In response to a reader request (Hi Jill!), this post is more recommendation than recipe. If you’re interested in the most uniquely spicy and tangy grilled chicken that you’ll likely ever eat, do yourself a favor and order a bottle of Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce. We first encountered this addictive flavor at a Nando’s restaurant in London many years ago, and we were hooked after just a few bites of flame-grilled chicken marinated and basted in their signature sauce made from African bird’s eye chiles. Although Nando’s has restaurants all over the world, none of their locations are close enough for us to get our fix as often as we’d like. So we do the next best thing and make our own version at home. All you need is chicken, your choice of Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce, and barbecue sauce to tone down the spice a bit (unless you can handle the heat from straight-up PERi-PERi – we can’t.) We promise you won’t be disappointed.
Did we mention that Nando’s PERi-PERi sauce is spicy? The bird’s eye chili that is the sauce’s main ingredient can measure between 100,000 and 225,000 Scoville heat units. For comparison, a jalapeno measures between 1,000 and 4,000 units. The first time we ordered Nando’s sauce, we got the “mild” version, which is still plenty spicy. We haven’t been able to find the mild variety online, so we get the medium. Nando’s also sells “garlic,” “hot” and “extra-hot” versions. The medium is spicy enough that we can’t imagine how the extra-hot variety doesn’t eat right through the bottle.
We like to use boneless, skinless chicken thighs for our version of peri-peri chicken because we think they have more flavor than chicken breasts and are easy to cook evenly on the grill with Dan’s skewer method. In addition to chicken, the sauce can also be used on other proteins, and Nando’s website has a bunch of other recipes we’d like to try. For grilled chicken thighs, start by trimming the fat.
Then season the chicken thighs on both sides with salt and pepper.
To skewer the chicken thighs, lay each thigh flat on what would be the skin side (the smooth side), then fold lengthwise to bring the ends together and slide the skewer through.
Depending on the size of the chicken thighs, put 2 or 3 thighs on each skewer, leaving yourself enough room at the end of the skewer to be able to pick it up and turn the chicken over.
Then slide a second skewer through the chicken to help hold the thighs together in their folded shape more securely.
Ready for the grill.
Place the chicken skin-side down on the grill over direct, medium to medium-high heat to start. Grill the chicken for about 12-15 minutes, turning the skewers over every 3-4 minutes.
While the chicken cooks, get the sauce ready. We mixed together equal parts PERi-PERi and barbecue sauces.
Then we added about a teaspoon of honey because the sauce was still more spicy than we prefer. We are not kidding when we say this stuff is hot. But in the most deliciously addicting way.
After about 15 minutes, move the chicken to indirect heat, place it skin-side up, and baste the chicken on both sides with the sauce.
After about 7-8 minutes, baste the chicken one more time with the sauce. Continue cooking until the chicken is done — about 7-8 more minutes.
We served our peri-peri chicken that night with grilled zucchini and Parmesan polenta. We have found that fresh vegetable and/or cheesy, creamy side dishes work well as palate-cooling relief between bites of this spicy chicken. If spicy food is not your thing, stick with regular barbecue sauce on your chicken. But if your taste buds can take the heat, PERi-PERi sauce should be in your pantry, and grilled peri-peri chicken thighs should be in your mouth as soon as possible.