Portuguese Piri Piri Chicken Recipe – Flavor Quotient

13 min


Today I bring to you the Portuguese Piri Piri chicken which has its roots in Africa too! This smoky piri piri chicken cooked with the homemade piri piri sauce is a must-try!

After trying my hands on couple of Portuguese inspired recipes, it’s high time to take a stab at one of the most trending recipes in food blogging world and that is none other than this smoky piri piri chicken!

Piri piri chicken has been made famous in the US by Nando’s, the international chain of restaurants that specialize in Portuguese cuisine. Since we can’t hop over to Nando’s in India, I took it upon me to make the homemade version of this cult delicacy!

What is piri piri chicken?

Piri piri chicken is a classic preparation where chicken is cooked in a spicy & smoky sauce primarily made of grilled onion, tomato, red hot peppers and garlic. The piri piri sauce is so epic that it made this Portuguese inspired dish world-famous!

Piri-Piri-Chicken-FQ-2-4279Let’s talk about the origin/history of piri piri chicken, shall we?

Piri piri chicken has its origin in Africa which got improvised by the Portuguese settlers when they came across the ingredients. They created a marinade with the primary ingredient, the African bird’s eye chilli and garlic, red wine vinegar, paprika and other European imports and finally arrived at the piri piri sauce.

The exact origin of this recipe is still being debated since both Portuguese-Angolans and Portuguese-Mozambicans claim to have created this special sauce. Nevertheless, the recipe marks a celebration of the cultural legacy and culinary fusion of the region.

Piri-Piri-Chicken-FQ-5-4274How is piri piri chicken made?

Traditionally, piri piri chicken is grilled after marinating it with the flavorful sauce made of chillies, charred tomatoes and onions. You may even spatchcock the chicken and coat all sides with the sauce; then grill it in oven. Your piri piri roast chicken dinner will be ready in 40 minutes!

How I have made my piri piri chicken?

Though I love grilled chicken a lot and have done many versions of it, this time I took a different route for my piri piri chicken. I chose to cook a stove-top version of this classic dish following the instructions of one of my favorite YouTuber Donal Skehan!

His quick version of piri piri sauce looked amazing and easy at the same time. After trying this sauce once, we got so hooked to it that I had to make it twice back to back! This piri piri sauce is so addictive that you would want to smear it on anything edible!

Piri-Piri-Chicken-FQ-4-4298How does piri piri chicken taste?

If you ask me, I would describe piri piri chicken as a flavor bomb! Some restaurants make it super spicy which I don’t believe to be the right flavor profile. It should be somewhat spicy but more on the smokier side with hint of tang and sweetness.

It’s important to build the char while grilling the veggies for making piri piri sauce. Take your time to slowly grill them either on a stove-top grill pan or an outdoor grill to develop those smoky grill marks which will give your piri piri sauce that perfect kick!

Piri-Piri-Chicken-FQ-1-4271How to make perfect piri piri sauce and piri piri chicken on stove-top?

Once you have your veggies and chillies perfectly grilled, all you need to do is blitz them in a food processor or blender with a generous splash of red wine vinegar, drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and dash of smoked paprika until you get a smooth & vibrant red colored sauce which screams flavor!

I used only chicken drumsticks & thighs to make my homemade version of piri piri chicken. First sear them in olive oil with garlic and some thyme; then tip in the prepared piri piri sauce on top and let them cook with the sauce until the sauce thickens and cling to the chicken pieces!

Cook the chicken slowly with the sauce to build maximum flavor. This is a dish where you need to be little patient to enjoy one of the epic chicken dishes ever; I’m sure you will come back later to thank me! Enjoy!

Portuguese Piri Piri Chicken | Classic Piri Piri Chicken Recipe


Author: Priyanka

Recipe type: Main

Cuisine: Portuguese

Serves: 4 Servings


Chicken thigh – 4, skin-on & bone-in Chicken drumsticks – 4, skin-on & bone-in Extra-virgin olive oil – 2 tbsp Smoked paprika – 1 tsp Garlic powder – 1 tsp Dry thyme – 1 tsp (or 1 tsp fresh thyme) Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the piri piri sauce

Red onion – 2, medium, peeled & cut into half Tomatoes – 3, medium, cut into halves Garlic – 6 to 8 cloves Fresh red chillies – 4 Red wine vinegar – 1 tbsp Extra-virgin olive oil – 3 tbsp Dry thyme – 1 tsp Smoked Paprika – 1 tsp


In a small bowl, mix 1 tablespoon of olive oil, paprika, dry thyme, garlic powder, salt & pepper to make a uniform mixture. Rub this mixture on the chicken pieces to coat evenly. Heat a heavy-bottomed frying pan over medium flame. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to lowest and place the chicken pieces on the frying pan keeping skin side down. Cook the chicken for 20 to 25 minutes on lowest heat without disturbing them. This will ensure skin turns super crispy while keeping the meat succulent. While the chicken is getting cooked, make the piri piri sauce. Place a grill pan over high heat and brush the grates with olive oil. Once the pan is smoking hot, place the onion & tomatoes on hot grill with cut side down. Also tip in the fresh red chillies and garlic cloves. Let the veggies grill for 15 minutes on medium high heat until they develop grill marks at the bottom and turn smoky. Drizzle some olive oil on top and flip them over and grill the other side too until charred. Garlic will cook fast; so take them out once they turn golden brown, else they will burn and turn bitter. Once the veggies are softened and caramelized, transfer them to a food processor/blender along with the red wine vinegar, olive oil, dry thyme & paprika and process them until a very smooth mixture is formed. If you are using food processor, it will take some time to achieve a smooth mixture; hence take your time to process the veggies. Season it with salt and pepper. Your piri piri sauce is ready. Let’s get back to the chicken. After cooking them for 20-25 minutes, flip them over and pour the prepared sauce on top of the chicken. Continue cooking the chicken with piri piri sauce on medium-low heat for 20 to 30 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed, sauce is thickened and clings to the chicken pieces. Your chicken should also be completely cooked by now. This is a semi-dry dish with the awesome piri piri sauce clinging to the chicken thigh & drumsticks. Take them out and serve with quick salad of cucumber, onion and lettuce. Enjoy!


Portuguese Piri Piri Chicken | Flavor Quotient | Today I bring to you the Portuguese Piri Piri chicken which has its roots in Africa too! This smoky piri piri chicken cooked with the homemade piri piri sauce is a must-try!
Portuguese Piri Piri Chicken | Flavor Quotient | Today I bring to you the Portuguese Piri Piri chicken which has its roots in Africa too! This smoky piri piri chicken cooked with the homemade piri piri sauce is a must-try!

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