I have been a loyal customer of Nando’s peri-peri chicken and always want to create a homemade version of the Nando’s chicken recipe.
And finally, I have done it!
I want to share how I make it in this article, and all you need are some chilies plus some common ingredients in the kitchen pantry.
Since I live in an apartment, I use the grill pan and oven instead of an open fire grill. The result just blew me away!
Let’s get into the details.
The word peri-peri is from Swahili, a language used by the locals in East Africa. It means pepper or spicy chili. The sauce was of Portuguese origin, but the Portuguese settlers had made it widely popular in African countries like Mozambique and South Africa.
How to make Nando’s peri-peri chicken
This Portuguese bbq peri-peri chicken (also called piri-piri chicken) has become the famous spicy food since the South African food chain Nando’s chicken opened up stores worldwide. The chicken is marinated with peri-peri sauce, a chili sauce made with African bird’s eye chilies, vinegar, lemon juice, and spices. The spicy, tangy, and garlicky flavor has won over many gastronomers and garners a legion of fans.
1. Ingredients for the peri-peri sauce
What is peri-peri sauce? It has a unique flavor that no other sauce comes close to it. It is used as the peri-peri marinade for the chicken and the dipping sauce while serving. Here is the rundown of some common marinade ingredients for peri-peri sauce.
The primary ingredient for peri-peri sauce (also spells as piri-piri sauce) is chili, making it a spicy sauce. I use three types of chilies in this recipe.
The original recipes of peri-peri sauce are made with the African bird’s eye chili. However, since this type of chili is unavailable where I live (Malaysia), I choose to use the local bird’s eye chilies, which are pretty similar.
Besides that, I also use the local large red chilies, which are less spicy than the bird’s eye chili.
The last one is the non-spicy red bell peppers. You may also want to try using cayenne pepper,
The combination is necessary because this chili has a different flavor and level of heat. You may want to remove as many seeds as possible if you can’t take the heat rather than reducing the amount of chili. The more chili you use, the more flavor you will get.
I have made a video on preparing the peri-peri chicken, which is included on this page. You can refer to how I removed the seeds in the video, starting from xx. xx minutes.
Give the chilies a few rough cuts to reduce the size and lessen the workload of the food processor to blend them into a paste in the next step.
Onion and garlic
The aromatics in the recipes are onion and garlic. Have a few rough cuts for the onion, and bash the garlic. Both of them will give some texture to the sauce besides their flavor. The sauce will become too diluted without them.
Note: I char the onion and bell pepper by broiling them in the oven. The goal is to introduce some charred flavor, but you can do without it by directly blending the raw onion and bell pepper with other ingredients.
Vinegar and lemon
The acidity of the peri-peri sauce comes from wine vinegar and lemon. I use wine vinegar, but you can substitute it with other white vinegar.
As for the lemon, you need the lemon juice for the acidity and the lemon zest for the flavor. It is easier to zest the lemon before cutting it in half. Be careful not to use the white part when zesting the lemon as it is bitter. The yellow part of the peel holds the essential oil filled with lemon flavor, which you need. On the other hand, the lemon juice has an acidic, tart taste which is different from the zest. Therefore it is best to use both in preparing the peri-peri sauce.
Oregano is the main herb for peri-peri sauce. Paprika is also required to provide the flavor of the chili. Other than that, my recipe also includes some oregano, rosemary, black pepper, salt, and sugar. Sometimes I use white pepper, which does not make any significant difference.
2. How to prepare the homemade peri-peri sauce
- Cut the onions into small chunks. Deseed the bell pepper and cut it into large pieces. Place them in a baking tray and place them at the top rack of the oven to broil until they are partially charred. Remove and let it cool.
- Remove the stems and seeds of the large red chilies and bird’s eye chilies. You may consider wearing a glove to avoid the burning feeling. You can also rub your hands with some oil before handling the chili if you do not want to use the glove.
- Cut the chilies into one to two cm sections.
