Brown Stew Chicken

Jamaican brown stew chicken is always a hit in our house. While other Caribbean countries have their own version, Jamaicans added their own twist to it by using a bit of jerk seasoning in the marinade. Jerk seasoning can be used as a general all-purpose seasoning and not just in jerk recipes. The chicken is also browned first before adding the rest of the aromatics in before braising. This is what helps gives the dish the brown color and really adds to the flavor. While the recipe calls for chicken parts, a whole chicken can be cut up into 1–2-inch chunks and used. If you aren’t comfortable butchering a whole chicken, you can have the butcher at your supermarket do this for you. Just ask them to cut the chicken up for making a stew.

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Brown stew chicken served with cauliflower rice.
Brown Stew Chicken Served with Cauliflower Rice

What is browning?

Browning (or burnt sugar) is brown or cane sugar that has been caramelized until it becomes very dark. Many seasoned Jamaican cooks make this from scratch, but using store bought browning is just fine. Despite it being made from pure sugar, it’s not very sweet tasting. Actually, using a little goes a long way. Start small and if after you mix it in you think it needs more then add a little more. Just remember that the chicken will get a bit darker when cooked and if you use too much it can make the dish bitter.

If you are doing a Whole30, you can use coconut aminos or coconut teriyaki instead. Coconut teriyaki works best because it’s a bit thicker and will work more like the browning will. The chicken doesn’t get as browned as if you used browning, but you still get a nice color. Adding an extra tablespoon when adding in the ketchup could give the brown stew chicken a more desired look.

Why use ketchup?

While the dish cooks, it releases its own liquid and makes a natural gravy so there is no need to add water. The gravy by itself is good and you don’t need to add anything else, it’s traditional to add a few tablespoons of ketchup. Ketchup is very common in Caribbean cooking, especially when making stews. It’s like our version of tomato paste. The ketchup thickens the gravy and add an extra layer of flavor and umami. Instead of using tomato ketchup, as is traditional in brown stew chicken, the carrot ketchup from The New Primal (affiliate link) is my go-to. If you are not a fan of either, you could use BBQ sauce instead.

Can brown stew chicken be cooked in the Instant Pot?

Absolutely! Use the sauté function to brown the chicken without the seasoning marinade (onion, bell pepper, pimento etc.). After adding the seasonings back in after searing the chicken, place the lid on top of the Instant Pot but don’t lock it on. You should be able to just pull the lid up when needed. Allow the chicken to cook for 5 minutes then turn off sauté mode. Secure the lid and pressure cook for 13 minutes on high pressure. Allow the Instant Pot to natural release for 10 minutes then manually release the remaining pressure.

What to serve brown stew chicken with?

Brown stew chicken can be served with a variety of sides. Rice and peas or just plain white rice is traditional, but if you are making this Whole30 then cauliflower rice is perfect. Fried plantain and vegetable salad are also great sides to add. And for dessert, this Bread Pudding recipe is never a bad idea.

Brown Stew Chicken

A gluten free Jamaican version of a Caribbean classic. Brown stew chicken is a rich and flavorful chicken stew that has been marinated in classic Jamaican spices and slowly braised until tender. Perfect for weeknight dinners that will transport you to the Caribbean.
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Jamaican
Servings 6


  • Large mixing bowl
  • Large skillet or Dutch pot with lid
  • Wooden spoon
  • Tongs


  • 4-5 pounds chicken leg and thigh work best.
  • ½ onion sliced
  • ½ green bell pepper chopped
  • 3 stalks green onion chopped
  • 1 TBSP pimento seed
  • 1 TBSP poultry seasoning
  • 1 TBSP all-purpose seasoning
  • 1 TBSP jerk seasoning optional
  • ½ TBSP dried thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp browning see notes for Whole30 swap
  • 2-3 TBSP ketchup I use carrot ketchup
  • 1-2 TBSP olive oil


  • Wash chicken and pat dry.
  • Add onion, green bell pepper, green onion, pimento, garlic powder, all-purpose seasoning jerk seasoning (if using), poultry seasoning, browning, dried thyme, salt and pepper to the chicken and mix.
  • Marinate chicken for 30 minutes.
  • Heat a large skillet or Dutch pot on the stove on medium heat.
  • Once heated, add olive oil.
  • When olive oil is heated, add chicken and marinade.
  • Cover and let the chicken get brown, about 3 minutes. Once one side is browned, flip and let the other side brown while covered.
  • Once the chicken is browned on both sides, scrape the bottom of the pot/skillet. You should have some liquid released by this point.
  • Cover the pot/skillet, reduce heat to medium low and let cook for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the lid and stir. let cook another 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes.
  • Add in ketchup, stir and let cook another 5 minutes.
  • Serve with your white rice or cauliflower rice and enjoy!


If you can marinate this ahead of time, overnight is best covered in the fridge. Remove 30 minutes before cooking so the chicken can get to room temperature.
If you want to make this Whole30, use 1 TBSP coconut aminos or coconut teriyaki instead of browning.
If there is any left, this is even better the next day.
Keyword brown stew, brown stew chicken, chicken, gluten free, grain free, jamaican, jamaican food, jamaican recipe

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