Jerk chicken is a popular Jamaican dish that has taste combinations to die for. One bite of this juicy dish proffers you a perfect combination of sweet, spicy, and smoky flavors.
It’s excellent for backyard BBQs, picnics, or dinner – any day of the week!
For those unfamiliar, jerk chicken is chicken covered with a variety of herbs and spices, from allspice to Scotch bonnet peppers. It’s then grilled to perfection, drawing out all the delicious flavors and uniting a touch of smokiness.
Now that we’ve discovered just how delightful jerk chicken is as a main dish, it’s time to talk sides. Because while jerk chicken tastes excellent all by itself, it still needs a few savory side dishes to round out the meal.
If you can’t figure out what flavors go well with this excellent dish, don’t worry, because we are here to help!
For beginners, you can never go wrong with the classic flavor combos. For instance, sweet and spicy are always an attractive combination.
Serve jerk chicken with ripe mango slices to provide your earthy chicken a sweet and refreshing companion. Grilled pineapple is another appetizing side dish that pairs perfectly with jerk chicken.
But that’s just for starters. Read on for the best side dishes that will transform your jerk chicken into an unforgettable meal!
While ripe mango slices is a suitable side dish for jerk chicken, you can take it to yet another level by creating mango salsa.
Apart from the mango, you’ll also be satisfied with the flavors of avocado, jalapeno, and cilantro. A spritz of lime juice and a sprinkle of cumin perfect this light and refreshing dish.
To make this easy mango salsa recipe, you will require:
- Fresh Mangoes: Nice, ripe, and diced to your desired size.
- Red Onion: Also peeled and finely chopped.
- Jalapeño: For a milder salsa, it is recommended to use just one pepper, seeded and diced. Or for a spicier flavor, feel free to add two peppers.
- Fresh Cilantro: Finely-chopped
- Fresh Lime: Please try to avoid the bottled stuff — your salsa will taste so much better with fresh lime juice!
How to Make Mango Salsa:
- Prep all of your ingredients. The size of your dice is entirely up to you. So feel free to make your salsa as chunky or finely-chopped as you fancy.
- Combine ingredients. Toss everything together in a mixing bowl until evenly fused.
- Taste and season. Feel free to add in some salt and pepper here, or also add in fresh lime juice or cilantro if desired.
- Serve: Then dive in! Or refrigerate it for a while in a sealed container for up to 2 days.
Adding coconut milk to your rice gives it a wonderfully sweet and creamy flavor that will give your meal an even more Caribbean feel.
- 2 cups (360g) jasmine or long-grain white rice
- 400 ml / 14 oz of full fat or light coconut milk
- 1/2 cup (125ml) water
- 1 tbsp white sugar
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 3 pandan leaves, knotted(optional)
- 3 kaffir lime leaves, crushed in hand(optional)
- 1 tbsp desiccated coconut, toasted, to garnish(optional)
How to Make Coconut Rice:
- Rinse rice in water until the water turns clear.
- Drain rice then soaks it in water for 15 minutes. Then drain.
- Add rice, water, coconut milk, sugar, and salt into a small pot or large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add pandan or kaffir lime leaf if making an Asian restaurant-style option.
- Wait until it simmers so the entire surface of the liquid is rippling (not just the edges), give it ONE stir (not more!), place the lid on, and immediately turn the heat down to LOW.
- Leave for 14 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and let it rest, undisturbed, for 10 minutes.
- Fluff with a rubber spatula. Garnish with toasted coconut, if using, then serve.
A less sweet relative of bananas, plantains have a nice soft texture that marries well with crispy Jamaican chicken. Saute or deep fry them to perfection and you’ll acquire a sweet and colorful companion to your chicken.
This hearty and delicious plantains recipe only requires 3 simple ingredients:
- Ripe plantains
- Olive Oil
How to Make Baked Plantains:
- First, delicately peel off the skins, making sure not to squish the plantains. Then slice them into 1/4 to 1/3 inch pieces.
- Next, coat the plantain strips with olive oil and sprinkle them with salt.
- Finally, bake the plantains in a preheated 425-degree oven. Baking them at this high heat will ensure that they will become crispy around the edges before absorbing all the oil.
Ah! Just the thought of excellently charred and caramelized pineapple would make you drool.
Grilled pineapple has sweet and tangy qualities that complement the heat and spices of your main dish. To make, slather pineapple slices with a butter and brown sugar glaze and begin grilling!
It will get sweet, crunchy, and juicy fruit qualities that marry well with a smoky chicken.
- 1 pineapple, rind cut off and sliced into 1/2 -3/4 inch wedges
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- Canola oil spray (or use a brush to glaze)
How to Make Grilled Pineapple:
- Toss the pineapple with the brown sugar and let rest for ten minutes. You can leave the core in the slices so you can easily pick it up and hold it by the core when eating it, or remove the core if you’d like or if you’ll be using it in burgers as well.
