National Jamaican Jerk Day is celebrated every year on October 24. This day is set aside to celebrate jerk cooking — the unique Jamaican way of seasoning and grilling food. Celebrated across the country, the day is not about the food and the delicious seasoning alone. National Jamaican Jerk Day is as much about Jamaican culture, music, dancing, and community, as it is about the food.
Jamaican jerk is the food that brings people together so they can celebrate their history, culture, and identity. Jerk is an important symbol of the Jamaican identity, and the people love to celebrate this iconic seasoning.
History of National Jamaican Jerk Day
National Jamaican Jerk Day is an annual celebration of Jamaican jerk seasoning, food, and culture that is celebrated on October 24. This celebration of jerk across the country is more than a celebration of the food.
Jerk is an important cultural symbol for most Jamaicans. A legacy of culinary fusion, jerk brings together the food of the indigenous Taino and African people living in Jamaica. The Taino were indigenous people who lived on the Caribbean island of Jamaica and were the first to cook jerked meat.
When the Spanish colonized Jamaica, they brought enslaved people from Africa along with them onto the island. Enslaved African people were freed from the colonists during the Invasion of Jamaica, which was part of the Anglo-Spanish War. The newly freed African people escaped, mingled with the Taino people, and established their independent communities. They came to be known as the Jamaican Maroons.
The Maroons learned the technique of jerk from the Taino. The word itself is derived from charqui, a Spanish word originally derived from the Quechua people of the Andes Mountains in South America. Charqui means jerked or dried meat, so the Maroons began to refer to the Taino method of cooking meat as jerk.
Jerk seasoning, also known as jerk spice or Jamaican spice, is a spice rub. Common ingredients include allspice, Scotch bonnet peppers, sugar, salt, ginger, clove, cinnamon, thyme, and garlic. These seasonings vary across the Jamaican diaspora.
Jamaican jerk refers to the spice rub, the marinade, sauce, and cooking techniques altogether.
National Jamaican Jerk Day timeline
Spanish colonists arrive in Jamaica, bringing enslaved people from Africa with them.
Enslaved people are freed from the Spanish, and mingle with the Taino people, adopting their cooking techniques.
The Maroons establish their own culture, with jerk cooking as an important cultural identifier.
Jerking evolves with time, with Caribbean entrepreneurs identifying easier and more portable ways of jerking.
National Jamaican Jerk Day FAQs
What are the three main ingredients in jerk?
The three main ingredients are Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, and allspice.
Is jerk seasoning the same as Cajun?
No, jerk seasoning is very different from Cajun seasoning.
Is jerk chicken healthy?
Jerk chicken is healthy when it’s a part of a balanced diet.
National Jamaican Jerk Day Activities
Visit the Jamaican Jerk Festival
The Jamaican Jerk Festival is an amazing celebration of jerk and the culture around it. Head over to eat some great food, listen to Jamaican music, and dance away.
Host a jerk party
Fire up your grill and get your friends together for a delicious party. You can make your jerk sauce or buy it ready-made from the grocery store.
Support local Jamaican restaurants
Jamaican restaurants will be joining in the festivities with specials. Order in or visit these restaurants so you can support them and eat some authentic jerk.
5 Facts About Jamaican Jerk That Will Blow Your Mind
Even fish can be jerked
The main meats that are cooked are chicken and pork, but today even fish is cooked in this way.
Pimento wood was an important component
Jerk cooking evolved with the Maroons roasting wild hogs over pimento wood.
Scotch bonnet was used because of availability
The previously enslaved people had to make do with what they had, so they used Scotch bonnet peppers, which are now an important characteristic of jerk.
The French Caribbean has something similar
A smoked chicken dish called poulet boucane is a version of jerked chicken.
No one cooks over fire pits anymore
Most jerk in Jamaica is cooked in jerk pans over hardwood charcoal.
Why We Love National Jamaican Jerk Day
We love the history
We think that Jamaican jerk has an important history behind it. We want to honor the story behind the food.
We think the culture is amazing
We love that Jamaican jerk is the symbol of such a rich and resilient culture. We want to celebrate it with our Jamaican friends.
We think the festival is lots of fun
We love the Jamaican Jerk Festival and all the activities around it. We think it’s a great way to bring the community together.
National Jamaican Jerk Day dates