Piri Piri Chicken (Nando’s Chicken)

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This easy Portuguese Grilled Piri Piri Chicken is made in the oven and is so good! Also called “Nando’s Chicken” after the restaurant that makes this dish, this chicken legs recipe will definitely have people asking for seconds – and thirds! 

Piri Piri Chicken out of the oven and garnished with lemon wedges.


 

Homemade Portuguese Piri Piri Chicken

This Piri Piri Chicken recipe is an at home version of the dish you’ll find at any Nando’s location! If you aren’t familiar with Nando’s they’re an international chain of restaurants that specialize in Portuguese cuisine. Their signature dish is this Portuguese Piri Piri chicken.

In the U.S., you can find Nando’s locations in the DC metro area or Chicago. Since many of you may not live close enough to a location to pop over and try this seriously life changing chicken – I figured I’d bring it right to your kitchen with this slammin’ homemade version. You’re welcome! 😉 

What is Piri Piri Chicken?

Piri Piri chicken, also known as Peri Peri chicken, is a traditional Portuguese dish. It’s usually grilled and charred whole chicken pieces covered in a chili based paste or sauce. The sauce or paste uses African Bird’s Eye Chili which is grown all over northern Africa and southern Portugal.

When made in its most traditional way, Piri Piri is truly slow food. However, I love to give you a taste of different and exciting foods in a way that is modified for simplicity in your home kitchen.

What Does Piri Piri Chicken Taste Like?

Piri Piri sauce is a little spicy, a little sweet, a bit salty, and all around complex. It’s like a little explosion of flavor in your mouth. The step that makes this chicken flavor central is the char from the griddle pan. It tastes like BBQ’d chicken – but better!

For my easy version, I use red Thai chilies because they are easier to find in your local market. These chilies are spicy but also have the slightest bit of sweetness which makes our Piri Piri sauce tops. You’ll see, this Piri Piri chicken will most definitely leave you licking your fingers clean!

Roasted chicken legs arranged on a sheet pan. Lemon wedges are scattered around the chicken.

Recipe Ingredients

I’m sure you can guess the main ingredient in this dish is chicken. What makes this chicken so good is the marinade and Piri Piri sauce. Grab some garlic, lemon juice, and hot chilies, and let’s prepare this unbelievably good dish!

  • Chicken Legs – The original recipe calls for skin-on, bone-in chicken legs, but you can substitute bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or drumsticks if you prefer.

For the Marinade

  • Lemon Juice – Adds a bright, tangy flavor to tenderize the chicken.
  • Garlic (minced) – Please stick with fresh garlic cloves to infuse the chicken with tons of flavor.
  • Salt – Enhances the flavors and helps tenderize the meat.

For the Piri Piri Sauce

  • Red Thai Chilies – They add heat and a distinct spicy flavor. Adjust quantity for desired spice level.
  • Garlic – Please use roughly chopped fresh garlic.
  • Lemon Juice – Adds acidity and freshness to balance the spice.
  • Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper – Essential for seasoning and enhancing all other flavors.
  • Sweet or Smoked Paprika – Adds a mild, sweet, and smoky flavor to the sauce.
  • Olive Oil – Provides richness and helps blend the sauce.

To Serve

  • Chopped Fresh Parsley – Used for garnish, adding a fresh, herbal note. You can also use cilantro.
  • Lemon Wedges – Served alongside to add more citrus flavor.

How to Make Piri Piri Chicken

Making this restaurant copycat of Nando’s piri piri chicken at home is easier than you think! Follow these simple steps to create a flavorful, spicy dish that will have you coming back for seconds and thirds!

  1. Marinate: Place the chicken in a roasting pan and set it aside. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and garlic. Pour the lemon mixture over the chicken and coat all around. Season the chicken with salt; cover it and let it sit on the kitchen counter for about 30 to 60 minutes.
  2. Make the Sauce: In the meantime, chop the chilies and garlic, then add them to a blender or food processor. I suggest wearing gloves when working with chilies. Add in the lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pulse the mixture until blended. Add paprika and oil, then process until it’s smooth and completely combined.
  3. Taste for seasonings and add more chilies, or salt and pepper, if you want. You can also add a little sugar for a bit of sweetness in your sauce.
  4. Bake: Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Roast the previously prepared chicken for about 32 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through. Half way through cooking, baste the chicken with its juices.
  5. The chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165˚F. Use an instant read thermometer for accuracy.
  6. Brown: In the meantime, preheat a griddle or grill pan to medium-hot. Remove the chicken from the oven and brush your prepared Piri Piri Sauce all over. Add the chicken pieces to the hot griddle pan and cook for 2 minutes or until browned and starting to char. Flip the chicken over and continue to cook for 2 minutes or until browned on the opposite side.
  7. Serve: Remove the chicken from the griddle pan. Garnish it with parsley and serve it with lemon wedges.
Piri Piri Chicken out of the oven and garnished with lemon wedges.

Recipe Tips

  • Marinate longer for more flavor. Letting the chicken marinate for several hours or overnight will allow the flavors to penetrate deeply, making the chicken even more delicious.
  • Adjust the heat. If you prefer a milder dish, remove the seeds from the chilies before blending. For extra heat, add more chilies or include some of the seeds.
  • Use fresh ingredients. Fresh garlic, lemon juice, and herbs will give your peri peri chicken recipe a vibrant and authentic taste.
  • Don’t skip the “grilling” part. While you can serve the chicken right after roasting it, browning it on the grill pan will give you that signature char and smoky flavor reminiscent of Nando’s.
  • Use gloves when handling hot peppers. To protect your hands (and eyes!) from the intense heat of the chilies, please wear gloves.

