This spicy thick tangy peri peri sauce recipe is delicious, easy to make, dairy-free, and egg-free. Red bell pepper, ground black pepper, a fresh chili pepper, smoked paprika and a handful of other simple ingredients are all you’ll need, ready in just 15 minutes!
Adjust the heat to suit your preference and use it as a marinade, a dip, as a sauce, or drizzle it over some vegetables for a copycat Nando’s experience at home!
Just blitz everything in a blender or food processor and heat until thickened, an easy recipe suitable for any level of cooking skills.
Peri peri sauce origins
I was introduced to Nando’s by my excited husband when I was home in Dublin a few years ago, visiting friends and family. Most people associate peri peri with Nando’s, or first taste the delicious spicy sauce there.
It tasted completely different from any hot sauce I had tried previously, spicy, tangy, salty, creamy… I loved it! Variations of peri-peri have been around since the 15th century in Africa when the sauce was used as a marinade, heavily influenced by Portuguese settlers.
It’s still disputed to this day whether the original recipes originated in Angola or Mozambique, but one thing that isn’t being disputed is how delicious it is.
Peri-peri (also known as piri piri sauce or pili-pili) references the hot spicy peppers used to make peri peri sauce. Traditionally, bird’s eye chili peppers are used.
How to use it?
- Add peri peri sauce to hummus for peri peri hummus.
- Pour it over buddha bowls.
- Use it as a spicy dip (perfect with fries, wedges, cheesy wedges, sour cream wedges etc.).
- Spread on sandwiches and subs instead of mayonnaise.
- Instead of red or green sauce on enchiladas (like these amazing chickpea enchiladas).
- Add to salads for a spicy salad dressing.
- Stir it into coleslaw for peri peri coleslaw.
- Mix with mayonnaise to make peri peri mayonnaise!
- Mix with stir-fried or grilled charred veggies and pineapple chunks for a satisfying main (serve it over lemon coconut rice to really take your meal to another level).
- Add cooked chickpeas and a few chopped veggies while the sauce is cooking and serve over steamed rice.
Note that if you skip the coconut milk and don’t cook it down it also doubles up as a spicy peri peri marinade.
How hot is it?
I’ve suggested one large cayenne chili pepper for the sauce in this recipe, but it really depends on how hot your chili peppers are, what type you use, and how high your spice tolerance is. This recipe should fall squarely in the medium-spicy category.
I can’t usually get bird’s eye chili peppers where I live, just south of Madrid in Spain, but if you can get them, use between four to six for this dish. You can use any red chili pepper you wish if you can’t get a hold of bird’s eye chili peppers.
Just taste the sauce and adjust for spice before you add the coconut milk and cook it.
Try it with just one pepper initially and test how spicy it is. If you’re very sensitive to spice, you can ever start with half a chili pepper.
You can always add more chili peppers in later if you need it spicier – but if you jump the gun and get too generous with the chilis from the start you’ll be left with a sauce which is too spicy to eat. But seriously, make it SPICY, it is peri peri sauce after all.
Ingredients and substitutions
This sauce is so simple to make, that there are very few substitutions you can make with the ingredients. I’ve made some suggestions below in case you’ve run out of anything, but note that I do recommend following my ingredients and instructions to the letter as closely as possible.
This is because I have tested the recipe several times and found this is the best way to make it. Check out the labeled photo with the ingredients below to make sure you’re on the right track and continue scrolling down to see if anything can be swapped out.
Garlic: Don’t omit or substitute this, it gives a lot of flavor. I recommend crushing it before you add it to the food processor or blender to make the sauce smoother, but if you have a good processor you can also just add the cloves peeled and whole.
Red bell pepper: Use a large red bell pepper (or two small ones). I don’t recommend using a green or yellow pepper as in this quantity, it will totally change the taste of the sauce. Once the pepper has been destemmed and deseeded you should be left with about roughly nine ounces (250 grams).
Chili pepper: It’s quite hard to get chili peppers here where I live in Madrid, Spain, so I tend to use a large red cayenne pepper instead of the more traditional bird’s eye chili peppers. You can use about six of the tiny bird’s eye peppers, one large cayenne or red jalapeño pepper, or any other mild-medium spicy chili pepper. I prefer to use red ones to maintain that bright typical peri peri sauce color.
Balsamic vinegar: Don’t omit or substitute this ingredient.
Red wine vinegar: You can use either red or white wine vinegar in this recipe. If you don’t have either, then you can substitute this with another mild vinegar like sherry vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
Black pepper: Preferably use preground black pepper and not freshly ground black pepper. If you do need to use freshly ground black pepper out of necessity, then reduce the amount by half to a quarter-teaspoon.
Lemon juice: Use fresh lemon juice only.
