The history of Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken

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Brown Stew Chicken, a quintessential Jamaican dish, has a rich history that’s deeply intertwined with the island’s cultural evolution.

The roots of Brown Stew Chicken lie in the tradition of ‘stewing’ or ‘browning’ meats, a cooking technique that can be traced back to West Africa, the homeland of many enslaved Africans brought to Jamaica during the transatlantic slave trade. This method involves marinating the meat, typically in a mix of spices, herbs, and browning sauce, then searing it to seal in the flavors, and finally simmering it in a rich gravy.

As enslaved people adapted to their new environment in Jamaica, they began to incorporate local ingredients, such as Scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, and thyme, creating dishes that were a fusion of African cooking techniques and the available Caribbean ingredients. Over time, these dishes evolved into a distinctive Jamaican cuisine, with Brown Stew Chicken being one of its most popular manifestations.

Brown Stew Chicken is a testament to the creativity and resilience of the Jamaican people. Despite the harsh conditions of slavery, they managed to create a dish that is not only flavorful but also comforting and nourishing. Today, it’s a beloved staple in Jamaican households and a must-try for anyone seeking to experience authentic Jamaican cuisine.

Over the years, Brown Stew Chicken has traveled beyond the borders of Jamaica, finding a place in the hearts and kitchens of people around the globe, particularly in regions with a significant Jamaican diaspora. Its rich, hearty flavors continue to tell the story of Jamaica’s culinary heritage and its enduring influence on global cuisine.

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    • 2 lbs chicken (preferably dark meat, cut into pieces)
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt to taste
  • Black pepper to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), chopped
  • 1 Scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and finely chopped (adjust to your heat preference)
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon allspice (pimento)
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon browning sauce (or substitute with 1 tablespoon of brown sugar caramelized in a bit of oil)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chicken broth or water
  • 1 large carrot, cut into rounds
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 2 green onions (scallions), chopped

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Marinate the Chicken

Start by cleaning the chicken with lime juice, then rinse and pat dry. Season the chicken pieces with salt, black pepper, minced garlic, half of the chopped onion, half of the chopped bell pepper, the chopped Scotch bonnet pepper, thyme, allspice, and soy sauce. Mix well to ensure each piece of chicken is coated with the seasoning. Cover the bowl and let it marinate in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight for the flavors to fully penetrate the meat.

Brown the Chicken

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the browning sauce to the pot (or if you’re using brown sugar, let it caramelize in the oil). Then add the marinated chicken pieces and brown them on all sides. This should take about 10-15 minutes. Remove the browned chicken pieces and set them aside.

Sauté the Vegetables

In the same pot, add the remaining chopped onion and bell pepper. Sauté until the onion becomes translucent and the bell pepper is softened, about 2-3 minutes.

Simmer the Stew

Return the browned chicken pieces to the pot and add the chicken broth or water. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to low, cover the pot, and let it simmer. This should take about 30 minutes. Remember to stir occasionally.

Add the Remaining Ingredients

Once the chicken is cooked through, add the chunks of carrot, potato, and chopped green onions to the pot. Cover and let it cook for another 20-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and the stew has thickened to your liking.


Taste the stew and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Your Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken is ready to be served! It’s traditionally served with rice and peas, but you can also serve it with your choice of side.

Please remember that Scotch bonnet peppers are very hot, so handle them with care and adjust the quantity as per your preference. Always use gloves to avoid skin irritation.

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