piri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerelspiri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerels

Both an African (Angola & Mozambique) & European (Portugal) recipe, this succulent preparation with a whimsical sing-song name, refers to the sauce prepared with small bird’s eye or bird’s tongue chilis called PIRI-PIRI (or peri-peri or pili-pili), generously slathered on chicken most often but also used on shrimps and usually barbecued or flame-grilled but this is an easy oven version.

According to me (who else, right ?) the best version needs to be roasted naked first to be crispy-skinned but tender and flavorful and then glazed with a thick coating of the piri-piri sauce towards the end of the roasting process, to become brightly explosive & spicy-hot !

I use cockerels (young roosters) which are a great size (only 500 grams each and easy to handle) and forego the flattening or spatchcocking of a whole larger chicken and the sauce in this recipe is enough for basting 3 or 4 cockerels because some will be left over but it’s hard to make a smaller batch without cutting the larger vegetables used in half and storing the unused sections back inside the refrigerator.

The first liquid acidic marinade will tighten the skin and seal in the meat’s tenderness, the dry baste will crisp up the skin and add extra flavors and the sauce finishes it all up in a bright red-orange and fiery-hot finale.

My version of the piri-piri sauce is both European and African, with extra hints of spices and flavorings that balance everything out harmoniously but you can also simplify it or to adapt to your tastes, as long as the predominant flavors are focused on the red peppers (both sweet & spicy and in powder form like paprika), lemon, garlic and salt.

Just go ahead and marinade the cockerels first with a liquid baste, then a dry-baste, let them rest in the refrigerator, prepare the sauce, refrigerate it and 12-24 hours later, roast everything, then cover in sauce, roast again, grill to get that slightly charred touch, flip the cockerels over, start again with the roasting, applying sauce, roasting again and grilling, while the vegetables cook underneath and absorb some of the poultry and sauce flavors from the drippings.

And dinner’s ready for 2 famished ogres or for 4 more reasonable dwarves ! What more can I say ? OBRIGADO, DE NADA … :)

piri-piri sauce oven-roasted cockerels


4 servings x 400 grams each


poultry :

  • 1 kg (2 whole) cockerels (500 grams each)

1st liquid marinade & 2nd dry-baste :

  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice 
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 4 grams (2 tsp) lemon zest (from 1 lemon of 150 grams) 
  • 2 grams (1 tsp) lime zest (from 1 lime of 75 grams) 
  • 15 grams (1 tbsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 grams (¾ tsp) garlic powder
  • 1 grams (¾ tsp) onion powder
  • 0,5 gram (1 tsp or 2 whole) bay leaves, central stem removed and the leaves ground
  • 0,5 gram (1 tsp) dried oregano leaves, ground
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp) coriander seeds, ground
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp) cumin seeds, ground
  • 0,25 gram (¼ tsp) dried ginger, ground
  • 0,10 gram (2 whole) cloves, ground

piri-piri sauce (makes 1 cup or 240 grams) :

  • 200 grams (1 whole) sweet red banana pepper or sweet red bell pepper
  • 75 grams (2-3 whole) long red chili peppers
  • 25 grams (4-6 small) piri-piri hot peppers (I used pickled ones)
  • 50 grams (2 whole) shallots or ½ red onion (or a combination)
  • 30 grams (4-5 large) garlic cloves
  • 2,5 grams (1 tsp) smoked paprika
  • 2,5 grams (1 tsp) sweet paprika
  • 10 grams (2 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 2 grams (½ tsp) ground pepper
  • 30 ml (2 tbsp) lemon juice (and ¼ tsp zest)
  • 15 ml (1 tbsp) lime juice (and ¼ tsp zest)
  • 7,5 ml (1 ½ tsp) red port
  • 2,5 ml (½ tsp) balsamic vinegar
  • 60 ml (4 tbsp) olive oil 

accompanying vegetables :

  • 600 grams baby potatoes, sliced in half
  • 150 grams baby onions, peeled & sliced in half
  • 50 grams (6 large) garlic cloves, whole and peeled
  • 15 grams (1 whole) long red chili pepper, sliced into rings
  • 45 ml (3 tbsp) olive oil
  • 22 ml (1 ½ tbsp) lemon juice
  • 5 grams (1 tsp) fine sea salt
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) ground black pepper
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) dried oregano
  • 1 gram (¼ tsp) coriander seeds
  • 5 grams (2 tbsp) fresh coriander leaves

garnish : 

  • 35 grams (¼ whole) lemon slices
  • 5 grams (2 tbsp) fresh coriander leaves or stalks


poultry & 1st liquid marinade & 2nd dry-baste :

  • *note : this recipe uses 2 whole cockerels but you can use a whole chicken and flatten it to cut down on the cooking time, the marinade, dry-baste and piri-piri sauce will be enough even for a larger bird …
  • remove the cockerels from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature, pat them dry if necessary and place on a rack on top of a baking dish
  • grate the zests from the lemon and the lime first, then squeeze the juices out of each, add the zests to the citrus juices and vinegar and reserve until more fragrant, then strain and discard the zests
  • crush the spices and grind the dried herbs with a mortar and pestle into a fine powder with the salt (which makes it easier to grind finely) and reserve
  • pour the liquid marinade over the cockerels on the rack, inside and out, recuperate the dripping juices from the baking dish underneath and pour over again on all sides several times and let slightly dry then sprinkle the powdered herbs and spices on all sides until well coated (if you have extra lemon slices and fresh coriander branches, stuff them inside the cockerels and tie up the legs)
  • place inside the refrigerator, uncovered and on a rack for 12 hours minimum and up to 24 hours

piri-piri sauce :

  • preheat the oven to 210°C
  • place the red sweet pepper, the long chili peppers, the fresh piri-piri peppers (but I used pickled ones so I didn’t roast them), the shallot or red onion and the garlic (all still in their skin but remove the skins after roasting) on a piece of baking paper on a baking dish and grill on the middle-rack for 25-30 minutes, then remove, let cool down, remove skins  and transfer to a food-processor and add the other spices, citrus juices and zests, port and balsamic vinegar and mix until smoother, then add the olive oil and pulse/mix until emulsified, adjust to your taste, cover and refrigerate until the next day

accompanying vegetables :

  • slice the potatoes with the skins in half, peel the onions and also slice in half, add the peeled garlic cloves and the sliced chili pepper and toss with the salt, black pepper, herbs, olive oil and citrus juices and place inside the baking dish (do this 60 minutes before roasting)

oven-roasting :

  • remove the cockerels from the refrigerator and let them come to room temperature for 30 minutes minimum while you preheat the oven to 230°C
  • place a rack on top of the baking dish with the marinated vegetables
  • and place the cockerels breast-side down on the rack and roast for 25-30 minutes, then remove from the oven, brush the baked side of the cockerels with a thick coat of piri-piri sauce and roast for another 10 minutes, then switch the heat to the top grill and grill for 3 minutes until the cockerels are slightly blackened or charred, remove everything from the oven, stir the vegetables and then turn the cockerels over, breast-side up, switch back the heat to regular overall heat, roast for 15-20 minutes, then remove the cockerels from the oven and brush the baked breast side with a thick coat of the piri-piri sauce, roast for another 10 minutes and switch the heat to grill again and grill for 3 minutes until slightly blackened or charred
  • serve the 2 cockerels whole (for 2 very large servings) or sliced in half down the middle (for 4 smaller servings, if also serving with a salad) with the roasted vegetables, sprinkled with some fresh coriander leaves and served with the remaining piri-piri sauce (¼ - ½ cup) and a few extra lemon slices on the side.