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 meat 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.
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.
It is used on a variety of ingredients and acts as a marinade. The term “jerk” is given to Jamaica’s special type of technique. 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.
A Brief History of Jamaican Jerk Seasoning!
Jerk seasoning is thought to have originated when the Maroons brought African meat-cooking skills to Jamaica and blended them with indigenous Jamaican ingredients and flavors employed by the Arawak Indians. The practice of smoking meats serves two purposes: (1) to keep insects away from raw meat and (2) to expand the life of cooked meat. Additionally, this method imparts a distinct smokiness to the meat.
Most food historians state that “Jerk” is a Spanish word derived from the Peruvian word “Charqui,” which means dried pieces of meat similar to what we call “jerky.” Most historians say that the Arawak Indians arrived in Jamaica from South America around 2500 years ago. People in Peru smoked and dried meat using similar techniques (in the sun or over a low flame), and this practice was widespread. As a result, dried beef may be brought on long journeys and either consumed as is or sliced and reheated in boiling water.
During the early 17 century, the British sent slaves to Jamaica to provide a consistent supply of sugar, cocoa, coffee, pimento, and other items to merchants. The Maroons were named after a group of slaves who escaped into the mountains.
The Maroons blended a variety of herbs and spices that they later used to marinade and cook their wild game, primarily wild boar. As a result, the “Jamaican Jerk” became famous. Pork is cooked in the traditional Jamaican Jerk style. Chicken, seafood, and beef can all be seasoned in the same way. Jerk seasoning is made up of scallions, scotch bonnet peppers, salt, herbs, allspice, black pepper, and a variety of additional spices. All of the components grow on the fertile green landscape of the island.
On Jamaica’s northeastern coast, Boston Beach is a famed Mecca for jerks. Like the maroons who came before them, the majority of the sellers have built cottages over fires right on the beach. Pimento wood or metal sheets used as griddles are used for cooking the meat, occasionally wrapped with plantain leaves. The usual marinade or paste includes pimento (allspice) and scotch bonnet (habanero) peppers. After that, the meat is marinated and smoked slowly over pimento wood.
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:
- 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.
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. In addition, 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. 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.
Although the choices are unlimited, and you can choose whatever ingredient you like, 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:
- Onion Powder
- Garlic Powder
- Dried Thyme
- Cinnamon powder
- Ginger powder
- Cayenne powder
- Organic Cane Sugar
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 to marinate several ingredients.
- Use it to marinate whole fish or fish filet. It works really well with salmon.
- Rub it on your steak.
- Try it with pork chops. You will love it!
- Rub it on the whole chicken and finish it off in the oven. It will taste divine.
Ø Wet rub
You can mix the spice mix with either olive oil or even lemon juice to create a wet rub. Here is how you can use it.
- You can mix it with olive oil and rub it all over the chicken breasts.
- Create a mixture with oil and lemon and toss prawns over it.
- Mix it with yogurt to make an Indian-inspired Jamaican version of tandoori chicken.
- Mix it with olive oil and toss your favorite vegetables in it. You will get delicious Jamaican jerky roasted vegetables.
- You can even marinade tofu with this spice mix.
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 popcorns, 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 spice 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.
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!
Do you want it 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. In addition, it uses pungent spices like allspice and chilies that aren’t found in creole seasoning.
Creole seasoning comes from Louisiana and is linked with Creole cooking. 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 sodium content of seasoning blends is determined by the ingredients used and the precise measurements used.
This homemade seasoning blend is quite adaptable. The ingredients and quantities can be changed to fit 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 Be Used In Place Of Jerk Caribbean Seasoning?
Jerk seasoning has its own distinct flavor. Regrettably, there is no spice that can replace Caribbean seasoning in terms of the 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
- Jamaican Vegan Recipes
- Spice Bun
- Callaloo Patty
- Yellow Yam Salad
- Jamaican Boiled Dumplings (Gluten-Free. Vegan)
Amazing Homemade Spice Blends
- Chicken-Style Seasoning
- Creole Seasoning Recipe
- Homemade Shawarma Seasoning
- Easy Curry Powder
- Homemade Chili Powder
If you like and enjoy this recipe, please leave a comment to let me know your feedback.
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- Energy: 20 kcal / 84 kJ
- Fat: 0.1 g
- Protein: 0.1 g
- Carbs: 5 g
- Preparation: 9 min
- Cooking: 10 min
- Ready in: 19 min
- For: 7 Servings
- 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.