Smoky, spicy, sweet, and earthy, Jamaican jerk chicken soothes the soul and lifts the spirit.
Even for those of us who’ve never been to the Caribbean, this delicious grilled chicken has found a special place in our hearts.
Whether in the dark days of a northern winter or a sweltering island evening by impossibly blue waters, jerk chicken always hits the spot.
Spiced by fruity and fiery Scotch bonnet peppers, with a warm sweetness coming from allspice and other herbs, jerk chicken is island barbecue at its complex and satisfying best.
Tip that straw sunhat back on your head, take a sip of that frosty rum cocktail, and take a bite of succulent jerk-spiced bird.
What’s not to love? Nothing. We love it all.
But now that we agree it’s the perfect main dish, you may be asking what to serve with jerk chicken to make it extra amazing.
To begin with, there are some traditional flavor combinations to keep in mind that always work.
Jerk chicken pairings that include island-inspired fruits – like mango or pineapple – bring a sweet freshness that is always welcome on a spicy plate.
Sauté some plantains for a more complex, earthy, and sweet accent.
Throw some pineapple on the grill with your chicken to get a beautifully caramelized smokiness.
Or slice some mango and toss it with a cooling salad.
Whichever way you turn, you’ll love how these fruit flavors rollick on the plate with jerk chicken. They will make beautiful music together. Beautiful music indeed.
Coconut and coconut milk are natural and delicious choices too, so don’t be afraid to add their slightly sweet creaminess to sauces or rice side dishes for jerk chicken.
Jerk Chicken Sides: Getting Down to the Details
But this is all just getting the ideas flowing.
Let’s peek under that cocktail umbrella and see what other ideas we can find to bring the spicy islands to the mainland.
1. Red Beans and Rice
What goes better with the heat of jerk chicken than red beans and rice? They’re slightly sweet, and oh, so, savory.
Sure, nothing will truly can completely tame the heat of Scotch Bonnet peppers (and we wouldn’t want that to happen anyway), but this dish will give it the old college try.
Give us a “Y!” Give us a “U!” Give us an “M!”
What does that spell? “Yum!”
Grab the link from Karen The Food Charlatan here and get ready to cheer with us: thefoodcharlatan.com
2. Maque Choux
When I first discovered what “maque choux” was, it was the beginning a great relationship.
Think of bacon, corn, jalapeno, bell peppers, and a touch of heavy cream. Now, that’s something worthy of sharing a plate with jerk chicken.
It might not be a traditional Caribbean side dish, but all these flavors “come together” so harmoniously that, heck, it could even be worthy of a Lennon/McCartney composition.
So, it’s time to “mach schau” by whipping up a batch of “maque choux.”
Grab the link to Mike’s enticing recipe here: chilipeppermadness.com
3. Roasted Garlic Potatoes
There’s garlic in jerk chicken, so we thought some garlic potatoes would be the perfect pairing for the fiery and flavorful main dish!
Little baby potatoes are hasselbacked and coated in butter before being roasted to perfection.
They’re crispy on the outside, and fluffy on the inside.
Bonus: They’re pretty as a picture.
Who wouldn’t love that next to everyone’s favorite Jamaican chicken?
Click for the recipe from Bee from Rasamalaysia and prepare to be delighted. rasamalaysia.com
4. Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Sweet potatoes pair perfectly with spicy food, and creamy mashed potatoes love to be paired with crispy food.
See where are we going with this?
Hello, sweet mashed potatoes!
The plate will be a veritable explosion of color and flavor – a little like something Monet might have imagined, but kissed with the flavors of the Caribbean.
Color us impressed!
The recipe makes enough to feed a crowd, so think of the joy you’ll bring to six people when you give them this mash, served up next to charred jerk chicken.
So. Much. Joy.
Grab Sara’s luscious recipe here: dinneratthezoo.com
5. Fried Plantains
Do you like your starch to be quickly deep fried, and slightly sweet?
Well, we do too.
Which is why we adore plantains with our jerk chicken.
