Peri Peri Sauce

published Jun 16, 2024
Peri Peri Sauce Recipe

If you love spice, you’ll fall head over heels for this flavorful, fiery sauce.

Serves12 to 16

Makesabout 2 cups

Prep10 minutes to 15 minutes

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overhead shot of peri peri sauce in a small white bowl on a plate with two chicken legs
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

If you love a spicy condiment like sriracha or harissa paste, you’re going to love zingy peri peri sauce. Growing up in Southern Africa, I was familiar with peri peri because of Nando’s, the famous chicken chain that spread the popularity of Mozambique’s peri-peri across the region (as well as parts of Asia, the UK, and beyond). But it became a more integral part of my life when I met my Mozambican husband.

In Mozambique, there are few dishes that one wouldn’t add peri peri (or piri piri, as it’s called there) to, and there’s always a jar of it on the table. Made from the African bird’s eye chiles that grow abundantly in the region, it’s a kitchen staple and is used as both a marinade (like for a whole grilled spatchcock chicken) or as a sauce that you can simply spoon over some fish cooked on a stovetop

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Why You’ll Love It

  • It’s full of brightness and flavor. You only need a little to lift any dish.
  • It’s no-cook! And because this recipe relies on a blender or food processor, it comes together in minutes.
  • It’s super versatile. You can cook with it, use it as a marinade, or enjoy as ready to eat sauce.

My History with Peri Peri Sauce

In previous years, jars of peri peri in concentrated form, made from chiles grown in my mother-in-law’s garden, traveled across borders and airport checks to make it to our kitchen table. However, when I learned how easy it was to make, this felt silly and we started to make our own fresh batches at home every few weeks. Traditionally, a paste of chiles, garlic and onion is first mashed up in a pestle and mortar, but we’ve been making it in a blender and it couldn’t be easier. 

This recipe is the traditional peri-peri recipe with the essentials. I’ve worked out these amounts according to what my ideal peri peri sauce would taste and feel like. However, there are no strict rules about amounts when it comes to adding the oil and acid. People also tend to customize it and add ginger, spices, or different types of chiles (including green chiles). You should make it according to your taste preference (whether you like it more acidic or with a stronger chile flavor), or to the consistency you like (more thick or more runny). A warning that this sauce is all about the chiles, and it’s hot. 

Key Ingredients in Peri Peri Sauce

  • Red African or Thai bird’s eye chiles: These are the star of the sauce and where much of the flavor will come from. But really, you can use whatever chiles you love in terms of heat and flavor.
  • Onion: Onion works as a foundation for the sauce, adding an earthy body and liquid with which to carry the pungent chiles. 
  • Garlic: You don’t use much garlic, but its presence is really important. It adds to the depth of the flavor and makes you keep going back for more. 
  • Olive oil: This is what makes peri peri a sauce, while acting as a preserving liquid. 
  • Vinegar: Brings everything together in the end and, along with the lemon juice, mellows out the heat. You want it to add acid without overpowering the flavor, so it’s best to use a neutral tasting vinegar and avoid balsamic. 

How to Make Peri Peri Sauce

  1. Prepare the vegetables. Wash and trim the stems off the chiles. Peel and coarsely chop the garlic and onion. 
  2. Blend or process the sauce. Place your chiles, garlic, and onion in your blender or food processor and whiz them up into a paste. 
  3. Season and combine with the liquids. Add your paste to a jar, season with salt, and then add in the vinegar and oil. Shake everything together until well combined. 

Helpful Swaps

While the recipe calls for red African bird’s eye or Thai chiles, you can make this with whatever type of fresh chiles you find. If you can’t handle a lot of heat, opt for using chiles that are less spicy, or (while this is veering away from the traditional) even mix in a little bit of red pepper to tone it down. 

Storage and Make-Ahead Tips 

Sealed in an airtight jar, the sauce will keep for about two weeks in the refrigerator.

What to Serve with Peri Peri Sauce

Peri Peri Sauce Recipe

If you love spice, you’ll fall head over heels for this flavorful, fiery sauce.

Prep time 10 minutes to 15 minutes

Makes about 2 cups

Serves 12 to 16

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 4 ounces

    red Thai or African bird’s-eye chiles (about 2 loosely packed cups)

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 2 cloves

    garlic

  • 1

    medium lemon

  • 1/4 cup

    distilled white vinegar

  • 1/4 cup

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Prepare the following, placing each in a food processor fitted with the blade attachment or a blender as you complete it: Trim the stems from 4 ounces red bird’s-eye chiles. Peel and coarsely chop 1 medium yellow onion and 2 garlic cloves.

  2. Process or blend until finely chopped into a chunky paste-like texture, scraping down the sides of the vessel if needed, about 20 seconds. If you have difficulty blending, add some of the vinegar to assist in the blending. Transfer to an 8-ounce or larger glass jar.

  3. Juice 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons) and add to the chile mixture. Add 1/4 cup distilled white vinegar, 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Seal the jar and shake until combined and the mixture looks emulsified, about 7 seconds.

Recipe Notes

Substitutions: I like the combination of acids, but you can also choose to use either all lemon juice or vinegar if you don’t have one of them.

Ingredient/Equipment Variations: Instead of a food processor or blender, the chiles, garlic, and onion can be pounded in a pestle and mortar until a chunky paste forms.

Storage: The sauce can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.