Peri Peri Chicken – the bird that dared to be bold! Born from a love affair between Portuguese adventurers and African chilies, Peri Peri Chicken (also known as “Pepper-Pepper” Chicken) has become the life of the global food party.
Here chicken is marinated in a blend of unique spices, then roasted to perfection, resulting in a playful fusion of tangy, spicy, sweet, and citrusy flavors. Made popular all over the world by Nando’s, let’s find out what’s all that excitement is all about.
Whether you’ve tried it at Nando’s or are about to explore this dish for the first time, our versions of Peri Peri Chicken will make you a new fan of this famous roast chicken.
All it takes is 15 minutes of hands on prep time on your part and a great chicken dish is roasted in your trusty oven. How cool…
After trying Peruvian Roast Chicken (Pollo a la Brasa), we were amazed how good roast chicken could be with the right kind of flavorful marinade. We first tried Nando’s when we were in Liverpool last year, and remember digging into Peri Peri Chicken with gusto.
Every bite had that perfect combo of tangy and sweet, with a good dose of heat. We are spice lovers, so then and there we became fans.
Don’t worry if you’re a little heat intolerant. You can always tone down Peri Peri Chicken to the spice level you enjoy. There is a whole lot going on there besides just heat.
You Will Love Peri Peri Chicken for Many Reasons
- Bold Flavor Experience: Peri Peri Chicken offers a blend of spicy, tangy, sweet, and sour notes. People love Peri Peri Chicken for its distinctive and exotic taste.
- Customizable Heat: The dish allows customization in spiciness. You can make it as fiery hot or as mildly spicy as you desire.
- Cultural Fusion: Peri Peri Chicken represents a fusion of African and Portuguese culinary traditions. For those who love exploring new flavors, this dish is a delightful exploration of global flavors.
- Versatility: It can be grilled or roasted, and can enjoyed as a main or in sandwiches, salads, or wraps.
- Healthy: Made with fresh, wholesome ingredients like chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, and lemon, Peri Peri Chicken is a meal you can feel good about.
What is Peri Peri Chicken?
Peri Peri Chicken’s origin story begins with the African Bird’s Eye Chili, a key ingredient that provides the dish’s signature heat.
The name “Peri Peri” itself is derived from the Swahili term “Pilipili,” meaning “Pepper-Pepper,” and refers specifically to the African Bird’s Eye Chili used in the dish.
These chilies quickly captured the culinary imagination of the Portuguese explorers and settlers who arrived in the 15th century. This encounter led to the creation of Peri Peri Sauce, used to marinate the chicken. The fusion of Portuguese cooking techniques with traditional African flavors birthed the dish known as Peri Peri Chicken.
The core of Peri Peri Chicken lies in its marination, where the chicken is infused with a blend of African bird’s eye chili peppers, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, and select herbs and spices such as paprika and oregano.
This carefully marinated and roasted chicken captures a complex array of spicy, tangy, and citrusy notes, embodying a true culinary marriage of two distinct cultures.
The South African chain Nando’s played a significant role in spreading Peri Peri Chicken’s fame. With over a thousand locations globally, Nando’s has brought this unique dish to the tables of many.
Today, Peri Peri Chicken continues to gain popularity and is cherished by many foodies worldwide.
A Note on Bird’s Eye Chilis
As mentioned, African bird’s eye chilis are traditional. If you can find those, use them.
A great substitute is Thai bird’s eye chilis, which are readily available in most local Asian grocery stores.
If you can’t find either of these varieties, other hot red peppers can be used.
Take note that our recipe uses Thai bird’s eye chilis. If you are using other chili peppers, you will want to adjust the amounts based on how hot they are. African bird’s eye peppers are 2-3x hotter, so if that’s what you have, start with 2 or 3 and taste before adding more. Most chili peppers available in supermarkets will be less hot than Thai.
What Cut of Chicken Can Be Used for Peri-Peri Chicken?
You can make peri-peri chicken using any cut of chicken, from bone-in to boneless, chicken breasts, thighs, drumsticks, whole chicken or even wings. This is a great recipe for spatchcock whole chicken.
Pick your favorite and follow the below chicken roasting time chart for the best cooking times for your cut. This can vary depending on the thickness of the chicken and your oven, use the table as a general guideline.
