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Peri Peri Chicken

peri peri chicken with french fries, rice, and corn

Peri Peri is a Portuguese condiment that is used to season a variety of dishes. It features as a key ingredient in today’s recipe, which is marinated in a flavorful combination of peri peri, paprika, garlic, and lemon, then seared to perfection on the grill. Peri Peri chicken can also be made by pan searing or even baked, if you prefer. The results are always spiced, tangy and delicious. 

Where Does Peri Peri Chicken Come From?

Peri peri sauce was introduced to South Africans by Portuguese traders, possibly as early as the 16th century. The primary ingredient, the malagueta chili pepper, was sourced from the then-Portuguese colony of Brazil. 

The name “peri peri” is, nonetheless, African in origin. “Pilipili” is Swahili for chili pepper; the name peri peri is specific to the malagueta pepper, which is alternatively known as piri piri in other parts of Southern Africa. 

Today, peri peri chicken is an extremely popular dish in both South America, Portugal, and Southern Africa. Peri peri on its own also acts as a dipping sauce used in much the same way as ketchup or bbq sauce. 

What Does Peri Peri Sauce for Chicken Taste Like?

Peri peri hot sauce has a unique flavor, thanks to the combination of heat, citrus, and garlic. Malagueta peppers themselves have a similar look and taste as thai chilis, or bird’s eye peppers. Malaguetas have a higher heat index, similar to other tabasco peppers. Peri peri hot sauce blends the peppers with ginger, lime juice, garlic, and sugar. The resulting taste is tangy with a hint of sweetness, plenty of fire, and a touch of earthiness from the ginger root. 

What Type of Chicken to Use for Peri Peri Chicken?

The traditional peri peri chicken calls for a whole chicken, bones, skin and all. The chicken is spatchcocked, smothered in zesty peri peri marinade, and grilled over high heat to sear in the juices and crispy up the skin.

You can also use chicken quarters or bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. You will just need to adjust the grilling time for smaller cuts of meat. Of course, you can use chicken breasts as well, but you will have to be more careful not to overcook the meat. 

Related: When Can I Start Grilling?

How Do You Spatchcock a Chicken for Piri Piri?

Spatchcocking offers several benefits when cooking a whole chicken. The meat cooks more evenly, for one, and in less time. It is also easier to season the meat, ensuring the flavorful marinade permeates every spot. 

With a good pair of kitchen shears, spatchcocking couldn’t be simpler. Place a whole chicken breast-side down on a cutting board. Use the shears to cut along one side of the chicken spine, as close to it as you can. Repeat the same process on the other side, and discard the spine (or save if for stock). 

Flip the chicken over so the breast side is up. Press firmly down to flatten the chicken. You will probably hear a little “crack” of the rib bones. A brutal process, sure, but one that guarantees flavor. 

Store Bought vs Homemade Peri Peri Sauce

You can buy bottled peri peri sauce online or in certain specialty stores. But it is so simple to make, you may as well do it yourself! In the States, you probably won’t be able to locate malagueta peppers. That’s okay! Fresnos or red serranos will work well, and they are readily available in most American super markets. 

Peri Peri Chicken Recipe


For the peri peri sauce:
5 Fresno chilis or red Serrano chilis
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger
2 oz fresh lime juice
2 tsp granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1 oz olive oil, or more to achieve desired texture

For the Marinade:
2 tbsp peri peri sauce
1 tbsp paprika
¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
2 oz extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp brown sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
Zest and juice of two large lemons

For the Chicken:
1 whole chicken (approximately 5 pounds), spatchcocked


  1. Blend all the ingredients for your peri peri in a blender or food processor until smooth. It should have the consistency of tabasco sauce. Add more oil, if needed. 
  2. Whisk together the marinade ingredients in a small bowl. Place the spatchcocked chicken in a glass or porcelain dish and coat all over with the marinade. Cover and refrigerate for at least two hours (preferably overnight). 
  3. Heat a grill over medium high heat. Brush the grates with plenty of vegetable oil or olive oil.
  4. Place the spatchcocked chicken skin side down and sear for five minutes, until the skin is crisp and golden.
  5. Turn the heat down to low. Flip the chicken over and cover the grill. Cook the chicken on low until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees fahrenheit. This will take about 40-45 minutes, but be sure you are checking the temperature throughout the process to avoid overcooking.
  6. Remove the chicken from the grill and slice into pieces for serving. Serve with additional peri peri sauce for dipping, potato salad, and an ear of corn for a perfect barbecue meal. 

More Great Brazilian Recipes to Try:

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