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Jerk Seasoning

Jerking is a cooking method native to the island country of Jamaica. Here, meat is wet marinated or dry-rubbed before slowly cooking with woods. This technique was discovered in 1655. Later on, the traditional jerking was replaced by charcoal-grilling through the use of a steel drum called jerk pan. Still, the marinade or dry rub is called Jamaican jerk spice, or simply jerk seasoning.

Jerk seasoning is mainly composed of allspice and Caribbean red peppers a.k.a Scotch bonnet. But, some ingredients may include other herbs, spices, and even brown sugar. Still, it offers an earthy and smoky taste, with a hint of sweetness and a severe heat that you’ll never forget. It was originally used to flavor pork and chicken. But due to modernization, it is now being used to season fish, crustaceans, shellfish, beef, lamb, goat, sausages, vegetables, and tofu.

Jerk Seasoning Trivia

  • Jerk seasoning is believed to be concocted by Coromantee African slaves who escaped from Jamaica. On the other hand, some historians also claimed that the indigenous people of Taino in the Caribbean were the ones responsible for its development. Perhaps, jerk seasoning really originated from the Tainos and the Jamaican Maroons, the name for the Coromantee African slaves who ran away from Jamaica, just learned from the local Tainos.
  • Jerk seasoning is one of the most flavorful yet one of the spiciest seasoning in the world.
  • America honors Caribbean food. Thus, Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival, the oldest and the best jerk event, is being held in South Florida every November. The city of Houston in the state of Texas is also home to the annual Houston Jerk Fest.

Jerk Seasoning Buying Guide

Jerk seasoning is widely available in the state of Texas from large supermarkets such as H-E-B and Natural Grocers to online shops and farmers’ markets. The only downside of buying the store-bought ones is the purity of its ingredients that largely affects the flavor of the seasoning; some liquid jerk seasonings are watered down and some powdered ones have overpowering flavors. Nevertheless, here are some things to look out for when you opt to buy the store-bought ones:

  1. You can find jerk seasoning in the spice aisle section of the store.
  2. Although no-salt-added, reduced-sodium, or low-sodium jerk seasonings are healthier, most of them taste a little blander.
  3. Check out the ingredients list to see if there are preservatives or other spices involved in the product. You may want to choose a jerk seasoning that has its original components which are the following: cinnamon, scallions, nutmeg, cloves, thyme, ginger, garlic, salt, and brown sugar.
  4. As always, jerk seasonings from local food vendors and artisans in farmers’ markets are better than the mass-produced ones. Here, you’ll get close to no preservatives and the ingredients are usually organic. Their products are also made in small batches and you might be able to get free samples along the way. And, don’t forget that our Texas Real Food website is home to all Texan vendors that would love to hear from you.

Jerk Seasoning Production & Farming in Texas

Jamaican or Caribbean restaurants and joints are scattered throughout the state of Texas. And, all of these food places use both jerk seasoning and the jerking technique. Since this seasoning is mostly imported from Jamaica, some Texans prefer to hand-blend it instead of buying the imported ones. Moreover, local artisans also craft this blend to sell at various farmers’ markets.

Pesticides, additives, and chemicals:

Fortunately, most of the store-bought jerk seasonings are free from additives. However, some manufacturers add some ingredients to fortify the product while mass-producing a longer-lasting item at a lesser cost. Thus, here are some additives and chemicals that we found on a very few brands:  

  • Potassium Sorbate – This additive is used to retard yeast and molds in foods, thus acting as a preservative. It is a chemical that is commonly found in cosmetics where it can lead to scalp or skin irritation. That being said, consuming this chemical can cause allergic reactions and headaches. 
  • Modified Food Starch – This additive is usually made with wheat, potato, corn, or tapioca. It acts as a binding agent, thickener, stabilizer, and preservative. This additive offers empty calories – they provide no nutritional value, yet it adds a considerable amount of carbohydrates which can promote weight gain. This ingredient should also be avoided by someone who is gluten intolerant. 
  • Citric Acid – This additive is a natural preservative in foods. It is a weak and organic acid that is found on citrus fruits. Thus, citric acid adds that sour or acidic taste to the product. Although it is generally classified as safe to consume, it may cause muscle cramps, weight gain, stomach pain, and convulsions.
  • Natural Flavorings – These are additives that are used to intensify the flavors of the product. For jerk seasoning, some natural flavorings that are not part of its main components include the following: tomatoes, habanero peppers, and vinegar.


Jerk seasoning can be bought in either liquid or powdered form which can be packaged in a variety of ways. Most commercial ones come in plastic containers that weigh between 4 ounces to 32 ounces. Some also come in pouches and single-use packets. 

Enjoying Jerk Seasoning

Jerk seasoning is traditionally used as a rub or marinade. It is evenly distributed onto the meat before marinating in the fridge for at least two hours to overnight. Then, the meat is either slow-cooked, grilled, or roasted. Besides that, it is also a popular seasoning for scrambled eggs, dips like guacamoles and mayonnaise, french fries, and sandwiches.


Jerk seasoning should be kept in a sealable and air-tight container. For dried variants, you may use a spice jar with a tight-fitting lid on. It should then be stored in a cool and dry area far from humid and hot zones like stoves, grills, and ovens to prolong their shelf life. Following these, jerk seasoning will maintain its best quality and potency for about 2-3 years. To optimize its longevity, keep the container tightly closed when not in use.

Likewise, liquid jerk seasoning should be kept in an air-tight container and stored in a cool and dry area. However, upon opening of the package, it should be then transferred to the refrigerator, where it would last for about 6 months to 1 year.

Make your own Jerk Seasoning (Texas Style):

Jerk seasoning is relatively easy to make at home. It only takes less than 10 minutes to gather your ingredients, measure, and finally blend. The only advice we can give you is to try not to be disappointed or scared when you use this seasoning and your meat turns black. It is not burnt, trust me. It is the seasoning that gets black but this color has nothing to do with its flavor. Below is a Texas-style recipe that you can use as a meat rub. Liquid ingredients are added here; thus, we suggest you blend this paste-consistency seasoning when you are about to jerk some meat. Otherwise, remove the liquid ingredients and pre-blend the spices ahead of time and store for later use.

Yield: 1 serving = 10-12 tablespoons; enough to season 1 lb of meat


  • ¼ cup regular olive oil
  • ½ lime, juiced
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 (or more) Scotch Bonnet Pepper, ground
  • 1 tbsp thyme
  • ½ tbsp allspice
  • ½ tbsp ginger, ground
  • ½ tbsp kosher salt or sea salt
  • ½ tbsp onion powder
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp dried rosemary
  • ¼ tsp paprika


  1. Blend all the ingredients in a food processor or blender. 
  2. To use: marinate a pound of meat in the mixture for at least two hours. Slow-cook with wood chips using smoker, oven, or griller. Or, grill right away over high heat.



  • Serving Size: 1 Teaspoon, (1.4g)
  • Calories: 6.6 3.5
  • Carbs: 0.8g 0%
  • Sugar: 0.8g
  • Fiber: 0g 0%
  • Protein: 0g 0%
  • Fat: 0.4g 1%
  • Saturated Fat: 0g 0%
  • Trans Fat 0g 0%
  • Cholesterol 0mg 0%
  • Sodium 66mg 3%
  • Vitamin C 0.1%
  • Vitamin A 0.2%
  • Calcium 0.1%
  • Iron 0.1%
  • Potassium 2.5mg 0%
  • Vitamin B6 0.2mg 11%
  • Magnesium 29.7mg 11%
  • Folate 24.2mcg 6%

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