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Piri Piri Chicken
2½ hours 30 minutes active
Piri piri can refer to a finger-staining chili pepper sauce—usually spiked with garlic, sugar and plenty of cayenne, lemon and paprika—or to whatever the sauce douses. Its origins are Portuguese, but today it is found in South Africa, Mozambique and Namibia. Ancho, chipotle and regular chili powders tasted off in this recipe, but New Mexico or California chili powders worked well. If you can’t find either, purchase whole chilies, toast and seed them, then finely grind them. Or simply leave out the chili powder and increase the paprika to ¼ cup. Fresno chilies are fresh red chilies similar in size and shape to jalapeños, but with pointy tips; if they are unavailable, fresh cherry peppers work well, too.
tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder
tablespoon ground cumin
01In a medium bowl, mix together the chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika and 2 teaspoons salt. Transfer 2 tablespoons of the mixture to a small bowl, setting the rest aside. Loosen the skin over the chicken's breast and thighs by gently working your fingers between it and the flesh. Using a small spoon, evenly distribute the 2 tablespoons of spice mixture under the skin, then rub it into the flesh. Set the chicken on a baking sheet.
Amazing!!! I made this on gas grill. Perfection!!! I was busy so it saw out and marinated for 2 hours at room temp... (ops) it was AMAZING!!!! The sauce is perfection!!! I only left the Seeds in ONE of the Fresno chilies - the rest I removed seeds and ribs and it had a little kick to it but not overly spicy 🌶 sooooo good!!!!
Hi Barbara -
You can certainly substitute with jalapeños for the Fresno chilies but, since we wanted the traditional red color here, we chose to go with red cherry peppers. The cherry bomb varietal, which is the most commonly sold, ranges between 2,500 and 5,000 on the Scoville scale. Fresnos vary wildly and can be between 2,500 - 10,000, though most land somewhere in the middle to lower end of that range.
The Milk Street Team
I can't wait to make this soon but I'd love to have a rough indication of the grill temperature. "High-heat" indirect grilling means what? 300? 350? I smoke at about 220 but at a temperature like that I wouldn't get any char when I move the chicken to the hot side of the grill. But I worry that 400 or above would cook the breasts too quickly. (I know that oven temps for a spatchcocked roast chicken can provide a rough guide but it's not as easy to regulate a charcoal grill.)
Hi David -
We didn't check the internal temperature of the grill during testing, but we expect that the temperature inside the grill should be between 350 and 375 degrees. Make sure to use a grill thermometer that can slip through the lid vent (so you don't have to remove the cover) for the most accurate internal grill temperature.
The Milk Street Team
The chicken is currently on the grill, so I can’t weigh on on the finished product but wanted to weigh in on the sauce. It’s positively delicious and I could see using it on just about anything or even as a dipping sauce for chips, veggies, etc
This was amazeballs. The cilantro in the sauce brought a vibrant freshness that put everything over the top. Chicken was moist, flavorful, and zesty. Next time I'll probably seed the Fresnos so my son doesn't run to the fridge for water every 5 minutes (he loved the flavor, but not the spiciness).
I used one chili with all of its seeds, which provided a very flavourable and spicy dish without being burning hot.