- In a grill pan, either spray with canola oil or use a brush to glaze your pineapple slices with it.
- Cook the pineapple for 2-3 minutes on medium heat, then turn 45 degrees, to get the grill marks in a little “X”.
- Flip over and repeat step 3. If you find the pineapple sticking onto the pan, use a bit more canola oil spray on your pineapple.
Rice and Beans
Scotch bonnet peppers are spicy, so you’ll require something to tame its strong flavor. While you can’t remove the heat of the chicken, red beans and rice is your best ally to tone it down a bit.
Red beans and rice have definite sweet and savory qualities that go amazingly great with the heat of jerk chicken. If you’re not too fond of spicy food, then this is an excellent side dish for you.
And it’s delightful to boot!
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 5 minced garlic cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cumin
- 2 cups of uncooked white rice, long grain or jasmine rice
- 4 cups of chicken broth or stock
- 2×14-ounce of drained and rinsed cans of black beans
- 3-4 tablespoons lime juice, (adjust to your preferred taste)
- 4 tablespoons of finely chopped coriander or parsley, to garnish
How to Make Rice and Beans:
- Heat the olive oil in a stock pot or saucepan over medium-high heat.
- Add the onion and sauté until it turns clear.
- Add the minced garlic cloves and sauté for a further minute.
- Add the cumin and rice, then mix the flavors through and sauté for a further minute.
- Pour in the broth and beans and bring to a boil. Cover then reduce the heat and simmer it for 20 minutes, or until the rice becomes tender (stirring halfway through).
- Remove the stockpot or saucepan from the heat and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil (about 2 teaspoons), lime juice, and cilantro. For a taste test; sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper, only if wanted and as desired.
PRO TIP: Add in chopped jalapeños, chili’s, or cayenne pepper for some extra heat!
Chicken and potatoes? Heck yes!
While mashed potatoes are probably the most common side dish, let’s not forget how delightful chunky and creamy potato salad is.
Potato salads are sweet, creamy, and deliciously rich. Plus, when fused with corn, bacon, and onion, you get a savory, smoky, and crunchy bonus.
- 3 pounds of Yukon Gold, Russet, or red potatoes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes
- 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
- 1 1/4 cups of mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup of dill pickle relish (optional)
- 1 teaspoon of celery salt
- 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
- 4 diced hard-boiled eggs
- 2 diced celery stalks
- half of the thinly sliced small red onion
- freshly-cracked black pepper and sea salt
- for optional toppings: smoked paprika or Old Bay seasoning, fresh chopped chives, (extra) sliced hard-boiled eggs
How to Make Potato Salad:
- Put the diced potatoes in a large stockpot and add enough water to cover the potatoes by 1 inch. Cook over medium-high heat until the water boils. Then reduce the heat to medium to keep the simmer, and keep on cooking the potatoes for 5-8 minutes or until the potatoes pierce easily with a fork.
- Drain the potatoes in a colander then put it back to the stockpot, drizzle evenly with the vinegar, and allow the potatoes to rest for 20-30 minutes or until cool enough to handle.
- Meanwhile, whisk the mayo, celery salt, mustard, and pickle relish all together in a medium bowl until evenly combined.
- Once the potatoes are cool enough, add in the mayo mixture, diced eggs, celery, and onion, then toss them gently until evenly combined.
- Taste and season with salt and pepper. (Also feel free to add in a tablespoon or two of pickle juice if you prefer.)
- Place the potato salad in a serving bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 1-2 hours to chill.
- Refrigerate for up to 3 days. Best served chill.
Imagine eating smoky Jamaican jerk chicken with some Hasselback baby potatoes with garlic slathered in butter and roasted to perfection. Now isn’t that just divine?
This pairing works so great because both dishes are seasoned with garlic. Aside from the comparable flavors, they also look great together. A picture-perfect meal!
- 2 pounds of red or yellow-skinned potatoes
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
- 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs (parsley, rosemary, thyme, basil)
- ½ teaspoon of paprika
- Fine course of salt and pepper to taste
How to Make Roasted Potatoes:
- Preheat the oven to 425°F.
- Scrub potatoes but try not to peel them, then dice them into 1-inch cubes.
- If time permits, immerse the potatoes in cold water for up to 1 hour. (This will remove the starch and make it fluffier).
- Drain and dry the potatoes, if required.
- Toss the potatoes, olive oil, herbs, and seasonings.
- Place them on a baking sheet and bake for 30-35 minutes until it turns brown and tender.
You can use any mixture of herbs you’d like. Dry spices/herbs can be substituted, use 1-2 teaspoons of fresh dry herbs. Any kind of potatoes will work in this recipe and peeling the potatoes is optional.
