peri peri

Peri Peri Chicken

Grilled chicken with spicy Peri Peri sauce. Served with coleslaw and roasted potatoes.


Peri Peri Chicken

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Peruvian chicken is all the rage these days with places like Nando’s popping up all over the map. There’s a very serious reason for this:

Peruvian chicken is the bomb.

I was very happy to see this win the poll last week (narrowly) because I had just eaten some great Peruvian chicken while I was visiting DC for work last week. I was very excited to try to reproduce it at home.

I’m not really sure that I got it 100% correct because I kind of just winged it, but it was close enough to name it the same thing. It should go without saying that it was also delicious.

Peri Peri Chicken

Serves 4
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Grilled chicken with spicy Peri Peri sauce. Served with coleslaw and roasted potatoes.


1 whole chicken, butterflied or cut into pieces
Peri Peri Sauce:
10-20 red chilis, traditionally you would use piri piri (bird) chilis, but I used red jalapenos
6-8 sweet peppers
4 cloves garlic
A small handful of fresh oregano
1/2 Cup vegetable oil
1 Cup white wine vinegar
2 Tablespoons paprika
2 Tablespoons brown sugar
Pinch of salt
Simple Coleslaw:
1/2 large cabbage, shredded
3-4 carrots, shredded
3 scallions, diced
1/2 Cup mayonnaise
2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Pinch of salt
2 Teaspoons dried mustard (optional)


1) To prepare sauce, roughly chop peppers and garlic.  Leave the seeds in the peppers.

2) Heat oil in a medium pot over medium heat.  Add peppers and garlic and cook for a few minutes until fragrant and soft.

3) Add vinegar, spices, herbs, and salt.  Stir to combine.  Simmer for a few minutes.

4) Remove from heat and let cool, then blend or process until smooth.

5) Butterfly chicken by cutting out backbone and pressing it flat.  Use half of sauce to marinate chicken overnight.  Reserve other half of sauce for serving.

6) For coleslaw, shred veggies and combine with other ingredients.  Keep refrigerated until you serve it.

7) To grill chicken, heat grill and add chicken breast side up.  Cook chicken for 30-40 minutes with lid closed.  Turn chicken every 8-10 minutes.  Chicken should register 160 degrees Fahrenheit in the thighs.

8) Remove chicken and let rest for 5-10 minutes.  Then serve with slaw and extra sauce.

Preparing the Sauce

Traditionally this sauce is made with piri piri peppers, also known as bird chilis. These are small guys and they pack a punch. Depending on the heat level you want in your sauce, I’d use between 10 and 20 of them if you can find them.

I wasn’t able to find any so I just subbed in red jalapenos. They worked just fine but are way larger. So I used about 8 of them.

Lots of peppers…

Chop up all the peppers really roughly. Cut off the stems, but leave all the seeds.

Add the oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Once it’s hot add all the peppers and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the veggies are soft. Then add in the spices, vinegar, and salt and stir everything together.

Let this simmer for a few minutes and then remove it from the heat. This stuff will make your eyes water!

A quick cook.

Once this is reasonably cool, give it a whirl in the blender or food processor. You want it to be pretty smooth, but it’s fine if there are some chunks of peppers.

Then use half of it to marinate the chicken and save the other half as a sauce for the finished chicken.

Cool It Down Coleslaw

This is a pretty spicy sauce and dish and so it helps to have some cooling sides to help out with the heat. Coleslaw is the perfect choice.


I highly recommend using a food processor to shred up the carrots and cabbage because it’ll only take a minute instead of the 10 minutes it would take with a box grater.

Whatever works for you though.

Then just mix the shredded veggies with the other ingredients. Feel free to adjust the ingredients to your tastes. You might like your creamier or saltier or with more mustard than I added to mine.

Go crazy. Make it your own.

All mixed up!

Preparing the Chicken

Ideally, you can marinate your chicken overnight in half of your Peri Peri sauce. A gallon sized plastic bag works great for this.

Also, because I was grilling my chicken, I butterflied it. If you were roasting it in the oven, you could just keep it whole or you could use whatever chicken pieces you like.

Butterflying a chicken is really only a two step process, but it’s one of those things that’s much easier to explain via video. I recommend this video from Bon Appetit (sound) that shows the process. It’s not hard necessarily, but you’ll need some good kitchen shears. CPR training doesn’t hurt.

If you do butterfly it and marinate it, you’ll end up with something like this.

