[Instant Pot] Jerk Chicken

plate with two jerk chicken drumsticks, coconut brown rice and salad with mango and cucumber.

Homestyle Jamaican jerk chicken: make it faster and easier than ever with your pressure cooker!

This is the BEST jerk chicken because the flavor is built from all fresh, healthy ingredients –  hot peppers, ginger, garlic, fresh herbs and spices – and like magic, Instant Pot gets those flavors SO deeply infused into the tender, juicy chicken.

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Why to Use Instant Pot for Jerk Chicken

For most of my life I’ve cooked jerk chicken the usual way, on the grill – and I am not planning on stopping. But after trying my signature jerk chicken in my pressure cooker one rainy day, I just had to talk about how well our Instant Pots can cook this dish for us!

Instant Pot is a really quick and easy way to cook bone-in chicken – just 8 minutes under pressure, and drumsticks can become SO tender. Even with the extra time needed to build and release pressure, this is faster and much more energy-efficient than roasting chicken pieces in the oven.

Pressure cooking is also a secret weapon for flavor penetration. With this recipe, your can simply toss your chicken with the seasoning and start cooking right away – no need to plan ahead and marinate in the fridge for hours. When you crack open your Instant Pot, you can look forward to strong flavors of spice and citrus straight down to the bone.

To get a touch of blackening, finish for just a couple of minutes under a broiler or on a grill. Since you can count on the chicken being fully cooked in the pressure cooker, enjoy playing stress-free grill master for this finishing touch.

Ingredients: The Flavors Behind Jerk

mise en place with onion, orange, thyme, garlic, ginger, jalapeno pepper, soy sauce and allspice.

Orange juice is my choice of citrus fruit to build the foundation of this marinade. It brings a touch of natural sweetness along with plenty of acid to brighten it up. Freshly squeezed juice is immensely more flavorful than bottled juice.

Hot peppers – to your taste. Scotch bonnet peppers are traditional in Caribbean cuisine, but I also substitute other peppers that might be growing in my garden or showing up at the market. I made this batch of marinade with one half of a large green jalapeno.

Ginger root is another fiery bite in this chicken’s Jamaican flavor profile.

Allspice is a peppery berry that is a traditional ingredient in jerk seasoning. It grows on Caribbean trees which also provide the wood traditionally used to cook jerk. My Instant Pot is powered by mere electricity, but I make sure to add ground dried allspice to my recipe, at least!

Thyme is a common herb in Jamaican cuisine and a must-have for jerk, in my opinion. If available, fresh thyme is sublime (and it is very easy to grow a perennial crop in most gardens). Dried thyme is a good option too – still delicious!

Garlic and onion are sharply savory and add a nice pulpy texture to the marinade. Scallions / green onions may be used, or red onion for more bite.

Soy sauce is the source of salt for the marinade, contributes some of the liquid needed to pressurize the cooker, and darkens the flavor with savory umami.

Chicken Legs, Thighs, Breasts, Wings?

Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are my top choice for this dish. They are economical and family-friendly. I get mine from Butcherbox (*use my link to get $30 off when you subscribe πŸ‘). They average about 3 ounces each, raw weight, and they cook to tender perfection in 8 minutes on high pressure.

Boneless Thighs

Skinless chicken thighs are moist and flavorful, and a good choice for making batches of shredded chicken for bowls, wraps or burritos. I recommend a high pressure cook time of 5 minutes for average size boneless thighs.

Boneless Breasts

Boneless, skinless chicken breasts are very lean and mild, but still a good pairing for jerk seasoning. Before pressure cooking, I suggest browning the chicken pieces with Instant Pot’s Saute function to build more flavor. Chicken breasts can vary in size and thickness a lot more than other cuts do, which is important to consider when choosing a cook time. After getting a head start on cooking by browning both sides of the chicken, pressure cooking time can be as little as 1 minute for thin cutlets, or as much as 5 minutes for large breasts weighing about 1 pound each.

Wings

Chicken wings are another bone-in cut with lots of tough connective tissue that can benefit from pressure cooking. Cook party-style wings (flats and/or drummettes) on high pressure for 6 minutes. Be sure to finish them under the broiler or on the grill to get the skin crispy instead of flabby.

Can I use Frozen Chicken?

