Home-made Peri-Peri sauce

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 recipe is the bomb and you should have a jar in your fridge at all times to serve on everything from sandwiches to juicy chicken.

Home-made Peri-Peri sauce

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 absolutely everything.

What is peri peri sauce?

Peri-peri sauce (or piri-piri sauce) is an African chilli sauce made with spicy chillies (African bird’s eye chilies brought to Africa by the Portuguese) blended with aromatics like garlic, onion and herbs.

For me it’s 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 versions are so hot in fact, that just smelling them will make your eyes water. This recipe packs serious heat but I’ve tempered it with roasted red bell peppers, tomatoes (not super traditional) 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”.

Ingredients

The key ingredient to any peri-peri sauce is the African bird’s eye chili you find in markets and stores all over Southern Africa. If you struggle to find bird’s eye chillies  Thai chillies or any long, small red chilies will work well. Serrano peppers or Fresno peppers can also work but if you can get your hands on African chillies, use them. You won’t regret it.

  • African Bird’s eye chillies. Use any red, small chilli/chili peppers as a substitute.
  • Red bell pepper. 
  • Red onion.
  • Fresh garlic cloves. 
  • Tomatoes. 
  • Olive oil. I used extra-virgin olive oil but feel free to use any oil of your choice.
  • Red wine vinegar. 
  • Fresh lemon juice. 
  • Bay leaves. 
  • Dried oregano. 
  • Smoked paprika.
  • Salt and black pepper. 
  • Sugar. 
Home-made Peri-Peri sauce

How to make peri-peri sauce

Combine all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and blend into a smooth paste. I like using smoked paprika, oregano, bay leaves and lemon to add flavor 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 or an airtight container and allow to cool completely before storing in the fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Can I make this in advance?

You can store the cooked sauce in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container or jar and it can be frozen for up to 3 months. Transfer the sauce to freezer-safe containers before freezing.

Home-made Peri-Peri sauce

How to serve peri-peri sauce

The best way to use this delicious 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 (and is inspired by a classic Nando’s chicken). It’s also amazing on shrimp/prawns, chicken wings, pork or beef. But as I said, it’s a pretty versatile sauce and can be used in marinades, dipping sauces or dressings and I even add small amount to sauces, stews and other dishes 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.

Recipe ideas: 

African bird's eye chillies for home-made peri-peri sauce

Easy sauce recipes

  1. Harissa paste
  2. Easy pizza sauce
  3. Roasted tomato sauce
Easy peri-peri sauce

Home-made Peri-Peri sauce

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.
4.60 from 169 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Condiment, Peri-Peri, Sauce
Cuisine: South African
Keyword: condiment, hot sauce, sauce
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
0 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes
Calories: 76kcal
Author: Alida Ryder
Servings: 12 (makes 3 cups of sauce. 1 serving = 1/4 cup)

Ingredients

  • 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

Instructions

  • 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.

Notes

If you’d like to preserve this sauce, make sure your jars/bottles are well sterilized. Fill them to the top with the sauce and seal immediately.

Nutrition

Calories: 76kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 3g | Sodium: 587mg | Potassium: 204mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 5g | Vitamin A: 1292IU | Vitamin C: 49mg | Calcium: 20mg | Iron: 1mg

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87 Comments

  1. Hi! This recipe sounds awesome, but can you give an approximate value in grams for 1 cup of the fresh chillies? 50-100g? Thanks in advance!!

  2. I just made this sauce, its very yummy!
    I cheated a bit though, I was a bit lazy so I cut the lemons in half, removed the pips and threw the lemon half into the blender.
    Worked out great.
    Incidentally we used to get rotisserie roast chicken from Fernando’s Dads shop in Rosettenville long before he even started Nando’s.

  3. I grew my own peri peri peppers so I don’t know how they would compare with African grown ones but they are quite hot. I really like this recipe but it says it makes 3 cups but I ended up with 7 cups. So a lot of friends ended up with little bottles of peri peri sauce. One person can only use so much hot sauce especially since my 2 plants are still busily producing more peppers.

  4. Would love to try this…but hubby can’t take much heat. Any suggestions to making it milder? I assume using less peppers, but should the missing amount be substituted with something else? Help please!

  5. Just made this for the first time and it’s awesome ??
    Will be making it again ?
    Thanks for the recipe!

  6. Hi, found your recipe three years ago. I now make this annually. I triple the batch, put in glass jars and into the fridge. Each batch lasts the year no problem.

    1. I know this is an old comment, but just wondering if you do anything special during the jarring process that makes them last all year? (do you boil, remove all air, etc?)

  7. Lovely sauce. Tastes almost exactly the same as the one I remember. I dry roasted all the veggies except the peppers. May add more onion next time to see if I can get it closer to the sauce I remember.
    Either way all I have to say is Yum! Glad I found this recipe. Will be making a lot as I have already used up half of the batch I made yesterday. And now I have another hot sauce recipe to use up all the peppers I grow in the garden.
    Thanks for a fabulous recipe that will be one of my staples!

    PS. There was a South African habanero sauce that my husband’s rugby mate would bring me when he came to the U.S. Very simple…habanero, vinegar, onions, and garlic. No carrots (like Belize/Caribbean or Mexican habanero sauce). If you have a recipe for that I would greatly appreciate it.

  8. This is a great recipe. I make a similar one with the same ingredient, but before blending I char the peppers and tomatoes over a gas flame or braai fire. This gives the sauce a smokey taste. I also dry roast my garlic.
    Regards

    Robin

  9. Love the recipe! Thank you very much for sharing it!
    Quick question – I’m looking to preserve this using water bath canning so I can hopefully make enough to last a few months without the need to keep remaking it – everything I’ve read online suggests this should be plenty acidic enough to be water bath canned and stored on a normal shelf for over a year – can you confirm/comment on this?
    Many thanks!

    1. Because I’ve never canned this for it to last months I don’t feel comfortable giving advice, unfortunately. But if you are used to canning, I would love to know if you do can this recipe what the results are.

  10. Does the African bird’s-eye chili pepper have a certain flavor that’s unique for this sauce? Or could I substitute another type of pepper?

      1. Hi Alida, I really want to make this recipe it reminds me of the steak I ate during my visit to south africa that was served on a bed of chicken livers. Is it ok to take of the seeds from the chillies or do they need be put in without taking them out.

  11. It’s GREAT! Done it half a dozen times. This is the best peri-peri sauce i’ve tried and believe me, i like my food hot and spicy. All my friends love it. Thanks a lot love for sharing

    1. Skids, I have some dried piri piri peppers. Have you ever used them for this? How did you rehydrate them and would you use a cup once rehydrated?

  12. Hi there,
    I’m going to attempt you recipe this weekend. If our sterilize the bottles, how long do you think this will preserve for.

    I’ve read in some blogs if you use citric acid it will persevere for longer. Any idea if this will work?

    1. It should last for a couple of months but as I haven’t tested it I can’t say for certain and I have never used citric acid for preserving unfortunately.