Jerk Chicken Tacos

Plate with three jamaican jerk chicken tacos topped with cilantro, pineapple and jerk aioli
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Fresh squeezed lime juice and warmly spicy homemade jerk seasoning liven up the simple grilled chicken that fills this pineapple-loaded, tropical fever dream of a jerk chicken taco recipe. 

It’s “Pressure Drop” in Taco Form. You’re Welcome.

Our personal pinterest boards have been suspiciously repetitive lately —glittery turquoise water lapping gently against endless stretches of milky-white, powder-soft sand. A gauzy hammock here, an overwater bungalow there. But, the cold hard truth is that the closest we’re getting to any of this right now is a bracing dip in a 50-degree Pacific Northwest river. Not that we’re complaining, but that’s just not quite the tropical-vacation vibe that we long for. These pineapple-topped jerk chicken tacos, however, are exactly what the (imaginary) travel agent ordered. 

platter of grilled jerk chicken thighs with grilled pineapple

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 Jamiacan 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. 

Is Jerk Chicken Spicy?

Now that you’ve read our little jerk chicken 101 (see above), and you’re—let’s be honest— basically kind of an expert, you probably can guess the answer to this. Yes, jerk chicken is a little spicy! But is it crazy spicy? Not really. Especially if you’re using our recipe for homemade jerk spice blend—with black pepper and cayenne, it’s got a little kick. But, it’s primarily just a really warming spice rub that makes our jerk chicken sing with beautiful Caribbean flavors.

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 is OK, too. Here’s how to make jerk chicken thighs on the grill (or in the oven, if you must): 

  • 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!
  • 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 get a little fancy and turn the grilled chicken into jerk chicken tacos.
Plate with three jamaican jerk chicken tacos topped with cilantro, pineapple and jerk aioli

Jerk Chicken Tacos: Fusion at its Finest. 

We love tacos, and we love jerk chicken, so this jerk chicken taco recipe basically wrote itself. Our jerk chicken taco toppings are plentiful and flavorful. This is a great meal to enlist a helper (or helpers)—put one person on chicken-grilling duty, while the other one stays inside and preps the jerk chicken taco toppings: 

  • Jerk sauce aioli: as non-traditional as it gets, and SO so good. Just good old mayo, mixed with more lime juice and sour 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 a classic combination, and because pineapple makes things feel vacation-y (always a good thing). 
hand holding a Jamaican jerk chicken tacos

Tools You’ll Need: 

Hello, We’re The Modern Proper and We Love Tacos. 

And no, we don’t think it’s a problem. Vegan tacos, fish tacos and everything in between—there is room for every taco to win.

Better Than Vacay? 

Or at least, an OK substitute? We hope you loved these pineapple-y, jerk spice aioli-topped jerk chicken tacos, and if you made them we want to know! Snap a photo, and maybe even a video of the beautiful people you fed them to. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper. Happy eating!

Plate with three jamaican jerk chicken tacos topped with cilantro, pineapple and jerk aioli

Jerk Chicken Tacos

Serves 6

Ingredients

1 1/2 lbs boneless skinless thighs
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp jerk seasoning, divided
2 tbsp fresh squeezed lime juice, divided
12 flour (or corn) tortillas, street size
1/4 cup red onion, minced
2 cups pineapple, diced
2 cups green cabbage, shredded
cilantro
lime

Jerk Aioli

1 cup mayonnaise
2 tbsp jerk seasoning
1 tbsp lime juice

Method

  1. In a small bowl whisk together the olive oil, 2 tbsp jerk seasoning, 2 tbsp lime juice. Add the chicken thighs and stir to coat with marinade.
  2. Cook the chicken thighs:
    1. Grill: Preheat grill to high heat. Reduce heat to medium and place the chicken on the grill cook 6–8 min. Flip and cook on the other side for an additional 6–8 min Until a meat thermometer reads 165°F.
    2. Oven: Heat oven to 425° F. Move the oven rack to the center of the oven. Place the chicken in a single layer in a baking dish or on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until the chicken has an internal temperature of 165°F about 20 minutes.
  3. For the jerk aioli whisk together the mayonnaise with 1 tbsp lime juice and 2 tbsp jerk seasoning in a small bowl.
  4. Slice the chicken into thin pieces.
  5. Warm the tortillas. Fill each taco with chicken, onion, pineapple, cilantro and cabbage. Drizzle with jerk aioli sauce. Enjoy!