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June 13, 2023

Jerk Chicken Tacos

Fresh lime juice and homemade jerk seasoning liven up simple grilled chicken thighs to fill these pineapple-loaded jerk chicken tacos. Best part? Having leftover jerk sauce aioli!

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jerk chicken tacos topped with onion, pineapple, cabbage, cilantro and jerk aioli. served with a wedge of grilled pineapple
Photography by Gayle McLeod

Easy Jamaican Jerk Chicken Tacos

We’ve made many delicious meals from tasty ingredients folded into fresh Homemade Corn Tortillas, including these easy jerk chicken tacos. You’ll make a cheater jerk sauce aioli using store-bought mayo, and layer on as much diced vegetable and pineapple as your tortillas can hold. We recommend serving with Cilantro-Lime Rice and Classic Potato Salad.

jerk chicken tacos topped with onion, pineapple, cabbage, cilantro and jerk aioli. served with a wedge of grilled pineapple

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What Is Jerk Chicken?

We go into more detail about the history of the “jerk” way of cooking here, but a real, authentic Jamaican jerk chicken recipe would involve cooking chicken over an open fire built out of the wood of a native Jamaican tree called a pimento tree. We’d love to try that sometime—especially since, to make it really authentic we’d obviously need to do it in Jamaica. But, for this recipe, easy jerk chicken is what we’re after—particularly since we’re going to slice it up and load it into cabbage-filled, pineapple-topped, jerk sauce aioli-drizzled (more on that later) jerk chicken tacos. So here, within the context of this recipe, ‘jerk chicken’ refers to chicken thighs that are spiced with a homemade jerk spice blend.

chicken thighs, corn tortillas, red onion, pineapple, cabbage, jerk aioli, olive oil, lime juice and jerk seasoning in bowls

Ingredients You’ll Need To Make Jerk Chicken Tacos

  • Jerk sauce aioli: as non-traditional as it gets, and really tasty. Just good old mayo, mixed with more lime juice and house made jerk spice blend and then drizzled all over your jerk chicken tacos.

  • Diced vegetables: raw red onions, green cabbage and bright cilantro lend their much-needed brightness and texture, slicing through the smoky jerk chicken and creamy aioli with a welcome, vegetal sharpness.

  • Pineapple: because sweet + heat are hard to beat! Check out our Pineapple Pork Stir-Fry with Peppers for more of this winning combo.

olive oil, jerk seasoning and lime juice being whisked together in a glass bowl
chicken thighs seasoned with salt in a bowl with marinade made with  olive oil, jerk seasoning and lime juice
mayonnaise, lime juice and  jerk seasoning being stirred together in a glass bowl to make jerk aioli
jerk marinated chicken thighs being cooked on a grill

How To Make Jerk Chicken:

Our jerk chicken recipe relies on a dry jerk seasoning blend—homemade jerk is our preference, but if you have a store-bought jerk spice blend that you love, that works too. Here’s how to make jerk chicken thighs on the grill, or in the oven:

  • Make a jerk seasoned slurry of jerk seasoning, fresh-squeezed lime juice and olive oil.

  • Toss your boneless, skinless chicken thighs with the jerk sauce and let it sit for a few minutes while you get the grill going.

  • Grill the jerk chicken thighs! Cook over a medium heat, and flip the jerk chicken thighs when they’re about half-cooked. When an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the boneless, skinless chicken thigh says 165°F, pull that jerk chicken off the grill—it’s done!

  • Or bake: If you’re doing it in the oven, you’ll need to lay the jerk-seasoned boneless chicken thighs on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes, or until you get that same 165°F internal temperature reading.

  • Eat! You could serve these jerk chicken thighs as-is, with a Simple Salad or as part of a bigger BBQ spread. But, as you know, we prefer to turn the grilled chicken into jerk chicken tacos. Just line up all of the jerk chicken taco toppings and let your guests make their own tacos.

grilled jerk chicken thighs and grilled pineapples wedges on a baking sheet
grilled jerk chicken thighs being sliced on a cutting board

How to Store Jerk Chicken + Tips

  • Chicken, our best frozen friend. Great to have on hand (uncooked and cooked) in the freezer, this grilled jerk chicken is a great flavorful addition. Store the cooked thighs whole or sliced and freeze for future meals.

  • Making tortillas from scratch makes a huge difference to homemade tacos. We recommend getting a tortilla press and making our Corn Tortillas next time you have taco night.

