The first time we tried peri peri sauce was at Nando’s, a restaurant chain known for their grilled chicken. While our chicken eating days our behind us, our love for peri peri sauce is definitely not. Peri peri sauce is a versatile sauce loaded with so much more flavor than just straight spice: it’s tangy, garlicky, salty, and has a lingering heat that makes you want more. And as good as it might be on chicken, there are also a ton of other ways to use it. You can spread it in sandwiches, swirl it into dips, drizzle it onto grain bowls, or slather it onto roasted veggies. It’s seriously addictive stuff, so consider yourself warned.
The best thing about making your own peri peri sauce at home is that you can control how spicy you want it to be. We haven’t been to Nando’s in years, but recently set eyes on a big bottle of Nando’s hot sauce at our local Costco. Now, we love spice, but when we cracked into the “Medium” (ie. the only version that Costco stocks), we found it quite a bit spicier than we remembered. And for some of our friends, it was wayyy too spicy to even eat. Which felt sad, because everyone should be able to enjoy a little peri peri in their life! So, we embarked on a mission of making our own. One with fresh ingredients and all the flavor we love - just without the (spice induced) tears.
After many trial runs and side-by-side taste tests, we’re thrilled to have perfected our take on peri peri sauce. This version is delicious in all the right ways - and better yet, super easy to make at home. In fact, you probably have most of the ingredients already on hand. Stuff like the garlic, onion, lemon, and paprika. For the spice, we substitute traditional piri piri peppers for a small Thai red chili instead. Our local grocery stores don’t stock piri piri peppers, and with Thai red chilis being pretty abundant these days, we figured we’d make it easier for everyone (including ourselves). Use a full chili (including seeds) for a moderately spicy sauce, or opt for half a chili if you prefer mild. We were shooting for crowd-pleasing spice levels, but if you’re a heat addict, you can always add more.
And lastly, a roasted red pepper provides most of the body to the sauce - and also gives it a bright orangey red colour that would be pretty deadly to accomplish with spicy peppers alone. As a time-saving trick, we use a roasted red pepper from the jar. There’s usually at least 3-4 peppers in a jar you buy at the store, so for this recipe just use one. The balance can be used on pizzas, in pasta sauces, soups, you name it. If you’re feeling fancy, you always have the option of roasting your own pepper at home (like this).
Our favorite way to use this Easy Peri Peri Sauce is by brushing it on roasted or grilled veggies, but keep your eyes peeled for other recipes that use this sauce. Because we’re pretty obsessed with it!
Easy Peri Peri Sauce
- ⅔ cup white vinegar
- ½ cup diced white onion
- 6 cloves garlic (peeled)
- 1 roasted red pepper (from jar)
- 2 tablespoons grapeseed oil (or other neutral oil)
- 2 teaspoons lemon zest
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ to 1 Thai red chili pepper (stem removed, see note 1)
- 2 to 3 teaspoons lemon juice
- Blend mixture: To a blender, add white vinegar, onion, garlic, roasted red pepper, grapeseed oil, lemon zest, salt, paprika, and chili pepper to a blender. Blend on high speed until smooth.
- Simmer: Transfer mixture to a small saucepan over low heat. Simmer until reduced to approximately ¾ cup, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in 2 teaspoons lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, if needed.
- Chili peppers: This recipe makes a moderately spicy sauce (we were aiming for crowd-pleasing, not blow-your-head-off spicy). That said, everyone's spice preferences differ, so adjust to suit your tastes. Peri peri sauce is traditionally made with peri peri peppers. Unfortunately we can't haven't been able to find them where we live (in Canada). Instead, we use what our grocery stores label as "Thai red chili". There are actually many different varieties of Thai red chilies, but the ones often sold in North American grocery stores are a small red chili (about 2-inches / 5 cm long) with a curved tip at the end. While usually generically (or inaccurately) labelled, they are often Jinda chili peppers (Prik Sod). Peri peri / Bird's Eye chilies tend to be shorter peppers with less curved tips. Jinda chili peppers are quite spicy (75k on Scoville scale), but less spicy than Peri peri peppers (175k on Scoville scale). In short, these peppers are all quite spicy, so if in doubt, start with less and add more.
- Storage tips: Transfer extra sauce to a jar, bottle, or airtight container. Refrigerate for 4 to 5 days.
- Yield: One batch of this recipe (1x) makes about ¾ cup sauce.