Smoked paprika: The smoky flavor of smoked paprika is essential for this sauce, don’t swap it out for regular or sweet or hot paprika. Use smoked paprika, or if you can get it, pimentón de la Vera picante. Pimentón de la Vera is a very high-quality paprika from the Vera region in Spain and is incredibly flavorful. It’s available in spicy (picante), sweet (dulce) and the less common bittersweet (agridulce) version. All are smoked and much tastier than regular paprika. It is fantastic for cooking with and an important ingredient in Spanish dishes such as salsa brava for patatas bravas.
Oregano: Use dried oregano, recently bought as older dried oregano really loses its flavor. Don’t use fresh as it’s too overpowering when ground. If you don’t like oregano you can omit or substitute with dried parsley.
Coconut milk: Creamy coconut milk is a very necessary component to get that great mouth-feel. If you don’t like it you can substitute with an equal amount of water, and once the sauce is cooked down, add a little sour cream or greek yoghurt instead.
Salt: A little salt helps the flavors develop, around half a teaspoon is perfect but feel free to increase to taste as needed once the sauce is cooked, or swap out for a low-sodium or no-sodium salt if you have hypertension issues.
Olive oil: Olive oil is great for the flavor and I don’t recommend using any other type of oil. Use extra-virgin olive oil preferably.
How to make it
This sauce is super easy to make.
Just take all the ingredients except the coconut milk and olive oil (so the red chili pepper or peppers, red bell pepper, lemon juice, smoked paprika, salt, dried oregano, garlic, balsamic vinegar, white or red wine vinegar, and ground black pepper), add to a high-powered blender or food processor, and blend until as smooth as possible.
You can see from the photo above that it won’t be perfectly smooth but a little chunk is fine. Next, drizzle in the olive oil a tablespoon at a time while the motor is running.
You’ll see the sauce thicken a little as the sauce emulsifies, and it should look like the photo below.
If you’re using it as a marinade for food that needs to be cooked, you can use it as is right now.
If you want to continue on and use it as a sauce or dip, add the coconut milk and blend another minute or two and transfer to a pot.
Heat the sauce over medium-high heat until bubbling, reduce the heat to medium and allow to cook for around ten minutes or until it’s reached your preferred consistency (it should look quite similar to the photo above).
Recipes using peri peri sauce
My husband is an omnivore and loves to have peri peri sauce with chicken but I’m vegetarian so I steer clear. I can absolutely recommend the following recipes for using your homemade peri peri sauce:
- Peri peri Quorn fillets with homemade slaw
- Peri peri potato wedges
- Knockoff Nando’s spicy peri peri rice
- Peri peri tofu
- Peri peri vegetable frankie
- Peri peri halloumi burger with sweetcorn salsa
- Peri peri ratatouille
Leftover sauce can be kept in a tightly sealed container in the fridge for up to five days, or frozen for up to three months. If you’re an experienced canner and/or bottler, this sauce is also perfect for preserving one of those ways
You can substitute with any red hot pepper, such as jalapeños for example. Just make sure to add a little at a time and test for spiciness.
Using a fresh red bell pepper means that the sauce will be chunky until blended more with the coconut milk and cooked down. Personally, I like it that way, but if you prefer a smoother sauce, I’d suggest substituting the raw red bell pepper for a skinless roasted red pepper.
Did you make this easy peri peri sauce recipe? Let me know how much you loved it with a star rating in the recipe box, review, or comment below.
- 1 long red chili pepper or 6 bird's eye chili peppers
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded and roughly chopped (9oz/250g)
- 2 Tablespoons lemon juice
- 1½ Tablespoons smoked paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 1 Tablespoon dried oregano
- 4 large cloves garlic, crushed
- 1½ Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1½ Tablespoons white or red wine vinegar
- ½ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 cup full fat coconut milk (240 ml)
- Add all the ingredients except the olive oil and coconut milk to a blender or food processor.
- Process until as smooth as possible. Now with the motor running on a low speed, drizzle in one tablespoon of olive oil at a time until the sauce is slightly thickened and the colour is more orange.
- Check for spiciness. If you want it hotter, blend in more chili peppers. It can now be used as a marinade, or blend in the coconut milk to make the sauce.
- Heat the coconut milk pepper mix in a pot over medium-high heat until bubbling, then reduce to medium and let cook for about ten minutes, or until it's at your preferred consistency.
Use six bird's eye chili peppers or 1 large red cayenne or jalapeño pepper.
If you can get hot Pimentón de la Vera, I highly recommend using it in place of smoked paprika.
Use pre-ground black pepper, not freshly ground, or reduce to 1/4 tsp if using freshly ground.
Amount Per Serving Calories 266Total Fat 23gSaturated Fat 12gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 10gCholesterol 0mgSodium 310mgCarbohydrates 16gFiber 3gSugar 7gProtein 4g