Deeply flavorful African peri-peri sauce made with bird’s eye chillies, onions, peppers, garlic & lemons. This sauce is a must-have for spicy food lovers.
I hope you’re ready for a bit of fiery, kick ass condiment Heaven because I’m serving it up big time today. This home-made peri-peri sauce is the bomb and you should have a jar in your fridge at all times.
As a South African, my house is never without a few bottles of this glorious red hot sauce. We use it on everything from chicken, steak and pork to adding it to marinades and dressings. If you’re my brothers (or any member of my extended family, really), you eat it on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g. I have literally seen my younger brother eating a slice of cheese with peri-peri sauce on it!
For me, peri-peri is the perfect mix between Harissa and a classic Hot sauce. You have the flavor depth and character of Harissa with the punchy kick of hot sauce, and then some. Some peri-peri sauces are so hot in fact, that just smelling them will make your eyes water. This one packs serious heat but I’ve tempered it with beautiful red bell peppers, tomatoes (not super traditional but so yum) and lots of lemon juice, vinegar and herbs. You can also thin it out with a little more olive oil and a splash of water if you want it to be more “saucy”.
What is peri-peri sauce made of?
The key ingredient to any peri-peri sauce is the African bird’s eye chillies you find in markets and stores all over Southern Africa. Mountains of bright red, fiery chillies just waiting to be used always inspire me to make big batches of this beloved condiment. If you struggle to find bird’s eye chillies though, Thai chillies or any long, small red chilli will work well. Jalapenos can also work but if you can get your hands on the proper stuff, go for it. You won’t regret it. The rest of the sauce consits of red bell peppers, tomatoes (not super traditional but so yum) and lots of lemon juice, vinegar and herbs. You can also thin it out with a little more olive oil and a splash of water if you want it to be more “saucy”.
How to make peri-peri sauce
Combine onions, garlic, African bird’s eye chillies, olive oil, vinegar, bell peppers, tomatoes and seasoning in the bowl of a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. I like using smoked paprika, oregano, bay leaves and lemon to flavor my peri-peri sauce but feel free to play around with other herbs like rosemary or thyme. Transfer the blended paste to a saucepan and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. You want the sauce to be fiery but well balanced with salt, sugar and acid. Transfer to jars and allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge.
How to serve peri-peri sauce
The best way to use peri-peri sauce is by slathering a chicken with it and grilling it over a wood fire until the skin is dark, crisp and gnarly from the chillies. But as I said, it’s a pretty versatile sauce and can be used in marinades or dressings and I even add small amount to sauces, stews and soups to add not only a spicy kick but also serious depth of flavor. And once you’ve made this you’ll find it hard not to crave it and put it on/in everything. You’ve been warned.
- Easy peri-peri chicken livers
- Peri-Peri chicken salad with charred corn
- Grilled peri-peri chicken thighs
Home-made Peri-Peri sauce
- 2 red onions peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 head of garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 cup African bird's eye chillies stems removed
- 2 red bell peppers seeds removed and roughly chopped
- 3 ripe tomatoes skins removed and roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- juice and zest of 3 lemons
- 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor/blender and mix until all the ingredients are finely chopped and the mixture is quite saucy.
- Transfer to a saucepan over medium heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every few minutes to prevent the sauce from burning.
- After 20 minutes, check the seasoning and adjust. The sauce should be well balanced with a good kick of spice and sourness from the lemon and vinegar.
- Pour into jars/bottles and keep in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.