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Frango de Churrasco ❦ Portuguese Piri-Piri Chicken

Summer is finally here! As I sit at my desk, I can't help but feel a bit nostalgic about this recipe. Very unfairly the cuisine of Portugal doesn't get the recognition it deserves. If it weren't for the Portuguese bringing back spices and delights from the New World, where would some of the world's greatest cuisines be today? The "malagueta", Portuguese for the fiery African Bird's eye chilli, is a great example. My parents, who were raised in Angola, referred to it as "jindungo". Many Portuguese ex-colonies share a love of chillies. Mozambique, Angola, Goa, Timor, Cape Verde to name a few. After moving to the UK, I was constantly hearing about a certain fast food chain that sold Portuguese Piri-piri chicken. I was, frankly, quite saddened that we had now been associated with this very inferior chicken! It seemed everyone thought that's all we had to offer!


Growing up my mother would marinate the chicken the day before. My father, upon returning from work, would get the charcoal grill going in our backyard. As soon as the coals turned grey, he would place the spatch cocked chicken on the grill. The smell was unmistakable. The Portuguese are truly the experts when it comes to grilled chicken, bearing in mind that each cook has their own version of this sauce, just slightly modified, from the mother recipe.

My sister and I didn't care for the spicy version. My mother would often substitute sweet, red chargrilled peppers, for the Bird's eye chillies. She would then make a separate batch of the fiery stuff to baste my father's portion of chicken. I now love piri-piri sauce and, like me, Portuguese people seem to put this sauce on everything! From other grilled meats and fish, to adding a few drops to soups. Who can blame them, this stuff is delicious.

Here I've included recipes for two sauces. The first is the classic piri-piri, the second is a lemon, garlic and herb butter. You can make one or both. I often marinate my chicken and baste it while cooking with the piri-piri sauce, then brush on the garlic butter after it's all done. The chicken is marinated in a separate marinade from 2 hours to overnight. Make sure you reserve a little of the sauces to brush on the chicken. I think it goes without saying that you must keep the sauce your using to baste the chicken with, separate from the one you'll baste the fully cooked chicken with later. After making the sauces, just put a bit into separate bowls and reserve. A little clarification on the spatch cocking of the chicken. In Portugal, the chicken is flattened by splitting up the breast side, leaving the backbone. I actually prefer to remove the backbone entirely and flatten my chicken with the two breast halves intact. I have included some pictures of that below. The way you do it is down to personal choice and in no way affects the outcome or taste of your chicken. I just think it looks prettier. Since no one in our house eats the back, I save to make stock. I have also included instructions to oven cook the chicken, in case you want an alternative to the bbq.

Win-win ;) Enjoy XOXO

Frango de Churrasco ❦ Portuguese Piri-Piri Chicken

Serves 3-4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Marinade time: 2 Hours minimum and up to overnight Cook Time: 1 hour Resting Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes + 1 Day

Servings: 4

For the Chicken and Marinade:

2 Chicken spatchcocked

(no more than 1,300 kg./ 3 lbs.)

8-10 Garlic cloves minced

80 ml. Extra virgin olive oil

60 ml. Red or white wine vinegar

4 Bay leaves, torn in half

1 tbsp. Sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)

200 ml. Dry white wine or beer (pale lager, pilsner)

1-1/2- 2 tbsp. Coarse sea salt

Black pepper to taste

For the basting sauces recipes follow.

Classic spicy or garlic butter.


1. Place chicken on cutting board and with a knife, cut various slits into the flesh right down to the bone

(see picture below)

This will help the marinade sink into the meat and also allow the chicken to cook evenly, as pieces like the wing joint and leg/thigh take longer to cook.

2. Place chicken in a large shallow container, or better yet a zip top plastic bag, with remaining ingredients, massaging it all over the chicken evenly. Cover and refrigerate a minimum of 2 hours and up to overnight (8-hours).

3. Remove chicken from refrigerator and leave at room temperature 30 mins. before grilling. Preheat your grill. Charcoal is best, but gas is fine too.

4. As soon as your grill is ready, lift chicken from marinade, letting access drop back into bowl. Place chicken skin side up. Discard marinade. Baste with sauce of your choice. As it cooks, turning often until cooked through. Finish skin side down for an extra crispy exterior. *I think it goes without saying that you must keep the sauce your using to baste the raw chicken with, separate from the one you'll baste the fully cooked chicken with later. After making the sauces, just put a bit into separate bowls and reserve to serve after chicken is fully cooked.

A meat or instant-read thermometer is your best bet for determining the temperature of your chicken, and it should be inserted into the thickest part of the thigh but not touching bone. 74°C, (165°F ), is the safe internal temperature for both the white meat and dark meat.

*If you don’t have a thermometer, all the juices that come from the chicken should run clear and not be pink.

5. Once cooked, cut chicken using poultry shears and arrange on platter. Garnish with some fresh chopped parsley or coriander. I love it with a squeeze of lemon. Serve alongside reserved, piri-piri sauce or garlic-lemon butter.

Popular accompaniments include a salad or french fries.

The sauces are delicious on grilled veggies too!


* Alternatively you can achieve great results and cook the chicken in the oven. Especially in the winter, as I often do.

Preheat oven to 200°C/390°F.

If you have a fan assisted oven, drop temperature by 20 °, and cook for 35-40 mins on a baking tray, basting every 10 minutes. To char the skin, turn on oven grill / broiler and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, depending on how charred you like it.

Chicken with garlic butter sauce

The secret ingredient in my sauce is whiskey

Piri-piri Sauce - Molho Piri-piri

8-10 Fresh Bird's eye chillies

4 Garlic cloves

1 Juice and zest of 1/2 a large lemon

1 tbsp. Sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)

1 tsp. Red wine vinegar

50 ml. Whiskey or Portuguese Port wine

150- 200 ml. (approximately) Extra virgin olive oil

Depends on how thick or thin you prefer your sauce, I like mine on the thinner side.

1 tsp. Oregano (optional)

1. Place all ingredients, except olive oil, in blender or food processor with blade attachment.

2. Pour in olive oil, just until all ingredients are covered.

3. Pulse until everything is incorporated. Add more oil a little at a time if sauce is too thick.

4. Use immediately or place in airtight container in refrigerator for up to 1 week.


Garlic Butter Sauce - Molho Manteiga Limão

1 Large lemon (zest and juice)

8 Garlic cloves (squashed)

1 tsp. Sweet paprika (pimentón dulce)

1 tbsp. Oregano (dried)

1 tbsp. Parsley chopped

25 ml. Whiskey or Port wine

125 g. Salted Butter

1. Crush garlic to release oil using back of knife. Just place knife blade on garlic clove and press down to squash.

2. In a small saucepan on low heat, combine all ingredients

3. Once butter has melted, let simmer on low heat for 10 minutes to allow flavours to meld and alcohol to evaporate.

4. After 10 mins. remove from heat, let cool and use to baste on chicken or as a sauce once chicken is fully cooked.

5. If sauce solidifies or separates, simply reheat gently and stir to incorporate. Use within 24 hours.

Crawley,West Sussex UK

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