Tricky maneuver.

When you’re ready to grill, get the grill hot and throw your chicken on breast side up. Depending on the size of the chicken, it’ll need to cook for 30-40 minutes total.

on the grill
Good grillin’

Turn it a few times as it cooks and feel free to baste it with more marinade as it cooks.

I recommend using a meat thermometer to know when it’s done. You’re shooting for about 160 degrees Fahrenheit in the thighs.

My grill was a bit hot when I turned my bird and it got a bit scorched on one side. It looks worse than it was though.

Consider it flavor right?

hot grill
Grill was a bit hot!

When the bird comes off the grill, cover it with foil and let it rest for five or ten minutes before cutting it up and serving it.

You’re going to want to serve this with lots of extra sauce because the sauce is pretty killer.

peri peri
Lots of sauce is a good thing.

If the whole butterflying thing is intimidating, you could use any cut of chicken that you want. Just marinate them and toss them on the grill.

It’s guaranteed to be good. Especially if you slather it in sauce!

20 Responses to “Peri Peri Chicken” Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for sharing this Nick! I can envision the Peri Peri sauce over some baked tofu or seitan. I love hot spicy chili dishes! Thanks for sharing this one.

    PS: How's the Mickey D's career treating you? <hehe>

      1. Nick, I need to correct you, Nando’s and Peri Peri are most certainly not Peruvian – you imply this when you say ‘Peruvian chicken is all the rage these days with places like Nando’s popping up all over the map.’ Nando’s is a South African chain of chicken fast food restaurants and Peri Peri, as a spice and cooking method is partly Mozambican (East Africa) and partly Portuguese. As you move up the east coast of Africa the name changes slightly – in Kenya it is referred to as Pili Pili.

  2. Very Very Cool.

    We're all familiar by now with Quinoa a major staple of Peru. Last week I read that Peruvian Chefs are the most sought after throughout Latin America…………and now, according to Nick Peruvian chicken is da bomb!

    How great is that for all of us living in these Americas. It's been a longtime coming – however hopefully we can build a bridge that connects the North and South to enjoy each others cultures.

    I'm off to defrost some chicken for this dish – thanks for another great recipe idea.

  3. You hardly just winged it, Nick. Looks like you winged it twice – then breasted it, thighed it, and drumstuck it, too.

  4. Just how HOT is hot? I'm from Houston so I like spicy but I'm cooking in Wyoming right now and my relatives may not be accustomed to a 10 on the spicy scale so I might need to tone it down a bit???

  5. are you sure that’s peruvian food? i was just in peru recently and theyre not too hot on spicy foods (ditto for most s.a. countries… this isnt mexico as you know). i just looked up nandos and it looked like it was south african/mozambique/portuguese food. obviously, ive never been to one, so i dont really know. Anyway, if you wanna try something i know for sure is a true peruvian dish, try some roasted guinea pig. yea they actually eat it. here in ecuador too. ive had it a few times. once u get over the fact ur eating a pet, its not too bad. pretty sure its not a habit i’ll be bringing home, tho.

  6. I'm making this now but I don't see where the oregano goes in… it doesn't look like your sauce has any…. was it just for sprinkling at the end?

    Also, this is really really hot! I did 4 thai chilis (according to wikipedia they're the same as peri peri peppers- who knew!), 3 serranos and 3 jalapenos and it is HOT! But I'm still super excited to eat it! :D

  7. Peri-Peri or Piri-Piri peppers came by way of the Portuguese from their African colonies in Mozambique and Angola and the Peri-Peri chicken that's so well known around the world is South African based with (again) Portuguese roots.

    The chicken looks fab but unfortunately not Peruvian.

    1. Yea that's kinda what I thought. I don't think too many Peruvians could handle the heat from this dish. I, on the other hand, can't wait to make this. It looks amazing!

      1. yea, most people prob couldnt put peru on a map, so i dont think it matters much. i just brought it up cuz its my neck of the woods. also, like i said, i really wanna make this, but i can't unless i plan on only eating it myself for several days in a row (tempting) cuz people down here cant take spicy. I made a HUGE batch (like more than a gallon) of guac from 20 large avocados the other day and put ONE finely diced jalapeno (should've put a dozen…) and people complained it was too spicy. Asi es la vida!

  8. Going from bird chilies to red jalepano is like going from your house burning down to indoor heat! It’s not authentic.

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