Lately, I’ve had it in my head that I wanted to make some ribs rubbed with Jerk spices (click here for Spicy Jerk Ribs with Chutney Glaze) and then glazed, kind of like I did my Cider Glazed Ribs awhile back but with a definite Jerk flavor. So I checked out the Jerk seasoning at the store. I’m sure it would have been ok, but it was pricy, had additives, and didn’t really have the jerk flavors I was looking for. I want a Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub that’s going to mimic the real-deal Jerk flavors I fell in love with years ago.
It’s funny but that real deal Jerk I had? I had it in Minneapolis. See the kids and I went downtown to a music festival. The lineup was incredible, and we got to see B. B. King and Etta James, rest in peace, and the Nevilles. Somewhere in all of that, we rounded a corner to find a giant barbecue pit one of the restaurants built and they were cooking the most incredible, smoky, spicy jerk pork chops. I didn’t even know what Jerk was at that time…but I knew from the smell we HAD to have it even though we had to wait in line!
About Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub:
So that prompted me to get on the net and search, way back in the day, in the early ’90s – does anybody remember or still use S.O.A.R.? and discover everything I could about Jerk. I even ordered seeds and grew my own habaneros because there were none to be found in the Twin Cities. And I developed the recipe for my Jerk Chicken Breasts, which has only been slightly tweaked over the years – you can never stop learning, amirite?
So my dry Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub HAS to have those key flavors that belong in any Jerk recipe. The first being the habanero, but also the pimento, which is allspice, the cinnamon, ginger, garlic, green onion, and nutmeg, along with a couple other of the “usual suspects.”
The only thing missing is the soy, and believe it or not, I’ve ordered soy powder, but I can’t wait for that – because I just can’t. Must have NOW, lol! Well, that was a little primal outburst, wasn’t it!? In the meantime, I can add a little soy sauce to whatever I’m making and if you don’t want to bother with the soy powder, you can do the same, or you can mix the spices in a little Soy sauce and make a wet rub to apply to whatever you’re making.
You really don’t want to stop at chicken or even at ribs once you have a jar of this magic on hand. Use it for pork chops or pulled pork, sprinkle it on your grilled veggies, dust your roasted potatoes with it, heck – use it on tofu if you’re a vegetarian! Add a touch of it to other recipes or rubs. Try it on your popcorn. It’s spicy hot in a good way (and you can control the heat if you make your own, something you can’t do with store-bought) and I think you’re going to be as nuts about this seasoning as I am!!
Making Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub:
To stay true to the Jerk flavors, my Jerk Seasoning is based off my original Jerk Chicken Breast recipe, only in a dry form. It doesn’t have paprika or ancho or lemongrass or sage, parsley or any of the other weird
aberrations additions I’ve been seeing (I know, I can be such a snob!) either in premade rubs or online recipes.
I think I’m going to amend that just a bit. See, I had a heck of a time getting ahold of habanero powder and had to order it. Since I’m an Amazon Prime member, it wasn’t a big deal, but it is a little pricey. Mine was about 8 bucks, but I did have a five-dollar credit for ordering slow shipping on a prior Amazon order. Check it out if you’re a Prime member, and no, I’m not being paid to mention that.
A decent substitute is a little cayenne for the habanero powder, or even better, a little cayenne along with a touch of red pepper flakes. I guess you could even get some habaneros, dry them and pulverize them…it all just depends how true you want to stay to the flavors and/or how geeky you are (even I’m not quite that geeky!) as opposed to how much you just want a jar of Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub at your fingertips to use on just about anything you’d like to put it on.
Keep in mind that the Habanero pepper and the Scotch bonnet each rank at 350, 000 Scoville units and Cayenne is only 40,000 Scoville units so you may need to experiment for your ultimate heat level. The Scoville scale is a ranking of the heat of various peppers. the higher the number, the hotter the pepper. I gotta mention be careful with these ingredients and wash your hands well after and don’t breathe in the powder or you’ll be sneezing for sure.
The other thing that’s pricey is a jar of freeze-dried green onions! Zatarain’s makes them, but I decided to just do what I do with some of my herbs. I bought a bunch of green onions, chopped off the white bottom, sliced the green parts laid them between 2 layers of paper napkins (or paper towel), and microwaved them. I went three minutes, then turned them over, then two minutes and stirred, and then one more minute, and voila – dried green onions. Microwaves vary in strength so you’ll have to tinker. The white parts can be stuck in water or dirt, inside or out, and will regrow. It turns out the green parts of five green onions equals about a tablespoon.