How Long to Roast Chicken
|Chicken Part||Oven Temperature||Cooking Time|
|Whole Chicken||400°F||About 20 minutes per pound|
|Leg Quarters||400°F||1 hour to 1:15|
|Bone-in Thighs||400°F||40-50 minutes|
|Bone-in Breasts||400°F||30-35 minutes|
|Chicken Wings||400°F||35-40 minutes|
|Boneless Thighs||400°F||35-40 minutes|
|Boneless Breasts||400°F||25-30 minutes|
Remember, chicken is safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 165°F when measured in the thickest part with an instant read thermometer. For dark meat (quarters, thighs and legs), we prefer cooking to an internal temperature of 180-185°F for fall off the bone tender meat.
Peri Peri Chicken Ingredients
- For Homemade Peri Peri Sauce – Shallots, garlic, red bell pepper, Thai red bird chilis, bay leaves, tomato paste, white wine vinegar, lemon, lemon rind, dried oregano smoked paprika, salt, olive oil.
- Chicken – Today we are using chicken leg quarters.
- To Season Chicken – Smoked paprika, salt and pepper.
Easy Peri Peri Chicken Recipe
1. Make Homemade Peri Peri Sauce: Place all ingredients except olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend to a fine consistency. Add in olive oil. Blend until the oil is well incorporated and the sauce has a smooth consistency. See our complete post on Peri Peri Sauce.
2. Marinate the Chicken: Pat the chicken quarters dry and rub them down with salt, pepper and smoked paprika. Pour peri peri sauce on the chicken, and rub the marinade all over the chicken. With your fingers, loosen the skin from the chicken and make sure to get the marinade under the skin. Marinate for 4-24 hours (the longer the better).
3. Roast the Chicken: When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 400°F. Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place an oven safe wire rack on the sheet pan, and place the chicken quarters, well coated with peri peri sauce, on the wire rack, skin side up. Lightly brush olive oil all over them.
Do not discard the remaining peri peri sauce marinade. You will use it later to baste the chicken, as well as to make peri peri dipping sauce.
Bake for 30 minutes. Baste the chicken with reserved peri peri marinade, then bake for another 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces, or until the chicken reads 180-185°F on an instant read thermometer.
Keep an eye on it towards the end of cooking time. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.
If necessary, you can also broil the chicken for more brown and crispy skin. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve it with Peri Peri dipping sauce.
Peri Peri Sauce for Dipping (optional)
Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauce pan. Add all remaining peri peri sauce marinade and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp butter and cook for 5 minutes.
Grilled Peri Peri Chicken
Marinate the chicken as described above.
Preheat grill to medium-high heat (around 350-375°F). Place the skin side down and grill with lid closed for 6-8 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue cooking, flipping every 6-8 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 180-185°F.
When the chicken is done, remove to a platter and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
Tips and Tricks for BEST Peri Peri Chicken:
- Choose the Right Chilis: For the signature kick, select fresh and quality bird’s eye chilis. You can adjust the spiciness by using more or fewer chilis.
- Marinate Longer: Marinate the chicken in the Peri Peri sauce for at least 4 hours, but ideally 24 hours. The longer the marination, the deeper the flavors will penetrate.
- Get Under the Skin: When marinating, try to get some of the sauce under the skin of the chicken. This helps in flavoring the meat itself, not just the skin.
- Mind the Heat: Keep an eye on the chicken while cooking. If it browns too quickly, cover it loosely with foil to prevent burning.
- Rest the Chicken: Allow the chicken to rest for 10-15 minutes after cooking. This helps the juices redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it moist and tender.
- Grill or Oven: If you want a smoky flavor, grill the chicken. If you want it juicier and more controlled cooking, the oven method is best. You can also finish the oven-roasted chicken on the grill for a minute to add that smoky touch.
- Homemade Sauce: Making your Peri Peri sauce from scratch allows you to control the flavor and heat level, tailoring it to your preferences.
- Use Fresh Ingredients: Fresh garlic, lemon juice, and herbs will enhance the flavor of the sauce, making it more vibrant and tasty.
- Experiment with Chicken Parts: You can use and cut you prefer, just adjust cooking times accordingly.
