In college I was obsessed with a place called Wings (shocking I know). Two, three…fine, four times a week, l’d order boneless chicken wings smothered in some sweet or spicy, sticky sauce. After exhausting every saucy flavor on the menu, I decided to try one of the rubs instead: Jamaican Jerk. Why had I waited so long to try jerk chicken? It was zesty, warm in a cozy sort of way, spicy, and sweet at the same time, and I loved every bite.
It’s about time I brought that jerk flavor back…in a healthier recipe.
Jerk Chicken Lettuce Wraps Recipe
For my version, I decided to forgo the wings (and the frying), and marinate chicken breast in a bold Jerk sauce (almost like a wet rub) to give it a chance to absorb some of that rich flavor of thyme, allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg, jalapeño (or scotch bonnet if you can find it!), brown sugar, and lime. Then, after grilling, I slice the chicken, pile it in butter lettuce leaves along with avocado, red onion, and shredded carrot, and drizzle the wraps with an orange vinaigrette. The sweet citrus is so right for these bold chicken slices and as a dressing, it brightens every other ingredient.
Make them for dinner, lunch, or even better–Sunday meal prep! You’ll love them if you want something wholesome and yet a little out of your normal flavor roster. Enjoy, friends!
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari (tamari for gluten-free version)
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 jalapeño pepper, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
2 teaspoons packed light brown sugar
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 pound boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon orange zest
1 tablespoon orange marmalade or honey*
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 head iceberg, green leaf, or bibb lettuce
1 avocado, pitted and sliced
2 to 3 medium carrots, cut into matchsticks or coarsely grated on a box grater
1 medium red onion, thinly sliced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Marinate the chicken: In a food processor, combine all marinade ingredients (zest through black pepper), except for chicken, and process until smooth. Transfer the mixture to a large resealable plastic bag and add the chicken. Press out as much air as possible, seal the bag, toss to coat the chicken with the marinade, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 24 hours.
For the orange vinaigrette, in a small bowl, whisk the cider vinegar, orange juice, zest, and marmalade until smooth. Slowly whisk in the olive oil until blended. Whisk in the salt and pepper. Cover and let stand while you make the rest of the salad. Whisk once more before serving, as the dressing will separate some as it sits. It will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 1 week.
To broil the chicken (see grill instructions below): Adjust your oven racks so that the top rack is about 5 inches from the heat source (top of the oven). Preheat the broiler. Line a broiler pan with aluminum foil and spray the foil with cooking spray. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess and discarding the rest of the marinade, and lay the chicken breasts on the prepared pan. Broil until well browned and cooked through, 12 to 15 minutes, flipping halfway.
To grill the chicken: Coat your gas grill grates lightly with oil and then set the grill to medium-high heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade, shaking off the excess and discarding the rest of the marinade, add the chicken to the grill cover, and grill until browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes per side.
Transfer the chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes before cutting into thin strips.
To assemble the wraps, lay 2 lettuce leaves side by side on a work surface (for a sturdier wrap and better crunch, use a double layer of lettuce for each lettuce wrap!). Using about ¼ of the chicken, divide the strips among the 2 wraps, followed by ¼ of the avocado slices, the carrots, red onion slices, and fresh cilantro. Repeat the process to make more servings and serve.