Peri Peri Chicken

Our family loves Nando’s, and if you’ve ever been there, too, you know the powers of peri peri chicken. The South African flavors are almost mesmerizing, from the smoky and bright chicken to the complex spicy sauce. But did you know it’s actually fairly easy to recreate at home?

close up shot of platter of peri peri chicken


The traditional African sauce is made from African Bird’s Eye chili peppers, but I’ve created a sauce that’s just as flavorful if you can’t find them. If you’ve been looking for a peri peri chicken recipe, you’re going to love this one. It’s the most customizable dish — and I guarantee it’s going to become a regularly requested meal after you make it!

What Makes Peri Peri Chicken Worth Making

This grilled chicken is smothered with peri peri sauce (also known as piri piri sauce or pili pili sauce). And once you make it, you may not want to whip up any other chicken recipe.

  • No cilantro. Since cilantro can be unappealing to a lot of people, we don’t include it in this recipe. You can totally add it in, but we kept this recipe simple so it can be easily served at parties or family gatherings without worrying about sensitive taste buds. 
  • Double duty. You can spoon the peri peri sauce over your chicken or you can use it as a marinade to add tons of flavor.
  • Easy. If you’ve ever cooked chicken, you can make this simple dish. And if you haven’t? You can easily do this, too. Plus, if you’re new to cooking, the flavorful sauce can cover up any missteps like a champ!


While the ingredient list is a little long, all of the ingredients are easy to find at your local grocery store.


  • Chicken Drumsticks – These are the stars of the show! Be sure to slit them so that they can soak up all of the marinade.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – Vinegar helps to add a bit of tanginess and balances out the flavors.
  • Water – Just a touch helps to get the right consistency for the marinade.
  • Smoked Paprika – This is where that signature smoky kick comes from, adding depth and a kick of heat to your peri peri marinade.
  • Garlic Powder – This is the secret weapon for that garlic punch without any fuss — no need for slicing, dicing, or grating!
  • Onion Powder – This powder adds a sweet and savory note that plays well with the other spices, giving peri peri chicken its well-rounded flavor.
  • Coarse Kosher Salt – Essential for seasoning the chicken perfectly, salt enhances the flavors of the other ingredients.
  • Ground Black Pepper – Pepper adds gentle heat that balances and enhances the other flavors. 
overhead shot of peri peri chicken ingredients

Peri Peri Sauce:

  • Small Red Chile Peppers – These peppers provide the signature heat of the sauce. Choose the variety that you prefer. If you’re not sure which to choose, take a look at the Scoville Scale to determine how much heat you want to incorporate.
  • Red Bell Pepper – These sweet peppers balance out the head of the chile peppers.
  • White Onion – This aromatic adds its signature flavor to the sauce. 
  • Fresh Garlic – Garlic adds a pleasant pungency to the sauce. 
  • Fresh Basil – This fresh herb helps to give the sauce a bit of herbaceousness.
  • Fresh Oregano – Oregano adds even more herbal flavor. 
  • Smoked Paprika – This spice adds smokiness and creates a more complex flavor profile.
  • Vegetable Oil or Other Neutral Oil – Oil helps to create a smooth sauce. Use olive oil, avocado oil, or your preferred oil.
  • Red Wine Vinegar – Vinegar balances out the sauce with its acidity.
  • Fresh Lemon Juice – The brightness of citrus helps to freshen up the sauce’s flavor. 
  • Lemon Zest – Lemon zest adds concentrated lemony flavor to the sauce. 
  • Coarse Kosher Salt – Salt brings out the flavors of the other ingredients. 
  • Sugar – Sugar imparts some sweetness to the sauce, adding to its complexity.
angled shot of peri peri sauce in jar

How to Make Peri Peri Chicken

You won’t believe how easy it is to make this incredibly flavorful chicken.

For the Chicken:

  1. Slice slits into the chicken with a sharp knife. Then set the chicken aside. 
  2. Pour apple cider vinegar, water, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper into a bowl and stir to combine. 
  3. Place the chicken into the marinade and toss before covering and refrigerating.
  4. Before cooking, drain the marinade from the chicken. 
  5. Place the chicken on the prepared grill, rotating frequently. If you prefer, you can bake it in the oven.
  6. Once the chicken has reached the desired internal temperature on an instant-read thermometer, transfer it to a plate to rest and top with peri peri sauce. 

For the sauce: 

  1. Add the chiles, red bell pepper, white onion, garlic, basil, oregano, paprika, and oil to a blender or the bowl of a large food processor and pulse.
  2. Once the ingredients are pasty, add vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and sugar and continue to pulse until well combined and chunky. 
  3. Use immediately or transfer to an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. 

What to Serve With Peri Peri Chicken

You can serve anything with peri peri chicken that you would with any other chicken dish! For starches, we love serving it with tomato rice, chile garlic potatoes, or mashed potatoes. We also adore it with corn on the cob as a side.

It’s also a fantastic low-carb meal if you pair it with red wine vinegar broccolini, broccoli, asparagus, and other easy side dishes. Or, just serve it over a simple green salad.

angled shot of spoon adding sauce to peri peri chicken

Variations on Peri Peri Chicken

There are loads of ways to change up this simple recipe that are just as satisfying.

