5 Ingredients or Fewer

Chicken Piri-Piri

June 24, 2011
3 Ratings
  • Serves 6-8
Author Notes

Lately, I have been researching Portuguese food articles published in the US as I find that the recipes you get are all tweaked to suit American taste. But then, what is the point… I think people want the real flavour, not a fake one, or at least that is my view! This is when I thought of Chicken Piri-piri. I go down the road to fetch chicken piri-piri in this amazing little corner restaurant all the time and believe it or not, I have the mild version, while my 8 year old granddaughter and everyone else have the hot version!
Piri-piri in Portugal is a small red pepper that grows in a bush like plant and we have it either in the garden or in a pot, that’s how easy it is to grow.
I found an article on Piri-piri, published by Leite’s Culinaria, where he explains that Piri-Piri is largely used in Portugal, Cape Verde, Brazil, Mozambique, Angola, and Goa.
Read more: http://leitesculinaria.com/10268/writings-portuguese-piri-piri-peppers-hot-sauce.html#ixzz1QBTw2dUc
Piri-piri comes from the Swahili word that means ‘pepper-pepper,’ and naturally cross-pollinated. Eventually, one of the varieties made its way to Portugal, where, for some reason, it retained its African name.”
To us, Portuguese, it’s just one more ingredient we use on food, especially Chicken Piri-piri and Shrimp Piri-piri, both absolutely delicious. The main difference between our Chicken Piri-piri and the American barbecued chicken is that we don’t marinate the chicken at all. it’s the grilling method and constant basting with the butter and chilli sauce that makes the chicken so delicious.
Now we do have bottles of piri-piri sauce but that is as good as comparing home made tomato sauce to store bought tomato sauce. And true, as Mr. Leite says, you will find a Piri-piri bottle on every restaurant table in Portugal, some hotter, some milder.
Grilled Chicken Piri-Piri is another classic Portuguese dish, and great for summer.
The chicken is fabulous cold, making it ideal for picnics or a summer dinner when you’d rather be with your friends than cooking and sweating over your barbecue.
Serve it with a fresh salad with tomatoes and lettuce or the Portuguese way – home-made fried chips or potato crisps.
Got any left overs? Make a sandwich, a salad or a pasta salad! - Maria Teresa Jorge
Maria Teresa Jorge

Test Kitchen Notes

This brought me right back to the Algarve in Portugal, where we had one of the best meals of our trip. The basting sauce was spicy and buttery, and because you are constantly basting the chicken with it, the heat from the chiles gently permeates the meat as it grills. I used cherry peppers from my local farm stand, which the farmer said were about the same heat level as jalapenos so I used two peppers and it was just right. If you like burning heat, you’ll want more. Either way, this was a wonderful reminder of our vacation and a great introduction to Portuguese cooking. I highly recommend it as an Editors’ Pick. —drbabs

What You'll Need
  • 2 whole chickens
  • 1 fresh lemon
  • 8 fresh whole garlic cloves, with pink skin on
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1-3 hot red chillies ( the small variety), depending on how hot you like
  • rock salt
  1. Wash chicken, removing giblets; rinse thoroughly and pat semi-dry.
  2. Place the chicken on a chopping board, breast-side down, and cut the backbone of the chicken. Flip chicken over and press down on the breast bone to flatten the chicken. Tuck the wings under so they don't burn. Place the chicken on a metal rack over a shallow pan skin side down and season with rock salt, nothing else.
  3. Smash th garlics leaving the pink skin on. Slice the chillies thinly. Put these ingredients and the butter in a pan over medium low heat until butter melts and starts to sizzle (5-6 minutes). Remove from heat but keep warm next to where you will be grilling the chicken – you will need a brush for basting.
  4. Grilling inside: Pre-heat the grill to 400 degrees.Bring chicken to room temperature.Roast chicken as is. Baste chicken with butter every 10 minutes. Continue the process until the underside is almost done as it will continue to cook when you turn it. Turn the chicken, skin side up and repeat the process, basting with butter every 10 minutes. Check for doneness.
  5. Barbecuing outside: Grill chicken over medium heat, starting with underside, basting every 10 minutes with butter. When underside is almost done, flip chicken to grill the other side and proceed in the same way.
  6. Cut in serving pieces and serve with more butter mixture and half lemons to squeeze over chicken.
  7. Instead of a whole chicken, you can use chicken breasts or only chicken legs for a picnic.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Maria Teresa Jorge
    Maria Teresa Jorge
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • drbabs

8 Reviews

Maria T. June 25, 2011
About Piri-piri: If you find fresh piri-piri, you can buy a bunch and dry them for later use. Tye the stalks together and hang upside down in acool and darkish place, then use as a fresh chillies.
TheWimpyVegetarian June 25, 2011
This looks great, Maria Theresa! I'd love to make this - but have a question about piri-piri. I'm not sure I've seen these in our stores. Are they hotter than serrano peppers or less hot?
Maria T. June 25, 2011
Hi ChezsSuzanne, Piri-piri in some areas of the States is called Malagueta peppers. It's a small, tapered, green pepper that turns red as it matures at about 2 inches in length. With a range of 60,000 to 100,000 Scoville units, it can be substituted for Thai Pepper, Chiltepin Pepper, Pequin Pepper, all the same strenght. Serrano peppers are also good but they are milder 10,000 to 23,000 Scoville units.
I'm going to add a photo of the Piri-Piri pepper.
Maria T. June 24, 2011
Hi drbabs, you're most welcome. I have travelled and lived in so many places but I recon I like Portuguese food so much because of its simplicity and freshness. I imagine you had fish in Algarve, it's so fresh! I hope you can make some chicken piri-piri now, it's so easy and simple. Also congratulations on your recipes, they are always so good.
drbabs June 24, 2011
Oh-- thank you!--yes we ate a lot of fish in Portugal! And mostly very simply prepared--in a stew with vegetables or fresh caught and just grilled. One of the best things I had was a simple salad with shrimp and mangoes. And we adored the huge grilled sardines. Unfortunately I got sick at the end of the trip so I spent most of the time we were in Algarve not eating very much...
TheWimpyVegetarian June 25, 2011
Oh man, drbabs, not a happy ending to what sounds like a great vacation! Welcome back home - hope you're feeling better now!
drbabs June 24, 2011
Maria, my husband and I were in Portugal last month. We went to a little family restaurant in the Algarve that specialized in chicken piri-piri. We sat out doors under big umbrellas and ate their amazing chicken till we couldn't eat anymore. It was delicious. I'm so happy you're sharing this with Food52.
Maria T. June 24, 2011
Oh dear, that wasn't fun.