Love heat? Here’s a recipe for a spicy and easy jerk marinade. Scotch Bonnet peppers are the star of the show, along with a variety of aromatic spices. This Scotch Bonnet recipe doubles as a finishing sauce and is perfect for foods like chicken, fish, cauliflower steaks and veggies. It’s fiery, vibrant and Paleo too!
My hometown has a Caribbean restaurant that makes absolutely mouthwatering jerk chicken. Ever since I tasted Jerk flavors, I’ve always loved this brilliant combination of spices and heat.
By the way, Jerk is native to Jamaica, and it refers to a style of cooking and seasoning used in this cuisine. Scotch Bonnet peppers are a primary ingredient in Jerk.
Because I have a supply of Scotch Bonnets (and a massive craving), I spent some time researching Jamaican jerk marinades with Scotch Bonnet peppers.
Jerk recipes use soy sauce, which I’m allergic to, so I made adjustments to fit the Paleo diet. You’ll find notes on the standard recipe in case you don’t have the same dietary restrictions.
Before we get to the recipe for this Scotch Bonnet jerk marinade, let’s talk ingredients.
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What Is Jerk Marinade Made Of?
During my research, I found that jerk marinade recipes differ a bit but generally use a lot of the same ingredients. (Here’s more on Jamaican cuisine in case you’re interested.)
Common Jerk Seasoning Ingredients:
- Brown sugar (use raw honey for Paleo)
- Scallions / green onion
- Garlic cloves
- Scotch Bonnet peppers (see notes on where to buy them)
- Soy sauce (use coconut aminos for Paleo)
- Black pepper
- Lemon or lime juice
- Canola or vegetable oil (use avocado oil or olive oil for Paleo)
Other jerk marinades and sauces may also include cloves, white or apple cider vinegar, pineapple or orange juice and Red Stripe beer.
What Are the 3 Main Ingredients Of Jerk?
No matter the recipe, Jamaican Jerk marinades typically include the same three ingredients. They often differ in quantity, depending on your preferences.
- Scotch Bonnet peppers (between 2 and 6 peppers)
- Allspice (1 TSP to ¼ cup)
- Thyme (1 TSP dry to 2 TBSP fresh)
Finding Scotch Bonnet Peppers
Scotch Bonnets aren’t commonly available so check Caribbean markets or specialty grocers like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. If you can’t get these peppers locally, you can often buy fresh Scotch Bonnet pepper pods on Etsy. Otherwise, habanero peppers are a suitable replacement in jerk sauces and marinades.
What Does Jamaican Jerk Sauce Taste Like?
You may not be familiar with the flavors of all the jerk spices or the Scotch Bonnet pepper. Jamaican jerk sauce is commonly described as citrusy, earthy and mildly sweet. It’s also very hot if you use Scotch Bonnets or Habaneros in your recipe!
Adjusting The Heat
This Jamaican jerk marinade is definitely on the hotter side because of the chilies. In my opinion, Scotch Bonnets have a heat level that’s similar to Habanero peppers.
If you prefer less heat, you can always reduce the number of peppers you use. I’ve also seen milder chilies, such as Serranos or Jalapenos, listed in Jerk recipes. Some recipes even omit the peppers altogether.
Don’t forget to wear gloves when handling your Scotch Bonnets. These peppers are hot!
How To Use Jerk Sauce
Jerk sauce can be used on a variety of proteins including seafood, chicken, beef and pork. You can also use it on grilled veggies and tofu.
To use jerk as a marinade, pour it over your veggies and allow it to sit in the refrigerator for about an hour. If marinating meats, let it sit overnight so the flavors can really get absorbed. For chicken, be sure to get the jerk chicken marinade under the skin too.
To use jerk as a finishing sauce, spoon the sauce over your cooked veggies or meats (like these air fryer boneless chicken thighs). You can also use this sauce as a dip, add it to sandwiches, use it as a topping on rice or drop a couple of spoonfuls in soups and stews.
Can You Freeze Jerk Marinade?
So, how long can you keep jerk marinade? Jerk marinade lasts in the refrigerator for up to one week. Otherwise, you can freeze your marinade for up to six months.
Making This Jerk Marinade Scotch Bonnet Recipe
Making this Scotch Bonnet jerk marinade is simply a matter of blending the ingredients in a food processor or blender until you get the consistency you like. Afterward, you can let your sauce simmer for an hour to mingle the flavors, or put it in a sealable container and stick it in the refrigerator.
I hope you enjoy this jerk recipe. It’s a great way to use up a few Scotch Bonnets! 😀
- 2 to 6 Scotch Bonnet peppers chopped
- 1 teaspoon to 1/4 cup allspice (to your liking)
- 2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dry
- 1/4 cup coconut aminos (replaces soy sauce)
- 1 medium onion coarsely chopped
- 4 scallions (green onions) chopped
- 8 garlic cloves chopped
- 1 inch fresh ginger chopped
- 1 tablespoon raw honey (replaces brown sugar)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1 1/4 cup lime or lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons avocado or coconut oil
- Determine how spicy you want your jerk marinade to be. Use the least amount of peppers for less heat.
- Add all the ingredients to a blender or food processor and slowly process until you get the consistency you like.
- Store your marinade in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
- Make sure to wear gloves when handling peppers so you don't burn yourself.
- If you can't find Scotch Bonnet peppers, you can use Habaneros instead. Another option is to use Jalapenos or Serranos if you want to tone down the heat level.
Using This Marinade:
- Marinate veggies in this sauce for about an hour. Proteins like chicken and fish should sit overnight for the best flavor.
- This recipe also works as a finishing sauce. For example, top foods like rice and veggies, add to sandwiches or drop a couple of spoonfuls in soups and stews.
- This Scotch Bonnet jerk marinade lasts one week in the refrigerator and 6 months in the freezer.
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Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1/4 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 82Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 215mgCarbohydrates: 16gFiber: 2gSugar: 7gProtein: 2g
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