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Peri Peri Sauce for Portuguese Chicken or Grilled Shrimp

Peri Peri Sauce. Garlicky, spicy, lemony, tangy and utterly addictive. This bright, fresh, fully-flavoured version hits all the right notes.

Peri Peri Sauce on PortugueseChicken

2020 Update below. Peri Peri Chicken Wings & Chicken Burger! 

My confession is that I had never tried peri peri sauce before. It is a sauce that originated in Portugal and then went on a long trip to several parts of Africa where it also became incredibly popular.

It’s based on the peri peri chili or African Bird’s Eye Chili where it gets it’s flavourful heat, adding several herbs and spices plus plenty of lemony tanginess to balance the sauce.

Peri Peri Sauce on grilled shrimp skewers

Peri Peri Sauce is at the centre of the incredible success of the Nando’s restaurant franchise which has been an overwhelming success in many parts of the world and particularly in the UK where it is now ingrained into the modern day culinary culture there. People seem to be addicted to “going for a Nando’s”, once or twice a week in many cases.

Not in my neck of the woods.

There is no Nando’s restaurant franchise any where near where I live but I had the opportunity to try it on a recent visit to Ottawa and began to understand the addictive nature of peri peri sauce on flame grilled chicken.

As always happens in these cases, I determined to make my own version of the sauce, attempting to equal or better the flavour of Nando’s famous chicken. I bought a couple of bottles of their sauce to take home as a way to compare my peri peri sauce version to theirs, side-by-side.

There are a LOT of recipes online for peri peri sauce and I read and tried several of them before tweaking my own recipe to get the flavour just right.

Peri Peri Sauce

Peri Peri Sauce

Finding the right Peri Peri Sauce flavours

First of all, I had little hope of finding the authentic Bird’s Eye Chilis here in St. John’s, so I substituted small Thai red chilis which are more readily available most places. They are only about half as  spicy as the peri peri chilis but I used a fair amount of them and it worked well.

Since I wanted to bottle my sauce after cooking it quickly, I used roasted red peppers as a base for the sauce along with grilled onions to boost the smoky flavour, add a little sweetness, and give the sauce more body so that it would be more brush-able.

Better than Nando's Chicken Wings close up

Better than Nando’s Chicken Wings

Tasting Nando’s sauce from the bottle, like many commercially prepared sauces, I found it overly salty. I cut back a lot on the salt in the recipe,  figuring that people would be doing their own seasoning on the chicken before cooking anyway.

This also worked particularly well and I was absolutely delighted with the outcome of my experiment.

The result!

The kids loved it, particularly Noah who, like me, is more inclined toward spicy foods. The real surprise though was Spouse! She doesn’t normally like things that are particularly spicy but she declared this to be the best chicken I had ever made!

That’s quite something to say considering the hundreds of chicken recipes that are present on this website!

Peri Peri Sauce on Portuguese Chicken photo with title text added for Pinterest

Nando’s offers their sauce in several versions from medium heat to extra hot but the good news is you can make it just how you like it, simply by adding more or less of the small thai red chilis to the recipe to easily control the heat level.

Since I bottled this such last week, we have had the peri peri chicken twice and even had peri peri chicken burgers using boneless skinless chicken breasts for a quick dinner idea. I guess our family obsession with peri peri chicken is well underway.

August 2017 & 2020 updates:
Better than Nando's Peri Peri Wings with title text

Better than Nando’s Peri Peri Wings

My latest obsession with this very flavourful and spicy sauce is to use it on grilled chicken wings. I have been using it on them all summer and absolutely loving it!  

In that case I forgo any marinating beforehand and start grilling the wings to seal the skin on both sides after seasoning with only a little salt.

I grill them over medium high heat, so as not to cook them too quickly and I begin brushing on the sauce and turning them every 4-5 minutes. I like to get a good 3 coats on each side for maximum peri peri sauce flavour.

Lemons with leaves on a white background.

Fresh, unwaxed lemons are best for zesting.

At last sitting I paused to take a couple of photos before polishing off the entire plate above myself. They are THAT addictive! Even writing about them now makes me want them again!

We have also been enjoying this sauce on marinated grilled chicken breasts which make most excellent chicken burgers. You’ll definitely want to try that idea.

Peri Peri Chicken Burger

Looking for more tasty chicken dinner ideas?

