per-peri chicken recipe

Peri-Peri Chicken with Coconut Rice

The first time I had peri-peri was in Maputo, Mozambique, at a seaside restaurant called Casa de Peixe, which in Portuguese means “house of fish.” It was a shrimp dish stewed in a peri-peri sauce, served with white rice. Once I got to Portugal (where I live), I was happy to have the dish as often as I liked—peri-peri is everywhere in Portugal, especially as an ingredient in grilled chicken dishes served with rice or French fries. 

Peri-peri—an African pepper-based sauce—has a circuitous route that starts in the Americas, where all chili peppers originate.

During the slave trade in the early 15th century, Portuguese traders brought the bird’s eye chili pepper from South America to Africa. Peri-peri is often spelled piri piri or pili pili and in Swahili means “pepper pepper.”

The sauce, which is made with bird’s eye chilies, paprika, garlic, lemon juice, and salt, is used as a marinade or condiment much like a hot sauce and is commonly paired with chicken, shrimp or pork. The origins of the sauce are debated; as Angola, Mozambique, and South Africa each claim it as their own. 

In this recipe, I swap out French fries for coconut rice, which tempers the peri-peri heat and melds the flavors quite well. This is a savory dish with a fusion of different cultures’ cuisines worth exploring if you enjoy spice!

peri peri chicken

Peri-Peri Chicken with Coconut Rice

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Protein: Poultry
Cut: Chicken Thighs
Course: Main Course
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 20 minutes

Ingredients

For the peri-peri sauce

  • 2 red bell peppers chopped
  • 3 bird’s eye chilies substitute jalapeno peppers if needed
  • 1 medium onion chopped
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic peeled and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 2 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper
  • cup olive oil
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • Handful of parsley chopped

For the chicken

  • 2 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • 1 pinch kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

For the coconut jasmine rice

  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 can coconut milk 13-ounce can
  • 1 pinch kosher salt

Instructions

For the peri-peri sauce

  • Heat the oven to 350°F.
  • Combine the peppers, chilies, onions, tomatoes, garlic, pepper flakes, paprika, salt and pepper together in a large bowl and drizzle with the olive oil. Stir to combine and transfer to a sheet pan. Place in the oven and roast the vegetables until slightly softened, about 30 minutes.
  • Let the vegetables cool slightly, then transfer to a blender and blend until smooth but still slightly chunky. Stir in the lemon juice, vinegar, and parsley. Taste and adjust seasoning.

For the chicken

  • Rinse chicken and pat dry. Transfer to a bowl and add lime juice and salt. Add 1 cup of the peri-peri sauce and let marinate for about 1 hour.
  • Remove chicken from marinade. Add the olive oil to a medium oven-proof skillet over medium heat. Place chicken skin-side down and sear for 3 to 5 minutes. Flip and repeat.
  • Add remaining peri-peri sauce to the skillet, place in the oven and bake until chicken is cooked through, 15 to 20 minutes.

For the rice

  • Rinse the rice in a fine mesh strainer until the water runs clear.
  • Place a small pot over medium heat and add olive oil, water, coconut milk and salt to taste. Bring water to a boil and then add rice jasmine rice. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 to 20 minutes.
  • Plate and serve.
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Margo Gabriel

Margo Gabriel is a freelance writer and cookbook editor from Boston, MA. She is based in Lisbon, Portugal. Her writing has been published in Boston Art Review, Cuisine Noir, Edible Boston, Fodor’s, We Are Indy, Popsugar and Solstice Literary Magazine. You can follow her work at www.margoscreativelife.com.