Made from African chile peppers, this sauce packs a serious punch. Here's how to incorporate it into your cooking.
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Peri-peri, also known as piri-piri or the African Bird's Eye chile, is a hot pepper that's a close relative of the tabasco pepper. These peppers grow wild in Africa but are now commercially produced in parts of Africa and Portugal and used in sauces and spices, and even have pharmaceutical applications.

The peppers only grow to be about an inch long, but peri-peri chiles can pack a serious punch. They range from 50,000 to 175,000 on the Scoville scale. Compare that to jalapeños, which usually clock in around 3,500 Scoville heat units.

When mature, these peppers turn an electric red color, giving the sauces they're used in a signature red hue. Great for marinades, adding depth to condiments, or heating up your favorite dishes, peri-peri sauce is a versatile staple for spice lovers.

Close up of fresh chillies
Credit: BRETT STEVENS/Getty Images

What Is Peri-Peri Sauce Made From?

Recipes vary, but peri-peri sauce is typically made from crushed chiles, lemon, pepper, garlic, salt, onion, bay leaves, vinegar, and oil. To make peri-peri sauce, all of the ingredients are pureed together. The mixture is kept raw if being used as a marinade, but it is simmered in a covered pot over low heat for about an hour if being used as a condiment.

Peri-peri sauce is most commonly used on chicken and fish, but has a wide variety of applications on different dishes. You can buy premade peri-peri sauces at most major grocery stores and online. They range in heat, from medium to extra-hot, so start low if you're fearful of the tongue-torching capabilities of this condiment. If you're particularly wary of heat, "perinaise" (a combination of peri-peri sauce and mayonnaise) is a great milder option.

How Is Peri-Peri Used as a Seasoning?

Peri-peri peppers are dried, typically in the sun, and ground into a powder to be used as a seasoning. They are often used in cayenne pepper blends, and due to their spice level, they can yield a very hot cayenne powder.

Many recipes that incorporate peri-peri don't actually call for peri-peri peppers as they can be difficult to find in the United States. Most recipes use cayenne pepper as the chile seasoning and combine it with ingredients like lemon juice, garlic, and herbs to create a marinade or rub.

Piri piri sauce is a type of hot chilli pepper sauce used as seasoning or marinade traditionally in portuguese cuisine. Seen here in a glass jar with a spoon, on a white background.
Credit: Louno_M/Getty Images

How Do I Cook with Peri-Peri?

This Peri-Peri African Chicken recipe is a great place to start. It only requires seven ingredients and delivers succulent, flavor-packed chicken thanks to a chile marinade. Give it a quick trip to the grill to cook, and you'll be ready for dinner.

You can also try this Chicken Livers Peri-Peri recipe. Chicken livers, which are high in protein and loaded with iron, are marinated in a chile-based mixture and finished off with tomato paste, Worcestershire, chicken stock, and a hit of brandy. This meal is often served with toasted bread or rice.

If you want to try the original peri-peri sauce first, buy a bottle and use it as a quick marinade for grilled chicken or wings. Once you get an idea for the sauce's taste and heat factor, you may find lots of delicious ways to use it, from marinating pork tenderloins to mixing up a spicy Bloody Mary.

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