How to Make Jerk Seasoning

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is quick and easy to make at home, easy to customize and tastes fabulous on just about everything! 

This Jerk Seasoning recipe adds complex warm, sweet, smoky, salty, fiery, fruity dimension to everything it touches – making it taste like a million bucks!  It’s easy to whisk together with pantry friendly spices such as garlic, onion, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, allspice, ginger, and thyme – saving you time and money.  Best of all, homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning eliminates MSG, anti-caking agents and is easy to customize to make it perfect for YOU.  Use this Jerk Seasoning to instantly elevate chicken, seafood, meat, pasta, vegetables, etc. (and my Jerk Chicken Tacos coming soon!). You will love having this recipe on hand!

top view of Jamaican jerk seasoning being whisked together in a bowl


 
spooning up jerk seasoning recipe in a bowl
top view of a diagram of labeled jerk seasoning in a bowl

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Ingredients

Jerk Seasoning is one of the most flavorful seasonings out there made with easy-to-find, pantry friendly seasonings.  If you don’t already own all of the seasonings called for, I highly suggest you add them to your pantry – they are staples you will use all the time!  Here’s what you’ll need for this recipe:

  • Aromatics: onion powder and garlic powder
  • Heat: cayenne pepper
  • Spices: smoked paprika, ground nutmeg, ground allspice, ground ginger
  • Herbs: dried parsley and dried thyme
  • Seasonings:  salt and pepper
  • Sugar:  light brown sugar

DIY Jerk Seasoning recipe

  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder.  Garlic powder is made from dehydrated garlic and lends the signature, garlicky flavor that compliments the heat.  
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder.  Onion powder is dehydrated, ground onion to bring the pungent onion flavor.
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar.  This balances and compliments the heat and warm spices.
  • 2-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper. Really spicy blends use dried habanero peppers, but we are sticking with more palatable cayenne pepper.  2 teaspoons is medium spicy and 3 teaspoons is probably more of what you think of as spicy Jerk Seasoning.
  • 2 teaspoons black pepper.  This adds a peppery kick without the fiery heat of cayenne pepper.
  • 2 teaspoons salt.  Use regular table salt. Enough salt is crucial to enhance the rest of the seasonings or your spice blend will taste bland no matter how much it’s loaded with spices!
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika. Smoked paprika is rich, mild, sweet, and smoky made from smoked pimento peppers dried over oak fires then crushed.  It is not spicy, just flavorful.
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger.   Adds a spicy, zingy depth.
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley.  The bright, herbaceous, clean and slightly bitter taste cuts through the warm earthiness of the spice blend.
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme.   The minty earthiness with sharp grass, wood, and floral notes cuts through the warm spices.  
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice.  The people of the Caribbean named the berries from pimenta dioica, Jamaica’s allspice tree, allspice because they thought they tasted like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and pepper. Allspice is crucial to the authentic Jerk Seasoning taste because it replicates the pimento wood Jerk seasoned meat is usually cooked on so please don’t skip it!
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Spicy, sweet, warm and woody that’s pungent and slightly bitter.  You use it commonly in baked goods, now see how it adds that something-something to savory dishes as well!
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Just a little goes a long way with nutmeg. It’s nutty, warm and slightly sweet, rounding out the warming spices in a big way.
top view of showing how to make Jamaican Jerk seasoning by whisking the seasonings together in a bowl

How to Make Jerk Seasoning

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is easy to make in 5 minutes!  See detailed measurements in the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.

  • Gather seasonings.  Measure out the seasonings and add them to a small bowl. This is the step when you can double or triple the recipe – measure once and enjoy many times over!
  • Mix the seasonings.  Whisk the seasonings together with a fork or wire whisk until thoroughly combined.  That’s it!
side view of making Jamaican jerk seasoning recipe by whisking the spices in a bowl

Jerk Seasoning Recipe Variations

  • Adjust measurements:  While we love this recipe as written, it’s super flexible to adjust the ratios to suite your personal taste. Bump up the garlic, add more or less cayenne, increase the allspice, etc.   
  • Go spicier:  Increase the cayenne pepper or use powdered Scotch Bonnet or habanero, both local to Jamaica, or try super-hot Moruga or Reaper powder. 
  • Use your own Peppers:  Dehydrate Scotch bonnet peppers or habanero peppers then grind them into a powder for this recipe.  You will need much less than the cayenne pepper called for in the recipe card because they are both much spicier. Both Scotch bonnet peppers and habaneros range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, whereas cayenne pepper ranges from 30,000-50,000 SHU.
  • Make it paleo:  Use coconut sugar instead of brown sugar.
  • Scale up or down: This Jamaican Jerk Seasoning is perfect to make in bulk because it lasts for so long.  Double triple, quadruple, the recipe by increasing the quantity on the sliding scale.
showing how to make Jamaican jerk seasoning by whisking the spices together in a bowl
a spoon scooping up jerk seasoning recipe

JERK SEASONING FAQS

What is the difference between Cajun and Jerk Seasoning?