The texture of the plantains meshes perfectly with crispy jerk chicken.
Think of these guys as the cooler cousin to the plain banana. They’re not as sweet, and they’re a little sassy.
Also, they bring an air of excitement and color to the plate.
So, they’re the perfect companion to flavorful jerk chicken.
Grab Imma’s recipe over at Immaculate Bites. africanbites.com
6. Southern Greens (Instant Pot)
The best chicken wants the best greens. And collard greens are – quite frankly – the best.
They’re savory, they’re salty, they have a hint of sweetness, and they love to hang with jerk chicken.
This recipe utilizes an instant pot, so it’s pretty much hands off.
Just throw the greens in the machine and get the chicken on the preheated grill.
And you’ll fall in love.
We certainly did.
Here’s a handy little video tutorial from The Bearded Hiker for all the collard green lovers out there.
7. Mango Salsa
Jerk chicken is a big fan of fruit. It just makes sense, because some of the things that gives it that unique jerk-ey-ness, is allspice, brown sugar, and a touch of cinnamon.
So, of course mango wants to be invited to that party.
But mango has to elbow its way into the bowl because of the copious amounts of other good things, like jalapenos, cilantro, and avocado.
And they all luxuriate in a combination of lime juice and cumin.
Hello, mango salsa. Jerk chicken welcomes you to the plate!
Grab the recipe from Chelsea at Chelsea’s Messy Apron right here: chelseasmessyapron.com
8. Coconut Rice
The aroma of coconut with jerk chicken is something that will knock your socks off.
Not metaphorically either.*
You’ll literally be in bare feet.
The combination of the two will make you feel like you’re on the Caribbean at sunset with the sand between your toes.
This is what to serve with coconut rice, and vice versa!
So, pile the coconut rice up on the plate next to the jerk chicken and prepare to fall in love.
*Totally metaphorically. Not literally at all. But it is really delicious.
Grab the recipe from Meghan here: foxandbriar.com
9. Grilled Pineapple
We love pineapple as the top sweet option for what to serve with jerk chicken.
It’s sweet, it’s full of big bold flavors, and it marries perfectly with the heat and the subtle flavors of the main attraction.
So, we started daydreaming about what could make it even better.
How about an ooey gooey buttery brown sugary glaze?
And what if there was a grill involved?
Sign us up!
We found a recipe that lived up to our fevered imagination.
It’s elegant in its simplicity. And it can totally hang with fiery charred chicken.
Grab this succulent recipe from Carrian and Cade at Oh, Sweet Basil. ohsweetbasil.com
10. Sweet Potato Fries
Hello, baked sweet potato fries!
We love them with grilled jerk chicken because the combination of flavors plays perfectly together. The heat, the sweetness, the saltiness – they’re a nanosecond away from holding hands on the plate.
Also, because there’s no deep frying involved, these are healthier than your average side of fried nosh.
And they have all the crunch.
Who doesn’t want that?
Here’s the link to the deliciousness from Ashley at Center Cut Cook: centercutcook.com
11. Cuban Black Beans and Rice with Collards
Beans love rice, and rice loves them right back.
And they both love crispy plantains.
Note: There’s enough love to share with collards too.
Combined on the plate with jerk chicken, this makes a whole lot of love. (Hey, Led Zeppelin, hey!)
This side dish also has a wee kiss of lime, cumin, and cilantro which rounds everything out with fresh perfection.
Place copious amounts of this on a plate with jerk chicken and feel your taste buds swoon.
Here’s the recipe from Alissa at Connoisseurus Veg: connoisseurusveg.com
Crisp, cooling, and fresh. We love, love, love, love coleslaw with jerk chicken.
The crunchy cabbage and carrots with a bit of apple tang create the perfect side for our favorite Jamaican main dish.
The flavors are clean and act as a little palate cleanser between finger licking bites of the jerk chicken.
Oh, yes. You want this on your plate.
Lisa’s recipe for this fantastic coleslaw is just a click away: downshiftology.com
13. Bacon Potato Salad
Potatoes and jerk chicken go hand in hand.
