Peri Peri Chicken with the BEST Peri Peri Sauce

This Peri Peri Chicken recipe is going to become your favourite summer BBQ grilling recipe! Marinated with peppers, citrus and spices, the spicy grilled chicken absorbs the flavourful marinade and remains juicy . Served with a reduced peri peri sauce, this will be a hit at any BBQ! Read on to learn how to spatchcock a chicken and make peri peri chicken from scratch, so that you never miss that famous Peri Peri Chicken chain again!

Peri peri chicken sauce


Watch how to make South African style Grilled Peri Peri Chicken at the end of post

The term “piri piri” may well be of Portuguese origin, but it is the Portuguese conquest of Africa that can be credited with the famous Piri Piri chicken from southern Africa. Both Piri Piri and Peri Peri are used as terminology in Southern Africa – depending on which country’s chicken you’re trying. Red hot peppers were brought into Africa during colonisation, which gave birth to delicacies like Piri Piri Chicken in Mozambique, Angola and South Africa.

Nando’s made Peri Peri chicken famous around the world, and while credit is often given to Portugal for its inspiration, Nando’s is in fact a South African chain (is your mind blown?). The main distinction between Portuguese Piri Piri Chicken and Southern African Piri Piri Chicken is their use of chillies. Portuguese chicken is much milder, utilising chilli oil, whereas Southern African chicken is full blown in its use of chilli, making your tastebuds Indlamu (a traditional South African dance). Henceforth, I’m going to use the term Peri Peri Chicken as my recipe is inspired by the South African chain.

You may choose to grill a whole chicken or use chicken thigh fillets, but why take the easy route when you can spatchcock a chicken, make it look more like the famous chain’s chicken and show off your chef carving skills to your family?!

Don’t be intimidated because spatchcocking a chicken is SUPER easy! Grab a pair of kitchen scissors and have the chicken cavity face towards you. Locate the backbone and start cutting right next to it, all the way down.

spatchcock chicken

Your chicken should open up. Now cut down the other side of the backbone and save the backbone to make chicken stock later! Do you want a chicken stock recipe from scratch? Let me know in the comments!  Your spatchcocked chicken is now ready to do the chicken dance and bathe in the lusciously hot marinade. Let me know how you go with spatchcocking and if you find it as easy as I say it is, because really it is!

Now, for the marinade – traditionally, African bird’s eye chillies are used, but I didn’t have any so I used the normal red chillies we get in super markets here. Three of these bad boys along with one green chilli packed in A LOT of heat! Reduce the amount of chillies if you want milder heat. Combine with remaining ingredients and you’ll get a beautiful, vibrant marinade.

peri peri marinade

Brush chicken all over with the marinade, saving 3 tbsp of the marinade for the peri peri sauce. Refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours to overnight to really have the chicken absorb all those flavours.

Once this is done, you’re ready to grill! I like it slightly charred all over to give you real BBQ flavour. Be careful if you’re grilling indoors, as I did. The fumes made me cough! Allow for plenty of ventilation.

For the sauce, mix saved marinade, water and sugar and reduce, you may add more sugar as per your tastes. You may blend it to get the Nando’s smooth consistency but I like it as is. You may have figured out by now that I’m big on texture!

And that’s it! Enjoy a bit of South African paradise with Peri Peri Chicken and Hot Peri Peri sauce. You may serve this with chips (fries), coleslaw, corn on the cob, or rice, just like in Nando’s.

piri piri chicken

Let me know how you like this spicy grilled chicken in the comments!

South African Style Peri Peri Chicken with Peri Peri Sauce
Prep Time
4 hrs 30 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
4 hrs 50 mins

Try this easy South African style Peri Peri Chicken that will become a summer BBQ favourite! Adjust the level of heat according to your taste and learn how to spatchcock chicken the easy way. 

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: South African
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 652 kcal
Author: Tamara at Foodieverse
  • 1.8 Kg whole chicken
Peri Peri Marinade
  • 3 red chillies (reduce for less heat)
  • 1 green chilli
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 red capsicum (red bell pepper)
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika (or normal paprika)
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp fresh oregano (or 1/2 tsp dried)
Peri Peri Sauce
  • 3 tbsp reserved marinade
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
How to spatchcock chicken
  1. Lay the chicken flat on a surface, legs down. 

  2. Hold the neck and cut next to the backbone with a pair of scissors.

  3. Cut all the way down till the end of backbone.

  4. Cut the other side of backbone and reserve backbone for chicken stock (freeze for later use).

  5. Push open the chicken, turn around and lay flat with the legs to the side.

Peri Peri Chicken
  1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a food processor and blend well. 

  2. Reserve 3 tbsp of marinade and brush remaining marinade on both sides of the chicken. 

  3. Refrigerate 4 hours to overnight for juicy, well marinated, tender chicken.

  4. Fire up your grill or heat grill pan. 

  5. Place breast side up. Grill for 10 minutes.

  6. Flip over with breast side down. Cook 25-30 minutes.

  7. Flip over once more and grill for another 5 minutes.

  8. Quarter chicken while still hot and cut apart wing pieces as well. 

Peri Peri Sauce
  1. Add reserved marinade, water and sugar to a saucepan and bring to boil.

  2. Taste and adjust according to your taste (more sugar if you like less heat).

  3. Cook for 2 minutes and remove.

  4. Blend sauce if you want it smooth, I leave it as is. 

Recipe Notes
  1. Reduce amount of chilli used if you prefer less heat. Or substitute chili with another capsicum for a mild marinade.
  2. Absolute minimum time to marinade chicken is 2 hours. 4 hours is good but overnight is best. 
  3. Keep windows open if grilling indoors as the fumes can make you cough.
  4. Adjust grilling time according to the size of chicken - 1.8Kg (4 lb) chicken is medium sized and requires around 40-45 minutes to cook without going dry.
Nutrition Facts
South African Style Peri Peri Chicken with Peri Peri Sauce
Amount Per Serving (350 g)
Calories 652 Calories from Fat 387
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 43g 66%
Saturated Fat 10g 50%
Cholesterol 162mg 54%
Sodium 781mg 33%
Potassium 679mg 19%
Total Carbohydrates 22g 7%
Dietary Fiber 2g 8%
Sugars 16g
Protein 41g 82%
Vitamin A 51.5%
Vitamin C 120.6%
Calcium 5%
Iron 16.8%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.


Watch how to spatchcock chicken and make South African style Peri Peri Chicken



You may also like this chicken and rice recipe if it’s too hot to grill outside:


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  • Reply
    January 30, 2018 at 12:11 pm

    Tried this recipe, juicy and not as hot as I thought it would be.

  • Reply
    November 9, 2018 at 6:17 pm

    Its not South African at all. It was created by Portuguese settlers in Angola and Mozambique, where typical Portuguese ingredients like garlic, lemon, paprika and olive oil were mixed with piri piri. Nandos, chakalaka and pap and wors are South African.

  • Reply
    Krypto Kalafat
    November 17, 2019 at 10:23 am

    Wasn’t sure what kind of chili peppers to use or how big the red onion and red pepper should be. I’m using 3 sides of Costco bone-in-skin-on chicken thighs (6-pack) so I’m marinating it now. Also had questionable apple cider vinegar so hope this turns out good. The marinade after blending was not very smooth. Crossing my fingers!

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