Before anyone gets too excited, this recipe had more of a focus on accessibility than traditional ingredients and methods. That being said, this dish was a great change of pace, and ended up being really fun, both to research and create. There’s so much confusion and conflicting information about the origins of Peri Peri chicken. Even the name of dish itself has no less than 3 spellings. There’s the popularized peri peri, a la the Nando’s franchise. Piri piri and pili pili are also widely used and accepted.
The dispute about the origins of the dish in Africa are also a bit of a head scratcher. Being a public-school-educated American, I have little to no geographical understanding of Africa, so when I read about the controversy of the dish being from either Mozambique or Angola, I thought that naturally they shared a border. It turns out they’re on opposite coasts of the continent.
When it comes to ingredients, I read probably 15 recipes, and they varied so widely, that I had to use some judgement, with the biggest call being the decision to use Fresno peppers. US grocery stores are just so limited in what chilies are available, even those may be hard to find in some parts of the country, but I wanted to get that signature red/ orange color and a good amount of heat, so that’s where I landed.
The sauce does have a lot of ingredients, but hear me out – that’s like 99 percent of the recipe. Other than the peppers, tomato paste, paprika, garlic, and shallots (which you can totally swap with red onions if needed), you can mess with this recipe quite a bit. So I encourage you to try this on whatever cuts of chicken you like.
Peri Peri Chicken Skewers
- 1 Food processor A blender or molcajete will also work
- 4 Skewers
- 7 oz tomato paste
- 6 Fresno peppers Stemed and halved, seeds in.Other chilis will also work, but will result in varied heat/ coloring.
- 5 shallots Roughly chopped. Red onion will also work
- 1 bulb Fresh garlic peeled
- 1 bunch Cilantro stems
- 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
- the juice of a large lemon
- 1.5 Tbsp smoked paprika Use smoked paprika, not regular.
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1/2 tsp ground corriander
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil As needed to get sauce to the right consistency and color
- 2.5 lbs Boneless skinless chicken thighs Cut into 1.5 inch pieces
- Add tomato paste, chilies, shallots, garlic, cilantro stems, fresh thyme, lemon juice, smoked paprika, red wine vinegar, ground coriander, salt, and pepper to the bowl of a food processor. Process until ingredients are the consistency of a rough paste.
- Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Start food processor back up and stream in olive oil until desired consistency and color are reached.
- Pour over chicken in a large plastic ziplock bag or tupperware. Mix thoroughly until chicken is fully coated. Marinate for 1 hour up to overnight.
- Place chicken on skewers. Cook over grill or grill pan until chicken is fully cooked through and an internal temperature of 165 degrees is achieved. Alternatively these can be cooked in a 375 degree oven until fully cooked through – about 15-20 minutes.
- Serve immediately with favorite sides. You're in for a treat!