Piri Piri chicken (or maybe you prefer peri peri chicken) is a tangy grilled chicken dish that’s smothered in a rich chili sauce that can either be made to blow your face off or be just a bit teasingly spicy. Piri Piri means chili pepper in swahili…so you know this is going to be a bit spicy.
Yes, piri piri chicken is found in the southern African country of Mozambique. It came there by way of the Portuguese who also pride themselves in piri piri chicken (some even say it’s the national dish of Portugal). It’s also a very popular dish in England thanks to the chain known as Nando’s and their peri peri chicken. (Yep, they spell it with an e instead of an i.)
I became hooked on this dish when I was in England last year. I’ve walked past Nando’s restaurants several times and never went in until that one fateful day when I was in Desford. After my first bite, I was hooked. I pumped several extra cups of that delicious sauce to pour over my quarter chicken (it kind of looked like piri piri soup when I was done). But biting into that chicken leg and thigh and having that sauce spill down my chin was pure heaven. Sure, I could have just bought a bottle of their piri piri sauce and called it a day, but what fun is that? I set to work making my own piri piri chicken recipe.
Officially, piri piri chicken is made using African bird’s eye chile’s, but finding those proved to be a bit difficult. So I chatted up my friends over at Melissa’s Produce (since they are all over the world of peppers) to find a pepper I could easily get that would help me recreate that great flavor and heat. We landed on the tiny Pequin and Tepin peppers. They’re so tiny, it’s hard to believe the heat they carry. I ended up liking the Pequin peppers the best for this recipe.
Traditionally, piri piri chicken is grilled, but it’s just been so cold here lately that I couldn’t bring my wussy self to stand outside while these cooked. So instead of my usual chicken breasts I grabbed chicken thighs. Chicken thighs are great for cooking in the oven. They can withstand the longer cooking time and with the ingredients in the piri piri marinade, they get nice and tender. So no worries about tough, chewy chicken (YUCK!)
By the way…chicken thighs have A LOT more flavor in them than chicken breasts anyway. Sure, there’s a bit more fat on them, but you can cut that off it really bothers you that much. I especially like cooking chicken thighs on the grill. Their richer flavor combined with the smokiness from the grill makes your dish taste that much better. So I can’t wait until it warms up so that I can make this piri piri chicken the proper way. On the grill!
- 2-6 Dried Tepin Peppers (stems removed)
- 5 Cloves Garlic
- 1 Medium Shallot (peeled, quartered)
- Juice of One Lemon (roughly ¼ cup of juice)
- ½ Cup Roughly Chopped Cilantro
- ¼ Cup White Vinegar
- ¼ Cup Olive Oil
- 1 Tablespoon Paprika
- 1 Tablespoon Dried Oregano
- 3 Teaspoons Kosher Salt
- 1 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
- ¼ Teaspoon Tabasco Sauce
- 6 Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs (roughly 2-2½ pounds)
- Chopped Cilantro (for serving)
- Place all ingredients, except for chicken, into a blender and blitz until everything is liquified.
- Add chicken to a one gallon zip top bag and pour sauce into bag.
- Remove as much air as possible, from the bag, and seal top. Smoosh everything around to coat the chicken and pop into refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Best if overnight. Smoosh stuff around again about halfway through marinating time.
- Pre heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Line a baking pan with parchment paper and arrange chicken thighs in a single layer.
- Bake for 30 minutes.
- Top with chopped cilantro.
- Remove from oven and let cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into.
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