This yummy Jamaican jerk sauce recipe is my attempt at doing justice to the richness and flavor of Jamaica’s native, signature sauce. The sauce has spicy, salty, sweet, acidic, sharp and herbaceous elements but the true flavors come from allspice (pimento berries) and scotch bonnet peppers.
This sauce is best used as a marinade for meats like chicken, pork and fish but works really well with veggies and tofu.
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Jamaican jerk sauce ingredients
For this recipe, I used:
- allspice or pimento berries: this star of the sauce smells and tastes like a combination of nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove. Get it on Amazon here. Whole allspice adds a gritty texture to the sauce which makes it more authentic but if you want a smoother sauce, swap the whole berries for allspice powder.
- scotch bonnet pepper: fresh scotch bonnets are very spicy and hold a lot of that spiciness in their seeds and white piths. If they are hard to find, habaneros can be used as they have about the same heat level. For less heat, use milder peppers like pimento, jalapeño, and cayenne or half of one scotch bonnet. For more heat, go brave with ghost peppers or Trinidad scorpion pepper.
- scallions: Scallions are not common in Trinidad, so I used chives as a substitute in this recipe.
- cinnamon powder: This powder further compliments the flavors of the allspice.
- nutmeg powder: Like cinnamon powder, nutmeg adds to the allspice flavor.
- citrus juice: Lime juice is preferred but lemon juice will also work. Both brighten the sauce with their citrus elements and help to preserve the sauce.
- oil: Any mild vegetable oil can be used like olive oil or avocado oil.
- white vinegar: Besides bringing in the acid, vinegar acts like a preservative for the jerk sauce and increases its shelf life in the fridge.
- soy sauce: A high-quality, low-sodium soy sauce is the best choice for this recipe.
- brown sugar
These ingredients will give you an authentic Jamaican jerk sauce. But, Jamaicans don’t limit themselves to just these ingredients. They all tweak their sauces to make them even more unique and flavorful.
Do the same with this recipe and your favorite ingredients. Use your creativity to adjust up the tastes you enjoy. I like adding some chadon beni leaves to the sauce for a little sharp, herbaceous Trini flare. And, sometimes, I add BBQ sauce when my jerk chicken or jerk shrimp are almost done cooking.
Play around with the recipe and your tastebuds will love you!
How to make Jamaican jerk sauce
Prepare the fresh ingredients
Step 1: Wash the fresh pepper you are planning to use like scotch bonnets, habaneros, etc. Cut in half and remove the seeds and white pith. These are the spiciest parts of the pepper. If you want a spicy jerk sauce, leave the seeds and white pith in. Otherwise, use a milder pepper like cayenne or pimento.
Step 2: Wash the onion and peel off the skin. You can give it a rough chop if you like but it isn’t necessary since the blender will grind it thoroughly.
Step 3: Wash and peel the garlic.
Step 4: Wash and peel the ginger. You can leave the ginger skin on if you prefer but I usually remove it.
Step 5: Wash the scallions or chives in my case. Roughly chop them to make it easier to add to the blender.
Step 6: Wash the thyme and slide the leaves off the stem. Discard the stem.
Step 7: Wash and cut the lime or lemon. Here I used a seedless lime from my garden. It has a stronger, citrusy flavor than the lemon, which is more mellow. You can try either one.
Grind the allspice
Step 8: Add the whole allspice to a mortar and pestle and grind until it is powdery. You can use a coffee grinder or spice grinder for this step as well (I did here). Whole allspice hold a lot of flavor but can add a slightly gritty texture to the Jamaican jerk sauce. That’s ok though, it’s part of the authenticity.
If you prefer a smoother sauce, sift the spice you just ground up or use store-bought allspice powder instead (get on Amazon).
Blend everything together
Step 9: Add all the fifteen ingredients to your blender or food processor (pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, scallions or chives, thyme, ground allspice, cinnamon powder, nutmeg powder, soy sauce, vinegar, lime or lemon juice, vegetable oil, brown sugar and salt).
Step 10: Grind the ingredients until fully combined and relatively smooth. Use immediately or transfer into a container and store in the fridge. It can last for several weeks to months in the fridge. You can also freeze the sauce to make it last longer.
Jamaican jerk sauce recipe
Simple Jamaican Jerk Sauce Recipe
- Blender or Food processor
- Mortar and pestle or spice grinder
- 1 fresh scotch bonnet pepper (try milder peppers like pimento, jalapeño, cayenne or spicy alternatives like habanero, ghost pepper or Trinidad scorpion pepper)
- 1 onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp ginger
- 1/2 cup scallions or chives
- 2 tsp fresh thyme
- 3 tbsp whole allspice
- 1 tsp cinnamon powder
- 1/2 tsp nutmeg powder
- 1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
- 1/4 cup vinegar
- 1/4 cup citrus juice (lime or lemon)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil (like olive or canola)
- 3 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tsp salt
- Wash and cut the fresh pepper. Remove the seeds and white pith or leave in for extra spiciness.
- Wash and peel the onion, garlic and ginger.
- Wash and roughly chop the scallions or chives.
- Wash and remove the thyme leaves from the stems.
- Wash, cut and squeeze the citrus of your choice.
- Crush the allspice using a mortar and pestle or spice grinder.
- Add all ingredients to a blender or food processor.
- Blend to crush and combine all the ingredients.
- Use immediately. Or store in the fridge for a few weeks. Or freeze for a few months.