Last Updated on 25th July 2022 by Pauline Loughlin
Piri Piri chicken is a traditional Portuguese food that isn’t very common in the United States. There is a chain of restaurants called Nando’s that serves Piri Piri chicken as its signature dish.
You won’t find these restaurants all over the states, though. They are only located in Chicago and Washington, DC. You may not live nearby one of their locations to where you can try this awesome dish, so I thought it might be beneficial to bring the chicken Piri Piri recipe to you.
Since most people are not familiar with this dish, it might be helpful to explain a little bit about it and give you some idea of what it tastes like. The whole pieces of chicken used for the Piri Piri chicken recipe are usually charred or grilled, giving them a slightly crispy outer texture.
The chicken is also seasoned with a chilli sauce, particularly a sauce made from African bird’s eye chilli. You can’t find these chilli peppers just anywhere; they are mostly located in Portugal and parts of Africa.
The flavour is a mixture of sweet and spicy, with a bit of saltiness, and all of those different taste sensations filling your mouth at once is pretty phenomenal. You may want to use a different kind of chilli for yours- something that is less spicy or sweeter.
It’s up to you, but the authentic Portuguese Piri Piri chicken recipe will use the African bird’s eye chilis and nothing else. They may not be available near where you live, so you may have little choice but to pick a different kind of chilli for your dish.
Once the chicken is seasoned and covered in sauce and then charred, it comes out similarly to barbecue chicken. You get a texture that is about the same as classic barbecue chicken, though this Piri Piri chicken isn’t as messy. The combination of sweet and spicy definitely reminds me of hot barbecue chicken, though.
Spicy Piri Piri Chicken Recipe
We are going to make this Portuguese Piri Piri chicken recipe in a few parts, starting with a marinade for the chicken and then a sauce, followed by actually frying up the chicken.
Start with a few pieces of cleaned chicken. These should be whole pieces that still have the bone in for that authentic Piri Piri experience. Thigh and drumstick attached pieces are perfect for what we are making.
Next, we are going to mix up a marinade, using lemon juice, garlic, and salt. We will be seasoning to taste here, so use as much or as little as you like. The lemon and salt combine to make a sweet, salty, and zesty marinade. Soak your chicken in that for 30-60 minutes and wait until they have marinated until you start on the rest of the dish.
Next, we are going to make up the Piri Piri chicken sauce recipe. For this, we are mixing together the following:
- Garlic powder
- Lemon juice
- African bird’s eye chilies
- Olive oil
- Sweet paprika
Just stir all of your ingredients until they combine well, creating a reddish-orange sauce that is sweet and spicy. You can use a blender and set to pulse to combine your ingredients more completely. You can taste test the sauce and see if it is to your liking. Add or change up the ingredients as you like to get the taste perfect.
If you don’t have the right chilis for the Piri chicken recipe, you can always use red Thai chilis. These have a similar taste but are a bit sweeter. If the sauce is not sweet enough, you can always dissolve in some sugar.
Cooking the Chicken
- To begin cooking up the chicken for the Piri Piri chicken recipe Portuguese, preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Cook the chicken for 30 minutes in a deep baking pan. It needs to be deep enough to catch juices from the chicken. About halfway through the cooking process, baste the chicken in its juices, using a basting brush to spread the juices from the pan over the chicken. You chicken is fully cooked when the internal temperature is 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- After the chicken has cooked in the oven, you will need to heat it up in a skillet to give it that Authentic Piri Piri look and texture. Heat the skillet to medium-hot.
- Brush the oven baked chicken with Piri Piri sauce, covering completely. Once the pan is hot, add in the chicken while leaving space between each piece and cook for 2 minutes on each side.
The chicken should get brown as it cooks in the sauce on the stove. It should also start to char, and that’s important for that authentic Piri Piri look. Cook on the other side for two minutes.
Your chicken should be served hot and is usually garnished with lemon wedges or parsley.
What Goes Good with Piri Piri Chicken?
There are some great side dishes that are often served with this dish, like seasoned mashed potatoes or pillowy white rice. A Piri Piri chicken rice recipe can be enhanced by pouring some of the seasoning into the rice, and that can serve as the rice’s flavouring.
You can also serve this dish with steamed vegetables, garlic bread, roasted potatoes, and even French fries. Keep in mind that whatever you serve it with needs to complement the spicy, salty and sweet flavours of the chicken. Because the Piri Piri chicken is so flavourful and it has such a complex flavour profile, you should consider serving it with a rather bland side.
That’s why rice or bread makes a good combo with the chicken especially breaded chicken and we have some egg replacement for breading guides to help you out. You can also serve it with a mild salad, meaning salad that doesn’t have a lot of seasoning or complex flavours to it.
Let the chicken do most of the work in your meal. It takes enough work to make that it should be the highlight, and if you have other dishes that are packed with seasoning and flavour, they can draw away from the chicken’s limelight and hurt your ability to showcase the unique flavours of this regional dish.
I hope this recipe is fun for you to make and that you enjoy the interesting and varied flavour of the Piri Piri chicken. It’s not a food you will find sold in restaurants very often, so it is one you will likely have to make yourself. With this recipe, you can make it just like they do in Portugal, enjoying a signature dish from another part of the world.
I'm Pauline, a retired patisserie chef, mother of four and now a full time food blogger! When i'm not cooking i love long walks, reading thriller novels and spending time with my grandkids. Head to my about me page to learn more about the woman behind the food! You can find my Facebook here