This Jamaican Jerk Sauce recipe is excellent! Made with delicious, original ingredients, you receive a tasty punch of flavor that you can make at home!
If you’re from a culture where traditional foods are fiercely guarded, you’ll understand how I’m feeling right now. In my mind, I’ve avoided this for months because Jamaicans are extremely harsh when it comes to accepting other influences in their cooking. However, being vegan didn’t stop me from being a true Jamaican.
So let’s get started. I decided to begin with Jamaican Jerk Sauce since it is, in many ways, the defining characteristic of Jamaican cuisine. In addition, jerk sauce is one of only two Jamaican goods with a globally registered trademark, the other being our rum.
Jerk sauce is a marinade that originated in Jamaica. If you haven’t tried jerk sauce before, you’re in for a treat! Consider the greatest hot sauce you’ve ever tasted.
Jerk sauce is JAMAICA in a bottle, with scotch bonnet peppers, nutmeg, pimento (allspice), soy sauce, and thyme, among other flavors. Sweet, salty, spicy, and an “island-y” jolt of flavor are all present.
While I was growing up in Jamaica, jerk sauce was rubbed and poked (jerked) into the meat. The meat is then cooked in old oil barrels, cut in half lengthwise, and fired with charcoal. For a detailed history of Jerk Sauce, check out Wikipedia’s article.
In the ’80s back in Jamaica, I lived in Hopewell, close to a popular beachfront called ‘Old Steamer’. An old wrecked ship was on the shore. They had a yearly event called, Fisherman’s Regatta where they had the best jerk chicken.
The local chefs made the best jerk recipes. I recall the jerk seasoning sauce that they used had a fruity taste. I tend to go for that flavor in my sauce, so I added orange juice to my sauce and it tastes amazing. Check out the dry version, Jamaican Jerk Seasoning.
This jerk sauce embodies the rich taste of traditional Jamaican cuisine. Once you marinate your protein, each bite becomes an irresistible, flavor-packed experience that leaves you craving more.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Authentic Jamaican Flavors: Crafted with traditional Jamaican ingredients like Scotch Bonnet peppers, allspice, and thyme, this jerk sauce captures the essence of Jamaican cuisine, delivering an authentic and rich flavor profile.
- Versatile Usage: Whether you’re a tofu enthusiast, a veggie lover, or a pasta connoisseur, this Jamaican sauce caters to various tastes. It serves as a fantastic marinade for proteins or a zesty dip for your favorite snacks, making it a versatile addition to your culinary repertoire.
- Easy Preparation: With just a blender and a handful of ingredients, you can whip up this jerk sauce effortlessly. The simplicity of the recipe allows for quick and convenient preparation, perfect for busy days or last-minute meal plans.
- Customizable Heat Levels: Whether you’re a spice enthusiast or prefer milder flavors, this recipe provides flexibility. You can adjust the heat of the sauce by varying the quantity of Scotch Bonnet peppers, catering to your individual spice tolerance.
- Escallion (or green onions): These guys bring a gentle oniony sweetness, giving our sauce a solid aromatic kick.
- Garlic: This adds that savory punch we all love.
- Ginger: Ginger brings warmth and a bit of zing to the jerk sauce recipe.
- Pimento berries (allspice): The secret Jamaican ingredient that gives the sauce its unique blend of sweet, savory, and a hint of peppery goodness.
- Fresh Thyme Leaves (or dried thyme): Thyme brings that earthy, aromatic goodness to our jerk sauce.
- Cinnamon: Adds a subtle hint of warmth.
- Nutmeg: Brings that warm, slightly sweet kick to the jerk sauce recipe.
- Soy Sauce: This adds that savory, salty flavor to the Jamaican jerk sauce.
- Orange Juice (or Pineapple Juice): Fruit juices add a zesty, citrusy kick that plays well with the spice.
- Olive Oil: This gives the Jamaican jerk sauce a smooth texture.
- Organic Brown Sugar: Adds a bit of sweetness to the jerk sauce.
- Scotch Bonnet Peppers: Adjust the amount of these that you use to adjust the spice to your liking.
- Salt: This rounds up all the flavors, making sure our sauce hits that perfect balance of savory and sweet.
What is Scotch bonnet pepper?
Scotch bonnet pepper is popular in many Caribbean and African countries. They are a type of chili pepper that produces fruits from its evergreen, perennial, and tropically grown plant. The fruit pods are usually shaped like a bonnet that is about 1.57 inches in size or above. Its distinct fruity and spicy flavor makes it popular in many signature Jamaican dishes that are loved worldwide.
In addition, it usually has four bulbous ridges/edges at the bottom that normally sports the colors; yellow, orange, red, and even green. Scotch bonnet peppers are known to have a Scoville heat range of 100,000–350,000 Scoville units. Scoville heat is the potency of heat/spiciness based on the concentration of capsaicinoids within peppers, especially, chili peppers invented by the American pharmacist Wilbur Lincoln Scoville in 1912.
‘Scotchy’ is a common nickname used in Jamaica for scotch bonnet peppers. It got its name due to its similar appearance to the Scottish bonnet/hat- Tam o’ Shanter.
However, in other places, it may be known differently. For example, Bonney peppers, Caribbean red peppers, Boab bonnets, Scotty Bons, Martinique pepper, goat peppers, and more. So, there was a reason for my earlier hail to the Caribbean and West African h-steppers first. This is because Scotch Bonnet peppers are ubiquitous in West Africa and the Caribbean-especially in Jamaica.
