bought jerk seasoning.

Ingredient Breakdown

Although the choices are unlimited, and you can choose whatever ingredient you like for your homemade jerk seasoning blend, here is one for the starter. It has the perfect balance of flavors, and the heat is also moderate. So, if you are someone new to the whole jerk spice experience, you should probably start with these ingredients:

  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

How To Make Jamaican Jerk Seasoning?

Now making your own Jamaican jerk seasoning is a piece of cake! Literally. You don’t have to indulge in any laborsome task. The only thing you have to do is choose your ingredients, and if you don’t have them available in your kitchen pantry, buy them. Mix these spices in a bowl and store them in an air-tight jar, and that’s all! It can’t get any easier than this!

How To Use Jerk Seasoning?

The reason why I love this spice mix is that it is versatile. I don’t have to prepare a different spice mix or a marinade every time I want to make something. I simply add this spice mix.

It is so convenient. I have even stopped buying spices! I am so addicted to the jerk spice that I use it in everything. The beauty of this spice mix is that you can use it in any way. Here are a few ideas on how to use it:

Ø  Dry rub

You can use it as a dry rub 

Ø  Wet rub

You can mix the spice mix with either olive oil or even lemon juice to create a wet rub.

Ø  As a seasoning

You can use jerk seasoning in dips, sauces, and seasonings as well. For instance, add it to hummus, mayonnaise, etc. furthermore, you can also add these to curries to enhance their flavors and give them a new direction. You can also use these on snacks, like popcorn, roasted chickpeas, corn cob, etc.

In short, this spice mix goes well with literally everything!

How To Store Jerk Spice?

You can store this spice just as you store any other spice. Place it in an air-tight jar and keep it on your spice shelf. It will stay fresh for up to a year. Most people tend to keep their spices in the refrigerator to keep them fresh. I don’t usually recommend it.

That’s because, as you keep them in the refrigerator, they tend to get moisture. When a spice develops moisture, its shelf life decreases. So, if you are keeping it in a dry, cool place in an air-tight container, it will do just fine.

However, also note that if you keep it in a very hot place, like in the cabinet above the stove, it will also develop moisture and get bad. So, keep in mind the temperature when putting the jar. Also, never put a wet spoon in the spice jar. It will ruin your spice mix.

How To Know If The Spice Is Fresh Or Not?

If you have a sharp nose, you can smell the spice and tell something is not right. The thing is that the spice mix will eventually go bad. Even if it takes time, it is bound to happen. So, here are a few signs you should look for to know whether the spice is fresh or not:

  • Fragrance: If you smell a foul fragrance, it clearly means the mix has gone stale.
  • Color: If the spice’s color seems lighter than usual or is fading, it means the species is going bad.
  • Taste: you can also taste the spice mix. If the taste is not strong enough or is bitter, it is a clear indication that the spice mix has reached the end of its shelf life.
  • Texture: You can touch the spice mix. If it’s wet or not as powdery as it should be, it means it has gone stale.

Variations

The thing about this spice mix is that you can add any spice to it as long as you don’t disrupt the balance of flavors. Every component offers many choices to pick from. So, there is no hard and fast rule. It all depends upon flavor preferences. So, the sky is the limit. Make small batches so that you can experiment with new flavors and decide which combination you love the most.

How Can Jerk Seasoning Be Customized?

To make this seasoning blend your own, simply add ingredients or change the measurements. The best thing about this spice mix is that you can add any spice to it as long as you don’t disrupt the balance of flavors. Every component offers many choices to pick from. So, there is no hard and fast rule. It all depends upon flavor preferences.

To make this seasoning blend your own, simply add ingredients or change the measurements.

Do you like it hot? Toss in one or two hotter chili peppers! Spice it up with crushed red peppers or, for something spicier, ghost pepper or scotch bonnet powder.

Do you prefer a strong garlic flavor? More garlic powder is required!

What about a little sweeter? Light brown sugar can be replaced with cane sugar.

Do you want an earthy blend? Then, add some dried parsley and additional dried thyme to the mix!

Prefer a seasoning with a fine texture? Pulse all of the ingredients in a spice grinder or food processor until the mixture forms a fine powder!

So, the sky is the limit. Make small batches so that you can experiment with new flavors and decide which combination you love the most.

Is Jerk Seasoning Healthy?

Jerk spice combination prepared at home is vegetarian and vegan. It’s also Whole 30, Paleo, and Keto friendly.

Plus, there’s no MSG in this Homemade seasoning recipe! On the other hand, many premade store-bought blends contain MSG and hence are not keto-friendly. So always examine the label when buying a blend at the grocery store!

Is Jerk Seasoning Similar To Creole Seasoning?

Though they share many similarities in flavor, jerk and creole spices are not the same.

Jerk seasoning originates in Jamaica and is linked with Caribbean cuisine. The flavor of the jerk spice combination is hotter and stronger. Additionally, it incorporates pungent spices such as allspice and chilies, which are not present in creole seasoning.

Louisiana’s Creole cooking is associated with Creole seasoning. The flavor of the Creole spice combination is light, and it has a low level of heat.

Creole seasoning isn’t a good substitute for jerk because it doesn’t have the same flavor profile or taste.

Is Jerk Seasoning High In Sodium?

The precise measurements of the ingredients used in seasoning blends determine the sodium content.

This homemade seasoning blend is quite adaptable. You can adjust the ingredients and quantities to suit your personal preferences and requirements. For example, this recipe calls for 2 tsp. salt. You can, however, reduce or eliminate the salt to lessen the sodium content.

What can replace Jerk Caribbean seasoning?

Jerk seasoning has its own distinct flavor. Regrettably, there is no spice that can replace Caribbean seasoning in terms of flavor profile.

If you need an alternative, or if you’ve run out of or can’t find a premade Jerk rub blend, make your own with the recipe above. You may tailor the blend to your specific taste and preferred flavor profile, and it will last up to a year.

More Jamaican Recipes To Try

Amazing Homemade Spice Blends

If you like and enjoy this recipe, please leave a comment to let me know your feedback.  

Overlay of jerk seasoning on a white background

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Jerk Seasoning

Jamaican jerk seasoning is a highly economical, flavorsome, easy-to-make spice mix that is made from authentic Jamaican spices. It brings in the true reflection of Jamaican flavors and is a perfect spice mix for every ingredient.
5 from 13 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Seasoning
Cuisine: Jamaican
Keyword: Jerk Seasoning
Prep Time: 9 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 7 servings
Calories: 24kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 tablespoon organic cane sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika or smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Instructions

  • To make dry jerk seasoning, mix spice ingredients in a jar until fully combined.
  • Store in an air-tight container for up to 6 months.

Nutrition

Calories: 24kcal | Carbohydrates: 6g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.3g | Saturated Fat: 0.1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.03g | Sodium: 668mg | Potassium: 62mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 335IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 22mg | Iron: 1mg