A simple dish with a Jamaican taste explosion

Why wouldn’t you want jerk chicken with rice and peas in your life?

  • SERVES: 6
  • PREP TIME: 25 mins
  • COOKING TIME: 40 mins (plus overnight marinating)
  • DIFFICULTY: easy
  • IDEAL FOR: midweek meal, easy meal, crowd-pleaser, Friday night meal, Sunday lunch
  • BUDGET: £

Jerk chicken with rice and peas

I came to the UK and moved to London, as you do (but stayed for 22 years).

And one of my first culinary experiences in East Dulwich and Peckham Rye was jerk chicken from a lovely wee place called Rice n’ Peas (sadly, no longer there).

This very low-key take-away hit every spicy, warm, smoky flavour that made me fall in love with jerk seasoning.

And Jamaican cooking.

Give me a festival dumpling anytime!

Where is jerk seasoning from

There are two parts to the origin.

First, is the Caribbean method of using aromatic pimento wood (which gives a bit of an allspice flavour) from local island trees to cook and smoke their food.

Then the actual method of cooking Jerk Chicken in smoking pits with native Scotch bonnet peppers, sweet allspice berries, thyme and ginger, which is credited to escaped African slaves (now referred to as Maroons) in the 1600s.

Groups of African slaves had been brought to Jamaica by both the English and Spanish to work the sugar plantations. 

When they escaped, they mingled with the Taínos, who taught them the jerk way of cooking. 

Jerk seasoning

So, what is in jerk seasoning that makes it transform chicken, pork and beef.

Well, it goes a bit like this:

  • 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

Rice and peas

We better get this correct from the off.

When you hear or see ‘rice and peas’, don’t think of actual peas.

Instead, think red kidney beans.

Traditional Jamaican rice and peas recipe is rice (usually long grain), red kidney beans (‘peas’), coconut milk, green onions, garlic, thyme, allspice berries and a scotch bonnet.

Quick and easy rice and peas

Rice and peas when made in its truly authentic way, means a little bit more TLC.

Usually, you use dried kidney beans and soak them overnight.

And instead of tinned coconut milk, it involved hand-grating coconut.

However, this recipe is a good nod to the flavours of Jamaica and is nice and quick to make using tinned kidney beans and coconut milk.

Also, if you don’t have a scotch bonnet (I keep some frozen in the freezer), you can sub in habanero pepper.

If you don’t have allspice berries, then substitute ground allspice.

The conversion is six whole allspice berries is the equivalent of 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground allspice. 

Jerk chicken with rice and peas

Where did rice and peas originate?

Rice and peas are a dish that originated in Africa.

For more tasty chicken recipes, visit here.

Jerk chicken with rice and peas

Course Main Course
Keyword chicken, jamaican jerk chicken, rice and peas, jerk chicken
Prep Time 25 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 5 minutes
Servings 6 people
Cost £


  • 6 free-range chicken breasts

Jerk marinade (you can cheat & buy jerk marinade but buy a good brand)

  • 1 big bunch of spring onions, chopped roughly
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, roughly chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 small onion
  • 3 scotch bonnet chillies
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme (or 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves)
  • 1 lime juice
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp ground allspice

For the rice and peas

  • 200 g long rice (or basmati) – rinse the starch off under cold water
  • 400 g coconut milk
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, sliced
  • 2 thyme sprigs
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 x 400 g tinned cans red kidney beans, drained


For the marinade (do the night before if possible)

  • Combine the spring onions, ginger, garlic, onion, scotch bonnet chillies, dried thyme, lime juice, soy sauce, vegetable oil, brown sugar and ground allspice in a food processor along with 1 tsp salt, and blend to a purée.
    – don’t be tempted to add water, as you want a thick paste.
    Taste the jerk mixture for seasoning – it should taste pretty salty, but not unpleasantly salty. Add more chillies if it’s not spicy enough for you. If it tastes too salty and sour, try adding in a bit more brown sugar until the mixture tastes well-balanced.
  • Make a few light cuts in the chicken breasts and pour the marinade over the meat, rubbing it into all the crevices. Cover and leave to marinate overnight in the fridge.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180/200C.
    In a large frying pan, add a little oil and place the marinated chicken skin down. Fry until starting to crisp. Flip to seal the other side.
    Now, place into the oven (skin side up) either in the ovenproof pan or use another tray. Cook for approx. 15 mins or until the chicken has an internal temp. of 74C.

Cook the rice and peas

  • While the chicken is cooking, make the rice and peas.
    Tip the rinsed rice into a large saucepan. Add the coconut milk, spring onions, thyme, garlic and allspice. Season with salt and pepper and add 300 ml water.
    Bring to a boil, add the beans, then turn off the heat and cover the pan and let steam for approx. 15 mins until the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is cooked.
  • Serve on a large platter with the rice and peas first and slices of chicken over top.


Smithsonian Mag

BBC Good Food

Jamaican Food and Recipes