Jamaican Curry Chicken

published Sep 23, 2023
Jamaican Curry Chicken Recipe

This recipe for curry chicken uses Jamaican curry powder and bone-in, skin-on chicken for the best flavor.


Prep15 minutes

Cook45 minutes

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overhead shot of jamaican chicken curry on a plate, served with rice
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Olushola Wadley

Jamaican curry chicken was the first dish I learned how to cook at around 8 or 9 years old. And it’s probably the one dish that I have truly perfected over the years, having adjusted the recipe over and over again until I got it just right. Here, I’ll walk you through what makes Jamaican curry chicken so unique while also sharing my recipe for curry chicken.

What Type of Chicken to Use in Jamaican Curry Chicken?

When I’m making curry chicken, I always go with a whole chicken that I cut into small pieces. Every piece of chicken somehow takes on its own profile in the curry stew. Also, leaving the bone in and the skin on the chicken gives the dish the best flavor as well.

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Olushola Wadley

What Makes Jamaican Curry Different?

Cooking curry chicken the Jamaican way usually means the meat is seasoned ahead of time with the curry powder. This is unlike other Caribbean islands like Trinidad, where the meat is seasoned without the curry powder and later cooked in a prepared curry sauce. There are also a few tried-and-true steps like “burning” the curry with garlic and searing the meat first that gives this dish its true signature flavor. 

Jamaicans also leave out many of the herbs and peppers other islanders use, like chadon benni (also known as culantro), cilantro, and parsley. We simply use a variety of onions, garlic, scotch bonnet pepper, and allspice to flavor this dish. 

What Is in Jamaican Curry Powder?

Jamaican curry powder is different from other curry powders in the islands. It has more turmeric and less garam marsala than other curry powders.

The flavor is also boosted by Jamaican allspice (or pimento), fenugreek, and sometimes a small amount of cloves. 

Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Olushola Wadley

Jamaican Curry Chicken Recipe

This recipe for curry chicken uses Jamaican curry powder and bone-in, skin-on chicken for the best flavor.

Prep time 15 minutes

Cook time 45 minutes

Serves 6

Nutritional Info


  • 15 sprigs

    fresh thyme

  • 1

    small red onion

  • 3

    medium scallions

  • 1

    small habanero or scotch bonnet pepper

  • 2 tablespoons

    Maggi all-purpose seasoning

  • 2 tablespoons

    plus 1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder, such as Beta Pac, divided

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    onion powder

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground white pepper

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    freshly ground black pepper

  • 4 pounds

    bone-in chicken pieces

  • 2 cloves


  • 2 tablespoons

    vegetable oil

  • 2 cups


  • 2

    medium white potatoes (about 12 ounces total)

  • 1

    medium carrot

  • 1

    chicken bouillon cube, 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder, or 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon paste

  • 6

    allspice berries

  • Salt

  • Roti or steamed rice, for serving


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same large bowl as you complete it: Pick the leaves from 15 fresh thyme sprigs (about 1 tablespoon). Coarsely chop 1 small red onion and separate the pieces. Thinly slice 3 medium scallions (about 1/3 cup). Trim and thinly slice 1 small habanero or scotch bonnet pepper.

  2. Add 2 tablespoons Maggi all-purpose seasoning, 2 tablespoons of the Jamaican curry powder, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon onion powder, 1/2 teaspoon ground white pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Stir to combine.

  3. Cut 4 pounds bone-in chicken pieces into rough 3-inch pieces (halve thighs or drumsticks across the bone). Add to the marinade and toss to combine, massaging the seasonings into the chicken with your hands (wear gloves if you can). Cover and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour or up to overnight.

  4. Mince 2 garlic cloves. Heat 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add the garlic and remaining 1 teaspoon Jamaican curry powder and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 15 seconds. Using tongs, transfer the chicken into the pan and reserve the marinade left in the bowl. Cover and cook for 5 minutes (reduce the heat as needed if the chicken starts to burn). Uncover and stir the chicken, making sure it is not stuck to the bottom.

  5. Add 2 cups water to the reserved marinade and stir to combine. Pour the liquid into the pot. Cover and boil (not simmer), stirring occasionally, until the chicken is cooked through and tender, 30 to 35 minutes. (The liquid level should always be about halfway up the chicken, add more water as needed.) Meanwhile, peel and cut 2 medium white potatoes into large dice. Peel and cut 1 medium carrot into medium dice.

  6. Add the potatoes, carrots, 1 chicken bouillon cube, and 6 allspice berries to the pot. Stir until the bouillon is dissolved. Taste the sauce and season with salt as needed. Cover and boil until the potatoes are fork tender and the sauce is thickened to the consistency of thick gravy, 8 to 10 minutes. Serve with roti or steamed rice.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: Boneless, skinless chicken thighs can be used in place of bone-in chicken; halve crosswise before cooking. You can use 1 tablespoon kosher salt in place of the Maggi seasoning.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 weeks.