The Pretend Chef

Jamaican Jerk Marinade (sauce)

Spicy, aromatic and mildly sweet Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Jerk marinade (sauce) is hot, spicy, aromatic and mildly sweet. Any time Jamaican food is mentioned, we instantly think Jerk! Jerk seasoning has been developed over centuries by the Jamaicans with locally available ingredients and others added due to different influences.

It reminds me so much of the versatile Nigerian suya spice. It can make or break your barbecue, it can also be incorporated into so many dishes and everyone is trying to get the perfect recipe. This recipe is far better than any you can get in a jar. Really, there are two key ingredients in the Jamaican Jerk marinade, Allspice (Pimento) and scotch bonnet. Others are spring onions (scallions), thyme and ginger.

Spicy, aromatic and mildly sweet Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Jerk is both a method of cooking and a spice mix, there is the Jerk marinade (sauce) and the Jerk seasoning (dry rub). Although Jerk marinade has a long list of ingredients, most of which you are likely to already have in your kitchen, it is very easy to make.

Jerk marinade is most commonly used on chicken and pork but is also used on fish, goat, seafood, even vegetables and fruits.

About Allspice or Pimento seed used in Jerk Marinade

Allspice is not a mixture of spices but the dried berry of the pimenta tree, they look like large peppercorn or uziza seeds. It has the flavour profile of a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. If you can’t get Allspice seeds, use the ground allspice (do not confuse it with mixed spice).

In the absence of both the seed or powder, combine 1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 teaspoon cloves + pinch of nutmeg. Allspice is also used to spice up rich fruit cakes, zobo drink etc. I always stock up anytime I come across the seeds.

Other Possible ingredients used in Jerk Marinade

Worcestershire sauce, Mango, Kiwi, rum, bitters, lime juice, pineapple, liquid smoke etc.

To make Jamaican Jerk Marinade (Sauce)

Makes about 1 1/2 cups

3 teaspoons allspice (about 40-60 allspice seeds)*
4 stalks spring onions
1 small red onion
4 garlic cloves
5 scotch bonnet
fresh ginger (about 1-inch)
2 tablespoons brown sugar (packed)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons thyme
1-2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup dark soy sauce
1/2 cup orange juice or juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons vinegar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
*The number of allspice seeds that make 1 teaspoon of powder depends on the size of the seeds.

vegetables and spices for Jamaican jerk marinade

Using a dry mill, grind allspice seeds.

Roughly chop spring onions, red onions, garlic, scotch bonnet and ginger.

Into a blender, food processor or mortar, place allspice, spring onions, red onions, garlic, scotch bonnet, ginger, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, salt and black pepper.

vegetables and spices in a blender for Jamaican jerk marinade

Pour in the soy sauce, orange juice, vinegar and vegetable oil.

Blend till everything is well pureed.

Spicy, aromatic and mildly sweet Jamaican Jerk Marinade

Pour your Jerk marinade into a jar, store in the fridge or use in your recipe.

Store Jerk Marinade in the fridge for a few days and in the freezer for much longer.


  • If the scotch bonnet is too hot for you, remove the seeds and white membrane inside (You might need to use gloves) or use a less spicy pepper like the jalapeno.
  • Grind the allspice seeds before adding the other ingredients for a smoother blend.
  • The addition of fruits will decrease the intensity of the jerk flavour but add extra sweetness to the marinade.
  • In the absence of allspice, combine 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon + 1 teaspoon ground cloves (Kanumfari) + pinch of ground nutmeg.
  • If you don’t have brown sugar use white.
  • Use either white vinegar or apple cider vinegar.

If you enjoyed my Jamaican Jerk Marinade, you will also enjoy my Spicy roasted green pepper sauce, Coconut curry sauce, Jamaican Goat curry, Simple sofrito.

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Spicy, aromatic and mildly sweet Jamaican Jerk Marinade


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