Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad -- just the thing that you need for any season! Simply add a splash of color, flavor, and nutrients with a variety of ingredients like red + green kale, jerk chicken breasts made in the oven, cucumbers, onions, avocado, bell peppers, etc. and topped with a delicious homemade Dairy-Free BBQ Ranch Dressing. Entirely dairy-free + gluten-free. Make ahead option.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links via Amazon for products that I wholeheartedly love.
I love selecting whatever veggies and fruit call my name at the market and throwing everything together into a huge crunchy salad. And this recipe for Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad combines my love for fresh seasonal produce with spicy, robust flavors of Jamaican jerk seasoning. The jerk marinade/seasoning is the perfect bold, spicy foundation for the crisp and refreshing veggies in this dish. You can enjoy it as a light lunch or dinner, but either way-----It's a guaranteed crowd-pleaser every time!
If you've been an avid reader of Orchids + Sweet Tea, then you're probably already aware of my Jamaican Pineapple Jerk Chicken, which is a modern twist on traditional jerk chicken, but with extra sweet flavor.
However, if you're truly into salads, then the following salad recipes are definitely worth trying after this one:
Traditionally, as I've mentioned, Jerk chicken is a staple Jamaican dish that is often enjoyed with hard-dough bread or sometimes rice and peas. The chicken is usually seasoned well with a jerk seasoning and marinade and is left to fully marinade 1-2 days (or overnight) so that everything soaks in and the chicken is nice and tender when cooked.
My favorite store-bought brand of jerk marinade is by Grace Foods, which is available to purchase at your local grocer or online via Amazon, however, when making your own sauce, it consists of blended spices and seasonings and the spiciness can be adjusted based on preference. I'll talk more about how to make your own marinade and seasoning blend further in this post.
How to Make Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad
The awesome thing about this jerk chicken salad recipe is that most of the ingredients are household staples. Plus, it's easy to mix and match ingredients with whatever you have on hand, so there's no need to make an extra trip to the store. Instead, embrace the laid-back nature of this healthy meal.
Here's what I like to toss into my colorful jerk chicken salad:
Chicken breasts. Choose organic chicken for this recipe. If you have time, I recommend marinating them overnight before you prepare the salad. You could also use chicken thighs for this recipe if you prefer dark meat.
Jerk marinade or seasoning. You can buy this or make your own using the recipe below!
Kale or spinach. I love the combination of crunchy kale and softer spinach, but you can totally just use one or the other. However, you can substitute the greens with another leafy salad base, such as arugula, romaine, Boston, or red leaf lettuce.
Olive oil. you can also use avocado oil or lemon juice, if you prefer. This is used for massaging your kale.
Bell pepper. I love the splash of color from red and yellow sweet peppers. Of course, you can use any color bell pepper you like. And mini peppers work just as well as the larger ones.
Avocado. This is a must-have addition if you ask me. It adds creaminess and healthy fats to round out this vegetable-packed baked chicken salad.
Cucumber. Freshly peeled cucumber adds refreshing crunch to this Jamaican jerk chicken salad.
Red onion. I like a bit of red onion to add a pop of bitey, acidic flavor to the salad. If you're not a fan of raw onion, you can omit it or soak the onion in water for about 10 minutes to remove some of its strong flavor.
Poblano peppers. I love roasting these for a nice savory flavor, but adding them raw is perfect too!
Salad dressing. Feel free to use your favorite dressing on this salad. I highly recommend this Dairy-Free BBQ Ranch Dressing to go with the jerk flavors of this salad. However, regular Ranch, Green Goddess, or Creamy Garlic Dressing works!
My easy method to massage kale is to add the de-stemmed and chopped kale to a large bowl and then drizzling it with 1-2 tsps of lemon juice or Extra virgin olive oil and using your clean hands, rubbing the leaves together gently for about 2-3 minutes. They should look glossy and slightly reduced in volume when massaging is achieved.
Ingredient Substitutes + Meat Alternatives for Jerk:
Making traditional jerk doesn't have to be left to only chicken. In Jamaica, it's also used for other types of meat and the possibility of switching things up with another meat or alternative is also a good idea for this salad or as a main side with the veggies:
Pork (often done in Jamaica as well. Perfect combination of grilling and jerk flavors)
Other beans (black beans, kidney beans, etc.)
Fish (also done in Jamaica)
Other seafood (lobster, shrimp, etc.)
What are the 3 Main Ingredients in Jerk?
In jerk sauce or marinade, the 3 main ingredients that MUST be present are: scotch bonnet, thyme, and allspice (aka pimento seeds). You can't remove any of these ingredients or else it wouldn't be considered "jerk".