  • Herbs – Incorporate other fresh herbs for more flavor.
  • Heat – Add cayenne pepper powder, crushed red pepper, for an extra spicy kick.
  • Sweetness – Mix honey or brown sugar with the marinade ingredients to create a sweet and tangy glaze on the chicken.
  • Coconut – Use coconut milk or coconut cream in the marinade for a creamy and tropical flavor.
  • Smokiness – Add a touch of liquid smoke or smoked spices like more smoked paprika or chipotle powder for a smoky undertone.
  • Asian-inspired Flavors – Incorporate ingredients like soy sauce, ginger, and garlic into the marinade for an Asian-inspired twist.
  • Mediterranean Flavor – Use Mediterranean spices like cumin, coriander, and turmeric in the marinade for a different flavor profile with a hint of warmth.

Storage and Freezing

Like any chicken dish, you can store this for a few days. Grill or bake it ahead of time and then reheat it when you need it!

This is a meal-prep dream come true! Cook it up, store it, and eat throughout the week

How to Store Peri Peri Chicken

Store this simple chicken dish in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days. 

Can I Freeze This Peri Peri Chicken?

I recommend freezing the chicken and the sauce separately. Either will stay fresh in the freezer for up to 3 months in a freezer-safe container. 

Common Questions 

What is chicken peri-peri made of?

Chicken Peri Peri is a flavorful grilled chicken with a spicy pepper-based sauce. With sweet, acidic, and spicy elements it is a balanced dish chock-full of flavor.

What is peri-peri flavor?

Peri Peri is uniquely full of spiciness while also incorporating tangy citrus flavor and herbs.

Is Peri Peri chicken African or Portuguese?

While it’s been said that the Portuguese introduced the flavor blend it the world, it has become a South African staple.

plate of peri peri chicken with rice and corn

More Chicken Recipes

Chicken dinners don’t have to be boring! Here are a few of our favorites that we know you’ll love too.

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Huli Huli Chicken Recipe

4.38 from 8 votes
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Everything Seasoning Chicken Tenders

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Baked Caesar Chicken Recipe

5 from 8 votes
This moist Baked Caesar Chicken gets its tenderness from a garlicky Caesar marinade but it's also a crust of parmesan-laced bread crumbs!
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overhead shot of try of peri peri chicken with text overlay
close up shot of platter of peri peri chicken

Peri Peri Chicken

5 from 4 votes
From the smoky and bright chicken to the complex spicy sauce, this Peri Peri Chicken is sure to become a family favorite in your house!
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Marinating Time: 6 hours
Total Time: 6 hours 40 minutes
Servings: 4



Peri Peri Sauce:


  • fresh chopped parsley , lime wedges


  • For the Chicken:
  • Using a sharp knife, cut several 1/2 inch slits into the meaty parts of the chicken. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl or an airtight plastic bag, mix together the apple cider vinegar, water, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper. Add the chicken to the marinade, tossing to coat well. Cover and marinate for 6-12 hours in the refrigerator.
  • When ready to grill, remove from the marinade and discard remaining liquid.
  • Heat the grill to medium-high heat and generously oil the grates.
  • Grill the chicken for 30 minutes, rotating every 10 minutes, or until they reach an internal temperature 165°F. Remove and allow to rest for 10 minutes before topping with peri peri sauce and serving. The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead of time.
  • For the Sauce:
  • In a large food processor or blend, combine the seeded chiles, red bell pepper, white onion, garlic, basil, oregano, paprika and oil. Pulse until a coarse paste forms.
  • Add the vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt and sugar, pulsing 2-3 more times to combine, but not to make a smooth paste. It should be chunky.
  • Transfer to an airtight container and chill for up to 5 days. Stir when ready to use.
  • For serving:
  • Top the grilled chicken with peri peri sauce and freshly chopped parsley. Serve with fresh lime wedges.


Calories: 553 kcal, Carbohydrates: 15 g, Protein: 29 g, Fat: 42 g, Saturated Fat: 8 g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 19 g, Monounsaturated Fat: 12 g, Trans Fat: 0.3 g, Cholesterol: 139 mg, Sodium: 1334 mg, Potassium: 733 mg, Fiber: 4 g, Sugar: 6 g, Vitamin A: 2401 IU, Vitamin C: 112 mg, Calcium: 74 mg, Iron: 3 mg
Author: Jessica Formicola
Calories: 553
Course: Main Dish
Cuisine: American
Keyword: peri peri chicken
Did you make this recipe?I’d love to see your recipes – snap a picture and mention @savoryexperiments or tag #savoryexperiments!
collage of peri peri chicken
Jessica Formicola in her ktichen

About the Author

Jessica Formicola

Jessica the mom, wife and chef behind Savory Experiments. You might see her on the Emmy- nominated TV show Plate It! or on bookshelves as a cookbook author. Jessica is a Le Cordon Bleu certified recipe developer and regularly contributed to Parade, Better Homes & Gardens, The Daily Meal and more!

Read More About Jessica

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Questions and Reviews

  1. 5 stars
    Mmm mm peri peri chicken recipe, looks delicious can’t wait to make it for dinner. Looks delicious and with lots of flavors. Thanks for sharing 🙂

  2. 5 stars
    My mouth is watering just reading this recipe! That sauce looks incredible, and I appreciate that it doesn’t ask for cilantro (though I usually just omit it when a recipe calls for it). Can’t wait to try this!