Jerk Chicken & Nice Guy Salsa

After four years of being the white sprinkle in a small bowl of dark Jamaican chocolate ice cream, I finally took a chance on cooking some traditional Caribbean food.  If spicy is your style you will certainly love everything Caribbean, if the aroma of hot sauce makes you sweat there is still hope for you as well.  One of the main characteristics of this genre of cuisine is the numerous layers which have a way of hiding the heat in a sea of sweet flavors and savory spices.  If you're making your own it is fairly easy to dial back the hot.  

The seasoning referred to as "Jerk" can be traced back to a single spiteful chef who packed his food with so much spice everyone would refer to him as a "jerk" while laboring over a hole in the ground wiping their sensitive balloon knot with banana leaves.  Granted the oral history of Jerk is not easily google-able but my sources confirm with me this is all true.

Feel the rhythm, feel the rhyme.  Get on up, it's cooking time!


(Jerk Marinade)

  • Bone-in chicken breast, makes more than a dozen
  • 2 bunches of scallions
  • 1 medium shallot
  • 1/2 head of garlic
  • 1 medium yellow onion
  • 6 charred habanero peppers (place in a hot pan for 3 min and keep moving, warning there will be fire)
  • 1/3 cup of lime juice
  • 3 tbs of liquid Bragg aminos
  • 1/3 cup of vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 5-10 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • Dry ingredients:
    • 2 tsp all spice
    • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
    • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
    • 1 tsp thyme
    • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Traditional ingredients omitted due to lack of supplies and will to walk to the grocery store included fresh ginger and nutmeg.


  • (3) peaches
  • red pepper
  • green pepper
  • orange pepper
  • (1) medium shallot
  • (2) large cloves of garlic

Salsa ingredients not shown:

  • 1 jalapeño 
  • the juice of 1/2 lime, ignore the lemon
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro

Marinade Preparation

One way to dial back the spice is to limit the amount of habanero peppers, or you can char the outside of the peppers which will caramelize the natural sugars in the pepper which will reduce the amount of heat on the palate.

Artsy spice shot, check.

Old school clamp jar, hipster city population this guy.

The marinade is fairly easy to prepare, just throw all your ingredients into a blender and blend until a thick paste forms.

Salsa Preparation

The keys to a very good salsa is balance of flavors, a variety of colors and consistency of the pieces.  Take your time while chopping up ingredients and avoid large pieces of more powerful flavors (i.e. garlic).

Chop garlic, jalapeno and shallot very fine to add flavor without overpowering it.

Protein Preparation

Skinless chicken breast will be tough to marinade however not impossible.  We at TMD use bone-in chicken breast because it stays moist and has a little more flavor than it's bone-less counterpart.

Before adding any marinade rinse and pat dry with a paper towel.

Separate the skin from the meat and tuck in 1-2 tablespoons of marinade.

Season with salt and pepper before letting sit for at least 20 minutes, if possible leaving in your fridge overnight is preferred.  Make sure you let stand for 20 minutes at room temperature before cooking.

Any cooking method works here but grilling is ideal.  If you don't have a grill bake for 45 minutes at 325 °F or until the internal temperature reaches 165 °F.

I save all my takeout containers as an inexpensive and carefree way to bring meals on the go.  Pre-slice over a bed of rice, hold the salsa and a wedge of lime to add after reheating.