Serving Suggestions

I like to serve Piri Piri chicken over a hearty grain like farro or quinoa, topped with extra Piri Piri sauce. On the side, a cool salad or lightly steamed or grilled veggies works great. My favorites are tomato salad, cabbage slaw, steamed broccoli, and grilled corn on the cob.

    How to Store and Reheat Leftovers

    This chicken dish can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for about 3 days. To reheat your Piri Piri Chicken, I recommend bringing it to heat in a low oven. This may dry it out a bit – so I suggest topping it with more Piri Piri sauce.

    ENJOY!

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    4.66 from 20 votes

    Piri Piri Chicken

    This easy Portuguese Grilled Piri Piri Chicken is made in the oven and is so good! Also called "Nando's Chicken" after the restaurant that makes this dish, this chicken legs recipe will definitely have people asking for seconds – and thirds!
    Prep Time: 15 minutes
    Cook Time: 35 minutes
    Marinating Time: 30 minutes
    Total Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
    Servings: 4

    Ingredients 

    • 4 whole chicken legs, thighs and drumsticks attached, skin-on, bone-in

    Marinade for Chicken

    • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 2 teaspoons salt

    Piri Piri Sauce

    • 2 to 3 red Thai chilies, you can use more if you like a spicier dish
    • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
    • juice of one whole lemon
    • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
    • 2 teaspoons sweet or smoked paprika
    • ¼ cup olive oil
    • chopped fresh parsley, for garnish
    • lemon wedges, for serving
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    Instructions 

    • Place chicken in a roasting pan and set aside.
    • In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and garlic. Pour the lemon mixture over the chicken and coat all around.
    • Season the chicken with salt; cover and let sit on the kitchen counter for 30 to 60 minutes.
    • In the meantime, chop the chilies and garlic and add them to a blender or food processor. Add in lemon juice, salt, and pepper, and pulse until blended. Add paprika and oil; process until smooth and completely combined.
    • Taste for seasonings and add more chilies or salt and pepper if you want. You can also add a little bit of sugar to sweeten the sauce.
    • Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
    • Roast the chicken for about 32 to 35 minutes, or until cooked through. Baste with its juices halfway through cooking. The chicken is done when its internal temperature reaches 165˚F. Use an instant-read thermometer for accuracy.
    • In the meantime, preheat a griddle pan to medium-hot.
    • Remove the chicken from the oven and brush it with the prepared Piri Piri Sauce all over. Save some sauce for serving.
    • Add the chicken pieces to the hot griddle pan and cook for 2 minutes or until browned and starting to char.
    • Flip the chicken over and continue to cook for 2 minutes, or until browned on the opposite side.
    • Remove from heat and let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
    • Garnish with parsley and serve it with lemon wedges and remaining Piri Piri sauce.

    Notes

    Tip: To keep your hands safe, it’s a good idea to wear gloves when working with chilies.

    Nutrition

    Calories: 143kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 14g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 1mg | Sodium: 1167mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 707IU | Vitamin C: 38mg | Calcium: 11mg | Iron: 1mg

    Nutritional info is an estimate and provided as courtesy. Values may vary according to the ingredients and tools used. Please use your preferred nutritional calculator for more detailed info.

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    4.66 from 20 votes (4 ratings without comment)

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    30 Comments

    1. Christina says:

      Really great recipe, very tasty and easy to make.

      1. Katerina says:

        I’m glad you enjoyed it! It’s always nice to find recipes that are both tasty and easy to make. Thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂

    2. Teri says:

      This was very good and it was easy. I was concerned about taking the skin off because my husband doesn’t like fat, but his pieces came out just fine. We had a side of rice and veggies. I will def make this again!

    3. Darryl says:

      Made this already using the chicken quarters and today I’ve spatchcocked a whole chicken. Hope it will work? I’ll let you know. But amazing taste as my family say better than Nandos 😆 x

      1. Katerina says:

        Oh, that sounds really good! I’d love to hear how it turned out. 🙃

    4. Suheil says:

      Hi, I’m sorry for the bad review, the recipe is great and all, but peri Peri chicken is not a Portuguese dish, it’s Mozambican, the guy’s from Nando’s tried it in South Africa, we already have very little recognition has a country, let’s not try to take away the little things we do get recognized from.

      1. Mel says:

        Agree!
        Bought bottled sauce from African Dream Foods, can’t wait to try on this recipe!

        1. Katerina Petrovska says:

          I hope you’ll enjoy it! 🙂 Thank YOU!

      2. Jose Cabral says:

        It is no reason to give one star because someone claim that Piri piri Chichen is a Portuguese dish and its not. The disk has its origen in Mozambique or South Africa but it is know was a Portuguese disk. Also, we are RATING the disk no the origin of the disk.
        This dish is REALLY GOOD.
        Your comment is irrelevant to this rating. Yes, it is a 5 stars recipe.

      3. Jose Cabral says:

        Peri-peri (/ˌpɪri ˈpɪri/ PIRR-ee-PIRR-ee, often hyphenated or as one word, and with variant spellings piri-piri, piripiri or pili pili)[1] is a cultivar of Capsicum frutescens from the malagueta pepper. It was originally produced by Portuguese explorers in Portugal’s former Southern African territories,[2][3] particularly Mozambique and its border regions with South Africa, and then spread to other Portuguese domains.

      4. Les says:

        I had the same thought when I saw that. Even the Nando’s website clearly states that it originated in Mozambique.

    5. Frozt says:

      Very good, I used thighs, be sure to trim excess thick skin/fat (especially if making extra for leftovers).