Jamaican Jerk is famous the world over. Now foodies craving the authentic heat and flavor of jerk spice can enjoy the real thing at jerk festivals across America. From New York to California, these jerk festivals celebrate the culinary diversity of jerk spice. They also provide a delicious opportunity to celebrate Caribbean music and arts.
But what exactly is jerk? Jerk refers to the process of spicing and grilling food. This usually means meat seasoned with a distinctive blend of herbs and spices. The classic recipe must include scotch bonnet pepper and pimento. The meat is then grilled over charcoal or pimento wood. Jerk at its best has a hot, juicy, spicy and tender flavor. Creative chefs have also found other creative jerk recipes besides meat dishes, from vegetable medleys to even dessert!
This makes jerk festivals a perfect way to celebrate Caribbean food and fun. If you are in the U.S., make sure to catch one of the many jerk festivals happening throughout the year. It is a great chance to try some of the delicious and diverse Jamaican cuisines. Also, you can get a taste of Caribbean’s incredible music scene.
Here are some of the best Caribbean Jerk festivals happening this summer in the United States that you do not want to miss.
Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival
Consider the ultimate jerk mecca in America, the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival is the largest Caribbean food festival in the US. Held every year, the popular event has three marque events in Miramar, South Florida, Washington DC, and Queens, New York.
Celebrating almost a decade, the Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival attracts well over 20,000 patrons. The huge crowd can’t resist the event’s unique mix of food music and culture. Here, guests can munch on a variety of jerk dishes by top chefs. And the show usually attracts top Caribbean music stars to perform. Recent stars include reggae icon Capleton, Jamaican crooner Chris Martin and dancehall diva Shenseea
Culinary and artisan vendors from across the country also gather during this yearly event to exhibit Jerk and the Jamaican culture to thousands of patrons. This makes this festival the perfect place to pick up a new jar of jerk sauce, or a handmade craft.
Atlanta Jerk Festival
Backed by Atlanta’s vibrant Caribbean community, the Atlanta Jerk Festival has grown into one of the largest Caribbean-themed food festivals in North America. The annual festival attracts thousands of patrons, including Caribbean nationals and food fans throughout Georgia and surrounding states.
At this festival, you’ll be able to find the best of the best Caribbean chefs from all over metro Atlanta.
In additional to spectacular Caribbean cuisine, Atlanta Jerk Fest also offers a vibrant roster of entertainment and culture. Founded in 2006, this festival is a must for anyone who appreciates the culture of the Caribbean. Guest can enjoy live performances from national and international stars like reggae icon Freddie McGregor and Bajan soca star Rupee.
The event also includes an authentic Caribbean-style food and produce market, plus a games tent for Ludo and Domino aficionados. So if you didn’t get to the Caribbean this year, a short trip to the Atlanta Caribbean Jerk Festival will make you think you’re in the islands.
This special event also serves as a party with a purpose. A portion of proceeds from the Atlanta Caribbean Jerk Festival also go to support several non-profit organizations.
West Palm Beach Jerk Festival
Jerk spice taste so much better outdoors in the vibrant sun. And foodies can certainly indulge in some outdoor jerk barbecue at the annual The West Palm Beach Jerk and Caribbean Culture Festival. The festival takes places at the South Florida Fairground, with grassy lawns, picnic benches and palm-tree lined knolls.
This annual event makes a great attraction for the whole family, offering a truly unique atmosphere and experience for festival-goers.
The festival features lots of food vendors, offering unique spins on the usual classic combinations. Think culinary combos like jerk lobster, spicy jerk shrimp, and even jerk ice cream. Kids can also get in on the fun with a whimsical kid’s zone, featuring carnival rides, face painting and games. Other fun family entertainment includes a dance contest, fashion show, giveaways and more.
On the main stage, expect a packed roster of Caribbean stars like Maxi Priest, Romain Virgo, and I-Octane.
Boston Jerk Fest
Come summertime, Boston foodies dive into some serious Caribbean flavors at the annual Boston Jerk Fest. At this two-day food festival, local restaurants bring authentic Jamaican jerk-spiced cuisine to the masses.
While sampling some delicious jerk, also don’t miss their popular a rum tasting sessions, where patrons can indulge in some premium Caribbean brews. They can also enjoy unlimited tastings of wine and beer cocktails, craft beer, hard cider, mead, and other artisan brews.
This event also features live musical performances, chef demos, and cocktail demos. These events culminate with an epic culinary showdown, the Boston Jerk Fest competition.
This event also seeks to give back by supporting several local community non-profits. This includes Haley House, Sustainable Food and Culture, Cambridge Carnival International, and Teens Advocating for a Global Vision.
Orlando Jerk Festival
For spice fans planning to head down for the Miami chapter of Grace Jamaican Jerk Fest, consider taking a culinary detour with the equally delightful Orlando Jerk Festival.