Other countries where scotch bonnet pepper is used are Guyana, Haiti, and Cayman.
What is allspice?
Allspice is dried and unripe berries that are derived from the Pimenta dioica- a mid-canopy tree. This tree falls under the Myrtaceae or myrtle family where all other popular members include; Acca (feijoa), bay rum tree, clove, eucalyptus, guava, myrtle, and Pohutukawa.
Despite common misconception, it is not a blend of other spices/herbs! It is a single spice that is native to the Greater Antilles (but it is believed that it was first discovered in Jamaica by Christopher Columbus on his second voyage), Central America, and Southern Mexico. However, you can find the spice being grown in a globally warm climate.
How to make jerk sauce
- To make the jerk sauce recipe, place all the ingredients in a high-speed blender and process until smooth.
- This sauce is ready to use, or you can pour it into a container with a tight-fitting lid and keep it refrigerated for a week.
Recipe tips and tricks:
- This is a spicy dish. Avoid sticking your head over the blender when it is opened because the flumes may fly directly into your face.
- Please use gloves when cutting or managing your scotch bonnet peppers. Alternatively, immediately wash your hands. Let me tell you — it takes days to remove the burn from under your nails.
- This lasted an unusually long time in our house, as we cooked it a day before we departed on a trip. My mom tasted it again immediately upon our return and found that the flavors had been elevated significantly as a result of the sitting time.
- Ingredients are important. If you’re Jamaican, don’t eat what’s already in your refrigerator or cupboard if it’s not fresh! I’m sure everyone has a pack of wilting scallion in their refrigerator — do not use them. I even went out and purchased some fresh pimento berries, which made a huge difference. When you utilize fresh and in-season ingredients, you can genuinely taste it all, even down to the nutmeg hints throughout.
- Use high-speed grinders to achieve a smoother consistency.
- If you’re not using organic scotch bonnet peppers, you can up the heat to 3 or 4. However, the sauce is quite spicy, so use fewer scotch bonnet peppers if you like a milder sauce.
- Allspice and pimento are the same spice.
Substitutions and Variations
For a spicier jerk sauce: Try scorpion chilies or increase the number of peppers you’re using (2 chilies will make for a hotter dish).
For milder jerk sauce: Remove the seeds from the spicier peppers (use gloves!) and/or substitute less spicy peppers like jalapenos or serrano peppers.
Do you want to take your jerk sauce to another level? Add 1/3 cup of your favorite barbecue sauce to the jerk sauce or try my Homemade Vegan BBQ Sauce recipe.
Refrigerator: Keep the Jamaican Jerk Sauce in an airtight jar in the refrigerator. It stays fresh for about a week, allowing you to savor its flavors over multiple meals.
Freezer: If you plan on making a larger batch, consider freezing individual portions in ice cube trays for convenient future use. Just pop them out and store in zip-top bags in the freezer for up to three months.
How to use Jamaican jerk sauce
Jerk sauce can be used in a variety of ways. It could be used as a marinade or to add heat to any ready-to-eat food. Jamaican jerk sauce can be used on wings, chicken, pork, and seafood. I’ve been known to top everything with a spoonful of jerk sauce, including:
- Adding it to sandwiches as a spread
- Using it as a marinade for tofu
- Spicing up quinoa/rice
- Using it as a marinade for veggies before BBQing
- As a marinade for cauliflower steaks
- Adding it to veggie burgers before swimming in it
- It’s also used in the preparation of the Jamaican Jerk Marinade.
- To add a flavor boost to soups or stews, swirl it in. To make a simple spicy dip, combine it with crema or sour cream. It can be used in a variety of ways.
Absolutely! The spice level is in your hands. Adjust the quantity of Scotch Bonnet peppers to suit your taste. If you prefer a milder sauce, reduce the number of peppers or remove the seeds for less heat.
You can go with either option. Fresh thyme leaves bring a vibrant, aromatic flavor, but dried thyme works well too. If using dried, adjust the quantity as dried herbs tend to be more concentrated.
Absolutely! Brush the Jamaican Jerk Sauce on your choice of protein or veggies before grilling for an extra layer of flavor. The caramelization during grilling enhances the taste.
Other Jamaican Recipes To Prepare
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- Energy: 146 kcal / 610 kJ
- Fat: 7 g
- Protein: 2 g
- Carbs: 20 g
- Preparation: 5 min
- Ready in: 5 min
- For: 4 Servings
- 6 Escallion, or green onions
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1-inch ginger, peeled
- 1 tablespoon pimento berries, (allspice)
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, or 1 teaspoon dried
- 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup orange juice, or pineapple juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/2 cup organic brown sugar
- 2 or more Scotch Bonnet peppers, deseeded and cored
- Salt to taste
- Place all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until smooth.
- Store jerk sauce in an airtight jar in the refrigerator.
- When blending, avoid leaning over the open blender to prevent spicy fumes from getting into your face.
- Wear gloves when handling Scotch Bonnet peppers, or wash your hands immediately. The burn can linger under your nails for days.
- Let the sauce sit for a bit; the flavors intensify over time. A day or two can make a noticeable difference.
- Use fresh ingredients for optimal taste. Avoid using wilted or outdated items from your fridge or cupboard. Fresh scallions and pimento berries can make a significant impact.
- For a smoother sauce, use high-speed grinders to achieve the desired texture.
- If your Scotch Bonnet peppers aren’t organic, consider using 3 or 4 for extra heat. For a milder sauce, reduce the number of peppers.
- Note that allspice and pimento are the same spice.