Jerk Chicken Pasta

September 8, 2015 (Last Updated: June 29, 2020)
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a bowl of pasta in tomato sauce with pieces of jerk chicken

Along with Usain Bolt (the fastest man alive), Bob Marley (the face of reggae), and the Jamaican bob sled team (the subject of one of the best sports movies ever: Cool Runnings), Jerk chicken is one of the most famous symbols of Jamaica.

a closeup of pasta tossed in tomato sauce and pieces of jerk chicken

I’ve actually visited Jamaica once as port of call on a Western Caribbean cruise on the Disney Fantasy in May of 2014. We drove by Usain Bolt’s high school on our way to Montego Bay.

view of a school through a car window
Really bad picture of Usain Bolt’s high school in Falmouth, Jamaica

We had a private tour and then hit up Doctor’s Cave Beach where we dined on jerk chicken at the beach-side restaurant called Sand and drank a frozen drink called a Bob Marley (it featured layers of mango, banana, and strawberry frozen daiquiris)

A group of people on a tropical beach
a group of people swimming at a Caribbean beach
a restaurant sign that says Sand
outdoor beach-side tables and chairs covered with orange umbrellas
a frozen cocktail with red, orange, and green layers
A Bob Marley frozen cocktail
A plate of jerk chicken with rice and peas and slaw
Jerk chicken on the beach!

And then escaped from a crazy Caribbean storm that we watched slowly approaching the beach from the other side of the bay. Thankfully, we finished eating just in the nick of time.

A group of people on a beach with a storm in the distance
It’s raining to the right of the picture. Not so scary… YET.
dark storm clouds in the distance beyond a tropical beach
Oh look, the sky is getting darker… and scarier!
A group of people sitting under beach umbrellas with a gloomy storm in the distance
Full-blown Armageddon is headed our way! Run away, run away!

With the exception of bobsledding, it was pretty much the ultimate Jamaican experience 🙂

A group of people sitting at a beach with palm trees nearby

We also have a wonderful Jamaican restaurant in Providence called Half Way Tree, where the chef hails from Jamaica, and whips up some of the best Jamaican food you’ll find outside of the Caribbean.

A plate of jerk chicken with rice and peas and plantains
Jerk chicken at Half Way Tree

I enjoy cooking food from all around the world in my own kitchen. If I can make a meal that reminds me of my travels, then at least my tastebuds can imagine they’re on vacation. I own a couple Caribbean cookbooks, and have really enjoyed exploring them over the years. I recently decided to whip up a batch of Jamaican jerk seasoning.

overhead view of a bowl of pasta with chicken

The sauce is incredibly versatile. I’ve used it before on shrimp and ribs as well. I found a fun, contemporary (read: non-traditional) recipe in one of my Caribbean cookbooks for a delectable jerk chicken pasta dish. It only uses 1 tablespoon of the jerk seasoning, so I froze the remainder in 1 tablespoon portions in an ice cube tray, and then transferred the frozen cubes to a freezer bag for future use.

a closeup of jerk chicken pasta with tomato sauce in a bowl

Slices of chicken are marinated in the jerk seasoning and then sauteed with onion and garlic. Red wine, fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, and chicken stock simmer with the sauteed jerk chicken until thickened. The slightly spicy chicken really permeates the sauce even though there is a minimal amount of jerk seasoning used in the recipe. It isn’t really spicy, but rather offers a bit of warmth along with great flavor from all the spices used in jerk seasoning–allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more.

jerk chicken pasta with a tomato-based sauce served in a shallow bowl

Each time I make jerk seasoning, I up the spice level just a bit. The very first time, I swapped the scotch bonnet peppers for jalapeno. The second time I used one habanero (easier to procure than scotch bonnet). This time I used two habaneros. Since the chicken is also tossed in sauce, the flavor isn’t as pungent as it would be if eaten on its own. I’m thinking two habaneros is probably a safe number (no seeds of course). You can use your judgement. And always wear gloves when handling these bad boys!

a shallow bowl of pasta with chicken in a tomato sauce

I really love this pasta dish. It’s so unique and unexpected. You have the traditional tomato base, but there is really so much other flavor going on in there, between the wine, the chicken stock, the onions and garlic, and the jerk chicken. It’s easy to make, as well. The most complex part is peeling, seeding, and chopping the tomatoes. Scoring the bottoms of the tomatoes and dropping them in some boiling water for a few seconds makes that process much easier.

jerk chicken pasta with tomato sauce served in a wide bowl

Next time you’re seeking a fun and unique pasta recipe, look no further than this Caribbean-inspired jerk chicken pasta! And just imagine this is the view from your dinner table…

A group of people sitting at a beach with striped umbrellas
jerk chicken pasta with tomato sauce served in a wide bowl

Jerk Chicken Pasta

This creative take on jerk chicken combines bite-size pieces of spiced chicken with pasta and a delicious tomato sauce.
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 20 mins
Resting Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 35 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Servings 4 to 6 servings
Calories 493 kcal


  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs (I used 2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts instead)
  • 1 tablespoon Jamaican jerk seasoning (recipe follows)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 2 to 3 garlic cloves chopped
  • 1/4 cup red wine
  • 4 plum tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped (I used 2 larger summer tomatoes)
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup water or chicken stock
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound dried penne or rigatoni (I used campanelle pasta)
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or parsley
  • Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, or crumbled feta cheese, to serve (optional)


  • Cut the chicken into strips. Rub thoroughly with the jerk seasoning (wear gloves!), cover and let sit for at least 1 hour in the refrigerator.
  • Heat the oil in a skillet. Saute the chicken pieces until browned. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. Do not allow the garlic to burn.
  • Deglaze the pan with red wine, scraping up the slightly burned bits in the pan. Simmer for 1 minute and then add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, stock, salt and pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes uncovered, allowing the sauce to reduce and thicken. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  • Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil. Salt it generously and add the pasta, stirring occasionally, and cooking until al dente (see package for suggested cooking times). Drain immediately in a large colander.
  • Toss the hot, drained pasta with the sauce and add the basil or parsley. Sprinkle with cheese, if desired. Serve immediately.

Notes & Nutrition

Adapted from Eat Caribbean
Servings 6.0 * calories 493 * Total Fat 12 g * Saturated Fat 3 g * Monounsaturated Fat 4 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 1 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 90 mg * Sodium 559 mg * Potassium 382 mg * Total Carbohydrate 65 g * Dietary Fiber 5 g * Sugars 8 g * Protein 32 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*
a shallow bowl of pasta with chicken in a tomato sauce

Jamaican Jerk Seasoning

Easily make homemade Jamaican jerk seasoning with this recipe.
Prep Time 10 mins
Total Time 10 mins
Course Sauces
Cuisine Caribbean, Jamaican
Servings 10 servings (2/3 cup)


  • 1/4 cup cane vinegar or distilled white vinegar
  • 6 scallions
  • 1 to 3 Scotch bonnet or Habanero peppers (use 1 pepper if you don’t want it seriously hot!)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 2 teaspoons allspice berries or 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


  • Mash the ingredients together in a mortar and pestle until smooth, or place ingredients in a small food processor or blender and puree into a thick paste.

Notes & Nutrition

From Eat Caribbean
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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