What Does Peri Peri Taste Like (And Just How Spicy Is It?)

three red peri peri peppers on a wooden table

Admit it.

Even if you’re the most adventurous eater, new pepper types make you a bit anxious.

But I’m here to tell you that peri-peri is your friend, unless you’re completely averse to spicy food.

So what does peri-peri sauce taste like? 

Food lovers make up these blends with more than just peri-peri. Typically you can expect a mixture of garlic, onion, lemon, vinegar, salt, vinegar, and various herbs. The taste and spiciness of the blend will vary depending on the ingredients used, and the amounts opted for.

But taste isn’t the only concern. In this article, I’ll also discuss ways to eat this sauce, health benefits, and more. Plus, I’ll give you a super easy and quick peri peri recipe.

First Off… Should You Give Them a Shot? 

It’s perfectly normal to want to know what’s on your plate.

Is peri peri a delicious little pepper or a killer in disguise?

No need to worry: not only are they delicious but also quite healthy (scroll a bit down for more details).

As for the killer part, they’re only SOMEWHAT spicy, so don’t be too surprised when they give you a little kick.

At least they won’t knock you off your feet!

What To Expect With Peri Peri

What Does Peri Peri Taste Like
Some like them dry!

Ever tried the more well-known tabasco pepper? 

Well, peri-peri peppers are their close cousins and a notch hotter. Still, they rank much lower on the hotness scale than some of the more sinister chilies such as the infamous habanero

Otherwise known as piri piri or bird’s eye peppers, these spicy delights are often used to make a delicious sauce with a spicy tang. 

As we’ve already said, it’s hard to be able to say exactly what kind of taste to expect when sampling a peri-peri sauce. The flavor may vary greatly depending on the sauce purchased, or if you opt to eat them raw or make your own sauce blend.

Typically, however, in its natural form, what does peri-peri taste like? 

Well, the peppers boast a somewhat fruity smell with a mildly fruity and tangy taste and a spicy sharp punch

Nandos peri-peri sauce on the other hand may vary from a mild and herby, to medium-spicy, and ultimately all the way to a fiery hot. They even offer a delectable mayo and peri-peri salad dressing. More on this later, though.

What to Eat it With 

 What Does Peri Peri sauce Taste Like

It depends on who you ask!

Nandos has popularized the idea of enjoying this sauce with chicken, ultimately branding piri-piri lathered chicken as “Portuguese chicken”. 

If you’re a fan of chicken liver, go ahead and simmer it in some peri peri sauce!

That said, it goes well with a lot of foods including shrimp, which has become normal practice in Mozambique. 

But, what would you like? Do you feel like cooking it into your mince beef recipes? Do so. You could even have this pepper as a seasoning. In fact, let’s cover the alternative uses of this pepper next.

Bonus Way to Appreciate This Pepper 

Normally, you’d find peri-peri seasonings with a whole host of other ingredients such as salt, onion powder, sugar, tomato powder, cayenne peppers, ground ginger, and much more. Food lovers can use this seasoning as a spicy and pungent dry rub for different meats. 

You can opt to make your own of this appetizing and titillating dry rub, or you can choose to purchase one of the many popular brands of peri-peri seasoning out there.

This Peri Peri Recipe CAN’T Possibly Fail

We mentioned earlier that we’d talk more about using peri-peri as a salad dressing. This has become a popular flavorful choice for many South Africans, and several other countries around the world. 

Salads can often be quite bland, and if you’re tired of the same old salad dressing, you can always opt for a bolder peri peri bite.

Well, here’s how to DIY it.

Take a few peri peri peppers, some garlic and onions, a couple tablespoons of vinegar and lemon juice. Chop ‘em. Fry ‘em for 6-7 minutes in a skillet with a spoon of olive oil. Blend ‘em and pour it back into the skillet. Let it simmer for another 10 minutes.

And that’s it – the most versatile sauce in the world! Use it as a dressing, a meat marinade or pasta sauce, nacho dip, or even to spread on a toast.

You can tweak the amounts to your liking and optionally add paprika powder or black pepper.

Even better: if you’re short on time, you can skip the frying and simmering parts, as in the video below. Just blend these, refrigerate and enjoy!

Now there are many ways to enjoy this salad dressing, with some sweet derivatives including ingredients like honey. And as you already know, others opt to include the creamy and savory texture of mayonnaise. At the end of the day, it’s up to your taste buds, and what you’d enjoy.

Origin Story & Health Benefits 

Finally, here’s a taste of history, geography and nutrition, in case you’re a more nerdy reader.

Popularly used all over the globe, and in major franchises such as Nandos in South Africa and Australia, this Portuguese-grown pepper is a first choice for many. 

For the most part, you can find this pepper growing in the wild in Portugal and many African countries including Nigeria, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and South Africa. 

Here are just a few of its huge pros for your health: 

Being full of vitamins and rich in capsaicin, a disease-fighting compound found in spices, it’s a healthy choice to comfortably include in your daily routine. That is if you love a little spice with your meals. Depending on the variety you opt to enjoy, you’ll get different health benefits.

For example: 

The green variation is rich in tissue-repairing Vitamin C, whereas the red variety is full of vision-supportive Vitamin A.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does piri-piri stand for? 

Piri-piri quite literally means “pepper pepper” in the Bantu language Swahili. The same goes for its variations peri-peri in Mozambique and pili-pili in Congo.

What is peri-peri good for? 

You can use peri-peri in different dishes, as a sauce on chicken, shrimp, and on different meats. It’s also a good source of Vitamin A, B, and C. Further, you get to enjoy the health benefits that many other peppers offer, including improved cognitive function, decreased blood pressure, nasal congestion relief, and cancer inhibition

How spicy is piri-piri?

It’s a mildly spicy pepper up to around 150 000 units on the Scoville scale, but often lower than that. For reference, the hottest chili peppers are in the millions on the scale, with the Carolina Reaper ranking at a whopping 2 million Scoville units! In comparison, piri-piri isn’t so bad.


So, we’ve peeled back the layers of peri peri, exploring its fiery heart and its vibrant flavor profile. Have you decided where you stand on the peri peri heat scale? Do you crave the tongue-tingling inferno of the “extra hot”, or are you more drawn to the subtle warmth and tang of a milder option?

Remember, peri peri is more than just heat. It’s a dance of citrusy zest, smoky undertones, and a hint of sweetness that lingers on the palate. It’s a flavor journey that can be customized to your preferences, whether you’re a seasoned spice veteran or a curious newcomer.

No matter your heat tolerance, there’s a peri peri waiting to be discovered. So, grab your favorite protein, crank up the heat (or keep it mild!), and embark on your own peri peri adventure. You might just be surprised by the depths of flavor and fire this versatile sauce has to offer.

Here are some final thoughts to leave you with:

  • Get adventurous: Experiment with different peri peri varieties and recipes to find your perfect heat level and flavor combination.
  • Embrace the versatility: Peri peri isn’t just for chicken! Explore its potential in marinades, sauces, dips, and even desserts.
  • Share the flame: Introduce your friends and family to the wonders of peri peri. You might just spark a new culinary tradition!

Until next time, keep the peri peri spirit alive!

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