Both Cajun and Jerk Seasoning are spicy seasoning blends containing cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, parsley, thyme, salt, pepper.  Cajun Seasoning also contains oregano and Jerk Seasoning also contains allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and brown sugar, infusing it with warm, woody, spicy depth with a hint of sweetness.

What is a good substitute for Jerk Seasoning?

There isn’t a good substitute for Jerk Seasoning – nothing tastes as good as the real thing with its complex spicy, warm depth. That is why this homemade recipe is ideal to have on hand!  That being said, if you are unable to find specific ingredients, take a Cajun Seasoning and add the following spices: allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.  

Is Jerk Seasoning spicy hot?

Yes, Jerk Seasoning is meant to be spicy, replicating the Scotch bonnet peppers used in authentic versions which is one of the hottest peppers out there!   However, the beauty of making your own version is you can add as much or as little cayenne pepper as you like, making it less spicy if you’d like.

What are the primary ingredients in jerk seasoning?

The defining distinctive ingredients in Jerk Seasoning are cayenne pepper (or habanero pepper for the brave), allspice, and thyme.  Garlic powder, onion powder, smoked paprika, parsley, brown sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg also round out the spice blend.

showing how to use Jamaican jerk seasoning by spice rubbing chicken

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showing how to make Jamaican jerk seasoning by whisking the spices together in a bowl

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning Recipe

This Jerk Seasoning recipe adds complex warm, sweet, smoky, salty, fiery, fruity dimension to everything it touches – making it taste like a million bucks!  It’s easy to whisk together with pantry friendly spices such as garlic, onion, smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, allspice, ginger, and thyme – saving you time and money.  Best of all, homemade Jamaican Jerk Seasoning eliminates MSG, anti-caking agents and is easy to customize to make it perfect for YOU.  Use this Jerk Seasoning to instantly elevate chicken, seafood, meat, pasta, vegetables, etc. You will love having this recipe on hand!
Servings: 0.5 cup
Total Time: 5 minutes
Prep Time: 5 minutes

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Ingredients

  • 1 TBS EACH onion powder, garlic powder, brown sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 tsps EACH smoked paprika, ground ginger, dried parsley, dried thyme, salt, black pepper
  • 1/2 tsps EACH ground allspice, ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg

Instructions

  • Whisk all of the ingredients thoroughly together in a medium bowl.
  • Transfer to an empty spice jar or airtight container. Store in a cool, dark place (like the pantry) for 1-2 years. Use as a dry rub for chicken, steak, pork, seafood, to season vegetables, rice, beans, eggs, etc.

Notes

  • Protein rub: The spice blend creates a quick and flavorful rub for any protein.  Drizzle your chicken thighs, steak, pork, shrimp or fish with olive oil then rub with Jerk Seasoning and let rest for 20-30 minutes at room temperate.  Finish off your protein with a nice squeeze of lime after cooking.  Use 1 to 1 ½ tablespoons as a dry rub for 1 pound of protein. 
  • Marinade:  Make a quick wet rub marinade by whisking together 2 tablespoons Jerk Seasoning, 2 tablespoons olive oil, zest and juice of one lime and 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce. Use for 1 to 1 ½ pounds of protein.
 

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2 Comments

  1. Jennifer Fulk says

    This looks awesome! If I was to use the spicier ground habanero powder , how much would I use and would I omit the cayenne ? I am excited to try this as we have never had jerk anything. I’ll bet this would be good rubbed on pork tenderloin.

    • Jen says

      Mmmm, that would be fabulous! Both Scotch bonnet peppers and habaneros range from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU on the Scoville scale, whereas cayenne pepper ranges from 30,000-50,000 SHU, so habaneros are 3 to 7 times hotter! So I think that calculates to about 1/4 to 3/4 tsp. Please let me know how it goes!