- Sauce Consistency: Blend the Peri Peri sauce to a smooth consistency so it coats the chicken evenly.
- Monitor Temperature: Using a meat thermometer ensures that your chicken is cooked to the proper temperature without overcooking.
What to Serve with Peri Peri Chicken
Peri Peri Chicken goes with a huge variety of side dishes. Here are some of our top picks:
Possible Peri Peri Chicken Recipe Variations
- Spice Level Variations
- Mild: Use less chilis. Remove seeds from the chilis, or use milder chilis like jalapeño.
- Extra Hot: Add more bird’s eye chilis.
- Herb Variations
- Mediterranean Twist: Add thyme and rosemary to the marinade.
- Fresh Flavor: Add cilantro or parsley for a fresh, herbal note.
- Citrus Variations
- Orange Zest: Replace lemon with orange for a sweeter, tangy flavor.
- Lime Twist: Use lime instead of lemon for a more intense citrus kick.
- Grilling Techniques
- Smoked Flavor: Add wood chips to the grill for a smoky touch.
- Charcoal Grill: Use a charcoal grill for an authentic, rustic flavor.
Leftover and Storing
Peri Peri Chicken is great as leftovers. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or freeze your leftovers for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.
When ready to eat, preheat the oven to 350°F and transfer the chicken to a baking dish. Cover with foil to lock in moisture, and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165°F. Or microwave it till heated through out.
The next time you’re planning a meal that needs to wow your guests, or simply something to spice up your dinner routine, give Peri Peri Chicken a try. This is a culinary adventure you won’t forget!
It’s the chicken that refuses to be ordinary.
Peri Peri Chicken, on our Gypsy Plate… enjoy!
Homemade Peri Peri Sauce
- 3 shallots, chopped
- 6 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 10 Thai red bird chilis (see note 1)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 4 Tbsp tomato paste
- 1.5 Tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1 lemon (rind + juice)
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1.5 tsp salt
Peri Peri Chicken
- 4 chicken leg quarters (alternately, you can use drumsticks, bone-in thighs or whole chicken)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- oil for basting
- Place all Peri Peri sauce ingredients except olive oil in a blender or food processor. Blend to a fine consistency. Add in olive oil. Blend until the oil is well incorporated and the sauce has a smooth consistency.
- Pat the chicken quarters dry and rub them down with salt, paprika and smoked paprika.
- Pour peri peri sauce on the chicken, and rub the marinade all over the chicken. With your fingers, loosen the skin from the chicken and make sure to get the marinade under the skin. Marinate for 4-24 hours (the longer the better).
- When ready to roast, preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Cover a sheet pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place an oven safe wire rack on the sheet pan, and place the chicken quarters, well coated with peri peri sauce, on the wire rack skin side up. Lightly brush olive oil all over them. (Do not discard the remaining peri peri sauce marinade, you will use it later to baste the chicken as well as to make peri peri dipping sauce).
- Bake for 30 minutes. Baste the chicken with reserved marinade, then bake for another 30-40 minutes, depending on the size of your chicken pieces, or until the chicken reads 180-185°F on an instant read thermometer. (165°F if cooking chicken breast)
- Keep an eye on it towards the end of cooking time. If it’s browning too quickly, cover it loosely with foil.
- If necessary, you can also broil the chicken for more brown and crispy skin. Remove the chicken from the oven and let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. Serve it with Peri Peri Dipping sauce.
Peri Peri dipping sauce (optional)
- Heat 1 tsp olive oil in a sauce pan. Add all remaining marinade and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add 1 Tbsp butter and cook for 5 minutes.
- Marinate the chicken as described above.
- Preheat grill to medium-high heat (around 350-375°F). Place the skin side down and grill with lid closed for 6-8 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue cooking, flipping every 6-8 minutes, until internal temperature reaches 180-185°F.
- When the chicken is done, remove to a platter and let rest for 10-15 minutes.
- We like our peri peri pretty spicy. If you aren't very heat tolerant, start with 5.
Nutrition InformationYield 8 Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 436Total Fat 27gSaturated Fat 6gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 18gCholesterol 176mgSodium 1108mgCarbohydrates 12gFiber 2gSugar 4gProtein 37g
Nutrition information calculated by Nutritionix.
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