Looking for an easy way to add bold, Caribbean flavors to your grilled meat, seafood, or vegetables? Look no further than spicy Jerk Seasoning. This is a great spice mix to DIY because you can customize it with as little or as much spice as you’d like.
When I was a teenager my family was on vacation in the Caribbean and, eating lunch at some idyllic beach restaurant, I had my first introduction to Jerk chicken. It was HOT. I remember it as one of those hurts-so-good spicy food moments. My mouth was on fire. But that chicken was so good that I couldn’t stop eating it! Over the years, and after living in Thailand (spicy food central), my spice tolerance has grown, but I still run into Jerk-spiced foods that are too spicy for my taste.
Enter homemade Jerk seasoning. All the flavor, but you can make it as spicy or as mild as you like. Even without the spice, this seasoning blend is still packed with flavor and is great with any protein or vegetable.
Ingredients for Jerk Seasoning
- Sugar – This might be surprising, but sugar is an important ingredient in jerk seasoning. The sugars caramelize as the seasoning cooks, helping to give meats or vegetables that blackened color and flavor.
- Dried herbs – Dried thyme and dried parsley give the seasoning herb flavor and some added color. Be sure to use dried herbs that are flaked in texture (not ground herbs that are a fine powder).
- Dried spices – Paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, allspice, nutmeg, and cinnamon. It’s a surprising blend of flavors but that is what makes Jerk Seasoning so unique. Be sure that you use garlic powder and onion powder (not garlic salt or onion salt which may make the mix too salty).
- Ground Black Pepper – While salt and pepper are sometimes optional in DIY seasoning blends, don’t skip the ground black pepper in this blend. It is a essential to the authentic Jerk flavor and adds a subtle spice.
- Cayenne Powder – Here is where you can control the spice. This is very spicy, so start with a little. You can always add more to your dish when you’re cooking with the seasoning later.
- Salt – It’s up to you if you’d like to add salt to this seasoning mix. If you prefer, you can make and store the seasoning without salt – just be sure to add it later when you use the seasoning in a recipe.
What is the Best Way to Store Herbs and Spices?
Dry herbs and spices are best stored in a cool, dry place in airtight containers. If you purchase them in plastic or glass jars, you can leave them in those containers. If you purchase them in plastic bags (like from the bulk section), it’s a good idea to transfer them to hard-sided plastic or glass containers to help them retain their flavor.
As I’ve mentioned throughout this series on homemade seasoning mixes, for almost 10 years, I have used 4-oz. mason jars to store my dried herbs and spices, and I’m totally hooked on this method. The uniform jars make it easy to see everything at once and to identify which spices are running low. It also prevents me from buying duplicates. These jars have a wide opening, so it’s easy to measure out as much as I need, even with a large measuring spoon.
Favorite Jerk Seasoning Recipe
- 4 oz Mason Jars
- 1/2 tsp Granulated Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Dried Thyme
- 1/2 tsp Dried Parsley
- 1/2 tsp Paprika
- 1/4 tsp Garlic Powder (not garlic salt)
- 1/4 tsp Onion Powder (not onion salt)
- 1/4 tsp Ground Black Pepper
- 1/4 tsp Ground Allspice
- 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp Cinnamon
- 1/8 tsp Cayenne Powder (use more or less depending on your spice preference)
- 1/2 tsp Salt (optional; see note)
- Combine all ingredients in an airtight container.
- Seasoning blends will taste best if used within 6 months (but most can be safely stored in a cool, dry place for up to a year).
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