Delicious piri piri/ peri peri chicken, or Nando’s chicken thighs, an easy homemade spicy version of the popular restaurant dish.
For more flavorful chicken recipes, check out Baked Chicken and Sweet Potatoes, Teriyaki Chicken Thighs in the Oven, Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs, or Sticky Honey Lime Chicken Thighs with Soy Sauce.
What is Piri Piri Chicken?
Although I’ve heard of peri peri or piri piri chicken many times before, I never knew, until recently, that this dish is a copycat of a famous restaurant dish: Nando’s Peri Peri Chicken, a chain restaurant originating in South Africa.
So, Nando’s chicken thighs are a Portuguese/ South African dish created by this restaurant, which became really popular not only in Portugal or South Africa but pretty much everywhere.
Peri peri sauce is of Portuguese origin and is a chili seasoning or marinade that has been around for centuries. Portuguese settlers discovered the bird’s eye chilies (pili pili chilies) and used those and other ingredients like garlic and lemon to create this really spicy marinade.
Piri piri is the way Portuguese call this dish or sauce, and peri peri is the South African way of calling it.
Regarding the recipe itself, there is a debate if the recipe is actually South African or Portuguese. Probably a bit of both as it originated in South Africa; the meat is marinated in the sauce created by the Portuguese and was brought to Portugal from two Portuguese colonies: Angola and Mozambique.
You can even buy the typical sauce sold in small bottles, it is really hot, and a little goes a long way. Use it to make this Peri Peri Dip, for instance. Or try our easy-to-make, super-hot Peri Peri Seasoning.
How to cook Nando’s chicken thighs?
Blend the ingredients for the marinade together, marinate the thighs for several hours or overnight and bake. The result: utterly delicious meat, crispy and spicy on the outside and tender and moist on the inside.
- Usually, you would use a whole bird to make this recipe for peri peri chicken. It should be cut into pieces, marinated, and cooked.
- However, I used whole legs, which I divided at the joint into drumsticks and thighs. Only thighs or only drumsticks can be used instead. I prefer the thighs; they have more meat on them.
- I used 4 regular, rather long red chilies, the standard chilies sold here in Germany. They are not that spicy, under medium hot, so to speak. In addition to those, I bought some Bird’s eye chilies. They were so hot; I only dared use one… it was hot enough for us.
- Do use more bird’s eye chilies according to your taste. If children are not eating and you are used to spicy food, you should definitely try using at least 2.
- Chop all the ingredients roughly and place them into a food processor.
- Process until you obtain a rough paste.
- Use the paste to massage the thighs and drumsticks very well, cover the glass or ceramic dish containing the meat with cling film and leave to marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
How to bake peri peri chicken?
The original from Nando’s is made on the barbecue. However, grilling is something special that happens 5 times every summer. Tops!
So making this recipe on the barbecue is not really much of an option when you want to make a quick family dinner.
So, the oven it is. Oven-baked chicken is my favorite kind anyway; it is so versatile and so easy to make. And always a success in our house; I have a lot of recipes on the blog to prove that.
Have a look at this basic recipe for oven-baked chicken, for instance, these baked legs with honey mustard sauce or these oven-roasted legs with vegetables.
- To cook Nando’s chicken thighs perfectly, all you have to do is to place the marinated pieces on a baking tray and bake them for about 45-50 minutes or until the juices run clear.
- Don’t forget to baste the meat with some marinade and juices from the tray every 15 minutes or so.
How to serve Nando’s chicken?
- Serve immediately with any kind of side dish you like. Perfect would be Simple Buttered Rice with Garlic or any simple rice dish.
- Rice and cabbage salad/coleslaw would be nice, any kind of potatoes or the way the Portuguese serve it: with fries and lettuce, tomato and onion salad.
More Nando-style recipes
Peri Peri Chicken – Nando's Chicken Thighs
- 1 chicken or 6 whole chicken legs See note 1
- 4 red chilies See note 2
- 2 Bird's eye chilies
- 4 garlic cloves
- 3 green onions/ scallions
- 3 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons sweet paprika powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 2 teaspoons flaked sea salt
- 5 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Remove the seeds of the chilies (or leave them, if you would like the dish to be very hot). Chop them roughly and place them in a food processor.
- Roughly chop the garlic and green onions/scallions. Add them to the food processor together with the parsley, torn bay leaves, ground coriander, sweet paprika, sugar, salt, lemon juice, and olive oil. Process until you obtain a rough paste.
- Cut the chicken into 8 pieces or divide the chicken legs at the joint. Place them in a large ceramic or glass casserole dish. Add the peri peri sauce and massage it well into the chicken. Cover the dish with cling film and let marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Take the chicken out of the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking it.
In the meantime preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Arrange the pieces on a large and lightly oiled baking tray, skin side up.
Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, basting the chicken with the pan juices and marinade every 15 minutes or so.
- Bake until the juices run clear. To see if they do, stick a toothpick or a skewer into the thickest part of the chicken leg, the juices that come out should be completely clear, no pink or red allowed.
- Serve with one of the side dishes suggested above.
- You can use a whole chicken, which should be cut into 8 parts. Alternatively, use 6-8 whole chicken legs (depending on size), which should be divided into thighs and drumsticks at the joint.
- The red chilies I used were not particularly hot. The Bird's eye chilies were very hot, so I only used 1. Take more or fewer chilies, according to taste and how much heat you can manage.
Thursday 6th of January 2022
Why is there no mention of oven temperature?
Saturday 8th of January 2022
Of course, there is. Step 4 in the instructions: 200 degrees Celsius/ 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Saturday 23rd of January 2021
What a mouthful of flavor with every bite. This sounds and looks delicious!
Kelly | Foodtasia
Saturday 7th of December 2019
Such a delicious marinade, Adina! Love the flavors. I'm sure the whole family would be crazy about it!
Friday 9th of November 2018
Its not South African. It was created by Portuguese settlers in Mozambique. Nandos is South African.
Wednesday 20th of June 2018
I've never had piri piri chicken either and like you have heard about it so many times... It's been on my tasting list for my first trip to Portugal (not even planned yet!), but your chicken looks soo good I might try your recipe and make it at home first!
Friday 22nd of June 2018
It is really a no fuss recipe, Sissi, you should definitely make it yourself.