Grilled jerk chicken wings
(Photo by John Thomas of

Wings are the classic football appetizer. The usual flavor combination applied to wings is a buttery hot sauce and a salad dressing for dunking the wings. Nothing wrong with that. But if you want to take your tailgate to a new level, give these wings a try.

The rich spicy heat from the habanero peppers along with the Jamaican jerk flavors of allspice, green onions, cinnamon, thyme and nutmeg really make these wings stand out. The nice thing about this recipe is that you can do most of the work the day before the game by placing your chicken in the marinade overnight and grilling it when you get to the stadium (or to your backyard grill).


Grilled jerk chicken wings

3-4 pounds of chicken wings


1 bunch of green onions (scallions) (at least 6-8 scallions in the bunch)

1 small sweet onion

4-5 habanero peppers

1/4 cup orange juice

5 cloves of garlic (peeled)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon dark brown sugar

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

3/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 teaspoons allspice

2 teaspoons black pepper

1 tablespoon salt

Green onion dipping sauce

1/2 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup sour cream

3-4 tablespoons chopped green onions (scallions)

Salt and pepper to taste

To make the marinade, begin by roughly chopping 4 green onions (exclude the green tips and the white root). Cut each habanero pepper in half and remove the seeds and stem. If you don't want to burn the mouths of your guests, remove most of the seeds and white membrane from the peppers. Place the chopped scallions and habanero peppers into a food processor (or blender) with all of the other marinade ingredients and pulse until smooth. Pour this mixture over the chicken wings and mix well. Let marinate overnight in the refrigerator.

To make the cool green onion dipping sauce, chop 2-3 tablespoons of the remaining green onions, excluding the green tips and the white root. In a transportable bowl, add the mayonnaise and sour cream, a dash of salt and pepper and mix well. Mix in the green onions and place a little extra on top. Keep this sauce on ice while you transport it to the tailgate.

When you arrive at the tailgate, set the grill to medium or medium-high heat. If your heat is moderate enough, the wings can be grilled over direct heat for about 20-30 minutes, turning each wing half way through. If you have a higher heat or you simply want to reduce the chances of burning everything, grill the wings almost to completion with indirect heat (away from the flame) for the first 20 minutes and then grill the wings over direct heat until they are done.

These wings are so tasty that you can easily serve them as your main dish. The spicier you make the wings (remember what I said about removing the seeds and inner membrane?), the more your guests will love the cool green onion dipping sauce.

John Thomas is the author of the Baltimore-based grilling blog