This Jamaican jerk BBQ sauce recipe is the perfect combination of fiery, sweet, and smoky. This mouthwatering sauce blends together a traditional American barbecue sauce with Caribbean heat and flavor for a seriously unique and flavorful sauce that’s great for grilling season.
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I make a lot of BBQ sauces around here, I am not a store-bought sauce kind of person. From sweet and sticky apricot BBQ sauce to a classic tangy gluten-free Tennesse-style barbecue, I think there is a BBQ sauce for every occasion.
And there is something about this recipe with its traditional flavors mixed with classic BBQ that I can't get enough of.
📖Why This Recipe Works
For this recipe, I tried to avoid any pre-made jerk sauces or jerk seasonings as it can be hard to find traditional brands at most US supermarkets. Instead, I use the base ingredients to make this jerk sauce from scratch. All the flavor, no tracking down fancy ingredients.
As for flavor, we balance the sweet and spicy. I skipped the lime juice in favor of pineapple. Pineapple is both acid and naturally sweet creating the perfect balance of flavors.
Ketchup - Ketchup is the base for almost all barbecue sauces that we know and love. Don’t have any? You can use tomato paste mixed with a touch of vinegar and sugar.
Brown Sugar - Brown sugar adds sweetness to the sauce. It also thickens the sauce and gives it a glossy, rich texture that’s perfect for dipping and spreading. Substitute with molasses, if needed.
Pineapple Juice - Pineapple juice brings a sweet, acidic note to the sauce with a hint of fruitiness, which is amazing with the scotch bonnet peppers. Orange juice or mango juice make decent substitutes, but the flavor will be different.
Scotch Bonnet Peppers - Scotch bonnet peppers are very spicy and have a delicious fruity aroma. They are the traditional pepper used in Jamaican cooking, especially Jerk sauce. They can be hard to find, so if needed, they can be substituted with habanero peppers. If you aren’t a fan of spice, you can decrease the number of peppers or use a jalapeno instead.
Garlic- use fresh garlic, as dried garlic powder just won't do.
Ginger - Again, use fresh ginger, not ginger powder for the best result.
Dried Spices - Cinnamon, allspice, and nutmeg are all traditional spices used to make Jamaican jerk seasoning. They add amazing depth and flavor to the sauce. Cinnamon isn’t often thought of as a savory spice, but just try it, and you’ll understand how amazing it can be!
Scallions (Green Onions) - These provide a pungent flavor, but can easily be omitted or replaced with any sweet onion, or finely chopped green onion.
Worcestershire Sauce - Soy sauce is also an option if you want to make this BBQ sauce vegan.
See the recipe card for exact quantities.
🍲How to Make Jerk BBQ Sauce
This spectacular Jerk barbecue sauce comes together in just a few simple steps for an amazingly flavorful and versatile condiment.
Roughly chop the peppers and green onions.
Using a blender or food processor, combine all ingredients.
Blend for about a minute until smooth.
Place the sauce mixture into a pan over medium heat and bring the sauce to a simmer. Turn the heat to low, and cook the sauce until thickened.
Jerk sauce is traditionally extremely spicy. You can make a mild version of this recipe by reducing the scotch bonnets to a single habanero pepper. If that is too spicy still, consider a jalapeno pepper.
🥣 How to Use Jark BBQ Sauce
The classic way to serve this sauce is jerk chicken, of course. Brush it on while your chicken cooks on the grill low and slow. But there are so many ways to use jerk BBQ sauce. Here are a few ideas:
- As a dipping sauce for french fries, chicken fingers, or onion rings.
- Use as the sauce on BBQ chicken pizza.
- Use it like traditional BBQ sauce on baby back ribs.
- Use it in place of ketchup on a burger.
A high-powered blender can puree this sauce without any issues. If you are using a less powerful blender or a food processor, chop up the peppers, garlic, and scallions before blending.
You may need to scrape the sides of the blender or food processor to help all of the ingredients touch the blades.
This sauce can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight jar or container for up to two weeks.
This sauce can be frozen for up to three months. Freeze in an ice cube tray for easy portioning before transferring to an airtight container or freezer bag.
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💭 Frequently Asked Questions
If you don’t have a jug blender or food processor, this sauce can be made with an immersion blender or a food mill. However, this sauce is difficult to make without a power tool of some kind.
This sauce would make an excellent marinade for pork, chicken, or vegetables. When marinating, allow the meat to sit for at least an hour for the best flavor.
Jerk sauce is a spicy condiment that is most commonly used as a marinade or seasoning for grilled meat. It is made from jerk seasoning and a distinctive flavor from Scotch bonnet peppers.
Allspice and thyme are the two most notable spices in jerk seasonings and sauces. However, the sauce also includes garlic, ginger, onions, and vinegar.
The technique of jerking, which involves marinating meat in a spicy mixture and grilling it over a wood fire, has been practiced in Jamaica for centuries.
📖 Printable Recipe Card
Jerk BBQ Sauce
- 2 cups ketchup
- ½ cup brown sugar
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 6 scallions chopped
- 3 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 3 cloves garlic finely minced
- 2-3 scotch bonnet peppers deseeded and chopped
- 1 1- inch piece fresh ginger peeled and minced or grated
- 1 Tablespoon ground allspice
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves not ground
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- Place all the ingredients into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. about 60 seconds.
- Pour the sauce into a a saucepan. Place on medium-high until the sauce begins to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes until thick.
- Store leftover sauce in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks.
- The best substitute for scotch bonnets is habanero peppers.
- This is a spicy sauce, increase or decrease the peppers as desired. For a mild sauce use 1 jalapeno instead of a habanero or scotch bonnet.
- This recipe yields approximately 2 cups of sauce.
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