Yes, you can cook jerk chicken straight from frozen with your Instant Pot. For chicken breasts, use this recipe’s jerk marinade as the cooking liquid for my Insta-Chicken technique, which calls for about 20 minutes high pressure cook time. I would use the same cook time for frozen drumsticks or thighs, and 12 minutes for frozen wings.

These cook times are designed for individually frozen pieces of chicken; if your pieces are frozen in a single solid block, you should add several more minutes and expect less flavor penetration.

Pressure Release: Quick or Natural?

When pressure cooking braised meats, quick pressure release should be avoided. Quick pressure release (instantly opening the valve after cooking time is complete) is known to increase risk of toughening and shrinking meat.

When you run your pressure cooker, the temperature inside gets very high – up to 244 degrees Fahrenheit, which is 32 degrees hotter than the boiling point of water. When you open the lid, rapid evaporation of liquid can leave your food dried out and shriveled.

I know it can be tempting to rush dinner to the table sometimes, but quick release is best to be avoided if at all possible. Let the pressure cooker naturally cool down for at least ten minutes before opening the valve to release any remaining pressure. It’s worth the wait!

Step By Step: How to Cook

Blend Marinade

Food processor with jerk marinade ingredients.

This recipe’s secret sauce is a collection of super flavorful fresh ingredients – the only thing you have to do is puree them all together. Get out your food processor or blender and throw in your hot peppers, ginger root, spices, soy sauce and orange juice. Instead of hauling out my full-size processor, I use my beloved 3.5-cup mini-prep; this lightweight machine is more than powerful enough to blitz these ingredients into saucy smithereens.

Season Chicken

Instant Pot with seasoned raw chicken drumsticks.

After preparing the marinade, simply pour it over your chicken pieces right in the pressure cooker. Toss the chicken with the sauce to coat each piece evenly. There will be excess sauce pooled in the bottom of the cooker; this liquid is necessary to bring Instant Pot up to pressure.

Pressure Cook

Instant Pot with cooked chicken drumsticks.

Close the lid and set the cooking program via Manual mode; use an 8 minute cook time for drumsticks, or refer to the recipe for alternate cooking times for other cuts of chicken. When the cooking time is complete, allow the cooker to naturally reduce pressure for at least 10 minutes before opening the lid.

Finish with Broiler or Grill

sheet pan with crispy, lightly blackened jerk chicken legs.

To add a touch of blackening with your oven’s broiler, use tongs to carefully transfer chicken pieces to a heavy duty sheet pan. With the oven rack in the top position, place the chicken under the broiler for just a couple of minutes, until desired browning is achieved.

To finish on a grill, transfer chicken onto preheated grates. You will need to handle the chicken very carefully with tongs, as it can be quite tender after pressure cooking. Cook for a minute or two on each side until browned to your preference.

Meal Prep Ideas for Instant Pot Jerk Chicken

What to serve with jerk chicken? I love loading up my dinner table with sides to make a whole Caribbean feast!

  • Rice is always a good idea, and I especially like jerk chicken served with coconut rice. I simply replace half of the water in my pot of rice with canned coconut milk, and add a generous pinch of salt. Works great with brown or white rice in your Instant Pot!
  • Beans are a savory, filling addition. My favorites  for this kind of spread are red beans, black beans, or pidgeon peas.
  • Plantains take it to the next level! I love nothing more than golden, sweet, fried ripe maduro plantains. Or try smashed green plantain tostones for a saltier treat.
  • Salad is your best friend for a fresh, crunchy finishing touch. I’m delighted to round out my plate with any simple leafy green salad or other raw sliced veggies dressed with oil and vinegar. Add some juicy tropical fruit like mango or pineapple, and your fellow diners will love you even more!

Another meal prep strategy is to batch-prep and chop/shred this jerk chicken as a meat filling for burritos, wraps, sandwiches or salads.

Or finally, consider a nutrient-dense paleo-style prep spread with all of your favorite veggies! Imagine sitting down to a beautiful buffet of jerk chicken, sweet potatoes, roasted peppers and spicy braised greens. Super nutritious and delicious!

plate with two jerk chicken drumsticks, coconut brown rice and salad with mango and cucumber.

Double Decker Dinner with Jerk Chicken!

