Peri Peri African Chicken

Have you ever heard of peri peri, also known as piri piri, chicken? (Saying the name makes me happy!) Peri peri is the African bird’s eye chili and originates from Portugal and Africa. This is a popular spicy African marinade, perfect for braai, African BBQs.

Also rotating at Princess Marina Hospital was a dental student; we didn’t know each other prior but became fast friends 🙂 I ate peri peri chicken at our first lunch together at Sanitas Tea Garden (the gorgeous lemons in the pictures are from their gardens) while we were still figuring out life in Africa. When we finished our last week, we had peri peri chicken at Nando’s, a popular African chain. As you can see, I really like peri peri chicken!

Both of us lugged home a ton of Nando’s famous peri peri sauces, the glass jars carefully wrapped in African newspapers, as gifts for friends and family. Somehow, I still made it under the luggage weight limit by less than 0.1 kg (phew!)

I made this peri peri chicken recipe (adapted from The Wanderlust Kitchen and Allrecipes) several times throughout my stay in Botswana because I liked it so much, but I encountered so many fails battling with our oven.

My first evening in Botswana, I was baking peri peri chicken when the electricity ran out in the entire city of Gaborone. Since I was jetlagged, and there was nothing to do without light or electricity or wifi (funny how much more free time you have without electronic devices), I just went to bed at 7pm.

Well, at 11:30pm, I woke up to bright lights in my bedroom and to smoke filling up the entire flat. I jumped in the air and ran into the kitchen, to find my precious peri peri chicken completely burnt black. The electricity had returned while I slept, so the oven turned back on and continued baking my chicken. Thank goodness I woke up before I burned down our flat / entire housing complex in my first night in Africa!

The second time, the oven would not cooperate. The temperatures were all in degrees Celsius, which I could at least convert to Fahrenheit, but I could not figure out the icons on the stovetop – there was an oven icon with a sun inside, an oven icon with two lines, and an oven icon with dots. The oven kept turning itself off, so I had to check every 15 min to make it stayed hot. Finally, I got irritated, and took a longer 30 min study session; during that time the oven somehow accelerated its baking temperature and burnt the chicken completely black.

Luckily, third time was the charm. So after all my oven struggles, I’m happy to finally share with you photos of my non-completely-burnt-black delicious peri peri chicken.

I promise it’s a very easy dish with a cooperative oven. Really!

Peri Peri African Chicken

1/4 cup lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1/4 cup white vinegar
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and chopped
2-3 teaspoons peri peri (African chili) spice or 4-5 fresh peri peri chilis
2-3 teaspoons  paprika
1 teaspoon ground oregano
salt and pepper, to taste

1/2 small yellow onion, roughly chopped
4-6 pieces of chicken

In a large bowl, combine ingredients for peri peri sauce. Coat the chicken and in the marinate for at least an hour, preferably overnight. You can make the peri peri sauce in bulk and refrigerate to store.

Grill: grill the chicken on medium heat, basting with marinade. Grill until skin is just charred and chicken is done.

Bake: Preheat the oven to 350F * Pan sear chicken in a skillet over medium-high heat for 3-5 minutes per side, until browned. Place chicken in a baking pan with the marinade and cook in oven for 30 minutes (depending on thickness of chicken) until fully cooked.

* So our oven is weird and just has icons like a sun inside the oven (go figure), so I haven’t any idea if I was broiling, baking, etc. What I would recommend is pan sear, then bake at 350F until almost done, then broil the last 5-7 min. 

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  1. 3rd time is the charm! Let's give a moment of silence to the chickens who were not able to fulfill their destiny on your 2 attempts.

  2. There's an Ethiopian restaurant near UT that I wanna try but still haven't yet. Chef Uy is the only one in the family who has visited Sub-Saharan Africa

  3. There's an Ethiopian restaurant near UT that I wanna try but still haven't yet. Chef Uy is the only one in the family who has visited Sub-Saharan Africa