Jamaican Chicken Curry

Yield: 4 servings

Cook Time: 1 hour
(plus overnight marinade)

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This spicy Jamaican recipe creates layers of texture by adding onions and scallions throughout the process, and highlights the shared culture and cuisines between the South Asian and Caribbean diasporas.



4 bone-in chicken thighs
1 chicken bouillon cube (or 2 cups chicken stock)
Curry powder (preferably a Jamaican brand)
1 bunch of scallions
2 medium onions
1 head of garlic
2 thumbs of ginger
10 to 15 dried pimento seeds aka allspice
1 to 2 scotch bonnet peppers
Olive oil, for marinade
2 medium russet potatoes or 3 to 4 red potatoes
2 dried bay leaves
4 to 5 stems of fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste



Rice, roti, and/or a simple salad



1. Clean your chicken thighs with vinegar and/or lemon and rinse. Plop them in a large bowl, baking dish, plastic bag or other marinating vessel. 

2. Season chicken with salt and pepper on both sides. Crush the bouillon cube in your fingers and sprinkle over the meat. Add curry powder, enough to coat both sides. Wash hands, then dice about half your scallions, one onion, half the garlic head and one thumb of ginger, and pour over the chicken. Throw in all your allspice. Cut one of the scotch bonnet peppers in half and add it, seeds and all, to the mix.

3.  Drizzle enough olive oil to coat the thighs, mix everything together until all the ingredients are thoroughly incorporated. Seal the plastic bag tightly and/or secure your vessel with plastic wrap. Marinate overnight in the fridge.


4. Heat a deep skillet or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add seasoned chicken skin-side down to the pot, along with the the marinade. Cook the chicken until it develops a beautiful brown color, then flip. 

5. Cook both sides until equally brown. If you notice any sticking, add a splash of water to deglaze the skillet and create a delicious sauce.

Once chicken is almost done, turn the heat down to low/medium-low while you prepare the potatoes. Wash and peel, then cut into large bite-sized chunks. Once the chicken is fully cooked, add potatoes to the pot, coating them in the sauce. 

6. Now, pour water (or chicken stock, if you didn’t use a bouillon cube) into the pot, enough to just barely cover the potatoes. Bring the heat up to high and get those potatoes boiling.

Birth the curry!

7. While you wait for the potatoes to boil, dice up the rest of your scallions, the other onion, the rest of the garlic and the other thumb of ginger.

If you want more heat, you can also add another fresh scotch bonnet pepper at this point. Add all of your seasoning to the (now boiling) curry pot. Add bay leaves and whole thyme stems. Stir and taste for seasoning.

8. If everything is to your liking, add a lid to the pot but leave some space for air. You can now cook this half-covered on medium/medium-low until the potatoes are ready.

Feel free to add more water as needed throughout this process. The goal is to create a thick, stew-like texture, though some may prefer more soupiness. Make sure to taste throughout. 

Serve with rice, roti, and/or a simple salad—just don’t forget the avocado.


Recipe by Zach Frater

“Inspired by the shared histories and fusion of our respective cultures, my Pakistani American friend Tehmina and I collaborated to make two different versions of the same classic household recipe we both grew up with. Both recipes evoke memories of our mothers’ & grandmothers’ heartwarming home-cooking. We were excited to explore these recipes together and traverse time and space by sharing our memories and stories of the dish and the ingredients used.

The funny (and at times, highly annoying) thing about South Asian food in the West is that everything is a curry. Tehmina’s Pakistani dish is called Salan in Urdu—which basically means any dish with meat or veggies with a runny onion-tomato based sauce. The closest and most relatable translation to it in English is…curry. The dish, however, is technically not a curry because it does not make use of the curry leaf or curry powder. This Jamaican recipe, on the other hand, is indeed a curry because it starts with a curry powder fry as its base. We thought it important to point that out.” Editor’s note: For the Pakistani variation on the same dish, see Aloo Chicken Ka Salan.

ZACH FRATER is a multi-racial Black native New Yorker with roots in Jamaica. Zach was raised by his grandmother, who taught him (among other things) to love comfort food and stiff drinks. Zach works days at a health organization and fights nights as a revolutionary drag vigilante known as Banjela Davis.

Jan 22, 2021. Photo by Zach Frater.

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