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Jerk Seasoning Adds Just The Right Amount Of Heat To Chicken Salad

Jerk seasoning spilling from a jar
Jerk seasoning spilling from a jar - Michelle Lee Photography/Getty Images

Chicken salad is about as no-frills as comfort food can get. A typical recipe consists of cooked chicken, mayonnaise, celery, and maybe a squirt of mustard. At first glance, this humble combination of ingredients may seem rather ordinary, but chicken salad has withstood the test of time for its mass appeal, ease of consumption, and cool, clean, refreshing taste.

However, the secret to the continued success of chicken salad is its ability to adapt and evolve. While a quick and easy chicken salad is pretty straightforward, there are limitless variations and additions. Ironically, one of the first ever recorded recipes for chicken salad -- which was said to have been created around the 1860's in Wakefield, Rhode Island -- used a daring combination of grapes, tarragon, and mayo. But that's the beautiful thing about chicken salad: It can be customized to fit the whims of whoever is cooking it. Practically no ingredient is off limits: strawberries, cashews, avocado, cheddar, curry powder ... the list is endless.

But what really balances out the inherently mellow nature of chicken salad is a big-and-bold spice blend. Enter jerk seasoning: A spicy, smoky, fragrant combination of toasty spices, herbs, and peppers. Jerk seasonings vary based on brand or recipe, but any version you choose will undoubtedly give your chicken salad a colossal boost of flavor.

Read more: The 12 Best Grocery Store Rotisserie Chickens, Ranked

How Jerk Seasoning Can Upgrade Your Chicken Salad

spices for jerk seasoning on counter
spices for jerk seasoning on counter - Candice Bell/Shutterstock

A good jerk seasoning elevates chicken salad by providing warmth, spice, and depth. As mentioned, a basic chicken salad can be pretty neutral in terms of flavor, lacking the pop or pizzazz that makes you eager to go in for another bite. Jerk seasoning changes all that. While recipes differ, it's safe to say that many versions incorporate some combination of cinnamon, allspice, cayenne, black pepper, paprika, nutmeg, clove, cumin, red chili flakes, garlic, onion, and dried herbs, like parsley and thyme. There's also usually some sugar in there to temper the intensity.

So, how do you channel the power of jerk seasoning into your chicken salad? Well, you have some options. The simplest way is to sprinkle your chicken with jerk seasoning before combining it with the other ingredients. You can also add the spice mix after all the ingredients have been mixed together, which can help you achieve that perfect harmony of flavors by being able to taste everything all at once. Another method is to incorporate a jerk sauce or marinade. But unlike the seasoning blends, these should be used to coat the chicken itself rather than added directly into the salad. You can also marinade the chicken in jerk seasoning before cooking, which will result in some seriously flavorful poultry.

How To Elevate All Types Of Cooking With Jerk

pork and pineapple skewers on plate atop marble kitchen counter
pork and pineapple skewers on plate atop marble kitchen counter - BBA Photography/Shutterstock

Jerk seasoning should be an immediate addition to your spice rack. Its fragrant blend of pungent herbs and spices stands alone in its ability to immediately take any ordinary dish to a whole new level. You can sprinkle this stuff on just about anything. Since jerk seasoning is first and foremost a Caribbean spice, it's always a wise idea to pair it with seafood, like shrimp, white fish, or salmon. Once seasoned and grilled, they can be added to salads and wraps, a plate of coconut rice, or fish tacos. Other meats, like pork, beef, ribs, and especially grilled chicken wings, are all natural matches for the hot-smoky notes of jerk.

However, jerk really shines when added to vegetarian dishes. Try shaking some into your scrambled eggs, pasta, sweet plantains, or even guacamole. And if you're trying to go vegan, it can completely transform ingredients like eggplant, tofu, jackfruit, or tempeh. Another simple idea is to skewer a random assortment of vegetables, give them a thorough dusting, and throw them on the grill. But you should let a cool, creamy homemade chicken salad be your introduction — or re-introduction — to the gastronomic powerhouse that is jerk seasoning.

Read the original article on Daily Meal.