Say what? Don’t worry, while the name sounds odd, Maque Choux contains familiar flavors – flavors that taste amazingly well with jerk chicken.
So what exactly is Maque Choux? It’s a dish primarily composed of corn, flavored with bell peppers, bacon, jalapeno, and heavy cream. Now that sounds excellent, is it right?
Maque Choux is a popular southern Louisiana dish. But, just because it’s not from the Caribbean doesn’t suggest it can’t go well with jerk chicken.
- 4 slices of chopped bacon
- 3 cups of corn (about 4 years worth)
- 1 cup of medium-chopped yellow onion
- 1 cup of chopped medium-sized red bell pepper
- 1 chopped jalapeno pepper
- 1 tablespoon Cajun seasonings
- ½ cup of heavy cream. You can also use chicken stock for a more traditional version
- Hot Sauce for serving
How to Make Maque Choux:
- Heat a large pan to medium heat then add the bacon.
- Cook the bacon for about 8 minutes until it becomes nice and crispy.
- Stir in the corn onion, peppers, and Cajun seasonings for about 10 minutes until they soften up.
- Add the heavy cream or the chicken stock. Let it warm for about 2 minutes, stir a bit, then remove from heat.
This dish is traditionally made with bell peppers but you can add a jalapeno to give it a bit of heat, but the cream might offset it. If you prefer a hotter version, go heavy on the Cajun seasonings and introduce hotter pepper or spicy chili flakes to finish the dish.
Tamarind balls are a traditional Jamaican snack, so it is just suiting to serve them as an appetizer. These amusing balls are sweet and tangy – an excellent way to start your meal.
- A box of fresh tamarind pods or just use 20 pods
- ¼ cup of coconut sugar
- Additional sugar for dusting
- 1 tbsp of rum essence (optional)
How to Make Tamarind Balls:
- De-shell the tamarind with your hands then place the flesh in a medium-sized bowl and discard the stem and shell pieces once the tamarind has been shelled.
- Add the coconut sugar, rum essence, and any other additional ingredients you prefer to use, like black pepper, hot sauce, etc.
- Again, use your hands to mold the tamarind into a large ball and provide a plate with a layer of sugar for dusting.
- Form a ball of tamarind by breaking it into small pieces then roll into the sugar.
- Repeat these steps until you make enough.
As for beverages, you’ll want to complement your jerk chicken with something that’s both sweet and spicy. A great refreshing choice is a glass of cold ginger beer!
Want to give it a nice kick? Add some dark rum to make things more interesting.
Ingredients for Ginger Syrup:
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup of water
- 2 tbsp of grated fresh ginger
Ingredients for Ginger Beer:
- Ginger syrup
- 1/8 tsp of active dry yeast or brewer’s yeast
- 3 tbsp of freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 7 cups of filtered water
How to Make Ginger Beer:
- Peel a chunk of the ginger and grate it using the fine side of your grater.
- Put the ginger, sugar, and water in a saucepan over medium heat and stir until the sugar dissolves, then turn off the heat and let the mixture steep for an hour.
- Strain the mixture to discard the ginger solids and allow it to cool. You’ve now made ginger syrup. But if you’re looking for a short-cut in creating your ginger ale but don’t want to mess around with the fermentation process, pour three or four tablespoons (depending on how gingery you like it) of your syrup over ice and add 8 ounces of seltzer water or club soda. Bottle the rest of the syrup and place it in the refrigerator.
- For the absolute ginger beer experience, place a funnel at the top of the bottle. Sprinkle the yeast in first, followed by the syrup, lemon juice, and water.
- Put the lid on the bottle and shake the mixture until the yeast is dissolved.
- Place it on a shady shelf or in your pantry away from direct sunlight for 2-3 days, or until fizz is achieved. At this point, it is ready to drink and must be stored in the refrigerator to avoid further fermentation. Don’t forget about the bottle, or the pressure will build up so much that it may shatter! As with any yeast-powered beverage, the fermentation method continues unless you stop it from happening. Refrigerating will slow the process down but not prevent it completely, that’s why it’s best to consider ginger beer as a perishable beverage that must be consumed within 1-2 weeks.
- Serve over ice and enjoy the spicy taste of your very own homemade ginger beer!
It’s an excellent beverage for any grilled meal, just like jerk chicken.
Smoky, spicy, sweet, and earthy, Jamaican jerk chicken comforts the soul and elevates the spirit. Hence, finding what to serve with jerk chicken is beyond special. That’s because this dish conjures vibrant colors and a collection of textures.
Even for some who haven’t been to the Caribbean, this delicious grilled chicken would find a special place in your hearts. Whether in the dark days of a northern winter or a sweltering island evening by magnificently blue waters, jerk chicken always hits the spot.