That spinach leaf is to mark the spicy plate!

Grill season has arrived, and one of the first things I was excited to make was jerk chicken – fresh, flavorful, and charred to perfection.

I have one recipe way back in the archive that I was calling Spiced Thyme Chicken because I had a fear of claiming authenticity when it’s not (here is a cool article on Serious Eats about real authentic Jamaican jerk chicken). However, I’ve come around to the opinion that it’s ok to adapt classic recipes to your kitchen, especially if that means you can make it more often! Besides, I’m always amazed at similarities between certain cuisines; it was easy to construct this Caribbean marinade from ingredients I already had in my desi spice cabinet.

The biggest change was using ajwain (carom) seeds in place of the typical thyme. I love using fresh thyme but it’s not a staple in my kitchen, whereas ajwain seeds are just because they store easily, and it’s a similar flavor so why not? Other than that, cloves, allspice, ginger, garlic and lime are ubiquitous in both cuisines, so this really isn’t that far off. I didn’t realize green onions were a must until I read that article afterwards, so will probably incorporate next time. I used paprika and a pinch of turmeric for a little flavor and color, and the fruitiness of apple cider vinegar, and that’s totally allowed because jerk marinade is one of those things with a hundred secret house recipes.

We used this for chicken breasts (this makes enough for 6 or so), but you could use it for all kinds and cuts of meat, fish and veggies too!

Jerk Marinade

  • 1 teaspoon ajwain (carom) seeds (alternately, you could use a few sprigs fresh thyme or a teaspoon dried thyme)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 6 cloves
  • 6 allspice berries
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 teaspoons red chili powder (because kiddies, we divided the chicken breasts 3 and 3 and added 1 teaspoon to the grown-up’s portion)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • generous pinch black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 inch ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and grated
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • juice of half a lime
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil

Heat a dry pan on medium heat. Gently toast the ajwain seeds, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cloves, and allspice. When they become fragrant, remove from heat and grind in a spice grinder.

Whisk together fresh ground spices with paprika, red chili, turmeric, black pepper, ginger, salt garlic, apple cider vinegar, sugar, and lime juice. Pour olive oil in a stream while continuously whisking.

Use as a marinade for chicken, beef, fish or veggies, ideally to grill!

The fresh, bright flavor goes awesome with the nutty creaminess of Hara Masala Coconut Rice.