Be sure to check out this newly updated collection of Our Top Ten Chicken Dinners from more than a decade online. These have been made literally millions of times and get the best reviews from our followers.

Top Ten Chicken Dinner Recipes collage with title text for Pinterest

Updated July 2020.

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Peri Peri Sauce on Portuguese Chicken photo with title text added for Pinterest
 
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Better than Nando's Chicken Wings close up
Yield: 16 servings. About 3 cups sauce

Peri Peri Sauce for Portugese Chicken

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour

Peri Peri Sauce should be garlicy, spicy, lemony, tangy and utterly addictive. This bright, fresh, fully-flavoured version hits all the right notes.

Ingredients

  • 2 large red bell peppers, char grilled
  • 1 large red onion, char grilled
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • zest of one lemon, finely grated
  • 10 small red Thai chilis, roughly chopped (more to taste for hotter sauce)
  • 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika, or plain paprika
  • 1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

To finish the sauce (when cooked)

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon, finely minced
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  1. Start by roasting the red peppers and onions. This can be done on a gas grill, under the broiler or on a cast iron grill pan. You want to get good char marks on the outside of the peppers and onions. Don't worry if they are not fully cooked, they will get fully cooked in the sauce.
  2. Chop the peppers and onions and add them to a food processor or blender. You can us an immersion blender if that is all you have on hand, just take the time to get the ingredients well pureed.
  3. Add the garlic, lemon juice, red wine vinegar, lemon zest, red Thai chilis, smoked paprika, oregano, salt and pepper to the food processor with the grilled onions and peppers and puree until smooth.
  4. Transfer the sauce to a medium saucepan, add the bay leaves and simmer slowly for 20-30 minutes.
  5. Let the sauce cool to warm. Remove the bay leaves then return the sauce to the food processor again.
  6. Add the additional lemon juice, red wine vinegar and lemon zest. Puree for another few minutes until very smooth. Slowly add in the olive oil in a thin stream as the processor is running.

Notes

To make Peri Peri Chicken, brush a little of the sauce onto all sides of the chicken you are using. You can use bone in, skin on chicken or boneless skinless chicken. Place the chicken pieces in a glass dish and cover with plastic wrap.Let the chicken marinate for several hours or overnight.

Grill over low heat on a glass grill until fully cooked, brushing on additional sauce in the last five to ten minutes of cook time. Serve with extra sauce for dipping at the table.

The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only. Exact accuracy is not guaranteed. For recipes where all ingredients may not be used entirely, such as those with coatings on meats, or with sauces or dressings for example, calorie & nutritional values per serving will likely be somewhat lower than indicated.

Nutrition Information

Yield

16

Serving Size

g

Amount Per Serving Calories 136Total Fat 10gSaturated Fat 2gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 8gCholesterol 18mgSodium 240mgCarbohydrates 4gFiber 1gSugar 2gProtein 7g

The nutritional information provided is automatically calculated by third party software and is meant as a guideline only. Exact accuracy is not guaranteed. For recipes where all ingredients may not be used entirely, such as those with coatings on meats, or with sauces or dressings for example, calorie & nutritional values per serving will likely be somewhat lower than indicated.

 
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Mehvish

Thursday 4th of May 2017

Hi! I just tried making the sauce and it turned pretty good! My only question is the sauce tasted more tangy than garlicky. I have some left over, is there any way that i can fix the extra tangyness?

Also, i couldn't find red thai chili peppers so i ended up using about 4 habanero peppers.

Barry C. Parsons

Sunday 14th of May 2017

In my experience peri peri s meant to be quite tangy. I'd add as much garlic as you like. I can never get enough garlic myself.

Daphne

Friday 21st of April 2017

I made this and it was sooo delicious! Very addictive as well, will be making it again for sure. Thanks Barry!

Doug

Monday 27th of February 2017

So if you use the actual birdseye peppers, how many would equate to your ten of the Thai? Looks awesome. I saved it to my 'best' folder, which usually requires a few samplings.

Barry C. Parsons

Friday 17th of March 2017

I'd try 2 or 3.

brinacyl

Saturday 25th of February 2017

thank you for posting this recipe. i'm planning to use oven. what temperature should i use ?

Barry C. Parsons

Friday 17th of March 2017

For the chicken? 350 to 375 degrees F.

Todd

Sunday 15th of January 2017

Thanks for answering about the dry peppers. Any hints you would use to either reconstitute them or increase liquid to accommodate?

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