This recipe for Jamaican Jerk Spiced Chicken Wings is inspired by our first taste of real jerk chicken on our first trip to Jamaica to celebrate my parent’s 50th anniversary. My parents rented a villa in St. Ann’s Parrish named Mai Oui for the entire family and our guide who drove the property’s tour bus picked us up at the Montego Bay airport then insisted we stop at Scotchie’s in Ocho Rios if we wanted ‘the best’ jerk chicken in Jamaica. We loved the casual atmosphere and the service was warm and welcoming. The chicken was mouthwatering and cooked to perfection (and the Red Stripe really did taste better in Jamaica).
When developing this recipe for Jamaican Jerk Spiced Chicken Wings we knew we had to use a wood fire like they do in Jamaica. Real Jamaican jerk chicken is cooked using pimento wood. There is currently only one importer to the U.S., so getting your hands on some takes a little advance planning so we improvised with some pecan wood that we had. We tweak the spice proportions a couple of times, but in my opinion, the wood smoke truly made the difference. If you don’t have the equipment for that, they will still taste great coming off a gas grill or even the oven if that’s your best option.
Key Ingredients and Substitutions
While there is a long list of ingredients for the spice mix it comes together quickly, and the rest of the prep is simple.
The complete ingredient list and measurements are listed in the printable recipe below.
- Chicken Wings: We used bought whole wings and then cut them into drums and flats. You can substitute legs, thighs, or leg quarters that have both. We don’t recommend breasts since the fat helps release the flavor of the spice blend.
- Spices: Yes, there are 15 spices and herbs in this recipe. You can turn the heat up or down by adjusting the amount of cayenne pepper and hot pepper flakes.
How to Make Jamaican Jerk Spiced Chicken Wings
Here are the quick step-by-step instructions with visuals; you can find the full instructions with the exact ingredients in the recipe card below.
Pro-tip: Buy whole wings because by weight you could pay upwards of twice as much to buy chicken wings already broken down into the drumettes and flats. We’ve got easy directions below on how to butcher them yourself, and any scraps can be frozen and used to enrich your chicken broth for soup or other recipes.
1. Create the spice mix: If you have any whole spices, toast them in a dry frying pan until you just begin to smell them then grind them while they are still warm. Add the rest of the spices and whisk together until everything is evenly distributed.
2. Prep the chicken wings: Take the chicken out of the package and pat everything dry with a paper towel. If you bought whole wings, you can either leave them whole or break them down into drums and flats. Bend back the main joint of the wing until you feel it crack, then use the back third of a chef’s knife to cut them apart. Trim off any excess skin or globs of fat and set aside for chicken broth. To create the flat, use your chef’s knife to cut in the middle of the second joint to remove the wing tip. Add the little tips to your scraps for broth.
3. Spice the wings: In a large bowl put about half the wings and a third of the spice mixture then toss until evenly coated. Place in a zipper seal plastic bag, then repeat with the second half of the wings. Add the remaining spice to the bag, seal it tightly and then shake for a final coating. Place the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours depending on how intense you want the taste of the jerk spice.
4. Prep the grill: If you’re going to use a gas grill or oven, pre-heat as you normally would. The oven should be preheated to 375 degrees Fahrenheit and a gas grill to medium-high. If you’re going to cook the wings over a wood fire (or in an offset smoker like I used) you’ll want to start it 30-45 minutes before you plan to grill. The wood needs to burn down into mostly charcoal before putting the wings on so you don’t overwhelm the final flavor with too much smokiness, which could turn out bitter. If you aren’t seeing any smoke, you can always a couple of small pieces or some barbecue wood chips to bump it up.
5. Grilling the wings: You can use a wood fire grill, gas grill, or even an oven to make these wings. The wings are done once they have reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit and the skin is crispy and a deep mahogany color.
- For a wood fire, leave a little room around each wing, drumette, or flat to allow the smoke to circulate. Turn them fairly often to ensure the skin doesn’t burn – at least a couple of times for each side, plus rotating them to face the fire. When grilling, rotate each line of wings from front to back so they can rest a little bit further away from the fire for part of the total time.
- On a gas grill, you can pack them together a little more closely, but make sure you can still easily flip them.
- If you’re using an oven, you may want to rotate the pan once and also flip the wings over once. The heat is typically more even in an oven so you won’t have to manipulate the individual wings as often.
6. Serve: Allow the wings to rest for at least 10 minutes before serving. Jerk chicken is traditionally served with either a savory rice dish, grilled potatoes, grilled plantains, coleslaw, or potato salad.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Dial in your heat. For the spice mix, cayenne is the source of heat. In our first pass, we found it a bit too hot and it was covering up the taste of the other spices, so we reduced the amount in our second batch. Feel free to further reduce or add more based on your preference for spicy foods.
- Whole spices versus ground. Use a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle to get a more intense spice flavor from the black pepper, allspice, clove, and cumin. Toast them on a dry skillet for a few minutes until you can begin to smell them, then transfer them to your grinder.
- Do you need ALL those spices? If you just don’t have one or two of the spices, you can try making the blend anyway. The same applies if you just don’t like the taste of a particular one. We do would recommend trying just adding half of the amount versus removing it from the recipe as it is the blend of all those spices that gives jerk its unique flavor.
Frequently Asked Questions
You can store any leftover wings in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days for an easy lunch or weekend snack. To reheat place them in aluminum foil and bake for approximately 15-20 minutes at 225 degrees Fahrenheit for the best result; you can microwave them if you’re in a hurry. If you have uncooked chicken wings that have already been spiced, they can be frozen and stored for up to 3 months – thaw them overnight in the refrigerator for the best result.
If you want to make a double or triple batch of the spice mixture just store the unused amount in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place such as a pantry. That should remain fully potent for at least 3 months.
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Other Recipes to Try
If you enjoy this recipe, we recommend checking out some of these:
- Grilled Marinated Flank Steak
- Caramelized Onion Mushroom Swiss Turkey Burger
- Shrimp Tacos with Mango Salsa
Jamaican Jerk Chicken Wings
- Wood Burning Grill, optional
- Cast Iron Grill
- 16 chicken wings
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoons dried thyme, or use 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon paprika, or smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon hot pepper flakes
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ½ teaspoon ground clove
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- Mix all of the spices evenly in a bowl.
- Using a ziplock bag, add 4-6 chicken wings and about a third of the spice mixture, close tightly, and shake to evenly coat the wings. Remove them from the bag and repeat with the remaining wings.
- Set the coated wings on a baking sheet or in a clean zipper bag to rest in the fridge for 1-2 hours prior to grilling.
- Heat the grill up to medium-high and then lightly brush with cooking oil to help prevent the wings from sticking.
- Cook the wings in batches, turning as needed. Chicken skin should develop a deep mahogany color.
- Check the wings with a probe thermometer for a minimum safe internal temperature of 165°F; you can keep them warm in a 225° F oven while cooking the rest.