Is Jerk Chicken Spicy?

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Jerk is a form of Jamaican cooking that incorporates amazing Caribbean flavors into a wide range of dishes. A popular jerk dish is jerk chicken.

Jerk chicken is a staple meal in many households, thanks to its full-on flavor and pure deliciousness!

If you are wanting to make jerk chicken at home, or try it out at a restaurant, you might want to check if jerk chicken is something you would enjoy!

So, is jerk chicken spicy? Jerk chicken is spicy, and while the spice level can be adjusted somewhat, the spiciness of the dish is traditional and what adds to the flavor of the dish. The main ingredient in jerk chicken is scotch bonnet peppers which are considered by many to be a spicier variety of pepper.

To help you figure out if jerk chicken is something you want to try out, we have covered just about everything you need to know, you will just have to decide if you can handle the spiciness or not!

What Is Jerk Chicken?

Jerk is a style of cooking that originated and is native to Jamaica.

It is commonly a wet marinade or a dry rub made with a hot spice mixture, called jerk spice, which is rubbed onto different types of protein, such as chicken, beef, pork, goat, seafood, or vegetables.

Jerk chicken is when this jerk seasoning is rubbed onto chicken before it is cooked, giving the chicken a flavorful skin that is crispy too. 

There are a few variations to jerk seasoning, but the two main ingredients that need to be present are scotch bonnet peppers and allspice.

These two ingredients together are what make jerk seasoning, and without them, it’s just is not the same!

Jerk chicken is traditionally cooked over a fire or a grill that has green pimento wood over burning coals, which helps to give off a smoky flavor. However, people now cook the dish in whichever way they can in their kitchen.

Is Jerk Chicken Spicy?

Jerk chicken is spicy, and the spice from the scotch bonnet peppers and the wide array of herbs and spices used are key to the dish. Without the scotch bonnet peppers, it will not be jerk chicken.

Scotch bonnet peppers pack quite a bit of heat and are a step above habanero peppers.

The chicken is packed with jerk seasoning before being cooked, with holes being poked into the chicken to allow the spice to work through, so if habanero peppers are too hot for you, then jerk chicken might be a challenge.

If you are making your own jerk chicken seasoning at home, you are able to tone down the heat by reducing the number of scotch bonnet peppers you use.

Keep in mind that you will still be using quite a few other spices, so if you are sensitive to spice, the dish might still be too strong for you.

There really is no way to get around the spiciness of jerk chicken; it is what makes the dish what it is, and the spice and heat are key to the jerk seasoning.

If you are sensitive to heat and spice, jerk chicken might not be right for you to try. However, if you love a dish with some kick to it, and you aren’t afraid of spices and heat, then jerk chicken just might become your new favorite meal!

When making the jerk seasoning at home, you do get more control over the spice and heat levels, so you can play around to find the mix that suits your taste buds best!

Jerk Chicken Seasoning

Jerk seasoning can be used on so many different proteins, such as chicken, beef, goat, pork, seafood, and vegetables, so it is a great spice to keep packed away in the pantry for when you want a dinner packed with flavor and spiciness.

You can buy readymade jerk seasoning from many stores, but it is a great idea to make your own.

You will know exactly what is going into the spice mix, you have control over how much you make, and you have the opportunity to adjust the spice mix to be just how you like it.

Jerk seasoning has quite a few components to it, containing many different spices, herbs, and seasonings.

Here are the main ingredients used to make jerk seasoning:

  • Heat – scotch bonnet flakes (or red pepper flakes) and cayenne pepper
  • Aromatics – onion powder and garlic powder
  • Sugar – brown sugar 
  • Spices – allspice, cumin, nutmeg, smoked paprika, cinnamon
  • Seasoning – salt and pepper
  • Herbs – dried thyme and parsley

The heat of jerk chicken comes from the scotch bonnet flakes, or red pepper flakes, along with the cayenne pepper.

However, the added spices also contribute to the overall spiciness of the dish, which might be a bit much for some people.

All of these seasonings, herbs, and spices work together to make an incredible seasoning, with some heat, that can be rubbed onto just about any protein and cooked to make a deliciously flavorful meal!

How To Store Jerk Seasoning

If you make your own jerk seasoning at home, you need to store it correctly to ensure that it does not start to become hard or clump up together.

Once you have mixed all of the ingredients together well, pour the jerk seasoning mix into a spice jar or into a mason jar, label with the name of the spice and the date that you made the spice.

Place the jar into a cupboard away from heat or light, and store there for up to 1 year!

If the colors of the spices start to fade, or the spices begin to look dull and do not smell as fresh as they once did, it might be time to throw out the jerk mix and make a new batch.

These are all signs that the jerk seasoning has begun to go stale, and it will not flavor your chicken or protein as well as it should.

The Three Most Important Factors In Jerk Seasoning

Three factors go into making the perfect jerk seasoning – spice, heat, and depth. With all of these, you will achieve the best balance of flavors.

The spices used in jerk seasoning and marinade are vital to give it the traditional and authentic flavor, along with the scotch bonnet peppers.

Allspice is the main spiced used, but other spices including cinnamon, nutmeg, and coriander are also important.

When it comes to heat, scotch bonnet peppers provide this, along with a floral quality that speaks to the Caribbean flavors.

The seeds are often removed before the scotch bonnets are added to the seasoning or marinade, as the pepper is hot enough without them!

The depth of flavor of jerk seasoning comes from a browning seasoning, which is made from a combination of concentrated vegetable flavors and dark food coloring.

Some people even choose to use black coffee, Jamaican rum, or blackstrap molasses to add color and depth of flavor.

How Hot Are Scotch Bonnet Peppers?

Scotch bonnet peppers are one of the main ingredients used to make jerk seasoning.

Many recipes now call for red pepper flakes or chili flakes instead of scotch bonnet peppers, as they are not always easy to come by, and because they are considerably hot!

Scotch bonnet peppers have a heat rating of between 100,000-350,000 Scoville units, which is almost 40 times hotter than a jalapeno pepper.

While those who have been eating jerk chicken, and jerk chili sauces their whole life are used to the heat, for many of us, it is a new level of spiciness that we are just not prepared for!

However, many restaurants and pre-sold jerk seasonings do not use scotch peppers in the ingredient list and instead opt for a milder option to make the seasoning more accessible to everyone.

Is Jerk Just A Dry Rub?

Jerk is not just a dry rub, it can be used in the form of a marinade as well.

Jerk is also more than the seasoning and spices used. It is a way of cooking protein over a hot fire with coals, topped with some green pimento wood, giving the traditional smoky flavor and char to the protein.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve gotten to see just how spicy this beloved dish really is, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

What does jerk chicken taste like?

Jerk chicken has a very spicy taste, packed with heat, which is smoky as well. The spice and heat come from the jerk seasoning, whereas the smoky flavor comes from the chicken being cooked over coals and green pimento wood.

Is jerk chicken healthy?

Jerk chicken is healthy if eaten with a balanced diet. The seasoning does include some sugar, but it is a small amount and should not be cause for concern.

What should jerk seasoning taste like?

Other than the heat, jerk seasoning should taste earthy, sweet, and spicy, and you should be able to pick up the unique blend of exotic flavors.

This is all due to the spice mix which includes allspice, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, black pepper, and salt.

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