I think we all deserve a Caribbean vacation right about now, and these Jerk Chicken Tacos with Pineapple are here to help us escape to the tropics!
I’m longing for warm sands and island eats.
Since jumping on the next plane south isn’t in the realm of immediate possibility, I’m satiating my taste for the tropics with today’s Caribbean-inspired recipe for jerk chicken tacos.
“Jerk” cooking refers to a style of cooking in which the meat (usually chicken) is rubbed in a spice mixture, then slow-cooked over a wood and charcoal fire or grill. It’s popular throughout the Caribbean.
Jerk chicken is spicy, sweet, aromatic, and super juicy. It keeps you coming back for more.
Both the spices and the cooking style are what makes jerk chicken jerk.
The spices in Jamaican jerk seasoning are all spice, cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, thyme, chile, and more. In traditional recipes, the spices are usually toasted whole, then ground.
Because we need a beach escape—and dinner—ASAP, I’ve taken the essential flavors of jerk chicken and and adapted them to create an accessible, slow cooker jerk chicken recipe that’s perfect for weeknight dinner.
5 Star Review
“Just tried this, and I am not often moved to leave comments for recipes, but it is REALLY good! Very interesting combination of flavors.”— Yum —
How to Make Slow Cooker Jerk Chicken Tacos
To make the crockpot jerk chicken recipe, I simply placed chicken thighs in my slower cooker, gave them a massage with the spice mix, then scattered the other ingredients over the top.
No pre-cooking of any ingredient is required—the slow cooker does all the work.
This chicken boasts the bold, vacation-worthy flavors you’ve been craving!
What is Jerk Sauce Made of?
Traditionally, jerk sauce is made of ingredients like allspice berries, thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, green onions, and fresh ginger.
As with this Jamaican Curry Chicken recipe, I swapped out the whole spices for ground and traded the Scotch bonnet peppers for jalapeños, which are a bit milder and easier to find, too.
- Chicken Thighs. I picked juicy chicken thighs over breasts, as they have more inherent flavor and can withstand hours in the slow cooker without becoming dry. Plus, chicken thighs are packed with protein and vitamins.
- Spices. Thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, and ginger star. The contrast of warming spices with the savoriness of the thyme, the heat of the peppers, and the sweetness of the pineapple is straight-up addictive.
- Jalapeños. Gives the chicken heat without making it overly spicy.
- Pineapple Chunks. The canned pineapple chunks are this cook’s exercise of her kitchen liberty. Pineapple isn’t traditional to jerk chicken, but I love the way its sweet flavor contrasts with the warm spices, as well as its tropical flair. Plus, the pineapple juice doubles as a cooking liquid for the chicken.
- White Vinegar. Adds acidity and helps tenderize the chicken during cooking.
- Tortillas. We love piling our jerk chicken into scrumptious corn tortillas.
- Toppings. To create a variation on jerk chicken tacos with slaw, I added a bit of red cabbage on top of our tacos. I also topped them with lime juice and non-traditional but unquestionably scrumptious feta cheese.
- Stir the jerk spices together in a bowl.
- Add the olive oil, mixing to form a paste.
- Lay the chicken thighs in a slow cooker, coating them with the paste. Add the white parts of the green onions.
- Add the pineapple and vinegar.
- Add the jalapeños and garlic. Cook on LOW for 4 to 5 hours.
- Shred the chicken. Remove the pineapple with a slotted spoon.
- Thicken the cooking liquid on the stove.
- Stir in the chicken and pineapple. DIG IN!
- To Store. Refrigerate leftover jerk chicken filling in an airtight storage container for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Rewarm chicken in a skillet on the stovetop over medium-low heat or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze jerk chicken in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Leftover jerk chicken is delicious served over beans and rice. Take a note from this Instant Pot Chicken Enchiladas recipe and add the shredded jerk chicken to an enchilada. Or keep things fresh with new and exciting topping ideas. (Jerk chicken tacos with mango salsa or jerk chicken tacos with pineapple salsa would be scrumptious!)
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Slow Cooker. Perfect for making crockpot jerk chicken!
- Instant Read Thermometer. The most accurate way to check your chicken for doneness.
- Measuring Spoons. These measuring spoons are ideal for recipes with lots of spices.
In addition to being a perfect escape for dinner tonight, this jerk chicken filling is ultra freezer friendly.
Future you thanks you for making a big batch, then stowing it away for a kitchen vacation to come!
Jerk Chicken Tacos
- 2 teaspoons dried thyme
- 2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
- 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons ground allspice
- 2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat
- 4 green onions chopped, white and green parts separated
- 6 cloves chopped garlic
- 2 jalapeño peppers with seeds, diced
- 20 ounces pineapple chunks unsweetened, in their juices
- 1/4 cup white vinegar
- corn tortillas
- red cabbage Shredded
- crumbled feta cheese
- lime wedges
- Prepare the rub: In a small bowl, stir together the thyme, nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, ginger, black pepper, and salt.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the top, then mix to form a paste.
- Place the chicken thighs in a 6-quart slow cooker. Rub the spice paste over the top of each. Sprinkle in the white parts of the green onions (reserve the green tops for serving).
- Pour the diced pineapple in its juice evenly over the top, then the white vinegar.
- Add the garlic and jalapeños. Cover and cook on low for 4 to 5 hours, until the chicken is tender and cooked through.
- Remove the cooked chicken to a plate and shred.
- Remove the pineapple chunks with a slotted spoon and set aside. Transfer the remaining cooking liquid to a wide saucepan and heat over medium high, stirring often, until thickened and reduced by half, 5 to 10 minutes.
- Stir in the shredded chicken and reserved pineapple, coating with the reduced glaze. Serve the filling as tacos, topped with reserved green onion tops, red cabbage, feta, and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
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