Piri Piri Chicken

In looking at different piri piri chicken recipes (nearly all British), they tend to call for varying amounts of “red chilies.” I have no idea what type of pepper they mean or what general Scoville range they might intend.

Any idea what variety a British recipe means by a “red chili” or, alternatively, what is the best pepper choice to make Anglicized piri piri chicken?

A piri piri pepper (African birds eye chile,) is 175,000 shu.

which puts it in the habanero range if I remember correctly.

I find that while chili peppers do have unique flavors, those subtleties are often masked in sauces and marinades by other flavors, so I’d go with a pepper whose heat you enjoy.

The Cook’s Illustrated version uses a combination of arbol chilis and cayenne pepper to approximate the heat and flavor of piri piri peppers. I haven’t tried the recipe so I can’t say if it actually does.


In the UK the general red chilli is not that hot, its a about 3 to 5 inches long and I think is a variety of Cayenne, although supermarkets just label then Red Chilis.

The Piri Piri sauce is really African in origin from Angola and then made popular via the Portuguese empire. It also came through Mozambique (also Portuguese territory) to South Africa and then globally via Nandos…!

So a more authentic chilli will be hotter and I would probably use something like a birds eye chilli if you can’t get an african Piri Piri chilli.

I made this recently, using skin-on, bone-in thighs, having trimmed off the flabby excess skin & fat. It worked really well:

In mainstream UK supermarkets fresh chilis, as PhilD alluded, are mostly in small packets of “Mixed”, “Finger” or “Bird’s Eye”, with varieties rarely mentioned. The dried options are generally limited to “Chili Flakes” or Cayenne pepper powder.