Easy weeknight meal loading! Piri piri chicken is a juicy, spicy, and tangy roasted chicken recipe that we’re sure will be added to your weeknight rotation. Piri piri chicken is a traditional South African dish that was imported to Portugal, so it has ties to both places.
It’s traditionally fire roasted or grilled, but for any easy weeknight meal the chicken can be oven roasted! What makes this dish special? The marinade! This sauce uses bird’s eye peppers giving the chicken some fiery heat.
This dish almost reminds me of tangy BBQ chicken. This poultry is somewhat spicy but not overpowering. Plus, you get a touch of garlic flavor and tanginess from the vinegar. Don’t worry, the tanginess isn’t strong, it’s just enough. There’s also some smoky flavor from the cumin and smoked paprika.
This mouthwatering chicken is easy to make and even easier to eat. This is a great recipe to try if you want something a little more than a traditional roasted chicken without the hassle of a super complicated new recipe. It only requires marinating then roasting the chicken. Easy right?
What are Piri Piri Peppers
Piri piri peppers are African bird’s eye peppers that are native to that region—they are slightly fruity in taste, but most definitely pack some peppery heat. They are 10 times hotter than jalapeno peppers! They are used mostly in marinades, soups, and pepper extracts. You can usually find them online or in specialty grocery stores.
Why We Marinate Chicken
It’s all about the flavor! When you’re marinate your chicken all of the flavor seeps through the entire piece of meat—you’ll get spicy tangy flavor throughout every single bite. Plus, this marinade makes this chicken so juicy!
I recommend marinating the meat overnight to achieve max flavor, but if you don’t have that much time, I would say at least 3 hours minimum.
I wouldn’t marinate the chicken for longer than 24 hours because it can over-tenderize the meat making it mushy.
Tips and Tricks for Making Piri Piri Chicken
Here are some tips and tricks so you can make some juicy pieces of chicken:
- I like to use chicken thighs, legs, and leg quarters when making this recipe. Chicken legs and thighs don’t dry out as much as chicken breast would. Plus, legs and thighs are cheaper, making it easier on the budget.
- I definitely use gloves or tongs when I’m putting the marinade on the chicken. This prevents any sauce residue from being on my hands that could cause burning if I touch my face. Another note: Always wash your hands well after handling the chicken with this peppery marinade because of these peppers are hot!
- I’m always looking for easy clean up methods or ways to cut corners when it’s time to wash the dishes. Use foil as a liner in your pan when cooking for easy clean. You don’t have to worry about putting in too much elbow grease to get the pan cleaned if you use foil. After cooking just remove the foil and throw it in the trash. All of the sticky residue that you usually have to soak and scrub away goes right in the trash with it.
Make Ahead Tips
You can get a jumpstart on dinner by making this sauce ahead of time. After you make the sauce, store it in an airtight container in the fridge for a max of two days. Just make sure to account for the time you need to marinate the chicken, so you don’t go over that two-day storage time in the fridge.
You can also make this sauce ahead of time and freeze it! Just store the sauce in a lidded airtight freezer friendly storage container and it will keep for two months. Just let the sauce defrost in the fridge for several hours then you can use as directed.
Sometimes I try to meal plan by putting marinated meats in the freezer. Give this a try! Combine the chicken and marinade in an airtight freezer friendly container and pop it the freezer. When you’re ready to make it, let the chicken defrost in the fridge for 12 to 24 hours, and then it’s ready to cook.
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
The best part of this recipe? It lends itself to a few swaps and subs if needed:
- If you don’t have African bird’s eye chili on hand that’s ok. Try using other hot peppers like Thai chili, serrano peppers, habaneros, or scotch bonnet peppers.
- I used leg quarters for this recipe, but you can always use just chicken leg or thigh portions.
- This chicken is spicy, but you can omit 1-2 peppers to decrease the heat if your family isn’t too fond of spice.
- If you don’t have red wine vinegar on hand, you can use white vinegar and still get that tangy taste.
Piri Piri Chicken Variations
You can definitely use this piri piri marinade on other proteins like shrimp and fish. Do a quick marinate time of about 15 to 30 minutes for shrimp or fish before grilling or searing them for delicious results.
You could even do a fried chicken recipe with this recipe! I almost reminds me of a buttermilk marinade for fried chicken. After marinating the chicken, you can dredge it in flour and fry it up like this buttermilk fried chicken recipe.
French fries, rice, potatoes, and salads are usually what popular restaurants serve with this delicious chicken.
These oven roasted potatoes are easy to make with crispy edges that remind me a healthier French fry option that would go great with this dish.
To keep the traditional French fry side dish theme going, try these easier healthier crispy air fryer French fries as a side dish.
Fragrant yellow rice would be a great side to top this meal! The cloves, cumin, chili, and turmeric in this Indian style rice go well with the piri piri chili flavors. Plus, the rice is great for soaking up any extra sauce on your plate! The sauce is almost like a nice little gravy for the rice.
When I make this chicken, there are usually no leftovers because everyone’s asking for seconds (including myself)! But if you do have any leftovers, you can store them in the fridge in an airtight container for about two days.
You can even freeze these leftovers for a quick grab and go meal later. Just place the leftovers in an airtight container and put them in your freezer. You can leave them in the freezer for up to four months.
When you are ready to use the leftovers put them in a baking dish and cover it with foil (this helps keep the chicken moist) and bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes.
If you are using leftovers you put in the freezer, let them thaw overnight in the fridge first, then reheat. This helps to make sure the chicken defrosts all the way through so you don’t have issues with overcooking chicken that might still be frozen.
More Weeknight Chicken Recipes
Oven Roasted Piri Piri Chicken
Marinate the chicken for 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
- 4 skin-on chicken leg quarters (thighs and drumsticks attached)
- 3 teaspoons sweet smoked paprika
- 3 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- 6 fresh basil leaves
- 8 garlic cloves
- 1/2 large white onion cut into large chunks
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
- 3 stemmed dried African bird’s eye chili peppers
- 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, for garnish
Make the marinade:
Place the paprika, salt, pepper, sugar, cumin, thyme, basil, garlic, onion, cilantro leaves, chili peppers, olive oil, vinegar, and lemon juice into a food processor. Blend for 60 seconds or until you have a smooth sauce.
Pat chicken dry:
Pat the chicken pieces dry using a paper towel and place the chicken pieces in a 9 x 13 baking dish.
Marinate the chicken:
Pour half of the marinade over the chicken making sure to coat both sides of the chicken. Cover with aluminum foil and place the baking dish in the fridge. Marinate the chicken for 3 hours or up to 24 hours.
Place the remaining marinade in an airtight container and store in the fridge until ready to make pan sauce.
Remove chicken from fridge and preheat the oven:
When ready to cook the chicken, remove the chicken from the fridge and take off the foil. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
Roast the chicken:
Roast the chicken uncovered for 50 to 60 minutes or until the temperature reaches 165 degrees when inserted with a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the chicken.
Make the pan sauce:
Right before you’re ready to serve, make the pan sauce. In a small saucepan over medium-low heat add the remaining marinade. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce heats through, about 2 minutes.
Spoon the pan sauce over the chicken and garnish with cilantro. Serve with a side dish of your choosing.