Instant Pot Jerk Chicken made with a super-flavorful marinade of garlic, ginger, allspice, soy sauce, brown sugar, lime juice, thyme & more. Use bone-in or boneless thighs. This jerk chicken can be spicy or mild, your choice!
If you haven't tried jerk chicken before, you're in for a treat. Although you should know that Instant Pot Jerk Chicken isn't exactly traditional. Jerk chicken is typically crispy and smoky, cooked on the open flames of a grill.
This is an easy pressure cooker version, meant to be cooked any night of the week & any time of year, even if it's not BBQ season. Don't worry, this chicken still has all of the traditional layers of flavor that jerk chicken is known for - salty, sweet, tangy and aromatic.
The fiery heat that usually accompanies jerk chicken is optional here. Go ahead and throw a Scotch Bonnet pepper into the marinade, or not. If you're cooking for young kids (like me) then serving hot peppers or hot sauce on the side make everyone happy.
What Makes This Recipe Work?
- A jerk chicken marinade with lots of traditional flavor
- A fast and easy cooking method - the pressure cooker!
- Kid-friendly (flavorful, but not fiery hot)
- Made with boneless or bone-in chicken thighs
Jerk seasoning is made with ingredients that have Jamaican flavor. This story in the New York Times gives an idea of the traditional ingredients and cooking methods behind jerk chicken.
Jamaican flavor means ginger, thyme, scallions, allspice and fiery hot Scotch bonnet peppers. A touch of sweetness from sugar is balanced with tangy lime and vinegar and a hit of salty soy sauce, which are slightly less traditional and turn the seasoning into a marinade instead of a dry rub.
Traditionally, wood from the allspice tree is used to grill the meat, which gives it a unique sweet, smoky flavor. This recipe for pressure cooker jerk chicken still has a smoky flavor, thanks to the short-cut of adding a pinch of either smoked paprika or liquid smoke.
Scotch bonnet peppers give Jerk seasoning its heat. For this recipe, you can substitute habanero or jalapeno peppers, or just serve your favorite hot sauce on the side.
Boneless or Bone-in Chicken Thighs?
A bit more authentic, since jerk chicken is usually eaten as whole pieces off of the grill. Bone-in thighs are especially succulent when cooked in a pressure cooker, and a great choice for this recipe.
However, if you leave the skin on, you have to decide whether or not it's worth the time and effort to brown the skin in a separate skillet beforehand. I've found that browning the chicken directly in the Instant Pot is a bit of a hassle, and you're likely to end up with burnt bits stuck to the pot. Whether or not you brown the skin, the overall dish will be a bit more greasy if skin-on, bone-in thighs are used.
My favorite choice for this recipe, because they cook faster and you end up with shredded jerk chicken. Shredded chicken is easy to make, easy to eat and easy to save as leftovers. The marinade turns into a sauce while the chicken cooks, and boneless thighs really soak up the flavorful sauce well.
Step 1: Combine marinade ingredients in a food processor or blender
Step 2: Blend marinade ingredients until a chunky paste forms
Step 3 & 4: Pour the marinade over either bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs OR boneless, skinless chicken thighs.
Marinating the meat for a few hours or overnight is optional. You can also just put the chicken and marinade directly into the Instant Pot.
Note: Bone-in skin-on thighs should be browned in a skillet after marinating to crisp up the skin.
Bone-in thighs: 15 minutes, high pressure
Boneless thighs: 8 minutes, high pressure
How to Serve Shredded Jerk Chicken
If you opt for boneless, skinless chicken thighs the shredded meat can be served many different ways.
Jerk chicken and rice: Serve the chicken over white or brown rice or with turmeric coconut rice. Rice is a good way to soak up the sauce that forms while the chicken cooks.
Jerk chicken pasta: Toss the chicken with pasta, adding a drizzle of cream to bring the flavors together
Jerk tacos: Use the shredded meat in tacos and serve with mango salsa
Sweet Potatoes: The flavor of sweet potatoes is perfect with jerk chicken
Greens: Instant Pot collard greens are a perfect side dish.
FAQs About Jerk Chicken
Jerk refers not just to the seasoning, but also to the method of smoking and grilling meat. For this reason, pressure cooked jerk chicken is a loose variation of authentic jerk chicken. Many food historians say that "jerk" comes from a Peruvian word “Charqui” meaning dried strips of meat.
For more jerk recipes, read the cookbooks "Jerk, Barbecue from Jamaica" and "Original Flava".
Most grocery stores sell jerk seasoning in the spice aisle. The blend of spices
(and the heat level) varies between brands. Jerk seasoning can be used as dry rub on chicken or pork, or added to a marinade. However, I like to add my own spices to this recipe instead of using a store-bought blend because I have more control over the flavor.
Allspice is the berry from a pimiento tree. Pimiento trees are native to the West Indies and Jamaica provides much of the world's allspice supply. Allspice berries are sold dried in the spice aisle, either whole or ground. The flavor tastes like a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
You can, but the meat won't be as moist and succulent. Follow the marinade instructions, then cook the chicken in the marinade for 10 minutes on high pressure, with a natural release.
Yes, shredded chicken or whole thighs freeze well in tightly sealed freezer bags. Defrost by putting the frozen chicken in the refrigerator overnight.
Sure, baking or grilling gives the chicken a nice crispy outside. Simply follow the recipe through marinating the chicken. Then bake the chicken on a rimmed sheet-pan at 425 F for 20 minutes (boneless thighs) or 30 to 40 minutes for bone-in thighs. Grill boneless thighs 5 to 8 minutes a side and bone-in thighs for about 30 minutes.
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