Double Decker Dinner is a personal favorite Instant Pot recipe theme, all about finding the right combination of foods that pair together as a balanced meal and that can be stacked and cooked at the same time in the same pressure cooker. It’s one-pot wonderful!Β 

First – the conspicuous side dish that is not the best double decker pairing for chicken drumsticks: rice. A cook time of 8 minutes is too long for white rice, but not long enough for brown rice. If you want to cook chicken with rice, use boneless breasts or thighs with white rice, or frozen chicken as a pairing for brown rice.

Beans can work, if soaked in water for at least 6 hours before cooking. Opt for small red beans or black eyed peas, which cook more quickly than most other dry beans. Try seasoning them with onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs/spices like coriander, cumin, thyme or allspice. Put them in a stainless steel insert pan and use a tall cooking rack to elevate it over the chicken (read more tips about double decker cooking equipment here).

Sweet potatoes are another excellent double decker pairing – just chop them into large chunks about 2-3 inches across and toss them into a steamer basket over the chicken. After pressure cooking, they can be tossed with seasonings like garlic, chopped scallions, hot sauce, or just a bit of salt with butter or olive oil. Delicious!

Nutrition Insights

Food for thought, from your friendly neighborhood Registered Dietitian Nutritionist + food science buff!

This jerk chicken is more than just a high protein entree – the fresh ingredients that flavor the marinade bring powerful biochemical benefits.

Hot chili peppers have been studied extensively as a nutraceutical ingredient; spicy foods promote health by fighting inflammation and improving metabolism through various mechanisms (recommended reading: Capsicum annuum (hot pepper): An ancient Latin-American crop with outstanding bioactive compounds and nutraceutical potential. A review)

Ginger is also well-known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities, offering similar broad protection against chronic disease (recommended reading: Ginger for Healthy Ageing: A Systematic Review on Current Evidence of Its Antioxidant, Anti-Inflammatory, and Anticancer Properties).

This recipe is compatible with paleo and ketogenic diets. For gluten-free or Whole30 eaters, simply replace the soy sauce with coconut aminos.

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plate with two jerk chicken drumsticks, coconut brown rice and salad with mango and cucumber.

[Instant Pot] Jerk Chicken

Mary Clare Fraker, MS RD
The BEST homestyle Jamaican jerk chicken – extra fast and extra flavorful, thanks to your pressure cooker. These quantities can easily be doubled in a standard 6-quart Instant Pot – or even tripled in an 8-quart model.
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 13 mins
Time to Build and Release Pressure 17 mins
Total Time 35 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine Caribbean
Servings 5 Pieces
Calories 200 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 pound chicken drumsticks or other cuts including wings, boneless thighs or breasts
  • 1/2 cup orange juice freshly squeezed
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger root
  • 3 medium cloves garlic
  • 1/2 medium red onion
  • 2-4 tablespoons coarsely chopped hot chili peppers scotch bonnets, jalapenos, or other hot peppers of your choice – to taste
  • 5 sprigs fresh thyme, stems discarded or 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce

Instructions
 

Blend Marinade

  • In a food processor or blender, combine the orange juice, ginger root, garlic, onion, hot peppers, thyme, allspice and soy sauce. Pulse until the marinade is finely minced and smoothly blended.

Season Chicken

  • Add the chicken pieces to the pressure cooker, then pour the marinade over them and toss to coat.

Pressure Cook

  • Close the lid, with the valve set to sealing position. Cook drumsticks on high pressure for 8 minutes. For chicken wings, cook for 12 minutes. For boneless chicken thighs, cook for 5 minutes. For boneless chicken breasts, consider first browning both sides of the chicken in oil using the cooker’s Saute function, then pressure cooking for 1-5 minutes depending on the size/thickness of the breast (1 minute for thin cutlets, up to 5 minutes for large ~1-pound split breasts).
  • When the cooking time is complete, let the pressure release naturally for 10 minutes, then carefully open the valve to manually release any remaining pressure.

To Finish Under Broiler

  • Use tongs to carefully transfer chicken pieces to a heavy duty sheet pan. With the oven rack in the top position, place the chicken under a preheated broiler for about 2-4 minutes; watch closely and take out the pan when the chicken has a touch of crispy blackening on its surface.

To Finish Over Grill

  • Use tongs to carefully transfer chicken pieces, arranging them on a grill preheated to medium-high heat. Cook for 2-4 minutes on each side, turning carefully to achieve even browning.

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