PINEAPPLE JERK CHICKEN TACOS
We are overdue for a Caribbean vacation. Winter has been long, spring feels far away, and I don’t know about you, but I could seriously use a tan. Sadly, jumping on the next plane to Jamaica isn’t in the realm of possibility, so I’m scratching my island itch with a Caribbean-inspired recipe for Slow Cooker Pineapple Jerk Chicken Tacos.
Juicy, aromatic, and spicy, traditional Jamaican jerk chicken is a labor of love, involving whole spices and wood-fire roasting. Since we need a vacation (and dinner) ASAP, I’ve taken the traditional flavors essential to Jamaican jerk chicken and adapted them to create an accessible, slow cooker version that’s perfect for a weeknight dinner.
While jerk chicken recipes vary widely, almost all of them have a few key ingredients in common: allspice berries, thyme, Scotch bonnet peppers, green onions, and fresh ginger. For today’s slow cooker version, I swapped out the whole spices for a quick and easy mix of ground spices, and traded the Scotch bonnet peppers for jalapeños, which are a bit milder and easier to find too.
Canned chunked pineapple is a sweet addition that contrasts nicely with the warm spices and adds tropical flair. It also works perfectly as a cooking liquid for the chicken. I chose thighs over breasts, as they have more flavor and can withstand long cooking times without becoming dry.
To make the chicken, I simply placed the thighs in my KitchenAid® 6-Quart Slow Cooker, applied the spice rub, then scattered the other ingredients over the top. No precooking required—the slow cooker does all the work—and I love that it automatically switches to “keep warm” when the cooking time ends, so I never need to worry about the meal being overdone.
The wonderful juices from the pineapple and chicken mingle with the spices and make the perfect cooking liquid after the chicken is ready. I took the extra step of reducing the liquid on the stove in my KitchenAid® Stainless Steel 10-Piece Set. Over the heat, the juices transform into a sticky, sweet glaze for the chicken that is more than worth the extra few minutes of prep.
All that remains is the assembly. I served the pineapple jerk chicken as a taco filling, topped with a bit of shredded cabbage, lime, and (highly untraditional, but unquestionably delicious) feta cheese, and I think it would be tasty served over rice too.
Cue the reggae, blend the piña-coladas, and settle in for an island vacation on a plate with Slow Cooker Pineapple Jerk Chicken Tacos!
Slow Cooker Pineapple Jerk Chicken TacosMakes 6 servings
For the rub
2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground allspice
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
For the chicken
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
1 (20-ounce) can unsweetened pineapple chunks in their juices
1/4 cup white vinegar
Shredded red cabbage
Crumbled feta cheese
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 KitchenAid® 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), garlic, and jalapeños. Pour the diced pineapple in its juice evenly over the top, then the white vinegar. 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 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.