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Piri Piri Chicken

4 Servings

2½ hours 30 minutes active

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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.




Don’t reduce the number of fresh chilies in the sauce; all eight were needed for flavor and color. To reduce spiciness, remove some or all of the seeds and ribs from the chilies before processing. And don't substitute Thai chilies for the Fresnos; they pack far more heat.

2½ hours

30 minutes active


  • 3

    tablespoons New Mexico or California chili powder

  • 1

    tablespoon ground cumin


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Bill O.
April 30, 2023
Just used gone-in, skin-on thighs. I slashed them to get the rub into the chicken, cooked the chicken sous vide, and finished on the grill. Only used one half of a jalapeno, and it was hot enough for us.
Katie L.
September 25, 2022
So flavorful
I have made this a few times and about to start prepping the fourth now. I haven't found fresno chili's so I use a combination of jalapeños (half hearted attampt to get out seeds, etc) plus red bell pepper and sweet red peppers for color. I have also thrown in a poblano just cause I had one. This is such an easy recipe, I was blown away by the flavor. I have leftovers on warm pita with sauce.
Michael L.
May 27, 2022
Love this on my Kamado Joe
This is my go-to grilled chicken. I don't finish it in the oven. I use the grill for the whole process.
Heidi P.
June 28, 2022
First time grilling a chicken. It will not be the last! I took all the seeds and membranes out of 7 of the peppers and kept them for the 8th. The spice level was medium high. We were still able to add some extra sauce.
Gisela H.

I used one chili with all of its seeds, which provided a very flavourable and spicy dish without being burning hot.

Jonathan P.

This was excellent. Lots of flavor but not too spicy. I served it with an ice cold beer. Perfect Sunday night dinner. I would definitely make this again.

Carl M.

Absolutely delicious and easy to make. The leftover sauce went great over scrambled eggs in the morning.

Natalia S.

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!!!!

Barbara C.

Aren't Fresno chilies much hotter on the Scoville scale than the cherry peppers recommended as a substitute? I substitute jalapeños for Fresno, which I can't usually find in my neighborhood.

Lynn C.

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

David E.

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.)

Lynn C.

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

Christopher H.

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

Christopher H.

Just to follow up, the finished product was fantastic, this one will definitely be going in my regular rotation!

Peter Chris S.

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).