Brown stew chicken

  • 4
  • 2 hours 30 minutes plus 4-12 hours for marinating the chicken
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Brown stew chicken is a delicious Jamaican chicken stew made from a whole chicken. It's incredibly warming and comforting, with a rich, glossy gravy spiced with thyme, pimento and all-purpose seasoning. It's the perfect dish to have with rice and peas.

This recipe is taken from Motherland by Melissa Thompson (Bloomsbury Publishing, £26) Photography by Patricia Niven.

First published in 2023

Melissa says: "A classic recipe across the Caribbean, especially in Jamaica. It gets its name and colour from the browning, a mix of browned sugar and vegetable stock. This dish means comfort to me and it’s a meal I always come back to."




Savoury browning

  • 400ml of vegetable stock
  • 50g of soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml of water

Brown stew chicken



Reduce the vegetable stock in a saucepan to around 100ml, which will take about 30 minutes over a medium-high heat

  • 400ml of vegetable stock

At the same time, heat the sugar in a non-stick pan over a medium-high heat until it starts to liquefy (4–6 minutes). Watch it to make sure it doesn’t catch and burn

  • 50g of soft light brown sugar

Reduce the heat to medium-low, stirring regularly, and once the sugar has fully melted (10–15 minutes), stir continuously until it turns a luxurious dark brown and smells of intense caramel


Add 100ml water bit by bit, stirring furiously as you go. The sugar might clump up if the water is too cool, but keep it on the heat and keep stirring and the lumps will dissolve

  • 100ml of water

Once all the water has been incorporated, transfer to a sterilised jar. It will keep for 6 months


Cut the chicken into small pieces: separate the drumsticks and thighs and cut both in half using a cleaver. Divide each breast, on the bone, into 3-4 pieces. Separate the wings into the drum and flat


Remove the skin from every piece apart from the wings and freeze it, along with the wing tips and backbone, for stock


Mix the chicken pieces in a bowl with the salt, pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, thyme, pimento, all-purpose seasoning, spring onions and 1 tbsp savoury browning. Leave to marinate for at least 4 hours in the fridge, ideally overnight


Put the oil in a Dutch pot or heavy-based pan. Scrape as much of the marinade off the chicken pieces back into the bowl as you can (reserve this) and brown the chicken on all sides, in batches if needed, so as not to overcrowd the pan

  • 3 tbsp of vegetable oil

Remove the chicken to a plate and scrape the marinade into the same pan. Cook for 10 minutes over a medium-high heat until the onion starts to colour, then add the red pepper. Mix well and return the chicken to the pan with the measured water and all the remaining ingredients. Include the Scotch bonnet whole for flavour, or finely chop 1/4-1/2 of it for heat


Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer


Cook for 25 minutes until the sauce is thick, dark and glossy and the chicken is cooked through. Pick out the thyme sprigs, if you want, and the whole Scotch bonnet, if using


Serve with Rice & Peas.

First published in 2023

Melissa Thompson is a London-based recipe developer and food writer of Jamaican and Maltese heritage. She runs food and recipe project Fowl Mouths and is a columnist for BBC Good Food. In 2022, Melissa released her debut cookbook Motherland, which celebrates the food of Jamaica.

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