Jamaican Jerk Chicken

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

What’s not to love about sticky, juicy, caramelised chicken legs with a touch of spice? Traditional jerk chicken calls for Scotch bonnet chilli peppers, which can be hard to source fresh in New Zealand. To add a sweet punch of heat in this recipe, I use a small can of chipotle peppers, which can be found readily in supermarkets these days.

Makes: 6 serves
Takes: 60 minutes plus marinating time


1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground allspice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp coriander seeds
5 spring onions
1 red onion
1  thumb fresh ginger, peeled
12 cloves garlic, peeled
100g chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup lime juice
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup tomato sauce
4 bay leaves
6 chicken legs, bone in Coriander leaves, to serve
Fresh red chilli, sliced, to serve
Lime wedges
Salt & pepper

Method: Add spices, spring onions, red onion, ginger and garlic to the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until a thick paste forms. Add the chipotle peppers and their sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, soy sauce and tomato sauce. Blitz again until you have a smooth purée. Taste, adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper if needed. Place bay leaves and chicken legs in a large dish or ziplock bag. Add the jerk marinade and coat well. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or ideally overnight.

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Remove chicken legs from the marinade and place on a heavy oven tray. Bake for 45–50 minutes, basting with marinade every 15 minutes, until dark brown and the juices are running clear. Serve with a scattering of fresh coriander, fresh chilli and lime wedges for squeezing over top. And plenty of napkins!

Tip: This paste can easily be made gluten-free by using tamari or a gluten-free soy sauce, instead of regular soy sauce.

Variations: Jerk marinade isn’t limited to chicken — use it on pork belly, roasted eggplant or even halo