This Healthy Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken will quickly become a favorite with the most delicious sweet and spicy sauce made with orange juice, lime juice, and a delicious spice blend. Jump to Recipe keyboard_arrow_down
I live next door to the most amazing Caribbean place they serve to-die-for jerk chicken, coconut fried chicken (don’t even get me started), plantains, and agua fresca -- non-alcoholic drinks made with fruit, sugar, and water. It is one of my favorite places to go with friends for a fun night out since it is BYOB and has great outdoor seating. Since my last visit, I have been dreaming about trying to recreate a crockpot Jamaican jerk chicken at home.
Normally, traditional jerk chicken recipes use skin-on chicken. But I wanted to lighten it up a bit, so I opted for drumsticks with the skin removed. I find using bone-in chicken makes for a more flavorful finished dish, so If you want to trim the fat in this recipe even more, feel free to substitute bone-in skinless chicken breasts. Pork tenderloin is also a lean protein option that works well in this recipe.
Slow cooker jerk chicken freezes great, so make up a big batch and enjoy. Following the optional step under the cooking directions after any frozen jerk chicken is thawed and partially heated would a great way to give leftovers a new look. But, whether this jerk chicken recipe comes straight from the slow cooker or is finished off in the broiler, one thing’s for sure -- it’s seriously delicious.
What Is Jerk Chicken?
The term “jerk” refers to a cooking style in which the main ingredient is coated in spices and slow cooked over a grill or fire that is traditionally fed with green pimento wood positioned over a bed of coals, with the distinctive smoke contributing to the flavor of the finished dish. Jerk cooking is popular across the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica, where jerk chicken seasoning often features allspice and Scotch bonnet peppers, which are similar to the habaneros I’ve used in this crockpot Jamaican jerk chicken.
Jerk sauce and seasoning can work with beef, pork, seafood or vegetables. But, as in this recipe, it’s most commonly used with chicken. When it’s used as a grill marinade, cooks often poke holes in the meat to allow the spices to permeate each piece. Since this chicken will spend hours in the slow cooker simmering in its spicy sauce, there’s no need to take this extra step.
What Makes Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken Healthy?
In addition to giving this dish distinctive flavor, the jerk sauce used in the recipe is packed with ingredients that provide a plethora of health benefits. For instance, green onions help your liver rid itself of harmful toxins and lime juice can do the same for your digestive tract. Garlic and ginger both have anti-inflammatory properties that studies have shown can help treat or prevent several health problems. They may even reduce the risks of certain cancers. Allspice, which isn’t an everyday ingredient in most American kitchens, has also been found to have cancer-preventing properties among other medicinal benefits.
Side Dishes for Jerk Chicken
Black beans and rice are a traditional Jamaican side dish and are perfect partners to jerk chicken. If you’re counting carbs, consider substituting coconut cilantro cauliflower rice for regular rice. It’s healthy, perfect for Paleo eaters, and uses many of the same ingredients as the jerk sauce, which will accentuate the meal’s Caribbean flavors.
You can give another Caribbean classic -- plantains -- a healthy makeover by baking them instead of frying them. Just preheat your oven to 400 ℉, peel and cut some ripe yellow plantains into slices, coat them in a little oil, and bake them on a baking sheet for about 15 minutes before flipping them and baking for about another 15 minutes, or until they are soft. Try using coconut oil in the recipe to give these Paleo-friendly plantains even more tropical flavor.
My recipe for pineapple coleslaw, which substitutes coconut milk for mayo, is another great Paleo-minded side dish for slow cooker jerk chicken. Plus, it’s an ideal summer side because it weathers well during BBQ's, potlucks, and picnics and, like this jerk chicken, doesn’t require you to fire up the stove.
How to Use Leftover Jerk Chicken
After hours in the slow cooker, this jerk chicken will probably be tender enough to almost fall off the bone. So if you have any leftovers, it will be easy to shred chicken, which can be the star of a salad or a base for wraps (you can use lettuce if you’re carb conscious) or “grain” bowls customized with different veggies, brown rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice to suit your tastes and dietary preferences. Really, the possibilities are pretty endless. But, considering how tasty this crockpot Jamaican jerk chicken is, you might want to make a double batch to guarantee plenty of leftovers for later in the week.
Healthy Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken
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- 4 lbs chicken leg meat, skin removed
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice
- 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
- 4 U garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp fresh thyme
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
- 1 tbsp brown sugar (leave out or use Stevia/Splenda for Paleo, low carb, clean eating)
- 1 tsp. ground allspice
- 4 U green onions
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp white vinegar
- 1 U red pepper, seeded and chopped
- 2 U habanero peppers
- 2 cups pineapple, chopped
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Add the lime juice, orange juice, garlic, thyme, ginger, sugar, allspice, scallion, salt, and red pepper to a blender or food processor. Blend/pulse until well blended.
Taste and begin adding the habaneros/jalapenos one at a time, tasting the sauce each time until it is as spicy as you like. The spice will become a bit milder during cooking, so you may want to make it a touch spicier during this step.
Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Add the chicken pieces to the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours. If using pineapple, add in the last 30 minutes of cooking.
Optional: If you want a crispier chicken, broil it for 4-5 minutes until it crisps up. For a delicious jerk sauce for the chicken, simmer the remaining liquid for 4-5 minutes until it thickens up.
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
The Nutritional Values provided are estimates only and may vary based on the preparation method.
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