And when we think of potatoes, quite often our minds go toward potato salad.
The inherent natural sweetness of white potatoes plays well with all sorts of flavors – including bacon, onion, and corn.
So, if one was so inclined to put those ingredients together in a bowl with a tangy red wine vinegar dressing, how fantastic would that be with deeply seasoned jerk chicken?
The answer is very, very, very, fantastic. Stunningly fantastic.
The addictive recipe from Averie is here: averiecooks.com
What to Serve with Jerk Chicken…and More
Your meal isn’t quite complete until you consider the befores and afters with jerk chicken appetizers and dessert companions. And you’ll want just the right drink too, right?
If you want an extra special meal, the follow are some tips to think about.
Round Out Your Island Barbecue with Apps and Desserts
Don’t forget the tamarind! Jamaican food has a love affair with tamarind, so a nice way to start off a jerk chicken meal is to put out a few plates of traditional tamarind balls.
They’re sweet. They’re sour. And they’re just the thing to get your dinner rolling!
Again, for desserts to serve with jerk chicken, you can’t go wrong letting traditional Jamaican flavors shine.
Sweet coconut meets a hint of spice, in an island dessert like gizzada. What could be better than that?
Or stick with the island fruit theme and pair that distinctive barbecue with homemade mango turnovers.
It might be wandering away from tradition but, if you have an ice cream maker, you won’t regret whipping up a batch of what might be the most refreshing thing on any island: ginger ice cream.
What a way to end an amazing jerk chicken dinner!
From Ginger to Beer – A World of Drink Pairings
Super-chilled drinks with a bit of sweetness and spice make a refreshing counterpoint to a jerk chicken’s smoky heat. There are so many amazing drink pairing possibilities!
While drink pairings often focus on alcohol options, no one would judge you if you just poured yourself an icy glass of sweet and spicy ginger beer.
With complex spice of the jerk seasoning, this combination really carves out a little slice of paradise.
Speaking of ginger beer, the Dark and Stormy – a classic island cocktail of dark rum and ginger beer – is an equally amazing pairing.
And speaking of rum, you could also pull together a simple punch with rum and fruit juices that would really tie the meal together.
A dark rum with a little mango or pineapple juice and a hint of lime? Heavenly.
Lighten Up with Wine And…
Or why not toss that fresh fruit into a pitcher with a nice white wine and make your own perfectly paired sangria? Maybe even throw in a few sprigs of fresh thyme to add some lively herby undertones.
Not a fan of fruity additions to your wine? No problem.
The slight sweetness of a lovely Pinot Gris plays off the heat of jerk chicken beautifully, as does the lightness of a bright Riesling. Elegantly harmonious.
If you prefer to imbibe your beverages straight from the bottle, of course, a crisp cold beer really is one of our favorite drinks with a spicy grilled meal like jerk chicken.
Try lighter beers like lagers or pilsners if you want to tame the spice, or hops-centric ales like an IPA to keep the heat lively and playful.
One of the great things about finding foods and beverages in your quest for what to serve with jerk chicken is that the main dish plays so well with other flavors.
Exploration is encouraged whether it’s a flavorful main dish or something as basic as a rotisserie chicken dinner.
We hope we’ve given you some great jumping off points to explore your own pairings and side dishes.
Related Meals, More Great Sides
Check out these side dishes for your other favorite grilled dishes.
- Tuna Steak sides: Crispy out, tender in…you gotta love it and what you can put with this other excellent meal from the islands.
- Grilled Shrimp sides: See what goes with the wonderful grilled flavors of shrimp on the Q.
What to Serve with Jerk Chicken
- Beans & Rice
- Maque Choux
- Garlic Potatoes
- Sweet Potatoes
- Fried Plantains
- Southern Greens
- Mango Salsa
- Coconut Rice
- Grilled Pineapple
- Potatoes Fries
- Black Beans & Rice
- Potato Salad
- Choose your desired Jerk Chicken side dish recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create a tasty Jerk Chicken side to complete your meal!