top of page

Spicy Peri Peri Chicken: the Original Fiery Sauce from Mozambique

a plate of grilled chicken thighs made with a homemade peri peri recipe that takes inspiration from the classic Mozambique recipe

This isn’t your average Nando’s fakeaway sauce, it’s the real deal!

Inspired by the original Mozambique sauce, this peri peri recipe uses just 3 ingredients: chilis, salt, and acid.

Use as a marinade for any protein (e.g. chicken thighs) before grilling or stove-top cooking, and as a spicy finishing sauce to elevate the final dish. To customize your peri peri, stir in extras like paprika, onion, garlic, oil, and vinegar (or fresh lemon juice).

This recipe swaps the traditional African Bird’s Eye chilis for chilis more readily available in California. Use a medium hot fresh chili pepper like Serrano or Fresno, or if you want it very hot, use a fresh chili pepper like Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, or Thai chili.

I like to pair my peri peri chicken with crispy smashed potatoes cooked in the grilled chicken fat for extra flavor. Complete the meal with a side salad and a drizzle of extra peri peri sauce for one final kick of heat.

A Little History...

Peri peri sauce isn't a Portuguese original, nor is it an exclusive invention from the global grilled chicken hotspot, Nando's. Its origins have actually been traced back to the southeastern African country, Mozambique! 

All across South and East Africa, you will find a multitude of fresh and dried chili peppers that are sold by the name of peri peri (also called piri piri or pili pili), but it is more specifically the local name for the African Bird’s Eye chili (capsicum frutescens). The species is thought to have originated in South America, before Portuguese traders and colonialists brought it over to Africa in the 16th century. 

The African Bird’s Eye chili is a close cousin of the American Tabasco chili, and a distant relative of the Bird’s Eye chilis common in Thai cooking, making peri peri a citrusy, sour, and firey delight no matter the chilis you choose to use. 


4 to 6 chicken thighs, bone-in and skin on

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Peri Peri Marinade:

4 fresh Fresno chilis

1 fresh Thai chili (optional, if you want it very spicy) 

6 garlic cloves, peeled 

1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt or 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

1 teaspoon smoked paprika 

1 teaspoon dried oregano 

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 

For the chicken:

  1. Place chicken thighs skin-side down. Feel for the thigh bone running down the center of the thigh and with a sharp boning or kitchen knife, gently run the knife down either side to loosen the flesh. Slip the knife between the bone and the meat, then cut out the knuckle at one end of the bone. 

  2. Stand the bone up horizontally with the knuckle still attached to the meat at the bottom, then cut downwards to slice it away from the meat. Don’t discard the bones; freeze them to use later for chicken broth! 

  3. Use the knife to remove any excess fat, gristle, or cartilage from the deboned thigh. Generously salt both sides of the deboned chicken thighs and set aside. 

  4. Roughly slice chilis, removing the seeds for a milder flavor, and add to a food processor. 

  5. Add garlic cloves and salt to the food processor, then blend for 2 to 3 minutes or until the mixture is finely chopped. 

  6. Add lemon zest and juice, paprika, and dried oregano to the food processor, then blend for another 1 to 2 minutes or until everything is combined and the mixture has reached the consistency of a paste. Add olive oil and mix well with a spoon or spatula. 

  7. Reserve 1/2 cup of peri peri sauce for serving, then pour the remaining marinade over the chicken, making sure to coat both sides. Marinate for at least 10 minutes, or refrigerate overnight for best results.

  8. In a cold, medium-sized skillet, evenly coat the bottom with olive oil, ensuring there are no gaps. Arrange the chicken in the pan skin-side down, leaving 1/2 inch gap between the pieces to not overcrowd the pan. 

  9. Working in batches, turn the heat to medium and start crisping up the chicken skin. Let the chicken thighs fry for 6 to 12 minutes, or until the skin is golden brown and crispy, and the chicken is cooked halfway through, then flip the chicken to finish cooking for another 6 minutes. 

  10. When ready to serve, plate up the chicken thighs and pour over extra peri peri sauce. 


  • Don’t have a food processor? The peri peri marinade can also be made with a pestle and mortar, or you can just finely chop the ingredients and mix together in a bowl. 


Heritage Highlight…


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page