Jerk Sauce

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

The basis for righteous jerk barbecue is great sauce. Sauce varies among the experts, recipes are coveted and shrouded in secrecy, yet basic flavors dominate. Chief among them, the pimento tree has given jerking its young green branches for patas (grill stands) and its berries (allspice) for seasoning. In this recipe, jerk sauce is pared down to its bare essentials. Many Jamaicans have different recipes, which include cinnamon or ginger or nutmeg or you name it. Build your own sauce to taste; this is not a science, it’s an art! How much fiery Scotch bonnet pepper to use is a controversy that rages among family and friends. Tested on both wimps and fire-eaters, this sauce challenges the former and leaves macho mouths clamoring, “Make it spicier next time.” For them, just splash in some hot pepper and line up the cold Red Stripes.

NotesSources for specialty wood chips often carry dried pimento leaves, which add additional flavor to the fire at barbecue time.

Makes1 quart



Total Timeunder 15 minutes

Dietary Considerationegg-free, gluten-free, halal, kosher, lactose-free, low calorie, low carb, low cholesterol, low-fat, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegan, vegetarian

Taste and Texturegarlicky, hot & spicy, salty, sharp, tangy

Type of Dishbarbecue sauce, marinades, sauces


  • 5 bunches whole scallions, finely chopped
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Scotch bonnet peppers (any color), seeded and minced
  • 2 large sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tablespoons dried
  • ¼ cup ground allspice (dry pimento berries)
  • 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1½ tablespoons salt
  • 1 cup water


  1. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except the water. Mix well and add water to form a loose paste.



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