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”.


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)


  • 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.


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.


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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  1. Excellent recipe.
    Remember to reduce the amount of chilis when using dried chilis. One cup of dried chilis is just too much.
    Ask me how I know. šŸ™‚ šŸ™‚

  2. I moved from ZA to north Italy in late 2020; and successfully grew African Birds Eye chilies this past summer.

    I used a similar recipe to yours but I added added a piece of fresh ginger to the mix. That gave it an extra layer of flavour.

    Soooo delicious.

  3. Hi! Love this recipe, but can you give an approximate grams equivalent for 1 cup of fresh chillies? Internet search throws up some wildly different results! šŸ™‚

  4. Hi – looking forward to giving this a try. How much birds eye chilli power can I use instead of the chillies?