- Place the chili, onion, garlic, vinegar, part of the lemon juice, and other spices listed in the recipe into a blender or food processor. Blend for two minutes or until it turns into a smooth paste.
- Transfer the chili paste to a small pot. Add the bay leaves.
- Bring it to a boil and simmer over low heat for ten to ten minutes to break down the ingredients. You need to keep stirring from time to time to prevent it from sticking to the pot, especially in the final few minutes when the sauce has become thicker.
- Discard the bay leaves. Transfer the cooked sauce back to the blender.
- Add the remaining lemon juice, lemon zest, and olive oil.
- Blender for half a minute and the peri-peri sauce is done.
You can adjust the level of spiciness by changing the number of chilies in the recipe. Similarly, You can change the amount of lemon, herbs, and garlic according to your preference. Nando has a variety of sauces with different levels of spiciness. The taste profile of this sauce is to approximate the peri-peri sauce with a moderate heat offer in the Nando restaurant in Malaysia.
3. Brine the chicken for extra juiciness
Brining the chicken is an optional step to enhance the flavor and ensure the meat’s juiciness. You may want to skip this step if you are short of time or looking for a simple way to prepare the peri-peri chicken. Honestly, it may not make a huge difference, especially if you are using fresh chicken, but I would think there will be a noticeable improvement for frozen chicken.
The chicken brine I use is basic since I will marinate the chicken with the peri-peri sauce in the following step. I use chicken hindquarters (whole chicken legs), but the process is the same if you brine the entire chicken.
Here is what I do:
- Clean the chicken hindquarters thoroughly. You may use chicken breasts, chicken thighs, chicken wings or any other chicken pieces.
- Add 4 tbsp salt, 4 tbsp sugar, and 2 tsp crushed black pepper to a large container.
- Pour 1 cup of hot water into the container. Stir to dissolve the sugar and salt.
- Add half of the tap water and some ice cubes to cool down the water.
- Place the chicken into the water. Mix well.
- Place something heavy (I use the lid of my pan) on the chicken so that they always submerge in the brine.
- Transfer it to the refrigerator and let it sits for at least half a day or overnight.
4. Marinade the chicken with the sauce
After removing the chicken from the brine, marinate it for at least half a day or overnight with the peri-peri sauce. This step is essential to develop great flavor.
- Pat dry the chicken
- Place the chicken in a large container.
- Rub the chicken with a sufficient amount of peri-peri sauce. You can add a little more than required as you will use the extra to apply onto the surface before roasting it in the oven.
- Keep it in a ziploc bag (or freezer bag) and place in the refrigerator to marinate it for half a day or overnight.
If you think it is Ok to speed up the work by sacrificing that slight extra juiciness, you can skip this step and move straight to marinate it. If so, please remember to season it with salt. You do not need to do this if you brine the chicken because there is sufficient salt in the brine.
5. Grill, then roast the chicken
The final step is to grill the chicken. However, setting up an outdoor grill is impossible since I live in a high-rise apartment. Therefore, I have to settle with a grill pan on the stovetop.
Here are the steps:
- Heat some oil in the grill pan over medium to high heat.
- When the pan is hot, grill the chicken skin side down until it forms the charred marks. Then turn to the other side and continue grilling.
- The grill pan behaves differently than the open fire grill, as the side of the chicken will not be brown effectively. To overcome this problem and get the best result, lift the chicken with tongs to char all sides of the chicken. Move the chicken from time to time to ensure it is grilled evenly.
If you are using the open fire to grill the chicken, the heat from the charcoal is sufficient to cook the chicken effectively. However, this is not the case when cooking it with a grill pan. There is a chance that the surface is already brown and charred, but the inside is still raw. Therefore, I remove the chicken from the grill pan when the charred marks are formed, then transfer it to the oven to finish cooking.
- Transfer the chicken to the oven rack.
- Brush the extra marinade abundantly on both sides of the chicken.
- Place the chicken in the oven and roast at 150°C/300°F for about thirty minutes. The chicken is cooked when the internal temperature reaches 70°C/160°F.
- Remove and serve.