FOR THE HOMEMADE JERK SAUCE/MARINADE:
3 scotch bonnet peppers
½ red onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves
handful of scallions (aka green onions)
2 Tbsps white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt + black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
2 Tbsps brown sugar
1 carrot, peeled + chopped
¼ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsps pimento seeds (aka allspice)
¼ cup filtered water
Instructions: In a food processor combine all the ingredients. Adjust for taste and heat level with more or fewer spices. Use what you need for the recipe and store the rest in the refrigerator, to use again.
FOR THE HOMEMADE JERK SEASONING (DRY RUB):
To make your own jerk seasoning dry rub, you'll need the following:
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sea salt
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons black pepper
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
2 teaspoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon ground cloves
How to Prep + Season Jamaican Jerk Chicken for Salad
Baking Jamaican Jerk Chicken is generally an easy process—in total about 1 hour due to the process of cooking the chicken and "drying out" of the sauce. You first start by cleaning and washing your chicken pieces to ensure that they are clean and ready to be seasoned. I like to wash my chicken with both vinegar and lemon to help keep things clean and sanitized.
Once your chicken is clean, then it’s seasoning time! I’m all about seasoning every “layer” of my food, therefore, the chicken gets direct seasoning and so does the sauce. Let everything marinate for 10-15 minutes or 1-2 days (or overnight tightly wrapped in the refrigerator) for the best results.
Blend your jerk sauce ingredients (or mix together dry seasoning blend) and massage unto seasoned chicken and let the cooking process begin.
SHOP MY FAVORITE TOOLS FOR COOKING, ESPECIALLY FOR THIS SALAD!
Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with this Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad. Everything from my fave high-powered blender, baking sheets, wooden spoons, salad chopper, mixing bowls, and more.
How to Make Homemade Croutons
This Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad is easy to throw together, but the highlight of many salads are definitely the homemade croutons, if you desire to use them. While you might think that it's so hard to make----I'm here to show you just how easy it is, using the following ingredients:
Rustic bread, cubed into ¾ inches
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt + Black pepper
Can I Make This Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad for Meal Prep?
The jerk chicken can be made up to 2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. The dressing can be made and refrigerated in a separate airtight container. The salad can be chopped up to 30 minutes before serving.
How to Store Leftover Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad
Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, depending on the ingredients. Always determine the ingredients in your salad and keep it no longer than the shelf life of your fastest-spoiling ingredient.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and line a small baking sheet with parchment paper.
If you marinate your chicken overnight in the refrigerator, remove and let it sit at room temperature for 30-45 minutes before adding to prepared baking sheet and baking it for for 30-35 minutes or until fully cooked through. NOTE: When done, the chicken should look "dark" in color from the jerk seasoning and crusted, but juicy + clear on the inside. Remove from oven and slice into "strip-like' chicken or chunks, if preferred.
TO MAKE THE BBQ RANCH DRESSING:
Add all ingredients into a high-powdered blender and blend until sauce becomes creamy. Set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.
CHOP + MASSAGE KALE:
Strip the leaves from 2 large bunches kale and discard the stems if you haven't already. Roughly chop the leaves and add them to a large bowl. Drizzle about 1 tablespoon of olive oil atop chopped kale and using clean hands, rub together the kale gently for about 2-3 minutes to soften the leaves and help to infuse the 'flavors' of the kale.
ASSEMBLE THE SALAD:
To the bowl with the kale, add the sliced cooked jerk chicken, chopped cucumber, bell peppers, poblano peppers, onion, avocado chunks (if using), and ½ of the BBQ Ranch dressing, tossing everything together. NOTE: You can add the dressing to the salad when tossing OR set aside until serving.
To serve, add the salad to your bowl(s) and add your favorite toppings like grated parmesan, croutons, etc. if desired.
Tips & Tricks
STORAGE: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days, depending on the ingredients. Always determine the ingredients in your salad and keep it no longer than the shelf life of your fastest-spoiling ingredient.
MAKE AHEAD: The jerk chicken can be made up to 2 days beforehand and stored in an airtight container and refrigerated. The dressing can be made and refrigerated in a separate airtight container. The salad can be chopped up to 30 minutes before serving.
GREENS: If preferred, you can always add greens like Arugula, Mustard Greens, Spinach or Collard Greens to this pasta dish for added flavor.
JERK SEASONING (STORAGE): You can keep leftovers in a small tightly sealed jar and at room temperature for up to 6 months like your other herbs + spices.
EQUIPMENT: Here, I’ve curated a list of cooking + baking essentials that I use to achieve my favorite baked goods or cooked meals, especially with this Baked Jamaican Jerk Chicken Salad. Everything from my fave high-powered blender, baking sheets, wooden spoons, salad chopper, mixing bowls, and more.