Chicken Piri Piri / Mia / Katie Workman /

What is Chicken Piri Piri?

Chicken Piri Piri is a dish that was created in Africa when Portuguese settlers arrived and started playing with a marinade made with local bird’s eye chili peppers, which are called “piri-piri” in Swahili (it actually translates to “pepper pepper”).  There are many versions of the dish, with a lot of variation, but always a hot pepper.  I cheated a bit and used jalapenos, which are my go-to hot pepper, and very easy to find.  The dish can be found in Africa, Portugal, and now hopefully in your kitchen.

Chicken Piri Piri is a dish with origins in both Portuguese and African cuisine. This recipe is simple to make, but with flavors that go deep and long.

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How to Spatchcock or Butterfly a Chicken

Here’s the drill with butterflying—or spatchcocking—a bird. You cut backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears, then turn the bird over and press down on the breastbone until the bird lies somewhat flat. It’s not hard, but a) you do need sharp kitchen shears, and b) you have to be comfortable using them on poultry. If either of these things pose a problem, ask the butcher to do it for you (and that’s what I do).

Why spatchcock a chicken?

It cooks more quickly and a bit more evenly, and also allows some nice overall browning. Another somewhat arbitrary reason I discovered is that if you are using all of the racks in your oven, a spatchcocked chicken takes up less headroom. Fun fact.

The longer you marinate the chicken, the deeper the flavor. 4 jalapeños may seem like a lot, but once you remove the seeds and ribs, and roast them, you will be left with a soft level nice smoky heat, but hardly a tongue-burning level of spiciness. Either use plastic gloves when handling the jalapeños, or wash your hands right afterwards with plenty of warm water and soap. You only have to touch your eyes or lips once with jalapeño hands to know why.

Chicken Piri Piri / Mia / Katie Workman /

If you don’t have hot paprika you can substitute regular paprika and a couple of generous pinches of cayenne pepper.

Serve this chicken with rice, either plain or maybe yellow rice, and a green salad. Beer would be a great companion. And should there be any leftovers, they make a hell of a chicken salad.

More Chicken Recipes:

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Chicken Piri Piri

This recipe is simple to make, but with flavors that go deep and long.
Yield: 4 People
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes


  • 4 jalapeño peppers
  • 1 3 ½ to 4-pound chicken
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons hot paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon salt


  • Preheat the oven to 400°F. If the chicken is already butterflied, move to the next step. If not, cut the backbone out of the chicken with kitchen shears, then turn the bird over and press down on the breastbone until the bird lies somewhat flat.
  • Cut the jalapenos in half and remove the seeds and stems. Spread the jalapenos on a baking sheet. Roast about 15 minutes, until shriveled. Let the jalapenos cool, then remove the ribs and seeds. Combine the jalapenos, oil, vinegar, paprika, oregano, garlic, and salt in a food processor or blender until it forms a paste.
  • Transfer the chicken to a glass or non-reactive dish. Pour the marinade over the chicken and flip it a few times so that the marinade coats the chicken well. Cover and refrigerate for 2 to 12 hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F, and let the chicken come to room temperature while the oven heats up. Remove the chicken from the marinade and place skin side up on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 1 hour until the juices run clear when a sharp knife is inserted into the meaty part of the thigh. Let sit for about 15 minutes on a cutting board, then cut into pieces and serve hot.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 720.52kcal | Carbohydrates: 2.41g | Protein: 40.94g | Fat: 60g | Saturated Fat: 13.16g | Cholesterol: 163.29mg | Sodium: 737.06mg | Potassium: 478.04mg | Fiber: 0.85g | Sugar: 0.71g | Vitamin A: 948.28IU | Vitamin C: 20.79mg | Calcium: 32.02mg | Iron: 2.48mg

The nutrition values are provided as an estimate. It is not intended as a substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional.

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