Saving Money on Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub:
There are times when you absolutely need the best quality ingredients in a mix, and there are times when savvy shopping can save you a bit of hard-earned cash. Making your own spice mixes is one of those times.
- Buy in Bulk: Purchase the dried herbs and spices in bulk or larger containers to save money. Often, larger quantities are more cost-effective than smaller amounts. This is especially true in items most used, and for standard “American” cooking, some of the most used items are paprika, onion, and garlic powder. These are building blocks for many spice blends as well as rubs for barbecue or grilling.
- Grow Your Own: Consider growing some of the herbs, like oregano, parsley, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, mint, oregano, and basil, in your garden or in pots. This not only saves money but also provides you with fresh herbs whenever you need them and with the exception of basil, these all dry beautifully at the end of the season. If you plan right you may be able to bring herbs inside to overwinter. Generally, the cost of a plant is about the same amount as a small packet or bundle of herbs from the refrigerated section of the produce department.
- Buy Whole Spices: Seldom used spices (this works for chiles, too) can be bought in whole form if available. Most will keep for literally years in a glass jar, tightly lidded, in a cool, dark cupboard. Grind as needed and you’ll never have to toss old jars that have lost their oomph. If a spice will not break down to a powdery substance, shake it through a small strainer.
- Check in Different Areas: Check various areas of the store: You will almost always find dried spices and herbs in the baking aisle, but check any “ethnic” areas as well as the produce aisle. Many groceries sell dried spices and herbs in cellophane packets near the produce.
- Shop Around: Do check your big box stores for surprising deals. Also if you have access to any markets, especially Asian, Middle Eastern, and Latino markets, they may have stellar pricing and may have items not found in a regular chain grocery.
- Watch Sales: Spice sales do happen sporadically throughout the year, but generally, most producers offer specials, sales, coupons, and Catalinas in the Spring. Watch for them. A Catalina, if you are not familiar, is a piece of paper that is generated when an item is bought. That slip of paper will key you in on current or future sales (maybe unadvertised otherwise.)
- Be Wary: There’s a lot of advice online to buy spices in very small amounts from measure-your-own bulk jars. To buy all spices and herbs this way is generally insanely expensive. Consider this only if a one-off spice or herb is needed.
- Skip Expensive Brands: Don’t be swayed by fancy packaging or expensive brands. Check the ingredients and opt for the most affordable options available. Be wary of items sold in large bins for $1.00 for a small jar. They may or may not be cost-effective compared to buying in bulk, for instance.
- Know Your Spices & Herbs: While this covers buying spices and herbs, know how long they are good for and how to store them properly. Never toss spices or herbs after a year on the advice of a celebrity chef. I’ve written extensively on these subjects. Follow this link and scroll to the bottom of the pages to “You May Also Like.”
With this spice mix, the habanero powder was a bit pricey, around 8 bucks for a small bag, which was around a cup, and that’s more than I can use unless I want to make huge quantities. So many of these spices I already have on hand and so many of those are cheap, basic spices (the basics can be bought in large plastic jugs in the big box stores, buyers clubs, and sometimes the grocery or dollar stores) and that offsets the pricier habanero powder.
This has the real deal taste of jerk, all killer, no filler and is fresh & clean, and makes quite a bit more than what you’d get for the same amount of money if you bought your mix, depending on the quality of that mix – the better commercial products are much pricier than the ones with lots of cheaper ingredients and no habanero. That being said, a substitute of cayenne and red pepper flakes will lower your cost considerably.Print
Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Total Time: 10 minutes
- Yield: 1/2 cup 1x
- Category: Spice Mix
- Cuisine: jamaican
About 4 tablespoons Jamaican Jerk Spice Rub:
- 2 teaspoons onion powder or 1 tablespoon dehydrated green onion
- 2 teaspoons sugar (brown or white)
- 1 teaspoon or more of habanero or scotch bonnet pepper powder (see note)
- 1 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 3/4 teaspoon of ground allspice (use 1/2 teaspoon if using a store-bought powder)
- 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
To use, a rule of thumb is about 1 tablespoon per pound of meat. Best if marinated overnight with Soy sauce.
1/2 to 1 teaspoon of habanero powder is the equivalent of one habanero. Jerk seasoning uses, generally, anywhere from 1 to 8 habaneros. I use 2 teaspoons of habanero, and I’m no wimp, so I went with a lower amount. Increase if you’d like it hotter, remembering it is easier to add than to take away. If your seasoning is too hot, just add more of the other ingredients. If you taste it, do so carefully.
Keywords: Jerk, Spice & Herb Blends