Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Tacos

Jalapenos from the gardenIt all started in my mom’s garden with these little jalapeños.

Every time I visit my parents, my mom always sends me home with a giant bag of stuff. Stuff she found in the garage. Stuff she bought for me on sale. Stuff she grew in her garden. I have to admit, even though I have NO space in my little condo, lately she has been getting pretty good at weeding out what I don’t want and giving me what I do want or need. I especially love when she sends me home loaded with fruits and veggies from her garden.

So, back to the jalapeños. I had these little guys looking all cute and shiny, just begging to be used for something good.  I wanted to use them for something special because it’s not every day that I get to use homegrown peppers.

I remembered back to a family reunion cruise we took to Ocho Rios, Jamaica.  On the trip, I kept hearing about Jerk Chicken which, as a 14-year-old, was hilarious and incredibly intriguing. When we got home, I dialed-up my internet and found a recipe for jerk chicken. I distinctly remember buying jalapeños and using them for the very first time when I made my special chicken, so I decided I would use my little jalapeños to make that. (I know what you’re thinking, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

I wanted to make tacos because we’ve been obsessed with them since I started making my own corn tortillas.  Since we don’t have a grill, and because it’s just so simple, I decided to make the chicken in my slow cooker. I was all set to make shredded jerk chicken tacos, but I didn’t quite remember what jerk spices were all about, so I did some research.  I found out what many of you probably already know. Jerk seasoning calls for scotch bonnet peppers, not jalapeños.  Hmm…. Well, I decided to do what my 14-year-old self must have done. I substituted. Now, I don’t recommend doing this necessarily, but this all started with my jalapeños. I had to use them. So, I consulted Serious Eats for my pepper swap and moved forward.

I whizzed together a lot of different ingredients in my food processor to make my jerk sauce.  I started with orange and lime juices.  These lent a bright, fruity flavor to the sauce. I added in garlic, jalapeños, onion, and cilantro for fresh bite. The dried herbs and spices were next: thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg. Finally, I added some brown sugar for a bit more sweetness and liquid smoke to mimic the smokiness that we would normally be getting from the grill with traditional jerk chicken.

Jamaican Jerk Sauce 1
Then, I poured the sauce over the chicken breasts in the slow cooker.  I actually don’t particularly like chicken breasts cooked in the slow cooker.  I prefer chicken thighs, but I continue to try different slow cooker recipes with boneless, skinless chicken breasts because they are just so darn convenient.  If the recipe calls for you to shred the chicken once it finishes cooking, it is much better, so I was okay with using chicken breasts in my experiment.  I think the next time I do it, I will go with chicken thighs, but if you prefer a leaner cut, chicken breasts do work well.

The ingredients are simple enough that I just made my own - with no added sugars!

The ingredients are simple enough that I just made my own – with no added sugars!

Once they were done cooking, we tucked the deliciously sweet and spicy chicken into homemade corn tortillas and topped with chopped cabbage and mango salsa.  I attempted to buy the salsa at Trader Joe’s because I remember them selling that once, but to my dismay, they had changed their recipe to now include agave syrup, which John and I avoid.  So, I just looked at the basic ingredients and concocted my own version.

I used pre-sliced mango because Trader Joe’s didn’t have any whole ones.  I also used more peppers from my mom’s garden: the jalapeños and an unidentified long, red one.  I think it was a cayenne.  I added some red onion, cilantro, and lime juice.  If you like your mango salsa on the sweeter side, sub orange juice for the lime juice. The salsa came out great, and the beautiful, bright colors made it fun to eat.

These Jamaican Jerk Chicken Tacos made for a refreshing twist on the standard chicken soft taco.  Served with a side of beans or coconut rice, you can have an easy and impressive taco plate.

Jamaican Jerk Tacos Collage

SLOW COOKER JAMAICAN JERK CHICKEN TACOS with Fresh Mango Salsa

(Makes 3-4 servings)

Ingredients

Chicken Filling

1.5 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 2 halves)
¼ cup fresh squeezed orange juice (about 1 small orange)
1 tbs Lime juice (about ½ a lime)
1 scotch bonnet or habanero pepper OR 2 large jalapenos, seeded
4 cloves garlic, peeled
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 tbs minced ginger
1 tbs brown sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp dried thyme
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp liquid smoke

Mango Salsa

1 cup fresh mango, peeled and diced small (1 medium mango)
½ small red onion, diced small
1 medium jalapeno, minced
1 cayenne pepper, minced or a pinch of ground cayenne
1 handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of ½ a lime
salt to taste

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken breasts into the insert of your slow cooker.
  2. Place the remaining chicken filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor or a blender. Blend until smooth, scraping the sides of your bowl if necessary.
  3. Pour the blended sauce over the chicken breasts.
  4. Cook on low for 4-5 hours or on high 2-3 hours.*
  5. While the chicken cooks, toss together all the mango salsa ingredients in a small bowl.  Allow to sit for at least 30 minutes for flavors to meld.
  6. When the chicken in tender, shred it carefully with two forks.
  7. Allow the shredded chicken to sit in the juices on low or warm for about 30 minutes to absorb the juices.

Everyone’s slow cooker is different and chicken breasts are temperamental. If you are new to cooking chicken breasts in your slow cooker, be sure to check on your chicken breasts often so they don’t dry out.

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7 thoughts on “Slow Cooker Jamaican Jerk Chicken Tacos

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