As the largest Caribbean culture food and music festival in Orlando, this event features a bevy of imaginative jerk dishes. In addition to the classic jerk chicken, think succulent jerk lobster, spicy jerk shrimp and the popular jerk ice cream.
Also learn about the fine art of jerk spice, as talented culinary personalities compete for the top culinary honors. Different international musical artists will also provide live entertainment.
This annual event also proved to be a truly family-friendly fest. The Kids Zone attracts youngsters with fun, interactive programming through the day. The adults can also get in on the fun with intense domino games as well as a variety of board games.
North Carolina Jerk Food Festival
When it comes to jerk festivals, Atlanta isn’t the only serious game in the South. Southern jerk spice fans can also head to the annual North Carolina Jerk Festival. The events offers a fun-filled day of authentic Caribbean food, drinks and live music.
Indulge in the the vest best Jamaican jerk alongside other Caribbean favorites, from curry stews to patties. Be sure to also explore the wine tasting booth for 1 oz tastes of several wines.
As the grill heats up, also explore the hot music lighting up the main stage. The festival also offers live entertainment with a bevy of Caribbean stars. Past performers include Junior Culture and LuvMac Jr.
Kids can also jump in on the festivities with their dedicated kids zone. Think bounce houses, face painter and various characters etc. While the kids play, the adults can also peruse the vibrant arts and crafts market.
Chicago Jerk Festival
For Caribbean foodies in the Mid-West, you can now indulge in your spicy jerk cravings at the annual Chicago Jerk Festival. Patrons can sample delicious jerk chicken, pork and fish, and jam out to live musical entertainment and DJ sets.
Held in Washington Park, the city’s biggest Caribbean jerk festival attracts an estimated 20,000 famished folks. The fest boasts offerings from more than 20 vendors in the food village, a jerk cook-off and plenty of reggae and soca bands to keep you grooving.
The family-friendly event also caters to the little ones with fun activities in the dedicated Kids’ Zone. Kids ages 12 and under also enjoy free admission into the event.
The Chicago Jerk Festival is a non-profit event that also raises funds for improving the health care sector in Jamaica.
Bridgeport Caribbean Jerk Fest
You can savor a taste of the islands as the annual Caribbean Jerk Fest dishes up music, fun, food and more in Bridgeport. The popular event is hosted by
The annual Bridgeport Caribbean jerk festival features authentic Caribbean cuisine, cool island beverages, spectacular costumes and dance, and island rhythms. Patrons will enjoy a full day of food, music, and children’s activities.
The Bridgeport Caribbean jerk festival is sponsored by the West Indian American Association of Greater Bridgeport (WIAAGB), a non-profit organization that serves as a beacon of hope in the West Indian American community. The organization takes an active interest in educational, cultural, and social activities that benefit the local community and the Caribbean.
Houston Jerk Fest
Premiering in 2016, the Houston Jerk Fest may be the new kid on the block when it comes to Jerk Festivals in America. But the event has already become a fan favorite among Jerk spice aficionados. Their mission is to empower the local Caribbean-American community economically, civically, and socially.
Encouraging a vibrant collective of traditions of the Caribbean, the annual Fest brings together local families with food, live music, and cultural performances. The marque event is the popular jerk seasoning cook-off competition, where contestants vie for a whopping $1,000 cash prize.
Food lovers can also wander through food booths, as well as a fine custom arts and crafts market. Meanwhile, the stage heats up with world-renown reggae, dancehall, soca, and afro beats artists.
The event presents a great opportunity for patrons to enjoy Caribbean food booths, fine custom arts and crafts booths, kid’s zone, and activities for the whole family.
Roots and Yam Jerk Food Fest
When in comes to jerk spice the West Coast, thank god for the annual Roots and Yam Jerk Festival. Located in Los Angeles, the popular event is holding down the fort out west. Patrons enjoy delicious dishes such as jerk pork, jerk chicken, jerk shrimp, yam, jerk fish, festival and other authentic island dishes.
The event also celebrate the literal roots of these delicious dishes. Tour their unique market displaying special farm produce from Jamaica and other Caribbean nations.
Not only do the participants have an opportunity to taste exotic foods from the Caribbean, but they enjoy music from internationally renowned acts. Past acts include Capleton, Koshens and Olajunji.
This is an excellent opportunity to mix and mingle with everyone who loves Caribbean food and culture. Patrons enjoy tasty food along with melodic sounds from top-class DJs and sound systems.
With so many options, jerk festivals make the perfect excuse to grab your family and friends and take a local road trip with some island flavor. Although you may not be able to get to the Caribbean for your next vacation, you can still experience the food, culture, music and all-around Caribbean vibes right here in the United States.