I have also made some grilled vegetables and oven-roasted corn as side dishes, my favorites when dining at Nando’s peri-peri chicken.
Note: The purpose of placing the chicken in the oven after grilling is to ensure the inside is fully cooked. It is best to use a meat thermometer to check the temperature by inserting it into the thickest part of the chicken to monitor the internal temperature. The use of low temperature will prevent the color of the skin from darkening during roasting.
The taste of my homemade Nando’s copycat is almost identical to the original taste of Nando, which is the reference for my homemade version.
However, if I want to be picky, I would prefer my version because it is juicier (most likely because I brine the fresh chicken). As for the peri-peri sauce, the Nando’s version has more vinegar taste, and my homemade sauce has a more lemon flavor. Another plus point of the homemade sauce is free from chili seeds, whereas the store-bought version has quite a fair bit of chili seeds.
The homemade version lacks the smoke flavor, which is expected. Although I tried to infuse some smoke flavor by heating a few charcoals until smoky, then covering with the chicken during marinade, it does not introduce much smoke flavor to the chicken.
Lastly, I also want to point out that the flavor of the Nando’s chicken of different regions may not be the same. For example, the Nando’s restaurants in Malaysia offer a few peri-peri sauces with varying heat levels. Therefore, I use the medium heat peri-peri sauce as the benchmark while developing this Nando’s chicken recipe.
A related recipe that you will like
If you like fast food style chicken like Nando’s of KFC, you will love the Malaysian style fried chicken (ayam goreng) with a deep savory and spicy flavor. It is crispy on the outside, with the flavor of the spices down to the bone. So you may view it as a spicy version of KFC.
Ingredients A (for the sauce)
- 1 red bell pepper (broil)
- 1 medium-sized onion (roughly chopped) (broil)
- 5 bird's eye chilies (roughly chopped)*
- 5 large red chilies (roughly chopped)*
- 8 cloves garlic
- 80ml red wine vinegar
- 30ml lemon juice
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried rosemary
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
Ingredients B (for the sauce)
Ingredients C (chicken brine)
- 4 tbsp salt
- 4 tbsp sugar
- 1 tsp crushed black pepper
- 1 liter cold water
- 1/2 liter hot water
- Some ice cubes
Ingredients D (others)
- 3 chicken hindquarters
- Vegetables to grill the chicken
Make the peri-peri sauce
- In a food processor, add ingredients A. Blend until it has no large chunks.
- Pour the puree into a saucepan, add Ingredients B. Mix and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally to avoid it from sticking and overburn.
- After 10 minutes, remove the bay leaves.
- Add the olive oil, lemon juice, and zest.
- Return the sauce to the food processor and blend until it becomes a smooth sauce.
Brine the chicken
- Dissolve the salt and sugar in hot water in a large container. Add the black pepper, cold water, and some ice to cool it.
- Place the chicken in the brine and let it sit for half a day or overnight.
Marinate the chicken
- Pat dry the chicken.
- Marinate the chicken with the peri-peri sauce for half a day or overnight.
Cook the chicken
- Remove and place it on a grill pan. Sear on both sides until the charred marks are formed on the surface.
- Place the chicken on an oven rack, and apply more peri-peri sauce on both sides.
- Roast in the preheated oven at 150°C/300°F for 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 70°C/160°F.
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Amazon Brand - Happy Belly Mediterranean Oregano, 0.65 Ounce
Cooks Standard 02520 Quart Classic Stainless Steel Stockpot with Lid, 12-QT, Silver
Pride of Szeged Sweet Paprika Powder, Hungarian Style Seasoning Spice, Deep Red, 4 oz. Tin, 1-Count
Pompeian Gourmet Organic Red Wine Vinegar, Unfiltered & Unpasteurized, Perfect for Marinades, Salad Dressings, 16 FL. OZ., Pack of 6
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 742Total Fat: 44gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 32gCholesterol: 133mgSodium: 10618mgCarbohydrates: 51gFiber: 7gSugar: 31gProtein: 40g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 10/3/2021