  • Homemade spice blends make a really nice gift! We like to use these glass jars to make jerk seasoning extra cute for gifting.

jerk chicken tacos topped with onion, pineapple, cabbage, cilantro and jerk aioli. served with a wedge of grilled pineapple
jerk chicken tacos topped with onion, pineapple, cabbage, cilantro and jerk aioli. served with a wedge of grilled pineapple

The Modern Proper Loves Tacos

Vegan tacos, fish tacos and everything in between—there is room for every taco in our hearts.

Taco Time!

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Jerk Chicken Tacos

  • Serves: 6
  • Prep Time:  15 min
  • Cook Time:  20 min
  • Calories: 622

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons Jerk Seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons fresh lime juice (from 2-3 limes)
  • 1½ pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • ¾ cup mayonnaise
  • 12 (4-inch) corn tortillas, warmed
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • 2 cups diced pineapple
  • 2 cups shredded green cabbage
  • Fresh cilantro, for serving

Method

Grill Method:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the jerk seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Season the chicken all over with the salt. Add the chicken thighs and turn to coat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.

  2. Preheat the grill on high until it reaches 450°F. Reduce the heat to medium and place the chicken on the grill. Cook for 5 to 6 minutes per side, or until the internal temperature taken at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

  3. Make the aioli. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, the remaining 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of the remaining jerk seasoning.

  4. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice.

  5. Fill each tortilla with the sliced chicken, onion, pineapple, and cabbage. Serve topped with cilantro and jerk aioli.


Oven Method:

  1. In a large bowl, whisk together the olive oil, 2 tablespoons of the jerk seasoning, and 2 tablespoons of the lime juice. Season the chicken all over with the salt. Add the chicken thighs and turn to coat. Let marinate for at least 30 minutes, up to 24 hours.

  2. Preheat the oven to 425°F with a rack in the center position. Line a rimmed sheet pan with parchment paper.

  3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature taken at the thickest part of the thigh reaches 165°F on an instant-read thermometer.

  4. Make the aioli. In a small bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, the remaining 2 tablespoons of the lime juice, and 2 tablespoons of the remaining jerk seasoning.

  5. Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice.

  6. Fill each tortilla with the sliced chicken, onion, pineapple, and cabbage. Serve topped with cilantro and jerk aioli.

Nutrition Info

  • Per Serving
  • Amount
  • Calories622
  • Protein24 g
  • Carbohydrates30 g
  • Total Fat44 g
  • Dietary Fiber2 g
  • Cholesterol110 mg
  • sodium774 mg
  • Total Sugars8 g

Jerk Chicken Tacos

Questions & Reviews

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  • Katryna

    This sounds DELISH! I was just wondering how long you recommend marinating the chicken for?

    You don't need to let them sit in the marinade for long—just however long it takes you to get the grill going! About 10-15 mins is fine.

  • Chrystal

    These were amazing!!! I have several of your recipes that I love to make often and I am adding this one to the weekly rotation. I’ve also put your cookbook on my Christmas list!!!

    Thanks Chrystal, that is so great to hear! Can't wait for you to get the book!

  • Lauren J

    I have quite a few Modern Proper recipes in my regular rotation (harissa chicken, Thai beef basil and the slow cooker barbacoa beef to name a few) and this takes the cake. These jerk chicken tacos are restaurant quality. We grilled the chicken thighs and followed the recipe exactly and it was the perfect blend of savory, smoky and sweet. I initially halved the aioli thinking it would be too large of a portion for two of us and I ended up making more because it was so delicious mixed into the cabbage. I definitely recommend the jerk oven fries (I use my air fryer) on the side.

    Thank you Lauren, this is all so great to hear! So happy you have several of our recipes in rotation and glad you enjoyed this one as well!

  • Alana

    These were delicious- WOW
    I had to use chicken thighs with skin and bone because that is all the grocery store had (darn COVID).
    My proportions might have been off because of this, but here would be my alterations-
    Too much crema sauce, you only need half or less even (and I loooove mayo, so you could probably just skip it totally if you want). And I like a more veg heavy taco so either decrease chicken or increase cabbage, onion and pineapple.

    Thanks Alana, we are so glad you liked these! We are glad you could make it work with the chicken thighs.

  • Jenn

    So wonderful!

    Thank you Jenn!